Moving Forward by Looking Back

April 08, 2024 Joel H

Sometimes the unknown future can be terrifying. So much uncertainty. So much risk. Where can we find security and comfort facing what seems insurmountable to us at this time? Perhaps you’re a missionary who is excited and willing to serve God however he may use you. But, if you’re honest, the way forward seems impossible. The task is too big. How will we ever accomplish it? 

The nation of Israel faced a similar moment. On the east side of the Jordan, just before entering, Moses writes the book of Deuteronomy to the second generation out of Egypt. Their parents had failed to enter because of their lack of faith. The second generation didn’t seem much better, and apart from a bronze snake lifted up on a pole, they would have died in the wilderness too. But they had something else going for them that the first generation didn’t have. They had a couple of victories under their belt. So, to encourage Joshua and his young army, Moses writes this in Deuteronomy 3:21-22: “And I commanded Joshua at that time, ‘Your eyes have seen all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings. So will the LORD do to all the kingdoms into which you are crossing. You shall not fear them, for it is the LORD your God who fights for you.’”

In order to have hope and confidence in the future, sometimes the best strategy is to remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past. Look back and see all that God has done for you. Remember his unchanging faithfulness and gain strength knowing that God will continue to be faithful going forward. 

Yet for Christians, our confidence is far greater than two battles east of the Jordan. We look back and see the victory of the cross and the empty tomb. We know that death has no more power or sting in our lives. We have something better than a bronze snake. We see our Savior lifted up for our salvation. 

There’s an application here for missionary preparation too (this is, after all, a blog about missions).  Missionaries, too, should move forward by looking back. There is a crucial piece of missionary preparation that should not be neglected. Churches should never send out someone green.  In other words, new Christians, or those with no ministry experience behind them should not be going to the field. You need a few success stories in ministry before you can go to the other side of the world and seek to reproduce that ministry in a different cultural context. The best missionary preparation is ministry in your local church doing the same kinds of activities that you hope to do as a missionary. If you’re not doing it at home, what makes you think you’ll be doing it overseas where fewer eyes are watching you?

But as with the Israelite victories in war and with any success in ministry, God gets all the glory. It is the Lord who fights for you. Your only confidence that God is going to use you is because he has been using you. More than that, your only real confidence that God can raise to new life souls that are dead in their sins is to remember that the power of the resurrection is active as the Holy Spirit awakens them to the victory that was won on the cross. Look back to that decisive victory and move forward with confidence that there are many more victories to come. While you wait for the battles that lie ahead, engage well in the spiritual warfare of today. You don’t have to wait to see the power of God on display in your life right now. 


Joel H
With experience in missions and pastoral ministry, Joel serves Propempo with resource development and production.