Don’t Look Back: Giving Up Failure For Your Kingdom Purpose
The last few weeks I’ve been reflecting heavily on my past experiences – mostly those experiences that I would consider failures. It causes quite a bit of heartache to look back and feel like you didn’t do enough or didn’t do things differently. I believe the Lord has been bringing up these experiences from my past because I have not fully let them go. And because I haven’t let them go they’ve been affecting how I live my life in more ways than one.
I think we all struggle with our past. Whether we’re nostalgic for the good times or sad over the bad times, we tend to allow our past to have influence over our present and future. Jesus, however, calls us to a radically different view of life. In Luke 9:61-62 we find the following phrase by Jesus (I have intentionally left out vv. 57-60 to narrow the scope of this article):
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
WHAT IS JESUS REALLY TRYING TO TEACH US HERE?
In 2008 I was told by someone speaking into my life, “Put your hand to the plow and don’t look back.” As we read the similar words from Jesus here in Luke 9 we have to ask, “What is Jesus really trying to teach us here?”
Jesus was teaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand and family ties must come secondary even to Him. There is definitely a connection here with the call of Elisha in 1 Kings 19:19-21. Elijah throws his cloak over the young would-be prophet which signified the call to follow. Elisha, however, responds that he needs to kiss his father and mother goodbye. He ends up doing so and actually burns the plowing equipment to cook his final meal with his people (That’s one heck of a way to move forward!).
WHO IS MOST IMPORTANT?
In view of 1 Kings 19, we see Jesus calling his disciples to an even higher calling than the Hebrew Prophets! God incarnate and the Kingdom of God were upon that person right there and then. Indeed, the Kingdom of God is upon us now. Jesus was putting into question every other loyalty on earth, including the most sacred for the Jews: Father and Mother (Exodus 20:12).
Familial relationships were considered the most important loyalty only second to God. Calling into question this loyalty would have been a major obstacle for anyone hearing it. As God, however, Jesus has(d) the authority to demand such loyalty that goes above the parent-son relationship.
When you put your hand to the plow and look back what happens? Not many of us are farmers today, but it’s not hard to picture someone plowing and looking back and making a crooked line of the furrow.
Think about driving. We have mirrors that help us look back safely and you occasionally have to turn your head to check blind spots but our main focus is forward. If we turn our heads backward for longer than a couple of seconds, fatal events can happen.
It sounds harsh no matter what time period you live in, but think about it this way: We believe that Jesus was 100% God and 100% human. This person had the opportunity to walk with God incarnate. Talk about Carpe Diem! And the same goes for us today. We have been given this incredible opportunity by the God of the universe to actively participate in His Kingdom plans! Not in some distant future but right now. Today! When we focus on the past, we lose focus on the present and future. When we focus on our failures, much like Peter focused on the waves instead of Jesus, we begin to sink and lose focus on our Kingdom purpose (Matthew 14:22-33).
FAILING IS FOR EVERYONE
I’ve probably overused this quote on my website articles but it’s because it speaks to me so often. Dan Smith writes:
“Failing is not just for failures, it’s for everyone. Failures just have more experience.” –Dan Smith
It’s so easy for me to think (sink) back and become depressed over things that did happen, things that didn’t happen, and things I wish I could still be doing. I think most of us have a longing to redo or relive our past. For so long I’ve been looking back at my failures and things I wish I did differently. I’ve been looking back in anger, bitterness, and frustration and it’s been affecting the very core of my being. I’ve failed others, I’ve failed myself, and I’ve failed God.
I believe the LORD has been strategically bringing up these failures and wrongs one after the other so that I can deal with them and put them away as I walk into this next season of life. If I keep looking back as a father I can’t be present with my kid(s) and I’ll parent out of failure. If I keep looking back as a Pastor, I’ll shepherd out of failure and anger towards my past rather than out of victory, confidence, and my Kingdom purpose. Paul calls us to keep our minds focused on Jesus and the “things above” because we died to that old life and we are now born anew through our Messiah (Colossians 3:1-4).
Don’t get me wrong. Failing can be a good thing. Failures teach us valuable life lessons that we can’t really learn any other way. It keeps us humble but also keeps us learning. What I’m addressing here is dwelling on our failure and our past. Back to the car analogy: Sometimes we need to glance back quickly at the failure not to condemn us but to warn us and to guide us forward in the right direction. If we don’t look back, we may hit that car in our blind spot. Looking back isn’t in and of itself bad. Focusing on and dwelling on what’s behind you is.
“Put your hands to the plow,” Jesus says, “and don’t look back!” You can’t change your past. You can’t go back and redo it or relive it. You can adjust your future though. And that’s what Jesus is calling us to – a future with a Kingdom purpose. You don’t have to live in your past any longer. Your identity isn’t in your past. Your identity is in Jesus and the person He has created you to be. Jesus keeps you focused on the present so that you can bring God glory and be the very best version of yourself.
With Jesus, you are forgiven.
With Jesus, you are a new creation.
With Jesus, you are known fully and fully loved.
With Jesus, you are given a Kingdom purpose.
With Jesus, you are given a responsibility to be a light to the world.
With Jesus, there is a cost but it pales in comparison to its reward.
Walk with Jesus this week, friend, and keep your focus on Him.
Maranatha // מרנאתא
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3
Take a moment to meditate on Romans 12:1-3 with Lectio Divina.
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About The Author
Justin Boothby is a lifelong student who loves to travel, film, write, design websites, and life coach. Most importantly he loves to Pastor in all different kinds of ministry settings. He’s also an avid pizza lover, metalcore listener, and shot glass collector.
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Leave A Comment
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this article! Please remember to be kind and respectful. If you didn't like something, I always welcome constructive criticism. However, any form of hatred, bullying, or racism will not be tolerated.
About The Author
Justin is a lifelong student who loves to speak, travel, film, write, and coach. He has a goal of empowering others to grow closer to Jesus in practical and unique ways. After acquiring two degrees in Practical Theology and then studying in Israel for two years, Justin has a passion to help people read the Bible with a deeper appreciation in its original, ancient context.
M.A. Hebrew University of Jerusalem
M.Div. Regent University
B.S. Southeastern University