Summary: Release your past to Christ, both successes and failures. Reach toward your glorious future, living with one foot in eternity as you remember where you’re heading. And daily seek to grow closer to Christ. Make it your daily ambition to know Christ better.
Forgetting and Focusing
I noticed an odd phenomenon in the military. When people were drawing close to retirement or their discharge date, their whole demeanor changed. They started dragging to formation. Their PT efforts became weakened. Their work grew subpar, or average at best. They looked like a zombie, like the walking dead. Now to be fair, it was not their fault. They had an STD, which in this case stands for: “short-timers’ disease.”
What about you? Do you ever feel like you have short-timers’ disease in life? Do you ever feel like, why make the effort? Maybe you’re just going through the motions. Maybe you feel like you’re just surviving, going in circles on the treadmill of life. Today’s scripture may give you a whole new attitude: about your past, present, and future. If you look at Paul’s words, first he advises us to ...
1. Release the past.
In verse 13, he uses the phrase, “Forgetting what is behind.” Is Paul asking us to suppress those troublesome memories of the past? No. Paul is talking about letting go of things that still have a hold on us. If we don’t release our past, two things will get us into trouble: past failures and past successes.
Past failures make us think we are a failure. Paul could certainly recall his failures. He supervised the death of the first martyr of the church, Stephen. He could have carried a lot of guilt for his persecution of Christians before his salvation. But no, he said we need to release all of that to God. God can forgive your guilt, if you give it to him. God can forgive all the woulda/coulda/shoulda decisions you’ve analyzed to death. Give it to God and let him take it away. 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
We need to forget our failures, and also our successes. Why? If we concentrate on them too much, we’ll rest on our laurels and never want to do more. In business, the biggest threat to future success is past success. That’s why companies always keep reinventing themselves. We say in marriage seminars, “Being married is like riding a bike: it takes some work, some peddling. If you’re coasting, you’re always going downhill.”
Paul had much success under his belt. Earlier in the chapter he listed his pedigree as a learned Jewish scholar and Pharisee, trained by the best. Yet, he said, compared to knowing Christ, all his Ivy League prowess was garbage (verse 8). The actual word there means dung. All of our earthly efforts amount to nothing compared to knowing Christ. Don’t let those past successes go to your head!
Now I’m not saying the past isn’t important. We need to learn from the past. But life is like driving a car: Most of the time you want to look out that large front windshield; every now and then you need to glance back through the tiny rear view mirror. Too much looking back will get you in trouble. Or for you Navy types, use the past like a rudder to guide your future path, but not like an anchor to drag you down. Learn from the past. Make peace with the past. Celebrate the past. And then let go of the past, so you can, #2,