Summary: You can keep looking to the past, but God wants you to keep looking forward.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV)
We have come to a new year - 2006. I don’t know about you, but for me, a new year is a time in which I think about making a new start. I make promises to myself of what I am going to do for the coming year. Because the year is new, I naturally look forward to what the year has in store for me.
However, there are times, when I think about how things were - maybe in the last year for example. Perhaps you have done the same. You look back at the past and you compare it to now. You start to get nostalgic over things you really enjoyed. It is very easy to think about the "good ’ol times."
You see signs of this "looking back" in many ways. There are advertisements all over town for these "Over 30", "Over 40", "Over 50" parties. These advertisements want you to come and listen to music you enjoyed when you were young. You also see it in the trend to look back in the past of the national history. Shows like "The DDR Show", and music shows about a certain era of music are very popular.
You hear it when people talk too. They say things like this:
"I remember when..."
"When I was young...(single, married, etc."
This is acting in nostalgia. This is looking back. You know, looking back is ok sometimes. There is nothing wrong with it. But for the Christian, and for the church, looking back needs to take a back seat to looking forward.
You can’t keep looking back and grow as a Christian. You can’t continue to look back and grow as a church. Paul knew this and that is why he says this. While it is ok to think about the past, every once in a while, there comes a time when we need to say: The past was the past and the present is the present, and I want to go to the future.
Now, you can keep thinking about the past, but let me illustrate what will happen.
Here are two people, in a race to go to the other side of the room. They will walk to their "goal", just as Paul says he will run to his goal. One looks forward and the other looks back.
Notice what happens when you move forward, but you keep looking back. You can’t see the obstacles in the future, so you fall over them. You make mistakes. You hurt yourself. This is what you do when you keep looking back, while running forward. You hurt yourself because you can’t see th challenges and the hurdles ahead of you.
You know what Christians and churches do when they run like this? You know what they do to protect themselves? They simply stop. They are still looking back, but they can’t see the hurdles. They know the hurdles are there. But they can’t see them. So, it is safer to stop, then to go forward. And it is safer to stop so that I can think about the past. I stay like this because I like the past.
Here is the challenge for us as Christians, and as churches. Turn your head around. Start looking forward. Run the race that God has for you by looking forward. This means a couple of things:
FOUR THINGS TO HELP YOU TURN YOUR HEAD AND LOOK FORWARD
1. You will only grow if you keep looking forward. You can’t say - "I want it like it was before." Growth means that you change some things. For Christians, it may be some habits. For churches, it may be some methods and traditions.
2. You will only win the race when you look forward to Jesus. You can’t say - "I can do this all by myself." Winning the race means that you work in a team with Jesus. Jesus is there to coach you. He is your cheerleader. He will help you win the race. But you have to keep looking to Him - not to anyone else, or anything else. Jesus needs to be your Source. This takes prayer. You have to be praying and listening to Jesus to move forward.
3. You have to believe that the future is brighter than the past. You can’t say - "It can’t get any better." The truth is: Yes - it will get better. You have to take all of your negative thoughts and submit them to Christ. Christians need to think forward because God thinks forward. God doesn’t stay in the past. You shouldn’t either. God doesn’t stay in the past. Your church shouldn’t stay in the past.