“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”
–Philippians 3:13 (NLT)
“Many of life’s failures are from people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
If you were to only read this title, you may find it misleading, since I am not referring to what some people call the “good old days.” Sure, God gives us the gift of pleasant memories, and I don’t mean to demean those memories in the least. I am suggesting, however, that God has much more for us than a lifestyle in which one is obsessed with the past, and in which living, sleeping and breathing is only about looking behind.
This kind of lifestyle robs us of present joy. It is like trying to drive forward, while constantly looking in the rear-view mirror. While driving like this is impossible, that’s how we often live our lives.
A prime example of this can be seen when we look at Lot’s wife. You probably remember the story–they lived in a big fancy house in the subburbs, complete with a two-car garage. (Okay, okay–the text doesn’t say that exactly, but please bear with me.) Lot and his wife were comfortable in any case, and Lot was very important in the city.
One night, I like to imagine Lot laying out his clothes as he prepares for the mayor’s prayer breakfast the next morning. Suddenly, he drops the hangers he is carrying, and his mouth drops open in awe. he sees a being who is brighter than bright!
Lot tries to speak. “What do you want me to do?” he whispers when the words finally come.
“Take your family and leave as fast as you can,” the angel replies. “This place is very wicked. Don’t even look back.”
Sadly, the story tells us that Lot’s wife did look back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt.
Maybe we won’t be turned into a pillar of salt, but Satan loves nothing more than for us to live in the past, since this lifestyle paralyzes us. Living in the past steals our joy by telling us we are useless in the present. This kind of life also lies to us about our future productivity.
There’s nothing more annoying than searching for something, only to find it was right in front of you all along. My wife and I both did this recently for the umpteenth time, and we collectively wasted hours looking for our lost items.
Unfortunately, however, that is what most of us tend to do when it comes to our lives. We look at what we can’t do instead of looking at God, who is always right in front of us. Then, because our focus is off, we shrink back from the challenges of life, not seeing what He can achieve through us.
There is one other danger I see in light of the new year. The danger is not looking behind. It is looking forward without looking behind. You may be scratching your head right about now, and I don’t blame you, but let me explain what I mean.
It is no secret that we live in a society which is becoming more and more secular. In our corrupted world, the idea of consulting a wise God is seen as futile. This is because His Word has been scoffed at and undermined as the standard for the abundant life which Jesus promised. So I ask you who know Christ to take a stand with me, as we are ripe for change.
Biblical change calls for looking behind, but only in the sense of self-examination. The apostle Paul spoke about forgetting about past failures, and pressing on towards the high calling in Christ.
Self-examination is not gazing at the past, then. It is looking at our lives through the lenses of God’s Word, and agreeing with Him about our mistakes.
I repeat that Paul talks about reaching this high calling by pressing on. To me, pressing on entails moving forward whether you feel like it or not. Imagine driving again, as life with God is much the same. In order to move forward, you often have to back up and make a u-turn. In order to live like that, we do need to look behind us, but after we have made that turn, we need to move forward and focus upon God.
The Bible tells us that there is no condemnation in Christ, and in Him we can live with freedom and joy. So look to Him, and have the best new year ever!
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
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