6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: There's a New Year's custom in some villages in Scotland where barrels of tar are set ablaze and rolled through the streets, signifying the burning of the old year. Perhaps this signifies leaving it all behind and being focused on looking ahead.


INTRODUCTION: People all over the world celebrate New Year's differently. I came across an interesting custom in some villages in Scotland. Barrels of tar are set ablaze and rolled through the streets, signifying the burning of the old year. Gives an attention-grabbing feel to the idea of out with the old; in with the new. But I guess in the idea of burning the old year you are not leaving any remnants behind to dwell on; you're focused on looking ahead.

This isn't to say that there aren't any aspects of the old year to reflect on and remember fondly; of course there are. But in looking ahead we vow to put old regrets and old quarrels to rest. In looking ahead we are striving to replace old behaviors with new ones. Some things might follow us from the old year and there's not anything we can do about it except deal with them. But perhaps we deal with them in a new way or with a new attitude which can be more effective. Perhaps this is the year we finally get that monkey off our back. Perhaps this is the year we finally accomplish that long-time goal. Let's look ahead.

1) Eyes front!

Prov. 4:25-27, "Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil."

Here we see a recipe for success in being able to look ahead and move forward. In looking ahead we are not being distracted by things in other directions. Looking ahead has with it a stated purpose of advancement. We are striving for reaching new plateaus. Therefore, in order to do that we need not lose our focus. Eyes front and keep it movin'! Don't look to the right or to the left but keep your eyes on the prize. Walk in the way that is solid and sure and that way is with Christ; all other ways are dangerous and treacherous. And don't look back! When God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah the angel sent to rescue Lot, his wife and their daughters basically told them to keep it moving and don't look back.

But Gen. 19:26 says that Lot's wife did look back and when she did she became a pillar of salt. She didn't look back in curiosity, she looked back in longing and sorrow. When we become born again we are called to not look back with fondness on our old lifestyle of sin with a desire to go back. That was Lot's wife's problem-she not only looked back, she desired to go back; she didn't want to let go.

Jesus cited Lot's wife in Luke 17:28-33, “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it."

Whoever is willing to let go of living their lives for their own desires and purposes and instead embrace the new way of living for Jesus will preserve it for eternity. When we are called to look ahead and move forward one thing that will hold us back is looking back and going back. So, moving forward involves letting go. Letting go of all the unspiritual ideals and practices in the old life that will easily mess us up in the new life.

Jesus illustrated this principle in Matt. 9:17. He said if you try to put new wine in old wineskins they will burst and both would be ruined. We are new creations with a new Sprit called to walk in newness of life. If we try to mix that newness with our old ways and lifestyle it won't work; it will come to ruin. As a new creation living a new life we're supposed to be going in a new direction. We leave the old behind and look ahead to the new.

But if I'm looking back and having a hard time letting go I will not be effective. Luke 9:62, "Jesus replied, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

I can't be fit for service because how can I do a good job moving forward when I'm focused on what's behind me? If I try to plow a straight furlough while looking backwards I'm going to mess everything up. Likewise, if I try to live a new life while I'm stuck in the old one I will not be successful.

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