The past is like a rearview mirror. It’s an important piece of equipment to have on your vehicle, but its purpose is to glance at and not to stare into. If you spend all your time looking at the rearview mirror, you’ll never get where you need to go in one piece.
This was the first lesson for Joshua to learn before moving into the promised land.
Joshua was taking the reins of leadership from Moses. Yep, the Moses—the man who brought down the plagues on the Egyptians, parted the Red Sea, and talked to God face-to-face. As if that weren’t enough, consider the fact that Moses was the only leader anyone in the Israelite camp had ever known. Their parents had followed Moses out of slavery, and every day since then for the past 40 years the people had looked to him for guidance and direction.
Understandably, Joshua might have been intimidated by this huge task. Joshua could have spent the rest of his life questioning his every move, always looking over his shoulder, focusing on the past. That’s why, right out of the gate, God reminded Him, “Moses My servant is dead” (Joshua 1:2).
Translation? “Leave the past behind, Joshua. Move forward.” Joshua needed to be reminded that although Moses had been a great man and a great leader, he had not gotten them into the promised land. Moses was yesterday, and it was time for Joshua to get up and move on.
Maybe you haven’t reached your destination yet because you’re still tied to Moses. In order to move forward and realize what God has in store for tomorrow, it’s important that you say good-bye to yesterday, whether it was good or bad.
Perhaps it’s difficult for you to leave the past behind because you’ve left a trail of chaos where you’ve been. Maybe you’ve been living in boyhood instead of graduating to manhood. Or maybe you’ve shirked responsibility and authority, and your family and friends have suffered because of it. Maybe you’re still feeling the practical effects of your past, such as paying child support from a broken marriage or watching your kids drift further and further from you.
All of these reasons make it both emotionally and practically difficult to let go and move forward. But hear these words from the Lord, just as Joshua heard them: “Moses is dead.” You can’t change the past. But you can move into the future.
On the other hand, maybe you’ve been a virtual superman up to this point. Looking back brings you great satisfaction because you’ve been living a life fully aligned under the lordship of Jesus. However, yesterday’s victories will not carry you through today. Past successes can keep you frozen in the past just as effectively as failures can. With successes you might be tempted to think the hard work is done and slip into a state of pride over what you’ve done or laziness about the tasks that remain. You’ve got to let go of yesterday’s successes too.
Paul put this in perspective for us in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”
Dr. Tony Evans is one of the country’s most respected leaders in evangelical circles. As a pastor, teacher, author and speaker, he serves the body of Christ through his unique ability to communicate complex theological truths through simple, yet profound, illustrations. While addressing the practical issues of today, Dr. Evans is known as a relevant expositor. New and veteran pastors alike regard him as a pastor of pastors and a father in the faith.