By Pastor Ay Nee Ng
Do you remember Lot’s wife? Don’t look back is exactly what Paul writes in Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV). “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”.
What are we here for? We are here to move forward to fulfil our God-given purposes. To do so, we are to forget what lies behind (not look back), strain to what lies ahead (look forward), and press on toward the goal for the prize (move forward for His purposes).
1. Forget What Lies Behind
Lot’s wife’s looked back because she could not forget what was behind. Her actions paid a solemn price of no return to the present. She clung on to the past, lingering for a decadent society and a world that she could not let go even though she was brought out of danger to a safe place. She forgot that “the only time you should look back is to see how far you’ve come”. We are not to live in the past as progress moves on; we got to be with the times. Remember Lot’s wife!
2. Strain to What Lies Ahead
Straining is about picturing what we cannot see immediately; it is having a vision, a purpose and a hope for the future. When you strain forward, what is your posture? It is one of inclining towards the front. What happens when you want to take a good look at something you really like? You lean forward, tip toe, or strain your back to one side to get the best view. Sometimes as we strain forward, we over-strain and fall on our face. So we need the right posture to strain forward.
We need to have the posture of anticipation, eagerness and expectation of the future. Having the right balance to stay on track is another asset, and that requires the helping hand of someone to keep us on focus. A helping hand leads us to safe grounds and helps us move forward.
Lot, his wife and two daughters had a helping hand–the angels took their hand and led them to safety. Everyone needs a helping hand, and when given at the right time, it can pull someone out from their doldrums and issues. Then it is up to each one to set the pace.
The helping hand I am talking about is not just any hand but God’s hand. Do we know that God’s hand is upon us? Do we understand the power of being under His protection, under His hand? Here are some scriptures that the magnificence of His powerful hand upon us.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:27-30).
“But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me’” (Isa. 49:14-16; ESV).
“The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’” (Ps. 110:1).
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand….For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’ Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 41:10-14).
“The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the Lord was upon him there” (Ezek. 1:3; ESV).
“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:8-11).
His hand signifies:
- Protection from our enemies (Mt. 22:44)
- Power so nothing can shake us (Jn. 10:27-30)
- Strength and help (Isa. 41:10)
- Well-being and safety (Ps. 16:8-11)
- Direction, making known the path of life
- Pleasures (joy and happiness) (Ps. 16:11)
To be under His right hand, we need to have a contrite heart and spirit, seek the Lord, and wait on Him in fasting and prayer.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Pet. 5:6; ESV).
“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, ‘The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty” (Ez. 8:21-23; ESV).
3. Press On Toward the Goal of the Prize of the Upward Call of God
Pressing on is about perseverance, determination, and dedication for God’s call for each of us–to testify about Christ and draw the net. We are to be fishers of men, women, boys and girls.
Testimony of the Cheong Family and their Son Jeremy
This is the journey of faith of a family that kept looking and moving forward. Jeremy comes from a family that has gone through a lot in life. His mother Joy was a Laos’s refugee that made it to USA with her family when she was a young girl. She had her fair share of hardship at an early age. She married to Andrew, a Malaysian, and after being unable to find job during the recession in USA, they left to Malaysia where Andrew’s parents were living then. It was around that time that we get to know them.
We were asked to urgently pray for Jeremy, then 12 years old, because he needed an immediate brain surgery to remove a tumour. Twelve years later on March 26th, 2017, we heard that a recent MRI scan had showed Jeremy had a brain tumour of 1 cm diameter in the same place. Joy and her two children left to USA for a non-invasive surgery for Jeremy.
In our last trip to Malaysia on April 2017, we met Jeremy who shared with us his testimony of how he found peace in God’s love. He knows God personally. He believes there is healing in God, and no matter what the outcome is, he is going to focus on Jesus. He said he needs to look and move forward, trusting in Jesus. We encouraged him to start a blog to encourage others on their journey of faith. This is a young life that touched his dad and mom and us.
In the business to provide for his family, Andrew struggled a bit but has now come back strong for Jesus after hearing the testimony of his son. All the time, Joy trusted God not only for herself but also for her family. She never gave up because she understood that when things fall apart, in Jesus, they will fall in place.
Some of you may feel like things are also falling apart, but if you surrender them to God, His helping hand will protect you and support you. Let’s pray.