You Cannot Plow and Look Back

tractor beside grass field

There’s no question that the entire structure of the church is changing rapidly. For the first time ever, US church membership fell below the majority. This is incredibly significant. It’s impossible to overstate how rapidly church membership is in a freefall. We’re in a similar situation that an airplane pilot would be in if the plane was in freefall. There is no time to look back and assess what went wrong. In the moment, it’s the pilot’s job to fix the free fall and avoid a crash.

Jesus gave a glaring example of this when he told his disciples the cost of following him. Jesus told a man to follow him. He replied, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” (Luke 9:59 ESV). Another said he was going to say farewell to those at his home. Jesus responded by saying, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (vs. 62). In other words, the mission is too important to take care of other matters first. This is not only a lesson on the cost of following Jesus, but is also about priorities. When other things become more important, the church falls apart.

Immediately after this, Jesus sent out the seventy-two, two by two, into every town and place where he was about to go. Jesus was preparing for his ministry by equipping others to go before him. His words are important: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). The same is true today. We are in desperate need of laborers. More specifically, the church is in need of laborers who refuse to look back. If we are going to expand the kingdom, we have to be willing to follow Jesus now. We need to prioritize him above everything else in our lives. And we need to keep our eyes on the goal.

Pressing on Toward the Goal


There are a lot of distractions in life. As I study deception techniques that abusers use, I learn how complex their techniques are to keep people distracted and fooled. Satan is very good at distracting us, especially when we think that we are good at paying attention. Paul warned the Philippian church about people who deceive and steal away: “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate flesh” (Philippians 3:2 ESV).

We need to look out for them because they are incredibly sneaky. They worm their way in and pretend to be righteous. That’s why we’re so easily fooled by them. At the same time, we are easily distracted. Our minds are not as attentive as we think they are. So Satan will use different methods for tripping us up, and we don’t even know it’s happening.

Paul’s focus is forward, looking to heaven: “. . . forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14). Straining is accurate. It is not as easy as setting the cruise control. Forgetting what is behind us and focusing on heaven requires an incredible amount of focus and energy. It requires help from the Spirit of God. It’s not easy. But we absolutely have to press on. Otherwise we will fall into the trappings of the devil.

Photo by Ante Hamersmit on Unsplash