I was reading the Scriptures recently, and God reached out and smacked me in the head and got my attention! No, I don't mean that literally, but spiritually and emotionally it happened.
I was reading about the arrest of Stephen (Acts 6:8-15) and his preaching before the Jewish leaders (Acts 7:1-60). I've read this countless times before, but a phrase spoke to me in a way it had never done before.
In his sermon, Stephen rehearses the general history of the Jewish nation to make a point that they demonstrated a continual pattern of rejecting God and his prophets. He speaks about Moses, and how the people rejected him. Listen to the words:
He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us. But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt (Acts 7:38-39).
Now the application I want to make is not necessarily about rejecting God, but about how frequently we find that our hearts have "turned back to Egypt." I have been guilty of this, and still am to a certain extent, but I'm working on it.
Think about one of the ways we can apply this concept. Like many of you, I tend to look to my past and remember "the good old days" and compare them to today. I remember churches where I have worshipped, friendships I have had, works in which I have been involved, and think, "I sure wish I could go back there again" or "I sure wish it could be like that again." I've been guilty of sometimes doing this to the point that I forget my present journey or overlook the opportunities in the place where I am.
If we believe that God opens doors and directs steps, then why are we so unhappy with where we are? Why in our hearts do we turn back to Egypt?
The Israelites remembered the "leeks and onions" and other good things they experienced in Egypt to the point of forgetting how bad things were for them as slaves there. They rebelled against God and where he was directing their journey. In fact, they rejected the journey, they rejected where they were, and they ended up rejecting God's instructions, and in that rejected God.
Contrast that with the description of the Apostle Paul and his struggle in life:
I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven (Philippians 3:12-14).
The next time we are tempted to compare the present with the past, might I suggest that we stop ourselves and try to refocus on the present. We have so many blessings, but we also have so much work to do. Let's focus on making these days "the good old days." Let's build relationships and churches and love the way we use to do and stop turning back to Egypt in our hearts. Let us do as Paul did. Let's forget the past, look forward, and strain to reach the prize God has for us!