No Turning Back

No Turning Back

Next week, we turn our clocks back one hour.  We fall back and get an extra hour of sleep before coming back to church.

According to our clocks it may look like we get to go back and live that hour all over again, however, we know the reality.  None of us can ever do such a thing.  Daylight savings time is a man-made event and time hasn’t really started over.  Whatever was done during that hour is done and we’ll never get to live that hour again.  No, we continue moving forward moment-by-moment. 

There is something within us that often longs to go back in time.  Sometimes out of regrets wishing that we could go back and make better choices.  Sometimes it is a longing for better days and fond memories that we would love to relive over and over again.  In any case, neither can be done.

From this reality, we can learn what Paul wrote in Colossians 4.  We learn to be watchful and thankful and devoted to prayer; ensuring that we make the most of every opportunity.  After all, every day is a gift of God and none of us know how many days our future might contain.  Perhaps it is the unknown of the future and the comfort and familiarity of the past that causes us to long to stay there.

There’s nothing wrong with recalling and sharing our past.  We can learn from our mistakes, share powerful testimonies of the goodness of God, and laugh as we remember the good times.  However, we have to be careful not to become stuck in our past nor allow it to hinder us from moving forward in life.

God was very intentional in every way to show us through all that He created that His desire is that we always more forward in life.  That is why hope and faith are so valuable in God’s kingdom! 

He placed our eyes in the front of our head, our knees to only bend back with our feet facing in front of us and our arms to only bend forward.  To try and run backwards is incredibly awkward and dangerous and it’s sure to eventually hurt us pretty badly if we continue to try and do it.

Longing for the past is a desire of our flesh.  The Holy Spirit within longs much, much more for the good days still ahead!  God knows our potential and His plans and purposes for our lives that have yet to be fulfilled!  He is incredibly excited for the awesome things that He has in store for us in the days yet to come. 

This is why Solomon wrote:

Ecclesiastes 7:10 (NLT)

Don’t long for “the good old days.”

    This is not wise.

The Bible provides many accounts that teach us the wisdom of looking and moving forward in life.  We learn to fix our eyes on Jesus who has already gone ahead of us pioneering a way for us.  He is the author, the perfecter, and the finisher of our faith.  He is eternal and knew us before we existed, is with us now, and knows fully what lies ahead of us.  He lived in this same flesh to show us how to get through life’s temptations and challenges and struggles and opposition and to finish well and gain the ultimate victory over it all! 

His life and death and resurrection reminds us of the importance of looking ahead with fullness of hope and to derive our strength from unshakable faith and trust in our Heavenly Father.  The Father has proven that He will work all things together for good and set all things right.

Hebrews 12:1-3

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Instead of longing for the past, we can become eagerly excited for the good things that God has planned for our future!  Consider Jesus and how trusting the Heavenly Father through the good times and bad lead Him to the ultimate victory over it all so that He never has to suffer any of it ever again for all eternity.  That is the place to which Jesus is calling you and I!  That is the place where Jesus is preparing a mansion for you!  Do not grow weary and don’t lose heart!  It’s not over yet and God still has a plan and purpose for you!

Sure, life has troubles, but we can consider all of those troubles as simply setting the stage and scene for us and the witnesses around us to see and experience God’s goodness!  It’s just another opportunity to prove Him faithful and our faith as genuine as we patiently look forward to His promises fulfilled demolishing everything that rises up against us!

Over and over again, we see God’s people being urged to keep moving forward and not to try and go back!  Luke recorded these encounters with Jesus that may seem harsh to us, but aren’t really so when we look at them through the eyes of eternity and from the perspective of the God who is calling us onward and upward!

Luke 9:57-62

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

No turning back!  NO TURNING BACK! 

Following Jesus into the Kingdom of God is a choice to make a wholehearted, whole-souled, whole-strengthed, whole-minded commitment!  My old self dies and the Holy Spirit births me as a new creation!  I’m born again!  The old is gone and the new is here!  God’s word uses incredibly forceful words to describe the process of our salvation and it’s literally a life and death matter that we have to stop being so apathetic about!

Jesus held nothing back for you and I so why would we hold anything back from Him?

Eternity literally hangs in the balance in the lives of those around us.  No, not even Jesus in the flesh could convince everyone to place their faith in Him and to follow Him, but He certainly made sure that everyone knew how and had the opportunity!  He has now commissioned you and I to do the same; to be a disciple and to make DISCPLES (plural)!

We can’t do that by looking back.  After Jesus died, six of the disciples went back to fishing.  The resurrected Jesus went and met with them in person to refocus them.  A whole generation of God’s people missed out on the abundance of His promise because they longed to go back to Egypt instead of ahead into the unknown where there was much opposition.  Lot’s wife, well, she is still a bit salty about her choice to literally just look back to the good old days…

In 1519, Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico to conquer it with a large group of ships and soldiers.  Unfortunately, they were outnumbered by over 7,000 to 1; absolutely impossible odds.  They were the third expedition to arrive on these shores and the previous two ended in disaster.  How did he succeed when the others failed?

He ordered to burn the ships.  That’s right, burn the ships.  There was no turning back!  Those men had no choice but to accomplish their mission or to surrender and die.  As a result, they conquered most of South America.

I’m not sharing that story saying that what they did was right.  However, the principle of burning our ships so that there is no possible way of turning back is a Biblical one.

Now the path that we are speaking of is the one that God has planned and prepared for us.  The one that only a few find in life.  That doesn’t mean that we won’t ever physically revisit our past in some ways; it simply means that we always move forward into God’s will for our lives.

We’re turning this morning to 1 Kings 19 to learn from a couple of powerful men of God.  Ones who lived in cooperation with God even without the infilling of the Holy Spirit so well that it was commonly believed that Jesus was one of them; Elijah and Elisha.

For time’s sake, we’re not going to read through this whole account, but much like us, Elijah was faithful to God and yet struggled in his flesh.  He personally experienced and witnessed the miraculous hand of God over and over again and yet he still allowed the fear of man, well a wicked woman named Jezebel, to be a snare to him.

He just had a showdown with the prophets and followers of Baal to see if he was truly a god or if the Lord was the one, true God.  God proved Himself on that day for sure!  However, Elijah was afraid of Jezebel’s threat to kill him and so he literally ran for his life.  Now he wasn’t just running away like Jonah did.  No, Elijah was running to Horeb to the mountain of God where Moses met face-to-face with the Lord. 

He was running away from the troubles of the world into the Presence of God.  God even sent an angel to feed him and to strengthen him for that journey.  Then when Elijah arrived, God asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah had a lot of time running and had planned and prepared a whole speech, you know, like any good preacher.  God did His thing and tore apart the rocks that stood between Elijah and Himself, then a mighty wind, then an earthquake, then a fire, but He was not in any of that.

Remember, just because a lot of noise and activity about God is going on, that doesn’t mean that the Lord is actually in it.  That’s a good word for someone listening to this!

No, God was in a whisper that came after and guess what God said?  The exact same thing that He said before.  If God seems silent right now and it seems like everything is falling apart all around you, try thinking back to the last thing that He said to you.  For Elijah, it was, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He gave the exact same prepared speech.  Apparently, God hadn’t gotten through to Him.  God corrected Elijah’s perspective and then sent him back the way that he came to finish the work that God had planned and prepared for him to do.  Sometimes to go forward on God’s path for our lives, we have to go back and pick up where we left off.

One of those tasks was to anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed him as prophet.

1 Kings 19:19-21

19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

Elisha made sure there was no turning back!  Sure, Elijah gave him the grace to say goodbye to his parents, but Elisha didn’t just go and do that.  Elisha burned the ships!  He took something incredibly valuable that he spent his lifetime building and burned it to the ground and had a huge bonfire party eating up those twelve yoke of oxen.

This wouldn’t make sense from worldly standards.  He could have just had his parents hire in somebody to replace him or even sold them off and used the money for other purposes.  Instead, he didn’t count the cost!  His life was consumed with the unknown future that he was being called into and that was all that mattered to him.

Jesus pondered the question of whether He would find faith when He returns.  He said in Revelation 3:16 that He wishes that we were either hot or cold and that He’ll spit the lukewarm out.

There’s another quick account that I just had to also share from the New Testament.

Acts 19:13-20

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

What is it this morning from your past that you are still dragging with you?  What is your ship that needs burned?  What is your scroll of sorcery that needs burned?  What is the ice cube in your life that keeps you lukewarm instead of burning ablaze by the flames of God, your all-consuming fire?

This morning, it’s time to burn the ships!