Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23
It isn't how you start that counts but rather how you finish! Rarely does the individual who sprints out of the starting blocks with a burst of speed break the tape winning the race. This is what Jesus had in mind when he said, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).
No, you can't drive looking in the rear view mirror. Neither can you accomplish God's purpose in your life vacillating, compromising, and wondering whether you should commit yourself to the task before you.
Jesus' comments about looking back after you have put your hand to the plow was the linchpin to a conversation he had with several people as he challenged them to follow Him. One had an excuse that he first had to go bury his father. Then he would come and follow Jesus. Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."
I've never plowed a furrow, but my father did–plenty of them–when he was a boy. Dad said that if you plow a straight furrow, you've got to fix your eyes on a distant point of reference--a tree, a fence post, a landmark of some kind--and move straight towards that point. Looking back and trying to move ahead means you vacillate to one side or the other, uncertain, indefinite, and unsuccessful.
As long as you look back, wondering if you married the right person, hesitating to commit yourself to your mate, your marriage will not improve. I've never seen a drug addict who had the strength to walk away from the habit as long as he dabbled in drugs--even a little bit. Burn your bridges behind you.
Nobody can find the victory, the joy, and the power to live as God intends us to live until he makes the decision, unconditional and without reservation, to walk with God. You can say "No" to the Lord, but you never say, "No, Lord" because when you say "No" you deny that He is Lord.
There is strength and power in the decision to move forward, to refuse to look back, going for it no matter what happens. In the early '50s it was assumed that running the four-minute mile was impossible. Then two athletes did it--Australian John Landy and a British runner from Oxford, Roger Bannister. Then the two were matched against each other in a historic race to determine which of the two was really faster.
They met on a track in Vancouver, and, say observers, John Landy was leading as they turned towards the finish line, but he made a fatal mistake. He looked back to see how close was his competitor, Robert Bannister. And as he looked back, he momentarily broke his stride, and Bannister seized the moment, surging ahead to win the contest.
Hey, friend, when you turn back, or even look back you stumble over the future and what you might have been, what you might have accomplished, what God might have done through you.
On more than one occasion great generals have burned their ships when their troops hit the beach so that there was no possibility of going back. Forget Egypt. Put your eyes on the Promised Land. Forget the past, and build for the future. Remember what Jesus said: "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). Paul got it right when he wrote that we are to forget the things that are past and press forward to receive all that God has for us. It's the only way to the finish line.
Resource reading: Philippians 3:12-14