Remembering How God Has Led

I don’t know what triggered my trip down memory lane. I sat with my Daily Light open but unread, and began to pray for God to open my understanding and speak to my heart from His Word.

I thought back with wonder of the many different paths my life could have taken. Several events led to my salvation. What if one of them hadn’t happened?

There were different temptations, some of which I regret failing. I could have been done in by any of them.

My life could have followed any number of paths, not just theoretically, but due to influences at the time. I could have become an alcoholic. I had planned to get married right out of high school, not realizing I would be marrying the wrong person. I not only would have missed meeting my wonderful husband, but I would not have experienced all I learned both intellectually and spiritually at a Christian college.

I could have fallen for a television evangelist’s false doctrine (I actually called the number on the screen once). People are so vulnerable just before and after salvation, when their interest in the Lord is aroused but they have no discernment yet.

In 8th or 9th grade, we moved to a new town. The school I attended was the most cliquish place I had ever been. Well-defined groups didn’t allow for new members. My mom had to plead and almost push me out of the car at school in the mornings. I spent many lunch breaks walking around the grounds by myself in tears. Finally I became friends with another girl who was also, for some unknown reason, outside the school’s social circles. I discovered years later that it was the Lord’s mercy that kept me from getting involved with the popular crowd, as they were into a lot of unhealthy activities. What if I had gotten in with them? I probably would have gotten into some kind of trouble and possibly would have become proud and condescending.

Between my sophomore and junior year, my mother left my father and took my siblings and me to Houston. The break had been coming for years, but it still hurt when it finally happened. We moved from a very small town of less than 200 to the teeming metropolis of Houston. The culture shock was very real. In those days before the Internet, I had little contact with my friends from school. I had no opportunity to make new friends since school wouldn’t start for months yet. It was the loneliest time in my life. I remember lying on my bed clinging desperately to Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Looking back, I didn’t know fully what that verse meant. But I knew that, to the degree I knew how, I loved God, and I trusted Him to work things out for good. Though that was one of the lowest points in my life, it was also pivotal. It was through this move that God provided miraculously for me to go to a Christian school for two years, led me to a good church, helped me make sure of my salvation, and let me know about a Christian college.

Somehow God led me all the way.

My heart was tender thinking back over God’s working in my life. As I opened my Bible reading for the day, I came to Deuteronomy 8:2: “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness.” It’s amazing how God prepares me for what I am going to encounter in His Word. I thought my mental wanderings about my past were just daydreams and rabbit trails, but here He had led me to do just what the Scripture said.

Several times in Deuteronomy 8, Moses urged the Israelites to remember the Lord and not forget Him. Peter wanted “to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Peter 1:13; 3:1). Jesus told the Ephesian church, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:4). As God called Israel, back to Himself, He said, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown” (Jeremiah 2:2).

This is what I most want my children, grandchildren, readers, and anyone with whom I have any influence to know, to remember: that Christianity is not just a culture, not just a set of doctrines, not just what we do and don’t do. It is the basis of all of those. But first of all it’s that personal relationship with the Lord.

Do you have that? Have there been times in your life you knew God was at work in you, drawing you to Himself? Do you have warm and tender moments where He met with you personally?

If you professed faith as a young child, you may not remember a definite “before” and “after” to your life of faith. But you can be grateful for God’s preventative work in your life and the scars and bad memories He kept you from. As you’ve walked with the Lord, I am sure you’ve found that the “big sins” are not always the dramatic ones that everyone sees. Inner wrestlings with pride and self-will are just as deadly. You’ve discovered that it takes as much of God’s grace to battle those as it does to defeat addiction. You’ve probably experienced times when God answered prayer or something in His Word met your need of the moment. It’s not the drama of one’s initial testimony that determines what kind of Christian life we have: it’s simple faith, not in our faith, but in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Nothing stirs up our love and gratitude towards the Lord like remembering how He saved us and led us. It’s a blessing to sometimes review the “Ebenezers,” those special times of help that we’ve experienced along the way. Then we can say along with the psalmist:

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
 when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
 for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
 My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:5-8

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

A Time to Look Back, a Time Not to Look Back

The end of the year encourages a lot of looking back over the past 365 days. I enjoy end-of-the-year compilations, whether they are book lists, news stories, or family newsletters.

A few years ago, a saying was making the rounds on Pinterest and Facebook: “Don’t look back: you’re not going that way.”

Is that good advice? It can be sometimes, if looking back is keeping you from moving forward, keeping you from obedience, tempting you in any kind of wrong way, fueling your longing for something or someone you should not have, or causing you to wallow in regret instead of moving on to repentance and change.

Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Also, when God says, “Go!” then it is not time to look back. We don’t know all the reasons Lot’s family was told not to look back. And we don’t know all the reasons Lot’s wife did look back, but she was turned to a pillar of salt for disobeying. When Jesus admonished His hearers to “Remember Lot’s wife,” the context was the coming of the kingdom of God. Just after mentioning her, Jesus said, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”

Paul said, “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” (Philippians 3:13-14).

But are there times to look back? This depiction of the saying I mentioned amused me, because in context, not looking back would be a major safety hazard!

Looking backThis one also makes a good point:

don't_look_back,_but-85120
There are times God tells us to look back. Isaiah 51:1 tells us, “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.” It is good to look back at where the Lord found us and where He brought us from. Many times in both the Old and New Testaments, a prophet, preacher, or apostle recounted Israel’s history to them, reminding them of their unfaithfulness and His faithfulness and mercy and grace. They were told to “remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deuteronomy 8:2), “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee” (Deuteronomy 32:7), “Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth” (I Chronicles 16:12).

Also, throughout the Bible God told the people to set up memorials to mark some occurrence of His help on their behalf in the past. Those memorials were reminders of what He had done plus a testimony as people told the story behind the memorials to their children.

A couple of churches mentioned in Revelation were admonished to Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent,” (Revelation 2:5), and “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you” (3:2-3).

The Psalmist said “I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy” “Psalm 63:6-7, ESV_. By doing so “satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips” (v. 5). In Psalm 77:11-12 (ESV), he said “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” Many times psalmists encouraged themselves by looking back and remembering how God had met their needs and faithfully dealt with them in the past.

Peter said, “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour” (I Peter 3:1-2).

So, do we look back or do we not look back? We can’t live life by catch phrases. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted,” and so on. There are times and reasons to look back: to learn from our mistakes, to humble ourselves, to remember God’s help, deliverance, and provision of the past,to encourage ourselves that God is loves us, is faithful, and powerful to take care of us now and in the future. But there are times and reasons not to look back, as I mentioned above. It depends on what we are looking at and why and what effect it has on us.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our Guide while life shall last,
And our eternal home.

~ Isaac Watts, 1719

(Revised from the archives)

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