Philippians 3:13 “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead”
THE ‘LAND OF THE PAST’
Do you ever find yourself wandering into ‘The Land of The Past’? For most of us it’s not a good idea to visit the past, even for a ‘day trip’.
The Land of The Past for some is filled with deep valleys of regret, grief, abuse, guilt and shame.
For others The Land of The Past is the opposite; it’s filled with mountain peaks of happy family life, high-powered job, excellent ministry, beautiful home.
Both can be hard to forget and leave behind.
Either way, Paul urges us to forget what’s behind us and press on to what’s ahead.
I Do Not Have a Visa For The Land Of The Past
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
God expressly told Israel to “forget the past”.
It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command. Why? Simply put – Because of His great love and because He had a plan for their future that was for their good in the end.
It’s not memory itself that’s a problem- but the way we use those memories will determine the here and now. If I look back on life it is only for seeing what God did and how He brought me through. Not for wallowing in the past.
If I try to visit a country to which I have not been granted a visa, I might be able to sneak in, thinking I’m very clever to get past security (not that I’ve tried!) Its far more likely that I’d end up in jail.
This is exactly what happens when we visit The Past. God has not granted us a visa for The Past. When we repeatedly go there, and try to live part-time there, we will end up in a prison of our own making.
Galatians 5:1 says that Jesus set us free for freedom, so why keep enslaving ourselves? (Paraphrased)
LIVING IN THE ‘LAND OF PRESENT’
Maybe your “Land of Present” is not what you were expecting?
If your ‘Now’ feels like a Wasteland – a Desert place, this is God’s promise to you: He will provide streams in your wasteland and will make a way in the desert. He’ll pour in His Living Water, so that all those dry, arid places will become rich and fertile. But there are times in life where we need to trust Him. It’s easy to worship God and be thankful when things are going well in life (in other words ‘our way’) but there are times when we need to learn to worship Him in the Desert places. See Exodus 7:16
Psalm 46:4-5 “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns”
Isaiah 33:21 NLT
“The Lord will be our Mighty One. He will be like a wide river of protection that no enemy can cross, that no enemy ship can sail upon.”
NO enemy! Those memories that keep resurfacing. Those thoughts of “I can’t forget”, “I wish…” “If only..”
If you belong to Jesus, that river is inside you. It’s His promised Holy Spirit. John 7:37-38
‘Jesus stood up and said “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said,
‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’
HOW DO I “FORGET THE FORMER THINGS”?
For something that is so freeing, moving on can sometimes be one of the hardest things to do -whichever ‘Land’ you’ve lived in; the one filled with valleys or the high mountain peaks.
It all starts in the mind. We can’t stop thoughts from coming into our heads, but we don’t have to dwell on those thought; mull and screw over them until memories from years ago start to feel as though they happened moments ago, and with them the old emotions resurface and old wounds start to crack open and bleed again.
It happens to us all; Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a memory will surface. If I entertain that memory- ‘revisit’ the place, see the expressions on the person’s face (probably more severe and frightening in my memory than it was in real life) the emotions quickly resurface and I’m right ‘back there’ in the Land of the Past.
When that happens, I’m learning to nip those thoughts in the bud. To say to myself “Nope, not going there. I’ve forgiven that person. It’s over, gone, in the past!” Or, “I’m not dwelling on that regret. God has forgiven me – and His Word says that my sin is as far from me as the east is from the west” (You can’t get further than that!)
Or maybe it’s the opposite for you; Perhaps you start dwelling on how good things were in the past and you look at your life now. This makes you feel you’ve somehow failed in life, been discarded, demoted, downgraded. If you could only get back to that level of success again you’d feel good about yourself and your life again…
We need to replace our thinking with what God says. The Bible has another way of putting it:
Romans’ 12:2 “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Philippians 4:8-9 “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”
CELEBRATE YOUR NEW LAND – IT’S CALLED “TODAY”
Psalms 118:24 (NET)
“This is the day the LORD has brought about. We will be happy and rejoice in it.”
This verse is often quoted in a general sort of way, which isn’t wrong, but in its context, it was speaking of celebrating ‘The Day of deliverance’
Let’s choose to forget that old Land Of The Past, and love The Land Of Today, THIS Day, whatever it looks like, because it’s where God has brought us to.
The past is gone and needs to stay gone. The present is now and for living with God, who made you, and who promises to give you a “hope and a future” (Jer 29:11)
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