Three years ago, I had the great privilege of traveling to Ghana, West Africa to preach the Gospel. During my time there, I learned a lot about the history of Ghana. One of the most fascinating aspects was learning about Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah. His presidency ended suddenly in 1966 when he was overthrown by a military coup while he was out of the country.
Though he was quite the revolutionary, Nkrumah is esteemed by Ghanians today and many would argue he has left a positive legacy for the country. His best-known saying was, “Forward ever, backward never.” I love that little maxim, and in many ways, it should be the perspective of Christians. We are to be a forward-looking kind of people as we journey through life. We should always be grateful for how God has delivered us from our sin and shame, but we don’t look back.
Consider the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12-14. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
The Christian life is essentially a journey towards heaven. We are “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:1) journeying on to a much better world. Though we all have passports which identify our earthly citizenship, the reality is that our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). Why would we look back? Yes, we live in an evil and adulterous generation where immorality is the norm, yet it is foolish to be preoccupied with our present circumstances.
One of my dear brothers in the Lord is a man named Buck Carolus. Many years ago, Buck lost his little girl to leukemia. Amanda was only around 12 years old at the time, and it would have been easy for him to look back and be bitter. But Buck will testify that God used this trial in remarkable ways. He started to grow in his faith in a way he never had before. Yes, he still had many wonderful memories of Amanda, but he was looking forward to the work God had in store for him and pressing onward to the prize, the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Life is filled with many twists, turns, surprises, and sorrows. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring (James 4:14), but we know Who holds our tomorrows. It is so easy to get caught up in the chaos of life in the modern world, but believers in Jesus Christ should be characterized by a forward-looking mentality. We don’t ignore the realities and circumstances of life, but we don’t let them define us or paralyze us either.
The Bible says, “Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). To set our minds upon this earth would be to follow the example of Lot’s wife. As God reigned down sulphur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from heaven, she looked back. Instantly, she became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26).
If you are a Christian, you must never forget that you are a pilgrim journeying on to a better place. Truly, the best is yet to come! (Hebrews 11:13-16) Don’t waste your life dabbling in earthly things. Don’t be preoccupied in trivial pursuits. Rather, fix your eyes upon Jesus! Set your mind upon things above! Strive to put off the sin which clings so closely (Hebrews 12:1). Proclaim the Gospel wherever you go. And never stop longing for Jesus’ second coming.
Forward ever, backward never!