Don’t Look Back!

Jesus was once approached by a would-be disciple who said, “Lord, I will follow Thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.” Jesus’ reply was a warning for all those who are following the Lord Jesus or who are contemplating signing up for service: “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61, 62)

All of us have known some, maybe more than a few, who would fit the description of “looking back.” Maybe some who are reading this are saying, “Yes, there was a time when ‘looking back’ would have described my status as a follower of Jesus Christ.” Startling, is it not, that Jesus said of such a person that he is not fit for the kingdom of heaven. Lest one should be hasty in judgment and consign such a one-time follower that died in a state of “looking back” to Hell, it should be noted that the words “not fit” could be rendered “not ready.” No believer who is “looking back” (as Hebrew Christians addressed in the book of Hebrews were tempted to do) is ready for the kingdom of God. He has more maturing to do; God has some refining to put him through, and it is certain that the work that He has begun and will perform in that follower (Phil.1:6) is not yet complete.

The day that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—sending angels to escort Lot, his wife, and two daughters out of the doomed city—the people were warned by their rescuers: “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain.” (Gen.19:17) Sadly, we read in Gen. 19:26: “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” It was devastating to Lot and deadly to his wife to “look back.” Jesus used that Old Testament incident to instruct his followers. In Luke 17:32, He simply says, “Remember Lot’s wife.” He was encouraging the disciples (Luke 17:22ff.) to be faithful and ready for the coming of the future kingdom of God.

Following that instruction from the Gospel of Luke, we should look to and for these things, having put our hands to the plough:

Look to His Person Hebrews 12:2 gives us good counsel in our walk and work for our Savior in this Church age: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” We are members of His body, the Church, and He has, by His Spirit, gifted us and equipped us for the work of edifying His Church. There is a work for each child of God to do. Set out to do it with your whole-heart; but whatever you do, don’t look back. Don’t look back to old ways of the world that you once embraced. Look to Jesus. Keep your eyes fixed upon Him and in so doing “run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebs.12:1)

Look to the prize. Paul declared that “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.3:13, 14) A prize for Paul was the “crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only but unto all them also that love His appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:8) So, too, every believer can look forward to the same prize that kept Paul looking straight ahead and not back at those things which were behind.

Look for the promise. Paul put it this way in writing to Titus: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” (Tit. 2:13) The promise was, “I will come again to receive you unto myself that where I am ye may be also.” (John 14:3) His coming for the Church, the Rapture, is imminent.  We are to live expectantly, faithfully, ready to hear the trumpet’s signal and the Saviour’s shout to “Come up hither.” Oh, what a blessed daily hope that is! Let us live while looking for that promise as Paul encouraged his son in the faith, Titus, to do.

Look at our progress. (2 John 8): “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.” Paul plainly said to the Corinthian Christians, a carnal lot, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” (2 Cor.13:5) It is well to look at our own heart: Am I right with God? Am I keeping the faith? Am I in love with Him and His word?

Finally, look to people.  (Phil.2:4): “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” We live in community as believers.  We are a body. When one member of the body suffers, all members of the body suffer. God has given us plenty of instruction as to how to treat and care for people who are family and family of faith: “Love one another.” “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (I John 3:17) We take care of our own. Our own household and then, when and where needed, the household of faith. We minister to spiritual needs (Gal.6:1, 2), and we are sensitive to the physical needs.  Looking also “on the things of others,” in the sense that Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Philippian church, will keep us from living a selfish, self-centered life.

So, while ploughing in the field where God has placed you, remember: Do not look back; look to the Person (Jesus); look to the prize; look for the promise; look at your progress, and do not fail to look to people. In doing so, He will be able to finish that work that He has begun in you (Phil.1:6). And in time, in His time, you will be ready for the kingdom of God, where He will have more ploughing  for you to do, ploughing that will take a millennium to complete, all to the praise of His glory!

“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:35,36)

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