“This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…” (Philippians 3:13)
As we mentioned a couple of days ago, life is a matter of focus. Whatever captures our focus, dominates our direction in life.
The apostle draws our attention to a valuable principle: the need to keep our focus on what is ahead of us (and not on what is in our past).
Often our greatest struggle is with our past…
The things that we did. Things that make us ashamed, regretful, guilty. We would do anything to go back and undo what we did (or do something differently). Make a wiser decision. React with a better intent. Choose a different course of action. Keep our mouth shut (when everything in us felt the need to say what we said). All these things are reminders of us… at our worst.
The things that were done to us. Things that keep us in fear, shame, resentment, unforgiveness. Terrible things done by someone acting terribly. Things that haunt our memories, stifle our souls, make us feel unvalued, unworthy, unloved. Reminders of humanity… at its worst.
We need release from the dreadful things of our past – and that relief is discovered in Jesus. He not only paid the price for our sins… but everybody’s sins. The sins we committed, AND the sins committed against us. Every act that mars our past has been paid for. Those acts died with Christ – and when we died with Him (Romans 6:3-8!), so did our past. We no more have a right to hang onto our past than we do our sins.
This is extremely good news – liberating news. There is nothing in our past which can affect us ever again…
Unless we let it. By mulling it over and over in our minds. By dragging it up like some dead thing buried in our yards. By bringing our attention back to how those acts and feelings threatened to destroy us back then.
This is why the apostle encourages us to embrace the new. Leave the past in the past – it has no right to affect our future… or our today. We are encouraged to “forget it.” Refuse to call it to mind ever again. No matter how terrible it was… because of Jesus, it is NOT a part of you now!
But there is one more thing in our past that we need to forget about – and it is actually the context of the apostle’s admonition.
Also connected with the past is… our accomplishments and achievements. Our good things. Our successes. Things we can “hang our hats on” – that fill us with a sense of pride and purpose. Things to which we can point, that tell everyone we are somebody significant or special.
This was actually what the apostle was talking about. He was talking about how he had impressed everyone with his righteousness, his fervor, his boldness, his accomplishments in defense of his Jewish faith. He was an up-and-comer. He was the talk of the town. He was high on everyone’s list to do great things.
And then he met Jesus – the One he was persecuting… and in one harrowing encounter, his whole perspective was changed. His focus shifted from all his own plans and achievements to… God’s plans – and, in his heart of hearts, he knew that God’s plans were infinitely better (even at the cost of personal gain).
But to lay hold of what was ahead of him, he had to let go of his past. He had to pull the plug on all his plans and dreams and let it flow down the drain.
What WE want – what we think gives us value and meaning and purpose will always prevent us from the value, meaning, and purpose that can only come through what God has for us.
Our past (bad or good) is not what matters… it is always what is ahead of us that must keep our attention and focus – because that is where we find the rich treasure of what God has in store for us to discover.