“This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us, whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt . . .” (Acts 7:38,39).
IF WE’RE HONEST, WE’LL ADMIT THAT WE SOMETIMES LOOK BACK AND LONG FOR THE WORLD WE’VE BEEN DELIVERED FROM. Just as the people of Israel foolishly thought, once they were in the wilderness, their lives had been better back in Egypt, so we may think the difficulties of doing what’s right are too hard and life was better back when we simply lived for the moment. It’s a fact that gaining freedom from slavery involves a good deal of danger and discomfort, whether the slavery is physical or spiritual. And we may think that although being a slave had its disadvantages, they were at least tolerable in comparison to the more grievous hardships of freedom. And so our old “comfort zone” calls us. It’s tempting to give up the struggle and go back.
On one occasion, when Jesus was impressing on His disciples the need for decisive action, He said, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). In the act of escaping the destruction of Sodom, Lot’s wife perished, not for going back but simply for looking back.
On another occasion, Jesus said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). We show ourselves unthankful and unworthy of the grace that has been granted to us if we look back from our work in the Lord and think our lives were better before that work began.
Does this mean we should never even think about our pre-Christian past? No, but it does mean we should reject that past decisively and never give the thought of going back a chance to get a grip on our minds. To the extent that thinking about the past helps motivate us to serve God more faithfully, we should think about it. Paul, for example, seemed to work harder as an evangelist when he thought about his past (1 Corinthians 15:9,10). But if thinking about “Egypt” tempts us to go back there, even if it’s just in our hearts, then we must determine not to do it. After all, it is not backward but forward that we are reaching.
“Shut out all of your past except that which will help you weather your tomorrows” (Sir William Osler).