Summary: Short sermon preached as part of our church's 50th Anniversary celebration
A man was reading his paper early one morning at the breakfast table. His wife came over to him, gave him a hug, smiled, and said, “I bet you don’t know what today is, do you?” He looked at her and said, “Of course I know what day it is!” and went back to reading his paper. The reality was that he didn't have a clue. He was afraid that he would make his wife upset - she was really sensitive about special occasions. He thought to himself, “Is it her birthday? That must be it.” So after he got to work he called the florist and had a bouquet of white roses sent to his wife. Then as the day went on, he began worrying that flowers may not be enough for such an important day. “What if it’s our anniversary?” So he went to the jewellery store down from his office, picked out a beautiful gold necklace and had it special delivered to his wife.
As he started home from work he decided that maybe he should also stop and buy an expensive box of chocolates to bring to her - just in case. He pulls into the driveway and his wife runs out to greet him. As he gets out of the car and presents her with the box of chocolates, she throws her arms around him and says, “Oh, honey, this is the best ground hog day I've ever had!”
Today is a special day for us as a church. If you have figured it out yet, today we celebrate 50 years of God’s faithfulness to us as a church.
Phil 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
1. EVALUATION (vs. 13a) – I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it
Paul says here that he has not arrived yet. To me, that's an amazing statement. Paul is an old man now. If anybody had the right to claim he had arrived it would be Paul. He wrote most of the New Testament. He helped spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. He made an incredible impact on the world. Yet Paul, at the end of his life, says "I don't have it all together. I haven't arrived. I'm not perfect. I'm still growing."
God has done some wonderful things through this church in the last 50 years. Part of celebration is evaluation. Anniversaries are great moments to look back but we need to be careful with nostalgia. Someone once said that “nostalgia is the sand paper that smooth’s the edges of the good old days”. Over time we tend to forget the hardships and remember only the blessings.
Paul could have taken great pride in what he had already been able to accomplish. Instead we see that he was not content and was still striving for more. I think it is important to remember that. We have been so blessed as a church in the last 50 years, but we still have a long way to go. God is not done with us yet. We have not arrived. We are still growing.
2. ELIMINATION (vs. 13b) – one thing I do: forgetting what is behind
This is our golden anniversary. We have spent time this morning remembering. So why am I now using a scripture that talks about forgetting what is behind? While it is important to learn from the past you cannot live there. To move forward involves 2 things;
a. Forget your Failures
Don’t rehearse things in your heart that God has long since forgiven and forgotten. Satan's favourite desire is to paralyse us with the past, to manipulate us with the memories. Paul says "I learn to forget the past." Do not sit around beating yourself up for mistakes. Everybody here has blown it. We as a church have blown it in the past. There are things we are not proud of. I apologize if you were hurt.
Paul, of all people, probably had many regrets that could have haunted him. He was a persecutor of the church. He hounded people who were believers and had them locked up and stoned. Nothing you ever do will change your past. It is gone, over, dead. Since you can’t change it let it go. Learn from it but then let it go.
b. Forget your Successes