Looking Backward for Confidence to Move Forward with Courage

Ancestry, 23 and Me, and other DNA analysis companies have been on the rise the last several years. But why? It is simple, actually. People want to know more about their heritage; where they came from; the stories that encompass their lineage. As we learn about our ancestors, our imaginations become full of pictures of what life was like back then and how it has lead to where we are today.

Like an ancestry full of rich heritage, we too, as Christians, have a heritage that stretches all the way back to the beginning of time.

How so?

All of Israel’s faith was wrapped up historical events of faith—God creating the universe, sparring Noah and his family, the promise to Abraham, promoting Joseph to second-in-command over Egypt, parting the Red Sea, etc. And all of this is our lineage and heritage as Christians too! Paul, in Galatians 3, makes this argument. He asserts that faith binds us to the lineage of Abraham, not ethnic origins.

In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God. What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would make the Gentiles right in his sight because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, “All nations will be blessed through you.” So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith. (Galatians 3:6 – 9, NLT)

We are called to be familiar with our spiritual heritage (the Old and New Testaments, and even Church history). This is like getting to know our family history.

And Romans 15:4 even suggests that it all has been “written down” for our encouragement so that we can continue to persevere in the faith! We can learn from the past without living in it. It might be tempting for us to look back and think that the “good old days” were the glory days but God has more for us in the present and the future. Even the prophet, Habakkuk, too, wanted to reminiscence on the past.

LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known. (Habakkuk 3:2, NIV)

Haven’t we prayed this prayer before? Don’t we read the Bible wishing for God’s works to be renewed in our time? Trying to return to the past in order to relive a past event fuels discontentment with the present. The idea is to remember the past without choosing to remain there.

It’s okay to look at the past and ask God to “Do it again!” Let’s just be prepared that God might not do it the same way again, He might do something new instead!

Biblical history is meant to be instructive to us, not prescriptive of events that are meant to be repeated verbatim. What Jesus has done has decisively changed the course of history, forever, with no possibility of going backward. In other words, we are constantly living in light of this new act of God. Yes, the events of Jesus and the apostles happened 2,000 years ago, but the implications of them are so wildly altering that they are in fact renewing the lives of people today!

Looking backward is helpful if…
·      We learn about the patterns in which God comes through victorious;
·      We learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before us;
·      The past acts as a catalyst for our faith; not a crutch.
Looking backward is not helpful if…
·      We treat the past as a formula;
·      We think our best days are behind us.

The truth is, God is moving. Are we looking for what He is doing now, or looking in the rear-view mirror?

Maybe today we need to take time to remember what God has done so that we can believe what He can do. Let’s look backward for confidence so that we can move forward with courage.

After all, we still need to persevere as we move into 2021, because God is not finished with our ministry and mission yet!

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