Summary: We have to learn to leave the past in the past. Stop trying to make right, the wrong made years ago. We must keep our eyes forward, looking at what lies ahead.
Yesterday Ended Last Night
Illustration: Thomas Edison
Biographers have written that Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, made over nine hundred light bulbs that didn’t work before he finally made one that did. Nine hundred times he went to all the trouble of making a light bulb, plugging it in, flipping the switch, and watching while nothing happened. People must have thought he was nuts, but he kept on trying. According to Edison, every time he made a light bulb that didn’t work, he merely found “one more way not to make a light bulb.” Eventually, by the process of elimination, he made a light bulb that produced light. As a result, he is known as one of the greatest inventors of all time.
Most of us don’t realize how many failures successful people endure before they achieve their purposes. We only hear about the one time they succeed. What made Edison great was his commitment to making a light bulb. He didn’t let his failures discourage him. He hung in there and kept trying, even though he kept goofing up.
Have you ever noticed how some people get stuck in the past. Some people have been known to continue to live a certain way of life that comes from their own past that represents a very good time in their lives, and they don’t want to move on. Some continue to dwell on a past mistake they have made, or a previous sin that they aren’t able to let go of. Sometimes, people get caught up with someone else’s past and won’t let it go either.
This is not a very healthy way to live. There are many dangers in spending your life dwelling in the past. The apostle Paul gives us some good insight about living in the past.
1. This is what Paul says:
Phil 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Phil 3:13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
Phil 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ.
Paul shares with the church at Philippi, that one thing he has found to be very significant, is forgetting what is behind.
One thing, therefore, was the consuming passion of his Christian life. Using the metaphor of a footrace, Paul describes it as involving the continual forgetting of "what is behind" and the relentless focusing of his energies and interests on the course that is ahead of him. "Forgetting" did not mean obliterating the memory of his past, but was a conscious refusal to let it absorb his attention nor let it be a blockade to his progress. He never allowed his Jewish heritage nor his previous Christian attainments to obstruct his running of the race.
2. What is it Paul forgets and leaves behind?
Throughout the New Testament, we find many things from Paul’s past that I am sure he is glad to forget. Let’s look at one particular case:
Ac 7:54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
Ac 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
Ac 7:56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
Ac 7:57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,
Ac 7:58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Ac 7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Ac 7:60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Ac 8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
Ac 8:2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.
Ac 8:3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
Paul had to carry around the memory of his hateful display of Christians. He had been a Pharisee. One of the religious elite. He was present at the stoning of a truly, spiritual man and giving approval all the way. Paul then set out to destroy the church. He was after both men & women throwing any of them who claimed to be Christians into prison. These were intensely negative images that would never completely be erased from his memory.