Summary: Eighth in a series "Restoring the Joy" a study of Philippians - in this message we explore three principles necessary for joy (1)WE MUST LIVE WITH THE PAST (2)WE MUST LIVE IN THE PRESENT AND (3)WE MUST LIVE FOR THE FUTURE
Restoring the Joy
Sermon # 8
“JOY IS FOUNDING IN DEALING WITH THE PAST”
Since Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus he has had a new passion and a new purpose in his life which he has previously summed up in verse ten, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection….” Yet there was a powerful obstacle in his path, his past!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, by some miracle, we could live life in reverse? You know begin again, only knowing what we know now. Things would be different wouldn’t they? If that were the case, you could use some of the knowledge you have gained to avoid the mistakes that you ultimately regretted later. But, that is not the way life is lived. In fact, I suppose you have to make the mistakes to gain the knowledge. And we all have made our share of mistakes, right?
There have been times in my life when things didn’t turn out exactly right. During those times I wanted to start over again. These events occur every day and no one is exempt from them. Thing of the things in your life you would like to change? We call those memories “the past” and obviously you can not turn back the hands of time. So can be done? The mistakes that have been made are there and there is nothing we can do to change them. But there is hope. The good news of the Gospel is that it is possible to begin again. There is forgiveness for the past in Christ. That’s the good news.
For most of us, the past holds many good memories as well. We remember the good times, times when we were happy and enjoying life. We remember the special events; birthdays, weddings, graduations and anniversaries. Good memories are a wonderful thing. It’s great to be able to tune them in and play them back. It brings a smile to our face and joy to our hearts. We can thank God for the good memories.
The past can also give us some perspective. The past can teach us many thing about living in the present. The past is like the rear view mirror in our car. As we move forward we regularly glance back to keep us aware of what is behind us. When the past helps us to be more knowledgeable and wiser, it is a good thing.
But the past can also be a prison. You see it’s possible to allow the past to put us in bondage. Along with the good memories, there can be memories of past failures. Some times our memory can serve to haunt us. Our failures can cause us to see ourselves as failures who are unable to break the pattern of failure in our lives. We stereotype ourselves, and thereby put ourselves in bondage. Many people live today plagued by their past. So how do we deal with the past?
There are three principle ways we deal with the past.
First, we can relive the past. People caught in this pattern recount the past in great detail in their minds over and over again. All the negative emotions which they felt then, they feel all over again. These individuals continue to beat themselves up for events that are forever gone.
The story is told read of one case where
a woman went to a lawyer to take out paper against her ex-husband. She was haggard with emotion, nervous and upset to the point that she seemed ill. Trembling, she related at length how bad her ex-husband was, how ever since their divorce he had been poisoning her son’s mind against her and was constantly interfering with their relationship. She seemed a bit old to have a young child at home, so the attorney interrupted and asked the age of her son. "He’s just turned 32," she said. "Oh," said the attorney, "And how long ago was the divorce?" "About 17 years," she said. This woman had made her divorce a career, a way of life!
Secondly, we can resign to the past. Some people surrender to the past. They decide that they will never rise above the past and resign themselves to be what the past has made them. They believe that they can never be more than a product of their past.
Third, we can refuse to be dominated by the past. Recognize that while the past is unchangeable part of our history, we are more than what the past has revealed about us and we do have a choice about how we deal with the memories of the past.
LIVE WITH THE PAST (3:13a)
Paul tells us that way to deal with the past is to “forget” it. Listen to what he says in verse thirteen, “… but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind.” Paul says that the past is to be forgotten. But what does Paul mean when he says forget the past? When he is speaking of forgetting the past he is not talking about amnesia, the inability to remember it at all. Although there may be things in our past that we would like to erase from our memories, unfortunately God created our minds to be incredibly powerful. Even when we cannot remember something consciously, sub-consciously it is always there. Every act, word, event, situation and circumstance is imbedded forever in our minds. So when Paul speaks of forgetting the past, he means that we must forget it in the sense that we no longer allow it to control our lives. I believe Paul is saying to forget about the past in the sense that we do not allow past failure, hurts and disappointments to keep us from experiencing God’s best for our lives today. For many the past is holding them hostage. They are held hostage to past failures, mistakes and disappointments.