Summary: Too many people are allowing themselves to be crucified between two thieves. On one hand the thief of vain regret over the past and on the other side the thief of fear and anxiety over the future. These two bandits need to be put behind bars where they be
Banishing Two Bandits Behind Bars
I've chosen this title because too many people today, including Christians, are allowing themselves to be crucified between two thieves. On one side there is the thief of vain regrets over the past. And on the other side there is the thief of fear and anxiety over the future.
And these two bandits, regret over the past and fear of the future, are robbing us of our joy and peace of mind and heart. So today, let us seek by the grace of God to put these two bandits behind bars where they belong. And let us live life to the full in the present moment. God can forgive the past. And he can take care of the future. We have only the present moment but it is the only moment we truly have.
A well-known psychiatrist points out that the majority of people who come to him for help have one thing in common. Their use of a two word phrase that he has heard, hundreds of times. He calls them the two sadness words in any language. If only! If only! The man who failed in business; the woman who never finished high school; the parents of a juvenile delinquent and hundreds more crying, if only! If only I had acted differently. If only I had not lost my temper or said that cruel word or told that foolish lie. If only I had made wise choices in life.
The trouble with saying “if only,” nothing is changed or solved. It keeps you facing in the wrong direction, backward instead of forward. It acts as a roadblock against any real progress. So instead of lamenting “if only,”we need to shift our focus away from the past.
But to give proper balance to this message, I might add that it is perfectly okay to reflect upon the precious memories from the past. “Precious memories, how they linger. How they ever flood the soul.” ( the speaker may wish to include some examples of good memories with which the audience can identify).
So it's okay occasionally to think about the good old days but let's be honest, the so-called good old days were not all good and we had many challenges to face back then as well. We can learn and be inspired from the past. But we cannot go back to those days and we must not worship the past, no way! Because when we do so we deny that God has a fresh agenda for us to follow and he plans to do even greater things in the future.
But if we are not careful the past can become the Devils territory, reminding us of previous failures and painful memories. Is it not true that most of us have hurts from the past that need to be healed? And they will heal if given time. But I must add, only under one condition. The wound needs to be kept clean from bitterness, resentment and other negative emotions.
God can heal broken hearts if we are willing to give him all the pieces. And if you forget everything else I say today, remember this. The past cannot be changed, but the past can be forgiven. And the future can be different by the grace of God.
Above all else I want this message to be one of encouragement. There is a story in the Bible that illustrates how we can gain victory over the past. I refer here to the story of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37 – 50. This story has a sad beginning but a glorious ending, bursting with hope and promise.
How would you feel if at the age of 17, you were sold into slavery by your own brothers? And later you are falsely accused and imprisoned for a crime you did not commit. And in those days, to be in prison in Egypt was like facing a life sentence with no chance of parole.
But Joseph had to learn some important lessons in the school of hard knocks. Furthermore, I believe God permitted all of this to happen because he wanted to make a man out of this proud, pampered teenager. And so for his first thirteen years down in Egypt, Joseph wore the garments of a slave and faced many hardships and heartaches.
During that dark period, it would've been easy for Joseph to ask, why me? Why should I try to be good? I do all the right things and end up in prison as a slave. But Joseph did not allow his doubts and fears to get the best of him. He did not lose faith; he rested in God's promises. And all the while, even though he did not know it, God was working behind the scene for Joseph good. Here we have a beautiful example of the Providence of God. What seemed to be a series of unspeakable tragedies turn out to be blessings in disguise.