We all have things in the past we’re stuck on, but by God’s power you can move forward.
You Are Next
By Samuel Rodriguez
Moving Up the Mountain
When I visited Israel, I heard about a centuries-old salt formation near the Dead Sea at Mount Sodom. While no one knows if this natural edifice started out as Lot’s wife, it certainly serves as a reminder of her fate. I find it incredibly sad to know that instead of a shrine commemorating her obedience and faithfulness, only a dry, dusty rock formation of sodium chloride remains. Instead of moving up the mountain, Lot’s wife became a monument to lost momentum.
Consider how differently her story might have ended. For example, we see a similar kind of stubborn resistance to God’s leading in the case of Jonah. Instructed by God to go to the city of Nineveh and warn its residents of their imminent destruction unless they repented, Jonah ran away. He tried to go the opposite direction and escape the place where God needed him to serve—and consequently ended up in the belly of a fish! But Jonah eventually repented and allowed God to use him to go to Nineveh and do what God needed him to do. Jonah surrendered his shackles to the past in order to fulfill the purpose for which God made him.
Similarly, we see the way many of those included in the faith hall of fame in Hebrews chapter 11 made the same choice to leave their past behind. Instead of looking back in destruction, they chose to walk by faith. Scripture says, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see” (Heb. 11:1). And the pioneers of faith included here moved beyond the paralysis of their past to procure the promise of God’s power. Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and on and on—each individual chose to move forward instead of backward.
If you want to experience the fullness of God’s healing in the midst of those paralyzed areas of your life, you must follow the Lord. You must heed his voice and obey his commands. You must leave the place you used to live behind you. You must be willing to travel light and follow the sound of God’s voice.
And leaving your old life for the place God wants to take you involves so much more than geography. While he very well might want you to move across town, out of state or to the other side of the world, God often wants to see movement in your heart. He wants you to stop carrying around baggage from the past that serves no purpose in your present and only slows you down in reaching your future.
Can you relate? How much baggage do you carry with you from the past on a daily basis? Maybe you have accumulated it from the arguments, conflicts and grudges in your marriage, from the painful disappointments you have experienced when your spouse has let you down. But what if you could forgive your spouse the way God forgives you? What if you let go of your past expectations and old grudges so that the Lord can lead you into new heights of forgiveness, love and grace?
Maybe you have been settling for less than you know God has for you in your career. You watch others finish their degrees, get promoted and enjoy doing what God made them to do, but you do nothing about moving your own dreams forward. What if you let go of old excuses and past limitations? What if you followed God’s call to step out and begin doing what he created you to do? What if you let go of your past expectations and old grudges so that the Lord can lead you into new heights of forgiveness, love and grace?
Maybe you want to be a better parent to your kids, but you will not forgive yourself for past failures. Perhaps you need to ask forgiveness from friends you have wounded with your words so that he can take your relationships to a deeper, God-honoring place. Or maybe you need new friends, ones who will hold your hand as the angels did with Lot and guide you toward the Lord, instead of old friends or people claiming to be your friends, who keep you trapped in the past.
We all have areas of our lives where we find safety by dwelling in the past. We may have invited God into most areas of our lives but not all areas. And in those secret areas we remain a prisoner to the past, unable to move forward and increasingly unwilling to try.
Am I talking to you? Does your abuse keep you paralyzed by the fear that you might feel that powerless again? Does your addiction, even when in recovery, keep you paralyzed with fear that you will slip back into it? Does anxiety keep you stuck in place because, after everything you have been through, after everything you have lost—jobs, relationships, homes and money—you wonder when the next crisis will happen or the next catastrophe will crash down on you? Does your status, that veneer of success, accomplishment and material success you have worked for all your life, keep you tied up in knots as you strive to stay afloat?
Whatever happened in your past, surrender it at the foot of the cross.
It will be hard, but God never leaves you, and he will strengthen you. He will send his angels to guard you, and he will guide you out of destruction and into new life. There will be growing pains. You will struggle and stumble sometimes. You will grumble like the people of Israel did after God rescued them from slavery in Egypt, complaining that life seemed better back in the past compared with the discomfort of the present. Struggling to glimpse the Promised Land, they wanted to settle for less.
You alone must make the choice, my friend.
In many ways it seems very simple: forward or backward.
The man beside the pool of Bethesda had been paralyzed for 38 years. Why should he ever expect to walk again? Why should he dare hope for a miracle? Why should he not look back and resign himself to remaining flat on the ground for the rest of his life?
Why? Because of Jesus Christ! Jesus conquered your past and opened the door to your glorious future. Jesus broke through your past and guides you beyond where you started. Jesus overcame your past so that you might know complete healing.
I cannot urge you strongly enough: Do whatever you need to do to break the chains of your past and all the labels still clinging to you. If you are serious about growing in your faith, then hesitate no longer. Stop looking back! Quit pretending to look ahead while your neck stiffens from staring behind you!
Take God’s hand and let him lead you beyond where you have been. Let him take you to a summit you have never imagined in your wildest dreams. You can get there, but only if you trust him.
As I write this, I feel led to declare some things over you. I believe God will release you from your past, and I invite you to join me in declaring these affirmations over yourself.
No longer will you remain flat on the ground of your past. You will choose to get on your feet.
You will choose to follow God forward, step by step, up the mountain.
Your past has no claim on you.
You belong to God.
You are a child of the King.
You are a new creation in Christ.
The time has come to step out of the paralysis of the past.
The time has come for you to stop letting others hold you back.
If you want to be released from your past, then remember only one thing: You are next!
Excerpted from You Are Next by Samuel Rodriguez (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2019). Used by permission.