The youth broadcast I did for many years, we decided to take it out of the studio one day and use an amusement park as our backdrop for the program. The park people suggested a super rollercoaster called Thunder Road as one of the venues. Now, roller coaster and I have never gotten along real well since my dad sort of made me go on one when I was little. And this one – well, it had two lines for you to choose from. One said, “Forward,” and the other said, “Backward.” You could ride Thunder Road in the conventional way, looking forward with at least a little chance to prepare yourself for what was coming. But the backward bunch – they rode backwards! Which means, of course, they had no idea what was about to happen to their body. What? They call this a choice?
I’m Ron Hutchcraft, and I want to have A Word With You today about “Looking Backward.”
In a way, we all have to choose which way we are going to ride through life. There are two lines: one says forward – looking ahead to what’s going to happen, to the future. And the other says backward: looking back at the past. Those who choose to keep looking backward are going to have a much rougher road.
Our word for today from the Word of God comes from Isaiah 43:18-19. God says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Maybe that’s a personal word for you right now. God’s saying “I want to do a new thing; I want to start a great new chapter in your life.”
But notice what has to happen before you can get God’s new thing. You have to close the old chapter. “Forget the past; do not dwell on the former things.” Could it be you’re missing a new beginning from God, a better chapter because you keep looking back? Back at your pain, your hurt, your failures, back at your mistreatment, your betrayal, your old life? That’s why your ride is so rough.
Paul gives us a formula for winning in Philippians 3:13, “Forgetting the things that are behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press toward the mark to win the prize to which God called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Those who keep looking back, who keep reliving the past, rehearsing the past, revenging the past – those people are too preoccupied to pursue the new thing God has for them.
The Bible describes the rough ride some of us have because we’re looking the wrong direction in Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God. Do not let any bitter root grow up among you or it will cause trouble and defile many.” See, bitterness is a seat in the car that looks backward – and so is anger, unforgiveness, resentment. Someone has hurt you, but the unforgiveness in your heart isn’t hurting them much at all. It’s killing you.
God may want to do a new thing in your marriage, or between you and your parents, or one of your children, maybe in your church, or in some key relationships, or in your work. But He cannot fill your heart with His grace as long as it is full of your bitterness.
But today could be the day that you go to the Great Forgiver, that’s Jesus, and say, “Lord, help me to treat them, not as they treated me, but as You treated me.” As Colossians 3:13 says, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Let it go. Decide now not to base the future on the past. Declare today a new beginning. And with Jesus’ help and grace, you can finally be free!
The best view is for those who get in the car that looks forward. It may not always be a smooth ride, but it isn’t nearly as rough as the ride for someone who keeps looking at what has already happened. You can choose that other line today, the one that forgets the former things and does not dwell on the past.