Three Ways To Learn From The Past

Three Ways To Learn From The Past

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.
–Psalm 119:67

How do we learn the lessons of history? Let me give you three suggestions. First of all, take history seriously. We can learn from secular history and from God’s Word. Sometimes we read all these strange names and customs in the Bible and we think, “How am I supposed to relate to this?” What connects us to those people is God. Their God is our God, and just as God dealt with them, He deals with us. We can learn from the successes and failures recorded in Scripture. We can also learn from our own family history. Does your family have a history of divorce? What about addictions? We need to be aware of that history and make the same decision that Josiah did not to follow those negative influences. But we can learn positive things from our family history as well. There was an African American man who worked for my grandparents for decades. One night he got drunk and was murdered in a knife fight, and my grandparents took me to the funeral. The preacher lambasted the man, talking about the evils of alcohol. Suddenly my grandfather stood up and spoke. “Everything you said about this man may have been true, but he was also a good man. He loved his family.” My grandfather went on and on about the good things in this man’s life. Afterward, I remember the man’s friends and family thanking my grandfather for his courage. Hopefully you have examples like that to follow in your own family history. Take history seriously.

Second, learn from your own personal history. Are there times in the past when you were closer to the Lord than you are right now? What habits did you have in your life then? Think about your past failures as well. Instead of wallowing in those failures, you can learn from them. That is what David, Josiah’s ancestor, did. He slept with another man’s wife and then murdered the man, and he suffered for that mistake. Yet he said in Psalm 119:67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” David was saying, “God, every morning I still ache from that mistake, but it is helping me live more closely to You.” Your past mistakes can inoculate you from future mistakes. Learn from your own personal history.

Finally, find heroes to emulate. We all need heroes, don’t we? I think about Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission. For fifty years he labored in a country where few missionaries were stationed, yet there are thousands of people who became missionaries because of his example. One of those was Amy Carmichael. She started a ministry in India, where through the years she saved more than a thousand children from sexual slavery and led them to faith in Christ, all because of the example of Hudson Taylor. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Paul understood that we need heroes to emulate. Do you have a hero in your life? Find somebody to emulate. Mimic their strengths, avoid their mistakes, and draw courage from their example. When you do that, you will find it is not only possible to survive but to thrive during these difficult days.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Survival Tip #8: Learn From The Past” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2019.

“Hudson Taylor,” Christianity Today,; Madeline Pena “Amy Carmichael: Mother To India,” Bethany Global University, April 9, 2020,

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.