A Facebook friend posted the following quote from Oswald Chambers; Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ, and go out into the irresistible future with Him. That got me to thinking about the past (as well as the future!). So many people are tied into what has been that their present and their future are, in many ways, influenced by their past in ways they don’t understand.
There are people who are hindered by their past. They spend their time thinking about past regrets, past loves lost and past opportunities untaken. Other people are still living in the past. They spend valuable time longing for the good ol’ days, wandering down memory lane and talking about what use to be. There is the very real danger that our past can affect us in ways that negatively impact our usefulness today and into the future.
The Apostle Paul had a unique perspective on the past. In Philippians 3:13 he wrote, 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. There were a lot of things in Paul’s past that he probably wanted to forget. His past sins and failures. His persecution of the church. His rejection of Christ. If he had continued to dwell on the negatives, and there were many, he would not have been as effective for Christ as he was. That can be true for us as well. When we spend our time in remorse over the past we tend to be less effective in the present.
It’s not just the negatives of the past that can wreak havoc with our lives; there are also the positives and Paul may have had those in mind as well. His past glories. His past victories. His past spiritual blessings (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:1-5). Living on the basis of past accomplishments can just as easily hinder our present as dwelling on past failures. But Paul was willing to put all of that aside, both his failures and his accomplishments, in order to do today what God had for him, all the while keeping his focus on a glorious future.
There is no doubt that we can benefit from the past, but if the past overwhelms our present there is the very real possibility that it will limit our future. Don’t live in the past. Let the past go and move forward for God, redeeming the time (Ephesians 5:16), making the most of our opportunities today.
Stay in the Word