Is Back in the Day Really So Great?
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Is Back in the Day Really So Great?

Main Passage:  John 21:1-23

Focus Verse: Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 NIV

Have you looked back at past events or places with a reminiscent memory of how great a time it was then? "Back in the day, we used to ..." A smile, a look that says, "I'm back there already" covers your face. What was surely seems better than it really was.

I remember a young seminary student's wife cried because she had to leave her family for the first time. She was from Eastern Pennsylvania where families are very tightly knit. Fear crowded out the memory of God's call on her husband to become a pastor. She was so homesick that the rest of us seminary wives thought they would not stick it out for the three years of his ministry studies. But they did. God worked in her heart to see He had something really great for them yet in the future. As it turned out, her husband led several denominational committees and she served on the women's missions committee in their denomination.They were very successful in pastoral ministry leading churches. If they had gone back home to their families, none of the great work for God's Kingdom would never have taken place. Back in the day moments can either make us stronger or become our undoing.

What's the Deal?

In the story I shared earlier about the seminary student's wife who wanted to go back home, there is a common problem facing all Christians: living in the past where it was comfortable gets in the way of God's work. I've been through it several times and find myself now at that place off and on. I remember torturing an innocent bonsai tree as I tried to make peace with my own internal turmoil. I wasn't so sure about that pastor's wife thing. My first husband was in seminary at the time. As I studied the vine and branches passage in John 15 during my personal bible time, I bought a cheap bonsai tree at the local discount store to prune while I prayerfully considered areas God was pruning in my life. One day, much to my dismay, my poor little tree died! UGH! Was I doomed? Not really. As much as I wanted to go back to what was comfortable before seminary, I discovered these areas He was working on while studying the Spiritual Formation class in seminary. I really hated giving up so many things like friends, activities I enjoyed doing, or places I liked to frequent. My heart was sensitive to this change in my own life because of all the moves we made as a family. It was painful to go through this yet again. He didn't need a hapless bonsai tree to get His point across. Little by little, I began to see how certain past issues had to get out of the way for God to use me effectively in ministry. As far as the pastor's wife "position" goes, He wanted me to work in tandem with my husband, sort of as his Priscilla.

Christians often struggle with letting go of past treasures. We like what is comfortable. When our status quo is threatened, we often respond with anger, tears, and depression. The problem is our comfort gets in the way of God's work. We can't live in the past and the present at the same time.

Dig In!

In our passage, we find Peter and some of the disciples were out by the Sea of Galilee after Jesus died on the cross, yet before He ascended into Heaven. Life wasn't the same for Peter and his friends. Peter went back to what he knew and loved: fishing. What were they all supposed to do anyway? It was like the good old days. I can hear them reminisceabout their previous fishing escapades, "Hey, do you remember back in the day when...?" Image from Freely by Marko Horvat.

Something happened disrupting their memory lane moment. Someone came to the shore and asked them if they caught any fish yet. Sadly, they had not. Something the Man on the shore said took them back to a time when Jesus was with them: "Cast your nets on the other side of the boat." Jesus used a past experience from His early ministry time to catch their attention (Luke 5:1-11). He used the moment when He called Peter and his brothers to follow Him. It was easy to hide out in "back in the day". It was comfortable. When Jesus said to cast the nets on the other side of the boat, Peter immediately recognized Jesus for who He is. In fact, he jumped into the water and swam to shore! Jesus had a better "back in the day" moment to draw all of them back to the very call He had for them yet to come.

Later, after they savored the roasted fish and bread Jesus had waiting on shore, He spoke with Peter, but he referred to him as his B.C. name: Simon son of Jonah. Jesus identified Peter's present state of mind. Peter mentally traveled back to what was comfortable. Waiting wasn't easy. The unknown was just plain scary. Peter, as well as the other disciples, couldn't fulfill the call to share the Kingdom of God by living in the good old days. They had to leave it behind. That was why Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him three times. Ministry in the early church wasn't going to be easy, but these men couldn't live in the past and the present at the same time. Neither can we.

Decisions, Decisions

When we recognize our resistance to letting go of the past so we may move forward into better things God has for us, it is because He often uses past experiences with Him to get our attention, such as our moment of salvation, our ministry call, or something else to get His point across. If we choose to remain in the past, we fail to join God in building His Kingdom. Not only do we miss out on the joy and blessing of being part of His call on our lives, we hurt our relationship with Him and others. If we let go of past hindrances to follow Him closely in the future, we experience some amazing adventures as we walk beside Him. People come salvation while they experience a deeper relationship with Him and people in their lives because of our obedience. With surrender of our past to the call of God on our lives comes blessing.
Image from Freely by Michael Shannon.

Do It!

What are you clutching to your heart from your past? Is God patiently reminding you of something He said to you or showed you in the past that will require you to give up what you hold so dearly? He will lovingly remind you of His great love and call to follow Him. What is He asking you to do in service for Him? Whatever it is, He will provide what you need when and where you need it. There is no need to fear for your future.

May God bless you!

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