A scripture from Paul’s letter to the Philippian Christians stands out to me: “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead...” (Philippians 3:13).
Paul was talking about God’s goal for his life. Jesus had saved him and taken hold of him for a specific purpose and calling: knowing Jesus. Paul said in his letter that he had not yet reached this goal. But he was going to pursue it with all his might. In fact, he purposed to forget all the things that were past and reach forward to what lay ahead. He even said that this would be the only goal he would pursue (see Philippians 3:10–14).
The Apostle Paul’s ministry was the result of truly getting to know Jesus. Each of his letters and instructions for the Church came out of this deep relationship. He became so close to the Lord that he understood His heart.
In turn, God was able to fulfill everything He had planned for Paul’s life on earth. The apostle himself wrote shortly before he died as a martyr: “I have finished the course” (2 Timothy 4:7).
What made it possible for Paul to go forward with God? It was his decision to forget what lay behind! There was so much in Paul’s past that could have held him back. There was his prestigious ancestry, his superior education, his perfect report card as a Pharisee and his zeal for the law. These things gave him the highest respect of his nation. However, when he became a Christian, he gave up all those honors. And then there was his ruthless persecution of the Church, for which God had forgiven him. Paul recognized that if he was going to go forward with God, he had to make a choice to leave all of his past behind—the good and the bad.
God has a plan for each of us. There are specific things God wants to do through our lives. Even if we consider ourselves insignificant, we are an important part of God’s plan for our generation. God needs for us to go forward with Him to build His kingdom.
However, we cannot go forward as long as we are chained to the past. All of us wish to grow in our Christian life and to be used of God. But as long as we hold on to something in our past, or something in our past holds on to us, we wear a chain that pulls us back each time we try to take a step forward with Jesus.
Perhaps you find your chain in one of these examples:
The high caste or importance of your family that holds you back from becoming a servant of all.
The low caste or poverty of your background that makes you feel unaccepted by others.
Your college education that causes you to consider yourself more important than others.
Your lack of education that makes you feel inferior.
Disappointment because you failed to accomplish the goals you set for yourself last year.
Someone you loved deeply hurt your feelings and you are unable to get past your pain.
Your grief over a loss in your life (the death of a loved one, a lost friendship, finances, job, reputation, health) and you blame God and others for your loss.
A sister in the church whom you trusted betrayed you and you are unable to forgive and love her.
Something bad happened in your life and you can’t understand why God allowed it.
You prayed for a specific matter and God did not answer your prayer.
Last year you tried to overcome a temptation or sin in your life and you didn’t succeed.
If we don’t leave these chains behind, we will go round and round in a circle. And by the end, we will discover that we could not even take one step forward with God.
How do we get rid of our chains? Just like the Apostle Paul, we must make a decision to forget what is past:
1. We must stop clinging to positions, honors and accomplishments that will hinder us from picking up the cross and following Jesus.
2. We also must leave our failures and losses in the past. We cannot make one thing undone by reliving it, mourning about it or blaming others for it.
As children of God, we have received God’s complete forgiveness for all our failures. And He already has given us His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive others who wronged us and leave all the chains of our past behind.
How do we go forward with God? Just like the Apostle Paul, we must focus on what lies ahead and not look back. We must pursue knowing Jesus, and out of this relationship with the Lord will come our ministry, our usefulness to God and the fulfillment of our calling.
What if the past tries to come back? Practice this:
Right away, cast down any thoughts and imaginations that will bring back past failures and griefs.
Actively refuse to dwell on anything from the past you have left behind.
Immediately replace fear, doubts and hurts with words of faith from Scripture.
Commit to God the things you don’t understand about your life. Leave them there and trust Him.
Continually fill and occupy your mind with the things of God; then you have no place for the past.
Determine to go forward with God. My dear sister, what are the things that chain you to the past and hinder you from going forward? It’s not worth holding on to any of it. Cut the chains to your past and experience the freedom to reach for the things that lie ahead. I want you to know that God’s power and grace are sufficient for you to be more than a conqueror!
May the Lord bless you and surround you with His love.
Your sister in Christ,