Sermons

Summary: There is no point in forgetting the past and aiming toward the future if one does not do something in the present. Paul says with part of the track behind and part of the track ahead, I press on.

Well over a hundred years ago a young man ran for the

legislature in Illinois, and he was badly defeated. He then entered

business and failed, and he spent the next 17 years paying off the

debts of a worthless partner. He fell in love with a beautiful girl and

was engaged to be married. But she died before the wedding. He

then entered politics again and ran for congress, but he lost again.

He tried to get an appointment to the U. S. land office, but he did not

succeed. He then became a candidate for the U. S. Senate, but he

lost. He then became candidate for Vice President of United States,

but again it was defeat. Defeat after defeat, and failure after failure

led this man where? To skid row? Not at all, but instead Abraham

Lincoln pressed on to become one of America's greatest Presidents,

and one of the greatest examples of the truth that failure need not be

final.

The Apostle Paul is the great biblical example of this truth. He

writes to the Philippians from prison where he is suffering for his

testimony, and for which he has suffered a great deal before. But we

do not find him discouraged and writing with a complaining spirit.

On the contrary, we find him expressing the most optimistic

philosophy of life. It is a philosophy especially worthy of our

consideration as we begin a new year. We want to consider 3

aspects that are brought out in verses 13 and 14.

I. HIS ATTITUDE TOWARD THE PAST.

Paul pictured the Christian life as a race, and here he thinks of

himself well on the way down the track. He says he is not concerned

about the ground he has covered. He is concentrating on the ground

ahead yet to be covered. "I forget the past," said Paul. "If I made a

poor start or had a bad stumble on the third lap, that is past, and

this is no time for regrets, for I have to keep pressing on." All of us

can look back with some disappointment on past failures, goals not

reached, or opportunities neglected. Paul could have easily made his

dungeon a tomb of despair rather than a temple of delight if he had

not learned the Christian virtue of forgetfulness of what God has

forgiven.

He could have remembered how he persecuted the Christians,

and of how he stood by and watched his fellow Jews stone Stephen

to death. But why should he dig up and remember what God has

buried and forgotten? Concentration on past failures is a sure way

to produce more. A runner who cannot forget his mistake on his

takeoff will not be concentrating on the goal to be reached. If you

harp on the bitter strings of the past, you can expect nothing but sad

music in the present. The mature Christian follows the Apostle

Paul, and he strums the strings of the yet faultless future, which

vibrate with notes of gladness and hope. You may have failed

yesterday, but you haven't failed tomorrow, and by the grace of God

there is hope that you will not do so.

Satan's greatest delight is to keep God's children conscience of

their sin-splattered past that they might concentrate more on the

adamic muck of their old nature, and neglect their new nature in

Christ. Many Christians dwell on the slough of despond because

they cannot forget the past. Martin Luther had an awful time with

this. Satan constantly reminded him of his sinful past that left him

depressed. He even threw an inkwell at Satan once because he felt

his presence so strongly. He never gained victory until he relied on

the fact that the blood of Christ cleansed him from all his sin. It is

reported that when Satan tempted him after that Luther said, "That

is not all. There is this and this also, but Christ has forgiven and

saved me."

God forbid that any Christian start the New Year with the

weight of past sins. Lay aside the weights and sins, which so easily

beset us, and run the race that is set before us. Confess to God and

claim His promise of forgiveness. The forget it and press on. The

Christian is never to make light of sin, but neither is he to make a

weight of it. Lots wife could not forget the past, and the result was

she let the past dominate the present and eliminate the future. She

became salt for her folly, and the Christian who follows her example

will lose their salt and no longer be effective as a servant of God.

Leslie Weatherhead said he visited an orchard and saw a plum

tree that had fallen in a storm. He asked the owner what he did with

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