“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 3:13-14
I’m writing this with one blurry eye, an accident of my own doing, a pain inflicted upon me by another because I would not heed his advice. He told me not to turn around. He even stopped me earlier and warned me that turning around could get me hurt. Although I tried to listen to him, and even said out loud to myself, “DON’T TURN AROUND,” a bad force of habit kept me doing it and sure enough, up 12-5 and serving in the third game (with my wife watching), I turned around to see what was going on and got smacked clean in the left eye with the racquet ball from four feet away. End of game; can’t see the court.
As we’re driving home, my wife suggests we take a trip to the hospital.
“Naw,” I say, “I’ve been smacked before.”
“You know,” she says, “people our age need to be careful. You could easily get a detached retina.” Our age? I think to myself. What’s that supposed to mean? I let it slide.
“Okay,” I said. “If I my vision gets weird later on, I’ll go in. But just so you know; if my arm falls off or something, it’s totally unrelated.” She didn’t laugh.
Fast-forward to me in the shower (about twenty minutes ago). There is something about this incident that tells me there’s more to it than meets the eye (Sorry. Couldn’t help it). I’m thinking about how looking behind me got me hurt, and if I would have just faced forward I would probably have won the game. Then Paul’s statement to the Philippians comes to mind, and I know what it is that bothers me. I’ve never been hurt by those things coming from behind me, from my past, when I’ve given them to the Lord. The only time those things hurt or haunt me is when I don’t trust God to handle it or keep looking back to see if it is gaining on me. And about the time I do look back, it is way too late to duck.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul talks about putting on the armor of God (see chapter six). When you read the list of the armor, it is obvious there is nothing protecting the back of the warrior. Paul lists a belt, breastplate, helmet, foot protection, shield and sword—all the weapons needed for moving forward. A rear-view mirror doesn’t make the list.
Paul knows what it is to have a disreputable past. He helped hunt down and persecute Christians, and now he’s defending the very faith he once tried to destroy. He says in Phil. 3:7, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” And not too much later he tells us he’s going to forget what is behind him and strain towards what is ahead.
Paul wasn’t one to live in the past. He wasn’t one to turn around and worry about all he once did because he was too busy looking forward to all he was going to accomplish. He knew he had an awful past, but he also knew that the only good thing about this horrible time is that God puts it behind His back (Isaiah 38:17). God knows it’s back there, so there’s no reason for us to turn around and constantly try to sneak a look. I learned that the hard way today. My opponent may be calling me from behind, but his weapons are coming at me from the front. As soon as I forgot that, I got hurt.
So, the next time you’re tempted to turn around, don’t. The enemy can’t hurt you from behind when God has all your sins behind His own back. Keep looking forward and rest assured that you’ll always have two good eyes to see the goodness of the Lord.