Wednesday, August 24, 2016

God Doesn't Lead Backwards

"For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: 
therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed."
Isaiah 50:7

There is a great measure of peace to be found in the center of God's perfect will.
Even though storms rage and the world around continues to speed by at a rat-race, frenzied pace,
peace that surpasses the understanding of those looking on provides a sweet serenity and a precious and highly longed-for sense of calm.

Sometimes, it takes a while to reach this point.
There is so much in this life to muddle through in order to get here.
But, once here, it seems that the journey behind, however harried and difficult it has been,
was well worth the trek.

Such is life for us now.

It was not always this way.
As I look back upon those days, 
I find myself feeling the torment of it all, and it is like I am transported backwards...
to a place of bondage, unrest, and a dreaded, sickeningly familiar feeling of a certain enveloping hopelessness, despair, and an overwhelming fear of there being no way out.

It is then that the dear Lord reminds me that I am not to look back.
That we are not there anymore.
That He has set us free and wrought a great deliverance in our lives by His mighty hand.

Luke 17:32 contains a three word sobering admonition, spoken by our Lord.
It simply says,
"Remember Lot's wife."

Seems like the shortest Bible verses can sometimes pack the most powerful punch.

What is the most memorable thing you know to even remember about Lot's wife?
Truly, what is about the only thing you really know about her?

Is it not that she looked back?
After being forewarned by God-sent angels in Genesis 19:17 not to look back,
she chose to turn around and gaze upon the place that God had called her from,
and, by doing this, she was literally frozen in time and space.
She never moved forward from that spot,
and that seemingly small and insignificant act of disobedience cost her her life.

Looking back is not conducive to progress.
Looking back not only slows down, but it prevents progress.
Looking back will leave us frozen in time and space.
Just like Lot's wife.

When God has given specific instructions to move forward,
it is imperative that, no matter how difficult it is to do,
we are obedient.

One day, Jesus and His disciples came to a certain village.
As they walked along, Jesus called two men to follow Him.
Both of them began making excuses for not being able to immediately forsake all to become His disciple.
When Jesus perceived their hesitation, He said this, 
"No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
(Luke 9:56-62)

I thought about those two men.
Did it ever occur to them what they had really turned down?
Did they ever think back on that moment,
those penetrating eyes that must have bored into their very souls,
that compelling voice that was asking them to follow Him?
However paramount their excuses seemed at the time,
did they later seem lame and not so important?
They looked back, and because of that, they were stymied and frozen in place and missed out on the highest honor ever offered to man.

Last night, when I was praying, I started thinking about the "great cloud of witnesses"
who have gone before us, those who served Jesus during their time on earth,
who were washed in the blood of the Lamb,
who were faithful to Him until death,
and who are now safe forevermore with Him in Heaven.

It seemed that I could actually sense their presence there, as I was seeking the Lord.
It was if they were cheering me on, letting me know that it is better farther on,
and telling me that if they could make it, so can I.

Then, this morning, during some of my first waking thoughts,
the precious Holy Spirit spoke these words to me.
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; 
Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:2

I couldn't remember where it was found,
so as soon as I could, I looked it up.
Imagine my surprise when I saw that the verse I was thinking about during prayer last night,
("Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us," Hebrews 12:1),
is the verse that comes right BEFORE the verse the Lord brought to me this morning in prayer!

So, since He had brought verse one to me last night,
and verse two to me this morning,
I also went on to read verse three in this same passage.

"For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, 
lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."

As I thought upon these verses, I began to recall a time just a few short months ago that I was to the point of being "wearied" and of "fainting in my mind".

There were some personal issues that we had been praying about and including in our nightly intercessory prayers (that I spoke of in this post) that seemed like immovable mountains in front of us.
We felt like we were backed against a wall.
Like the enemy was right behind close that we could feel his hot breath on the backs of our necks, trying to draw us backwards, trying to pull us back in, doing his utmost to intimidate,
inflict fear, and taunt....
then in front of us, there was what resembled the Red Sea.
Impossible and impassible.

During that time, there were two options for us.
We could look back, turn around, succumb to the enemy, and remain in bondage.
Or, we could hold our ground and believe for the miracle that would have to happen in order for the Red Sea to open in front of us,
allowing us to cross over to the sweet deliverance and victorious freedom waiting on the other side.

I remember how standing there, waiting to see the salvation of the Lord,
we came to understand and realize that
God never leads backwards.
He didn't call His chosen people out of the bondage of Egypt,
only to lead them back into its torment and bondage.
In all of my study of His Word,
in all of my reading of the saints of old,
I cannot recall a time when God ever led anyone backwards.
The souls who make up "the great cloud of witnesses" are where they are
because they pressed forward 
and refused to look back regardless how tough the battle became.
They laid aside the weights and besetting sins, and they ran their race to a victorious finish,
whatever the cost.

No one runs a race backwards.
Races are run by moving forward one step at a time,
putting one foot in front of the other,
and keeping one's face "set like a flint" towards the finish line.

God always leads forward.

There is this between God's command to launch forward and any apparent evidence of the fruition of our launching, when the waiting becomes agonizing.
It is during this weakened, vulnerable span of time that the enemy tries his utmost to convince us that we have made a mistake,
that it wasn't really God who told us to launch in the first place,
that the road ahead is too long, the waiting is too hard,
and the best thing we could ever do is look back.

It takes a strong determination to keep looking forward while in the waiting room.
Mom used to tell me often that God has His own timetable.
He doesn't operate within the perimeters of our demands.

The other day I read this quote,
"You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one."
(I'm sorry I don't know who to credit for the quote, but it is a good one.)
It really hit home when I read it.

It's true.
God has a plan, and it never involves walking backwards...only forward.

Philippians 4:13-14 says,
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do,
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."

Forgetting the past takes effort.
God wired our brains to remember, not to forget.

Pressing toward the mark requires a reaching forth to those things which are before,
 an intentional pursuit of what is ahead,
and a strong refusal to look back.

God has amazing plans for each one of us.
But, He cannot implement those plans or set them in motion,
as long as we continue to analyze, re-think, and cling tightly to the past.

Another quote I love is this...
"Sometimes we just have to trust what God did and did not allow."
And, to the end of that, I add,
"...and move forward."

During a family vacation, the hotel desk clerk inserted our room keys into this envelope.

In light of how God has been leading my family and me over the past few years,
it really resonated with us.

We will never discover the doors God has for us to open,
if we are in continual backward pursuit of "what was" or contemplating "what might have been".

There are doors that we do not even know exist...
doors that open to a deeper walk with Him...
doors that will lead to the enlargement of our coasts...
doors that will reveal the abundant life He has for us.

How are things with you, my friend?
Do you find yourself looking back so often that it is preventing you from enjoying today?
Does the pull of the past keep you from walking forward into the the bright future God has for you?

Dear friend, I want to encourage you to look ahead,
and keep your eyes on Jesus, as He onward leads.

Let go of yesterday in order to grasp hold of what He has waiting for you.
He loves you so much, and His plans for you are good plans.

Walking with Jesus requires a walk of faith and a continual surrender to His plan, not our own.

God is absolutely faithful to His promises.
Don't allow fear to keep you from looking ahead to what He has prepared for you.

Whatever He is calling you to do,
I encourage you to take the plunge,
and launch out into the deep with Him.
Then wait upon His perfect timing, and no matter how long it takes for your faith to become sight,
don't look back while waiting.

I so love and appreciate every one of you, dear friends.
I can't thank you enough for your faithful support of these devotions
and every kind word you leave in the comments.
Keep encouraged to press the battle forward.
Heaven will surely be worth it all!

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  1. I needed this reminder today. Thank you :) This has been a year of "sifting" for my family and it is so easy to look back. Thank you for the reminder to press on!

    1. Oh, my! I surely understanding the sifting. It is surely difficult on the flesh, and sometimes, during those times, it is so hard to feel God's presence. Yes, dear sister, keep pressing on. It will be so worth it one day!

  2. Just a perfect reminder to me as I am in the process of writing my next post on a similar subject. Thanks Cheryl! Enjoy the rest of your week!

    1. I will be looking forward to reading that, sweet friend. So thankful for your visit! God bless you. :)

  3. When we are hesitant about the future and don't know what to do; we need to pray to God and seek His help to go forwards. We need not fear the future; because He has been there and made it safe for us.

    God bless.

    1. Thank God, He hasn't given us the spirit of fear. Yes, praise His name, He is already in all of our tomorrows! Thank you for your visit and words, Victor!

  4. Wonderful post Cheryl! I have been so out of touch, and I'd love to speak to you or email you. Actually, I NEED some of your support and wisdom here lately. I also want to catch up with everything that's been going on if your life. I miss you dearly, friend! I want to make sure I got your correct email and number so please email me with that. My email is the same
    Love and miss you!

    1. Oh, sweet friend! I love and miss you, too. I have thought of you often, and we definitely need to talk. I will email you privately right away. SO thankful you stopped by. Sending you much love and many blessings!

  5. And encouraged I am… You made an unshakable point with the word of God. I tend to look back, not to relive, but to learn, and yet, I admit I spend too much time looking backwards instead of forward. The path ahead when we're following His will is as good as it's gonna get trudging the dirt in these soul cages.

    Thanks for the wonderful and powerful reminder, sister.

    1. So thankful for your visit and kind words of encouragement, Floyd. You are always such a blessing when you stop by. I can't thank you enough for your faithful life and prayers and support. God bless you abundantly, brother.

  6. I like all the scriptures you shared and I think it's tempting to look back but only for good. God is creative to use past mistakes and redeem us and fill us with hope for a new opportunity with every sunrise. Your package came! I took Amy out for breakfast and she opened it and we browsed through the Bible Study. Your note filled both our eyes with tear. You have such a way, my friend, to show God's love and compassion. You're unique; don't forget that. May God lavish his love on you the way you do others.

    1. Oh, Mary!!! That just touches my heart so deeply! I am so thankful Amy's package arrived safely. I thought of her when I saw that book and wanted her to have it. It looked like it had some very comforting content, and I trust it will bless her. I think of her often and pray and just hope that God will soon answer prayer on her behalf. Your precious words just meant the world to me, and I just thank you from the bottom of my heart. Sending you much love and many blessings, sweet friend. :)

  7. Thanks for such an encouraging post. Love the first verse you shared about God helping us. So wonderful that you have found peace in God's will. That is the only place it can be found. Great verses about pressing forward, and looking to Jesus. That's a great envelope you got at the hotel. Nice that they add the little touches. Your remarks on what might have been remind me of the song "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You." It's one of my favorites, and it contains the line, "Never mind what might have been." Wonderful to know that God has doors open for us more awesome than we could ever imagine. Eye has not seen nor ear heard what good things God has prepared for those who love him.

    1. Thank you so much, dear Bethany! It is always such a blessing to see that you have stopped by! I love that song, too...I do remember that line, now that you mention it. Never mind what might have been...oh, the truth that peace comes when we let go of that! I love the verse you shared, too...who knows what good things God has prepared for all of us. What a faithful and mighty God He truly is!

  8. so I am in the waiting time right now. And I most definitely can feel the spiritual warfare going on. But as you said I need to let God continue to do the changing and guiding and I follow Him in obedience and allow him to do it. It is like a daily reminder of who I am and my need for him. I Find it always encouraging when I hear about others going through similar things. It reminds of the verses in 1 Peter 5 after the verses of being told to be sober and be viligant because Satan is like a roaring lion. Lol I I don't remember what verses they were. But thank you for being real and writing these encouraging words

    1. Bless your heart, my friend. I know how hard it is to wait upon the Lord, and I trust He will uphold you by His grace during this difficult time. Keep encouraged to press the battle on, and He will surely see you through. I love the verse you quoted. Oh, it is SO true! Thank you for your precious encouragement. God bless you!

  9. Thank you so much for writing this. I so needed to read this at this very moment. I am in a transitional point in ministry and have felt so agitated and frustrated in this waiting time. God bless you for being obedient to His voice and His promptings. It surely will be worth it all.

    1. And, God bless you, dear Priscilla for stopping and for leaving such a sweet comment here! I so appreciate it and am so thankful to meet you. I trust God will open the right doors for you and close all of the wrong ones and just make your ministry path plain. I am praying for you right now!

  10. The waiting in between of launching and seeing any fruitfulness of the launch can be so very hard indeed. Filled with swirling thoughts of doubts. Thanks for the beautiful reminder to keep eyes focused ahead Cheryl.

    1. Yes, how true, my friend! Mom always told me that God is most pleased when we lean upon Him the hardest. It is during these times of waiting that we surely do lean on Him, as often there is nothing else we can do. So thankful for you, your sweet visit, and kind words! God bless you and give you every desire of your heart and make your waiting so worthwhile!

  11. Absolutely one of the most encouraging and truthful posts I have read in a long, long time! Thank you for the reminder to not look back, not to dwell on the past but put our trust in the One who holds our future! Blessings to you, friend ♥

    1. Thank you ever so much, Nannette! It was so nice to see that you had stopped by. :) God bless you, my friend!

  12. Dear Cheryl, Your post encouraged me so very much! Too often, I look back at how my life used to be and will lament that it isn't like that now. Your insights and wisdom in how you framed looking back as compared to the Biblical accounts you shared really convicted me and encouraged me. The quotes you shared, especially the one about you can't start a new chapter if you keep re-reading the old chapter was an excellent and profound word picture for me.

    I appreciate you so much Cheryl. Your devotions ALWAYS edify and ALWAYS encourage. Your love of Christ and His Word so evident in every sentence you share.

    A verse that came to mind to me as I was finishing up your post is, "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19. This verse has always encouraged me when I am tempted to "look back" in a different way, out of fear that something will happen again; essentially allowing the "looking back" to paralyze me.

    Thank you so much for stretching my Biblical muscles here this evening. Such great refreshment this first night back from our vacation.

    Blessings to you sweet friend!

  13. Powerful words! Thanks! Blessings to you and yours!
    Hopping here from Counting Our Blessings.
    Marie @

    1. Thank you ever so much for your sweet visit, Marie! So sorry I am so long in responding! God bless you abundantly for stopping and leaving encouragement here!

  14. Connecting with you from #sittingamongfriends today! Blessings to you.

    1. Thank you so much for visiting! God bless you. :)

  15. Thank you for the wonderful reminder! I've been wrestling with this myself lately. I'm learning to let God have my past and to trust Him with the future. Found you at #sittingamongfriends! God bless!

    1. Bless your dear heart! It surely is hard to let God have our past, isn't it? I know how you feel, and I think it is a constant struggle, but so thankful for His amazing grace! Thank you, Marian, ever so much for your sweet comments and kind words. God bless you abundantly and always give you His peace! Come back anytime!

  16. Such an encouraging word straight from the heart of God! Oh how many times we are tempted to look back, and just wonder... what if? But, we can't! If we look back, it is only to the memorials we have built in our life as a testimony to the goodness of the Lord, the miracles, and testimonies along the way, but we cannot look back to the callings of "Egypt" but we must press forward in the Lord. One of my mother's favorite verses is "I press towards the mark of the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus"... always looking forward into His face! Beautifully shared dear Cheryl! Praying that the Lord is blessing, and encouraging you in beautiful and amazing ways in this time of shelter from the storms of life, He is so gracious to provide for our deepest needs in amazing ways! Much love and hugs to you today!

    1. Thank you SO much for your dear visit and kind words, sweet friend. You will never know how much your times here mean to me. God bless you abundantly with His grace and peace! Sending you love and hugs!

  17. Oh the words "what if only," can never bring back things as they were. In God's foreknowledge he always knows what is best for us. Trying to relive the past may bring us good memories, or it might bring us sadness. Some things are best left behind. Time marches on. I liked your statement about the cloud of witnesses cheering us to go forward. Also was encouraged by the verse from Hebrews 12, God spoke to you in your waking moments, and how it fit so perfectly with the other verse. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

    1. Time does march on...whether we want it to or not. God is ever faithful. Thank you for your sweet visit, Hazel. God bless you!