Philippians 3:12-14 – Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
We all make mistakes. No one does it perfectly. How do we respond when we drop the ball?
Some days we wake up and feel like we’re covered in “stuff” – weird, creepy stuff that just sticks to us and doesn’t seem to want to go away. Guilt from past sins, regret from time and opportunity wasted, shame from disappointing those we love most, etc., etc. We’re stuck; frozen in place because we can’t seem to shake this stuff.
Paul had stuff. He was a hater and persecutor of Christians. He was responsible for the deaths of many believers and the heartache of countless families – yet, God had a plan for his life – a plan that included his salvation. This plan also included using him to preach the gospel to Gentile unbelievers, to pen multiple chapters of the Bible, and to become a pillar and hero of the Christian faith. How did Paul live with himself? How did he deal with the mental harassment, the guilt, the shame, the ball and chain from his past?
Here is how he did it, and here is how we do it.
Paul gives us two great pieces of advice: 1.) forget what lies behind. Ask God (and others if need be) to forgive you, repent (change your ways), and get on with the mission God is leading you to. 2.) Reach forward – press forward – to what lies ahead. The windshield of your life should be much larger than the rearview mirror. God forgives. God restores. God gives second, third and fourth, chances.
Why is it so hard for us to leave the past behind? Many husbands (and wives) don’t forget the past because they simply don’t want to. They sometimes use the past to get what they want today, or they may actually find comfort in being a victim of their past. I have met many people who can’t move forward in life, but their poor self-esteem compels them to seek “poor you” type empathy and attention from others. They secretly need that attention and affirmation because they don’t receive it elsewhere.
I have also found countless Christian people who simply don’t accept the fact that God has truly forgiven them and that He loves them personally, deeply and unconditionally. They listen to the enemy’s lie that tells them they aren’t good enough, or that their sin is too big or too dark for God to forgive. They can’t look ahead with hope because they can’t receive the complete love and forgiveness of the Father, and trust that He will only lead them to “good” places.
God still has a plan for you. He has called you to achieve much in His name. Don’t let the enemy convince you otherwise. What would Christianity be today if people like Moses, David, Peter and Paul would have withered away into obscurity after disobeying and disappointing God? God creates all of us with a mission. Your life matters to God. It matters to your wife and children. It matters to His kingdom. Don’t let failure or setbacks keep you down. Get up, dust yourself off, and get back in step with Jesus. Remember – God is a God of fresh starts. Get back in the game.
All this fly needs to do is a) shake off the stuff that is clinging to him, or b) start moving and allow the stuff to fall off, or 3) get into the sunlight and let the sun dry it up. He could do a combo of all three, but the absolute worst thing he can do is – Nothing.
Check out the verse above one more time and notice Paul’s exhortation to “do something”:
-forget what lies behind
Don’t just sit there. Take action. You can’t fly with all that stuff.