Summary: This is the third in a series that studies Paul’s Trustworthy Sayings. This one demonstrates the difference that a hope-filled, optimistic attitude can make in our lives.
Many of you know that I am an avid reader. I consistently have at least two or three books on the go. Some books I read here in my office and usually deal with church, ministry, or worship-related issues -- to help me develop as a pastor. The books I read at home are generally for personal entertainment, and these are usually one of four types: history -- stories of actual events or biographies; historical fiction -- based on actual events, writer filled in the gaps with possible motivations, conversations, events; modern-day fiction -- based on current events and issues; and Sci-fi (science fiction) -- stories based on future events like space travel, time travel, new technologies, etc. (like Star Trek). I enjoy reading books from all three perspectives, because it stimulates my thinking, develops my own creativity, and it’s fun.
Past, present, and future -- more than just a frame of reference (time); it can actually be a frame of mind -- and I find that most people fit into one of these three categories.
There are those who view life from the perspective of the PAST. They’re always looking back to times past -- the "good old days" -- enjoy reminiscing of past events, fond memories, past relationships.
There are those who view life from the perspective of the PRESENT. They like the "here and now" -- current ideas, issues, fashions -- "live for the moment" type of people.
Then there are those who view life from the perspective of the FUTURE. They’re constantly looking to the days ahead, what’s yet to come.
There are Positives and Negatives to each perspective, aren’t there:
PAST -- Positive -- provide a strong link to history and heritage.
-- help us to learn from past success and failures.
-- form the foundation for growth and development.
PAST -- Negative -- some live in the past (home, wardrobe -- time warp).
-- Resist / resent change - "it’s always been that way."
-- don’t like the present, terrified of the future.
PRESENT -- Positive -- firm sense of reality - the way things are.
-- practical, fix-it people - deal with problems we have now.
-- enjoy each moment, spontaneous.
PRESENT -- Negative -- focus on the "here & now", fail to plan for the future.
-- overly practical - "won’t work, can’t do it, won’t try it." -- "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."
-- tend to be reactive -- deal with it when it happens.
FUTURE -- Positive -- Dreamers, see beyond today’s problems to the potential of tomorrow.
-- View Change as a good thing -- natural and necessary.
-- Proactive -- always moving ahead, never standing still - "if it ain’t broke, break it."
FUTURE -- Negative -- Reject the past for the future -- old is bad, new is good.
-- in their need to change, they can become insensitive to the fears and needs of others -- past generations.("get with it" mentality)
-- sometimes don’t deal well with reality (out of touch).
Obviously, no one is completely one of these perspectives, and it is probably healthy to spend some time in each. But it’s also true that all of us tend to think from one of these perspectives more than the others.
How does this fit into our lives as Christians? Many Christians I know dwell either in the Past or the Present.
-- PAST -- remember the way church used to be -- when it was pure in its beliefs and practices.
-- complain about the lack of commitment in young people.
-- resist change -- worship, music, programs, etc.
-- PRESENT -- only concerned for the "here and now".
-- church is one of the many options that fit into our schedule.
-- change is OK as long as it fits into my frame of thinking, and as long as it doesn’t demand too much of me.
-- anything else is either backwards, or too radical.
Where SHOULD we be as Christians? Let’s consider the Apostle Paul?
In Philippians 3:13-14, he said this -- "One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
I don’t think there is any doubt that Paul was a forward-thinker. He understood the past (his past), and he enjoyed and made the most of the present, but he was always looking forward towards the future.
What’s the significance of that? Consider the very next verse: "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things." (Phil. 3:15) In other words, Future-mindedness is a sign of Spiritual Maturity -- it is essential and beneficial for our spiritual development.
For two weeks now, we have been studying some foundational truths that Paul gave to Timothy and Titus, in the form of "trustworthy sayings" -- principles they could count on.