A New day
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But 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 upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Do you have any goals for the future? Financial or family or personal? Sure you do. We all have goals, even if we never write them down on paper. We have places we hope to one day be in life. That’s called dreams, and the minute you stop dreaming, you start dying. Paul had a dream of what God would do in the days ahead.
So how do you make sure that you are doing what Paul talks about here in scripture? The first thing is:
Forget the Past
Forget the Past
Paul says that he remembers no longer the things in the rear view mirror. Well, this can’t be taken literally, of course. Paul didn’t want us to forget everything. History is important! Paul remembered his knowledge of Scripture, he remembered his conversion experience, he remembered the call that God had placed on his life. He did not forget God’s grace and what Christ had done for him and in him and through him. There were lots of things on the forefront of his mind that involved his history.
So what does he mean when he says that he is forgetting the past? He means that he will not let the past overshadow the present. He will not let “where he has been” dictate “where he will one day be.” He’s keeping his eyes on the road and he would not be distracted.
All of us who drive cars can understand this illustration. Which of us, has not been distracted by a child in the back seat, or a police car in our rear view mirror? Suddenly, we don’t see that the brake lights of the SUV before us. When we focus on what is behind, we get distracted from what is ahead. And I don’t have to tell you, what is right in front of you is far more important than what’s 100 yards behind you. That’s true in driving, and it’s true in life! The secret to our happiness is learning to look ahead at what God is going to do next.
And let me just say a word to those of us in the room who are getting “older,” whose skin is starting to wrinkle—those of you who now qualify for good parking and 10% discounts. You know who you are! Let me say something to you. We live in a culture that fights the process of aging at all costs. It is considered a disgrace in our country when a woman loses her shape or a man loses his ability to play full court basketball. We don’t want to admit that we are getting older, but I want you to know how refreshing it is when an older person says, “I love my life. I love this season of life. It’s good and it’s blessed. And I wouldn’t go back. I lived high school once and now, I’m living this season with joy.” That kind of person who lives in contentment—that person is a breath of fresh air, an inspiration.
We should not spend our moments wishing we could hop in a time machine. We should thank God for days we have right now, and the days we have coming in heaven. This is the day that the Lord has made, I WILL rejoice and be glad in it.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing 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 doing a new thing, but some of you are too busy trying to hold onto the old thing
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
You remember, in the Old Testament, when God led the people of Israel out of Egypt toward the Promised Land, he provided everything that they needed for their journey. They had shade by day and light by night. They had water to drink and manna to eat. The time came, however, when the people took their eyes off the future and the land that God was giving them and they focused on their old life in Egypt. They said,
We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
The people of Israel began to look back and failed to trust God for their present and future blessings. Should we be thankful for previous blessings? Absolutely! An attitude of gratitude is essential, but if your Christian testimony is entirely taken up with what God did for you thirty or forty years ago, or if you are constantly talking about the good old days when God’s blessing on your life seemed great, then you are living in the past.
You are living a leeks-and-garlic type of Christianity, and Paul warns against it.
There can be no progress without this proper forgetting. What is there in your life, that God says, “You gotta let that go!”
What are those things that are holding you back from the life that he NOW wants you to lead?
Illustration about the falling leaves
The second thing Paul claims to have done…
Look again at v.13…
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
Someone once asked a famous missionary, David Livingstone, when he came off the field in Africa, “Well, Dr. Livingstone, where are you ready to go now?” Livingstone answered, “I am ready to go anywhere, provided it be forward.”
That is what Paul would have said. Paul’s sense of the Lord’s leading was always linked to his awareness of open doors. Paul expected the Lord to open doors, and when he did, Paul went through them instantly. Paul was constantly striving toward those things that were ahead.
Now, many people misunderstand this verse. When Paul says that “I’m striving toward what is ahead, he has called me heavenward,” many people take that to mean a far off distant point in the future. So, to live life successfully today, I should just sit around and think about heaven all day long. I should look at this world with total disgust, reject everything I see, and focus all my energy on the rewards that will come with the new heaven and the new earth.
This is NOT what Paul means. Far too many people get wrapped up in endtimes discussions that paralyze them for the present. The only reason Jesus gave us information about the end was because it would motivate us for the NOW! Don’t live your life way back in the past, and don’t live your life 50 years in the future, press on in the present.
Now, there are two textual clues that help us understand this idea. First, verse 14 speaks of the “heavenward” calling of God in Christ Jesus. This throws the emphasis of the verse upon the ascent, the climb, the journey. We are on are way, but we are not there yet! We’ve got to keep striving with all our might. This word “heavenward” helps us understand this better.
Second, Paul mentions God’s “call” in v. 14.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
He has “called me” heavenward. In the New Testament when this word is used of a Christian, it almost always refers to God’s calling to be conformed day by day to the image of Jesus Christ. That, too, is a reference to the present.
What Paul is saying is: Run this race! Today is a new day, with new lessons to be learned, new victories to be won, new memories to create for the treasure box. And at the end of every day, lay your head down on your pillow and pray, “Lord, I have done my best with this day, and I thank you for the blessings it held. Give me rest now, and let me put these experiences behind me, that I might serve you better tomorrow!
And that’s true for all of us. God’s mercies are new every morning and there are new things to run after. He is leading you on an upward journey. You are going heavenward if you follow Jesus day by day.
Look back at v.12…
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
What does this say? I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way!!!