Leroy “Satchel” Paige, was a great African-American baseball pitcher who played in the early to mid-1900’s. Paige, who played before blacks were allowed in the major leagues, is credited for paving the way.
Paige was a showman, a legend in his own time and an incredible athlete who defied age. No one ever knew for sure how old he was, it’s believed he was the oldest rookie in the Majors when he signed with the Cleveland Indians at age 42 in 1948.
Famous for his humorous sayings, Paige once quipped, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you!”
While there is a tendency to look back and reminisce, looking back can often get us into trouble. In fact it can be fatal. The danger of disciples of Christ looking back is an oft-repeated warning in the Bible.
Jesus expressed it this way in Luke 9:62–“No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
The context involves three different people who wanted to follow Jesus. The first man was a scribe (Matt 8:19) who said, “Lord I will follow you wherever you go.” But when Jesus responded, Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” The man recanted. Apparently, that kind of lifestyle wasn’t for him. Maybe he had a nice home and enjoyed a comfortable, easy life. Being a disciple of Christ involved too much self-sacrifice.
The second man was actually called by Jesus. What an honor. However, he replied, “Let me go and bury my father.” Jesus retorted, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” In other words, let those who have no interest in spiritual matters attend to this physical chore.
While this on the surface sounds harsh, Barclay suggests that perhaps his father hadn’t died yet. Traditionally, the Jews buried their dead on the very day of their death. So, why was this man among the crowd as Jesus passed by?
The third man also volunteered to follow Jesus, but first, he wanted to go back home. That’s when Jesus “Don’t look back.”
It seems what all of these men had in common was excuses. They had a problem with priorities. They were lacking loyalty to the Lord. Their attention was diverted. Their hearts were divided. Their focus was distracted. Their “commitment” lacked true devotion. Dedication. And denial of self-interest.
The problem of looking back is nothing new. It is as old as Lot’s wife, who disobeyed the Lord and longingly looked back at the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah , which they were commanded to leave behind.
Don’t look back at your sinful life. Don’t yearn for those days again. Leave them behind. Your ungodly friends. Your lustful habits. Your worldly ways. Your materialistic goals. Your carnal attitudes. Forget them. Don’t look back.
As a boy growing up on the farm in central Indiana, I can relate to Jesus’ analogy of plowing a straight furrow. You don’t look back. If you do, it will be crooked. You keep your eyes straight ahead. Dad taught me to pick an object to fix my eyes on in front of me. A fence post. A tree. Something to direct focus ahead. Not behind.
The watchword of the Bible, of true discipleship, is “Forward.” Keep moving forward. In this vein, Paul proclaimed, “I press on toward the goal.” In fact, he said that he forgot the past (Phil 3:12-15). Past problems. Past mistakes. Past sins. Past decisions. Don’t look back.
Jesus demands a true heart with total allegiance to him. Half-hearted service doesn’t work. Billy Sunday The baseball player turned evangelist, once quipped “The trouble with many men is that they have got just enough religion to make them miserable.”
It’s the truth. It’s possible to go to church but look back at where you’d rather be. It’s possible to give but look back at how you could use the money for yourself. It’s possible to live a good life but look back and wistfully yearn for the “fun” you’re missing.
Let Jesus’ words ring in your ears. Don’t look back.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman