Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:2
It happened again in the 1992 Olympics. An athlete was leading the runners in his event. With legs moving like steel pistons, and hands flying, the group rounded the turn, heading into the backstretch and the finish line. But no matter how disciplined and how well trained they are, athletes are still human. They are people–not machines that scamper like a mechanical rabbit in front of the hounds. It was only a few meters to the finish and the gold, when the leader became curious. “How far back is my nearest competitor?” he asked himself. As he turned his head to see, he broke his stride, and his nearest rival, then at his shoulder, seized the opportunity and surged ahead and won the race! The difference between gold and silver, between first and second place, was merely the turn of a head to look back.
Frankly, that wasn’t the first race to be lost because somebody looked back. Looking back can be dangerous, whether it is on the athletic field, in business, or in your Christian life. When he wrote to the Philippians, Paul talked about his qualifications and achievements, but then said he had to forget them, to put them totally behind him. “Forgetting what is behind,” he wrote, “and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
Another New Testament author uses the same analogy of the athlete who looks back, and makes an important observation. He says boldly that if your faith is going to survive, it has to be focused, so that with singleness of mind, you make the decision to serve God, to keep moving towards heaven. Here’s how he put it, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2).
Staying focused on your objective is absolutely imperative if you are going to succeed. What makes for success on the track makes for success spiritually. In recent days I’ve lost track of the number of spiritual fatalities I’ve seen, including the names of well-known and successful people who got sidetracked, who looked back and thought, “It doesn’t matter for me to make one short stop. I can catch up with the pack and nobody will know what I’m doing!”
God’s purpose for His children is to keep their eyes on the Lord and to keep their feet moving towards heaven. Looking back is the first step towards going back, and there is no protection for the individual who is headed in the wrong direction.
In another passage, Paul likens the Christian life to a battle and draws parallels between the armor of the Roman soldier and the protection that God’s children have (see Ephesians 6). It’s a great picture, but what most people don’t know is that the armor of the Roman soldier had no protection for the back. Those who designed the armor of the Roman soldiers expected them to keep facing the enemy, to keep pressing on, not to look back, and certainly not to turn and retreat.
Ever been tempted to look back, to think about how tough it is to make it playing the game God’s way? Races are not won looking over your shoulder behind you. But they are won with determination and discipline.
Don’t look back! Don’t spend time focusing on yesterday, whether it heralded your victories or your defeats. God is the God of the present, not the past. He’s the God of the living, not the dead. He stands on the threshold of tomorrow with arms outstretched, inviting you to stay focused on Him. That’s the only way to win. Think about it.
Resource reading: Philippians 3:12-21.