Why do we tend to look back at our mistakes? How can we stop looking back and start looking forward to what’s ahead?
Claim God’s Promise
What a refreshing verse Isaiah the Prophet writes in Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” What a vivid picture of the cleansing made possible, only “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1st Pet 1:19). Once we’ve been cleansed, we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14), which means there’s no time for us to be looking back at our past failures and sins. Since these verses about forgiveness are true, why do so many trip over what’s behind them? And why do some people trip over what’s behind other people’s past? For the believer in Christ, all of those things are behind them. We are new creations in Christ (2nd Cor 5:17), because it was “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2nd Cor 5:21). If we are looking at what’s behind us, we might trip over what’s ahead of us.
Jesus told the Apostle Peter that we must not forgive our brothers and sister “up to seven times,” but up to “seventy times seventy,” and that doesn’t mean when we reach 490 times, we don’t forgive anymore (Matt 18:21-22). Jesus was saying in effect, we must continually forgive others because God has to continually forgive us. If we don’t get that, we’ll have a hard time forgiving others and forgiving ourselves. Now if someone sins against us, what do we do? Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Mat 18:15), but what if that’ doesn’t work? “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Matt 18:16). That doesn’t mean you gang up on them and having them outnumbered they must give up. It means that maybe the witnesses will see it is not really a sin at all or they will reinforce what the offended party says, and that is, “You have sinned against your brother.” But what if that doesn’t work? Jesus says, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt 18:17). If you have tried and failed, then leave it up to God. If you have been the one causing the offense, then you (or I) have to go to them and settle that account and ask for forgiveness. Don’t let a state of un-forgiveness trip up your Christian walk.
Worry about Tomorrow
Jesus said that it’s a total waste of time to worry about tomorrow. There is nothing we can do to change it and there is nothing we can do to stop it. This means when we worry about tomorrow, we’re actually tripping over tomorrow, and maybe tripping over something that doesn’t even happen. Can you think of anything that wastes more time and energy than worrying does? Our Lord said, “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt 6:34). In other words, we’ve got our hands full with today without adding more to our plate about tomorrow. And try to answer this question of Jesus: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life” (Matt 6:27)? I’m afraid I can’t raise my hand. I can only subtract from my life span by worrying, not add to it; not even a second. Don’t we trust our heavenly Father? Since He cares for the birds of the air, even a tiny sparrow, doesn’t He care for us? Yes, and infinitely more.
Living for Eternity
One wise pastor said that we should be living with the end in mind. What he means is that we ought to contemplate the future and our eternity. Imagine the day that we will actually see God, face to face, and not be toast (Rev 21:3. 22:4). This has become a memory verse for many a saint who’s suffered: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4). What a future we have. It’s like nothing we can even describe. I can describe last week to you, our recent nursing home visit, the flat tire I had, the funeral I was at, or our new visitors at church, but I cannot even fathom the incredible eternity that’s coming. That’s what the Apostle Paul wanted the Christians at Rome to dwell on in their suffering. He said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).
What I hope I have done is to help you look ahead and not behind you. If you can be pressing forward toward the high prize of your great calling, then you won’t have the time or interest in looking back, you won’t waste time and energy worrying about tomorrow, and if your concentrating on what’s ahead of you, you’ll probably not trip over what’s behind you or in front of you.