Looking Forward, No Looking Back

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The New Year brings anticipation for many and anxiety for others. What challenges will I face? What will the days bring? We used to stay up to watch the clock strike 12:00 am and celebrate the coming of the new day. Not anymore. There’s really no point to it. Technically, it’s already the New Year somewhere in the world… so just because the ball drops in New York which is still not midnight in Oklahoma or the big potato drops in Idaho, doesn’t really mean much to us anymore.

I have been talking to a few people about the incoming New Year and about children getting ready to graduate or other life’s changes. Many of them have spoken to me about it with anxiety written on their faces. There is a very strong desire to hold on to the past and simply ignore the future. We aren’t really supposed to look that far into the future, for Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I think this is why my attitude about the New Year is nonchalant. Everyday is a new day – why don’t we celebrate that? Why are Mondays the cause of so much grumbling? Isn’t that a new vista of opportunity?

Along with the New Year’s traditions, people sing the tune from 1788 called “Auld Lang Syne.” For many years, I didn’t realize that it was Scottish. I only thought it was sung by drunk people who were blurring the words together so they didn’t make any sense (yes, that still may be true). The song, translated in English talks about the days gone by and how old acquaintances should be remembered. When I contemplate the popularity of the song around New Year’s time, I am sure that people are thinking about past regrets and others that have slipped out of their lives.

There is definite sadness to that. There are many this year who have suffered, have lost loved ones and have dealt with hard times. I know that the anxiety for the New Year brings some to consider more of the same kind of things for their family and even more changes. That can make anyone apprehensive. Yet, the story of Lot’s wife comes into play here for me. There was something that captured my attention when I first read about this in Genesis. For those of you who may not be familiar, in Genesis 19, Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his family are told to take their family and flee from the city of Sodom that was going to face utter destruction. In Genesis 19:26, there is one line “But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” What in the world? Why would that happen to her and what made her look back – even though the angels had given firm instructions NOT to look back?

That’s the only line in that story – it doesn’t tell us much about her, what happened next or why she did it. The only explanation I could come up with were that she was still attached. Even though the city was evil in the sight of the Lord, she still liked her stuff. She still had friends there and maybe was thinking about her home and things (I can relate!). It wasn’t until I started to read more of the Bible and learn about what Jesus says about the cost of Discipleship with Him, that the story finally makes more sense. In Luke 9, Jesus tells a man to follow him. The exchange takes place like this:

59Then He said to another man, “Follow Me.”

“Lord,” the man replied, “first let me go and bury my father.”

60But Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You, however, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61Still another said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first let me bid farewell to my family.”

62Then Jesus declared, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

Think about it…there were people who saw Jesus face to face and told him “no, thanks.” They were tied to their family and to their things. They wanted to take their time and follow Jesus when they wanted to – not when He said to do it. In 1 John 2:15, the verse says “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” Yikes… there is much I love in the world including my own family. This is a sticking point for many of us. What do you put first? Who do you put first? It’s easy to talk about following Jesus, but when push comes to shove, would you do it? Would you look back to the stuff you used to have? The buddies you used to go out with? The shows you used to watch on TV? How about your family? What if your family was not on board? There is a cost to following Christ. Are you ready to pay it? What if you don’t pay it?

The scriptures that bring all of this together are given to us in Luke .There is a price to pay now for following Christ and for walking with Him daily. People will look at you and call you “over-zealous” or even “over-religious.” Some may not have nice things to say at all or even laugh at you or react to you in anger. The truth is that tomorrow is not guaranteed to us. You can die today. We can plan for a whole New Year – think about the next 365 days, but none of that will matter. So what about today? Luke 17 says:

 30“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” [36]

Chilling thoughts. Not necessarily ones we want to think about on New Year’s Day with the clean up from last night’s celebrations. But Christ WILL come. It’s truth and a given. When He comes, where will you be? Will you go back to thinking about what you have or what you own? Will you be like Lot’s wife, and from the shelter of her husband, from behind him, look back towards destruction?

When you walk daily with Christ, you walk forward towards eternal life. There is a comfort and a peace that blankets you. There is a knowledge that whatever comes your way, you have a Savior who loves you and has died for you. He has taken on death so that when your time comes, you move from this physical state into another state of eternal glory. In the blink of an eye, you will be changed (1 Cor 15:52). From the lyrics of an amazing song by Horatio Spafford “It Is Well with My Soul:”

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

~May that day come without fear or anxiety for you. May it truly be well with your soul. That is my New Year’s blessing and prayer for you.

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