Hebrews 11:15-16 And truly if [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob] had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
When we think of Scriptures that warn us of the dangers of looking back, we might think of Lot’s wife, who turned into a pillar of salt as she looked back on her way out of Sodom. Or what Jesus told those who had excuses why they couldn’t follow Him just yet (Luke 9:62): “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Or we might think of Paul’s admonition to the Philippians in chapter 3 of that epistle (vv. 13-14): Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Only this last verse calls us to look ahead, and what we are to be focused on. Philippians tells us that our goal is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. If we stop listening to other voices and start hearing this one, we will hear the call.
Yet perhaps it is the verse in Hebrews that is the most helpful overlooked passage on that issue. This scripture adds to Philippians a vision of what is to be before us: a heavenly country that captures our hearts and minds, and keeps us moving forward with hope and energy. Like our spiritual forefathers who looked ahead to a time and situation they would never see here on earth, we need to let Him be “the glory and the lifter of our heads” so that we too are looking at something beyond ourselves, something we’ll never see in our lifetime.
Generations of believers. Family curses broken. A healthy church that changes its community over decades. Placing spiritual seeds in the world of law, government, business or the arts. Missionary outreaches that change tribes and nations. Writing that will live and continue to bear fruit.
Yet there is a real danger spoken of here as well: “If they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.” They could have chosen to stop believing God, give up on the dream, and settle back into what they knew. What a loss that would have been—for them and for us.
Let’s not just not look back. First, let’s determine that there is no going back, even if we, like them, could go back. Then let’s look ahead in faith (after all, Hebrews 11 is the great “faith chapter”), let Him lift up our eyes, and take a look at where we’re going—our upward call, our inheritance in Him. Once we get that vision, we won’t even want to think about yesterday.
Prayer: Father, I don’t want to go back to any kind of old life. Help me to see the future you have for me—in this life, and far beyond it. A full picture would probably overwhelm me, so please give me enough of a glimpse of the future to motivate and excite me. Be my Glory and the Lifter of my head.