Sunday, March 20, 2016

Leave the Past Behind

Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14

I have struggled with my past. I have struggled with things in my past. More than anything lately, I have been struggling with my grief over the past. I have struggled with things I cannot change. If I could, I would. It has taken a lot of prayer and thoughtfulness to understand I cannot change the past. I knew I couldn’t, but I prayed to God to at least take away the pain. He has helped me lessen the pain, but He has not removed it completely. Each day, sadness continues to overtake me. I think of my friend all the time. People have told me to just get over it. I feel resigned that will never happen; that I will always feel sadness when I remember his death. 

But maybe one day I won’t feel sadness when I think of him, and what the world lost when he died so tragically. I love and trust my God, so when He says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” I am trying to see things new again, to see a life forward without my best friend, my greatest confidant. It’s not an easy concept and it is not one that I really want to deal with, but deal with it, I must. Ephesians 4:22-23 is a very encouraging passage of scripture. It says, “You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self…and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” In other words, I can overcome any negative situation or pain from my past if I will just believe in God and say, “Yes, this tragedy happened. But You are on my side and I know You have a good plan for me.”

In fact, with God’s help, I can do anything within His will for me. For example, God wants me to be healthy. So if you need to lose weight and you decide to go on a diet, when the hunger pains start coming, no matter how much your flesh is screaming, I can set your mind to not give in. And if my willpower can hold out, I will see results! I have done it before, and I can do it again. Well, that truth applies to every other area of my life.

I think a lot of us try to do things in our own strength without God. At first, I tried to get over my grief without God. I blamed him for allowing it to happen, but God didn’t kill my friend. God allows us to live our lives and whatever happened on that tragic night, it was not God’s doing. But in order to have the godly determination we need to get results, we need to come under the leadership of the Holy Spirit―and we need to have a vision.

The Israelites stayed in the wilderness forty years because they couldn’t see God’s vision for their life. They thought of everything in terms of their past. In fact, they complained to Moses that they wanted to go back to Egypt and return to a life of slavery because that’s what they knew. But God wanted them to get a new vision―a land flowing with milk and honey. Like the Israelites, I have prayed for things that no one should pray for, and God has answered those prayers.  Thankfully, his answer was no.  It is not my time to join him in everlasting life, for I have more things to do in this life.

If you want to see change happen in your life, you’ve got to get a vision that goes beyond what you’ve already seen and experienced. And a good place to start is the promises in God’s Word. There are thousands of them, and you can claim each one of them for yourself. In 1 Peter 5:6-7, Peter tells us, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” I have learned to humble myself before God and to beg him to forgive me for the blame I cast toward him. I am doing my best to cast my anxieties to God, so he can help me.

We need to learn how to encourage ourselves in the Word. That’s what David did in Psalm 27:13-14. Even in the midst of his troubles he said, “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”  The Lord God works in his own way in his own time. We must understand that and press forward knowing he will guide us.

Our hope should never be based on what we can see or what’s in our past. Our hope should be based on the Word of God and His promises for our life. Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” God is always doing something new. I need to use my gift of spiritual discernment to follow His plan and stop following my own thoughts and feelings. I need to look at my circumstance and stare at Jesus.

Paul told the Hebrews in Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Do you know what? God will give us anything we can see as long as it’s biblical. If we will just stop thinking about everything we’ve lost, everything we’re not, everything we’ve given up, the way we’ve been treated in the past, and set our mind on His vision for our future, God will bring us to our Promised Land. But first, we have to leave the past behind.


silvereagle said...

Good teaching here again. Listen to your own words!!!

Susan said...

A beautiful message of hope and renewal, Joe. Your desire to be on the path away from sadness even in the face of your friend's death will take time and perhaps be tinged with additional tears. But with your faith in God's help, I'm sure you will eventually find the peace and happiness you seek.

Have a lovely Palm Sunday. <3

Michael Dodd said...

As they say, the only way to get over something is to go through it. I worked for hospice for a while, and we were told that it usually takes people a year to grieve the loss of a loved one. I am sure that you will move through this pain into a time when your sadness at the loss will be overshadowed (over-brightened?) by the joy of the gift of your friend in your life.

I was taught in my Church of Christ days that the dead are asleep until the final judgment and so do not know what is going on now. I find more consoling another ancient Christian tradition that they do know, that they continue to care about and love those they left behind, that they hear us and are even able to pray for us.

Peace to you as spring begins. Life is already stirring and starting to emerge, even if we do not quite see it yet.

Greggums1954 said...

Interesting. VERY interesting indeed. I plan on making a copy of this post and sharing it with the church choir I direct [ giving credit to you and your Blog of course]. Although I might not totally agree with everything you wrote, it is so insightful, worthy of discussion AND comes directly from your heart. I thank you and St. John's Episcopal Church Choir will most assuredly thank you also [once they hear your writings]. You continue to bless us more than you know ... more than you'll ever know. gks