“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Stuck in the Mud, by Dale Bastian
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In a vision, I saw a vehicle going down a two-lane country road. It was swerving erratically from one side of the road to the other. As I got closer I could see that the driver was looking in the rearview mirror as much or more than they were looking forwards. Before long, the person ended up going into the ditch and, because the ditch was wet, they promptly became stuck in the mud. The more they tried to drive their way out, the deeper the vehicle sank down into the mud. Finally, they came to the realization that they needed a tow. As soon as they cried out for help, a tow truck arrived and pulled them out, and they were able to be on their way again.

In reflecting on this vision, I realized that instead of looking ahead the person was busy focusing on the past. As we focus on the past, we, too, run the risk of ending up sidetracked and stuck. There are several aspects to focusing on the past we need to look at to avoid this possible entrapment.

The Land of Regret
One of these dangers is when we constantly think about and look at our past mistakes, sins, and failures. We look at the things we did that we should not have done, or we think about the things we should have done and did not do. Once we begin to focus on this we will eventually end up living in the land of regrets. We keep looking in the rearview mirror and seeing the missed opportunities behind us. Then, when we look forward, we realize that we’ve just missed another opportunity. This in turn leads us to further regret and an even stronger focus on looking back. Over time, our regret grows so big that eventually our rearview mirror becomes the size of the windshield itself, and we find that we are unable to see any upcoming opportunities whatsoever. The only time we notice them is in the mirror behind us once we have passed them by. Instead of living our lives in the present, we are entirely stuck in the past.

Settled & Stagnant
A second aspect of focusing on the past is when we constantly look back at past successes and victories. In our relationship with Jesus, there needs to be daily and ongoing intimacy. It is not enough to rest on our past relationship with Him. The traditions of experiences from the past can keep us looking back and unable to move forward. This not only causes believers to be stuck in what has been, it often causes entire churches or movements within the Church to be stuck. How sad it is that entire denominations have become bogged down in the sentimental mire of how God once moved in their midst, so busy remembering how God once moved that they are missing taking the next step with Him on their spiritual journey. Both corporately and individually, our past encounters with God and the victories we have won can become lifeless traditions or soothing sentimental remembrances that appease our desire for God and bring apathy instead of urgency!

Now we do need to be careful here, for there is an aspect of remembrance that is healthy and biblical. It is our attitude toward these past victories that determines whether or not they will hinder or help us. If we use them to urge us on in our relationship with Jesus, to encourage us to greater faithfulness, to build our faith; then it is proper and becoming. If, however, we have stagnated in our faith and intimacy with Christ, and are looking back at these past victories and blessings just to ease our conscience so we can say, “I remember in 1972 God used me to ______ (fill in the blank),” this can be simply another form of regret and looking back because God is not using us today.

In Ezekiel 33 the prophet gives a very sobering word about attempting to live on past righteousness. Ezekiel 33:13 says,
“When I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered; but in that same iniquity of his which he has committed he will die.” In the New Testament Jesus also gives a very sober warning in Luke 9:62, “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”

Getting A T.O.W.
So, in the light of such sobering words, how do we overcome this unhealthy fixation on the past that is so detrimental to our living in the present and can prevent us from enjoying all God has planned for us in the future? In the vision, the person was only rescued when they realized they needed a tow and cried out for help. When I asked the Lord what the “tow” represented, He showed me that “a t.o.w.” meant “a time of worship.” When we enter into worship, it changes our perspective and our attitude. Now we need to remember that worship is more than just singing songs of praise and proclaiming words of exaltation to our God. The truly highest form of worship is a life given over in absolute and complete surrender to the will of God. When we cry out in sincere repentance from a heart that is surrendered to God, He will quickly come to our rescue.

Have we honestly surrendered our will, our mind, and our emotions to the Lord and been entirely captivated by Him? Listen to what the apostle Paul says:
“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:7–14). We truly can forget what lies behind, by the grace of God, knowing that He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.

Together, both individually and corporately, let us look forward, fixing our eyes on Jesus, and press on toward the goal. Let us yield our lives in total surrender to Jesus, and allow His Spirit to transform us from being stuck to being set free to travel down the road of life looking forward to the plans and opportunities He has in store for us remembering the words of Jeremiah 29:11,
“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

Dale Bastian is a part of Living Water Publications and attends Freeport Mennonite Church in Freeport, Illinois. With a solid biblical background, keen prophetic insight, and a compassionate heart, he brings clarity of vision and a call to become more Christ-like to the Church. Dale and his wife, Dana, live in Dakota, Illinois.

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