Summary: If we are going to be able to move forward then we need to forget what is behind.
Last week I talked about how we need to have confidence in God. We need to have confidence in God so we can overcome sin and get through the difficulties in life. If we lack confidence we won’t grow and reach our full potential. Today, in carrying on the theme of looking at things that hinder our spiritual progress, I want us to see how looking back hinders us from moving forward.
1) No comparison (Phil. 3:7-11). Last week I shared Phil. 3:1-7 where Paul talked about putting no confidence in the flesh. After that he talks about leaving the old behind and moving forward to reach the goal of his faith. Phil. 3:7-11. Paul saw things in the right perspective. He no longer desired what he once did. He didn’t place value on the things of old. He had new goals and a new passion and that passion was living for Jesus. He saw the stark contrast between the things of the world verses the things of the Spirit. He considered everything not worth anything when compared to knowing Jesus. In the light of Christ nothing else in his life came close. This doesn’t mean Paul left everything behind. He was still a tentmaker (Acts 18:3). Paul isn’t saying nothing in his past had any value. Primarily he was referring to his religious activities having no value as far as obtaining righteousness and he was putting those things off and moving forward. However, I believe he also saw that nothing in his life was worth comparing to knowing Jesus. Therefore, he saw the purposefulness of forgetting what was behind (leaving the past in the past) and pressing on toward becoming like Christ. There’s a comparison made to the seamen of Paul’s day where if they were in turbulent waters and their ship was starting to go under they would throw all their supplies overboard in order to save their lives. The supplies are important but they would be willing to let go of them if it meant their life would be spared. Paul is saying the same here. There was nothing in his life that held more value to him than Christ. If it meant losing everything he would keep Christ. Paul’s focus now was to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. He wanted to share in his sufferings and be like him, putting his old ways to death. He looked forward to his own resurrection. He cherished what he saw in Christ and wanting nothing more than to achieve great things for Christ. For Paul there was no comparison between the worldly things he once embraced vs. the blessings of his new life in Christ.
2) One thing I do (Phil. 3:12-14). Paul acknowledges that he’s not there yet. He hasn’t achieved everything he wants to. But his focus is to keep going; to press on; to move forward. We can fail to press on when we think we’ve arrived, we’ve gotten as far as we need to go when we became saved. “There, I’m saved. Now I can just sit back and wait for heaven”. No! Our baptism wasn’t the end of the road it was the beginning! What’s the “one thing he does”; the overall purpose of his life? To “forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead”. What an attitude from someone who was currently a prisoner! He didn’t allow the reality of where he was right now to keep him from focusing on bigger and better things for the future. Regardless of being in prison Paul was going to press on. He was going to keep striving to reach the goal and get the prize. What is involved in ‘pressing on’? Someone came up with an Acronym for ‘P.R.E.S.S.’. P = pray more, R = read the word more, E = exalt His name more, S = sing His Praises more, S = shout Hallelujah more. To forget something means to let it go. What do we need to forget/let go? Past sins, past failures/shortcomings, resentments. Diligence is found in focusing on what’s ahead not what is behind. I can’t see the goal by looking behind me. Looking ahead I can see opportunities, spiritual advancement, progress. Looking behind I am reminded of disappointments and shortcomings; past sins and regrets. I’m not forgetting what is behind if I’m dwelling on past failures. Choosing to linger in these old setbacks will cause us to not be able to look ahead and press on. Paul talked about pressing on toward the goal to win the prize. Paul was known to compare living the Christian life to running a race. He knew that in order to run the race and finish strong he needed to not look back. Pastor Chuck Sligh gives this Illus., “My track coach in high school was my dad. He had many words of advice both on and off the track, but when it came to running races and relays, there was one above all others. He used to say: “Run as fast as you can, and whatever you do, don’t look back.” The reason is three fold: First, looking back during a race breaks your concentration, Second, it breaks your flow, Third, it slows you down.” On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first man in history to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Within 2 months, John Landy eclipsed the record by 1.4 seconds. On August 7, 1954, the two met together for a historic race. As they moved into the last lap, Landy held the lead. It looked as if he would win, but as he neared the finish he was haunted by the question, "Where is Bannister?" As he turned to look, Bannister took the lead. Landy later told a Time magazine reporter, "If I hadn't looked back, I would have won!"