Here we are, at the end of another year of life. We look back on the last twelve months and consider hopefully what might be in our future for the next twelve. It’s a trait of our humanity, this marking of time. The God we serve exists outside of it – He is transcendent; He goes beyond this universe – He surpasses the ordinary limits of time and space, and is supreme over them. But it’s also a gift from our Father to His created children – a clean slate, a unopened book, a fresh start. After all, it was He who declared “and there was evening and there was morning, one day.” Somehow He knew we would need these “markers,” as we make our way through the journey of life, a step at a time, a moment of time, a day, a month, a year. He knew we’d need to see progress and that this progression would somehow give us hope to keep walking, keep following in faith.
So, how do we take full advantage of this gift?
One way (just one…as I’m sure there are many) is to forget. Whatever has happened this year, good or bad, is past. We are not transcendent beings, and so we cannot go back and fix those things we feel we’ve failed at, or accomplish the things we’ve left undone. Words spoken or silence kept, gifts given or held onto, tasks completed or yet to begin…everything that is “yesterday” is done. Whether its regret or relief we feel that 2015 is over makes no difference. We cannot go back.
The best course of action is to lay last year down at the feet of our Savior, and turn boldly and confidently to the year before us, trusting that God will take the past and work it for His good and His glory.
2 Timothy 1:12 – For I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Philippians 1:6 – For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 2:13 – For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Does God give us permission to forget our past? To move toward the future, without over-thinking and stressing over what “might” have been? I believe He does, and actually encourages it. Consider these words from Paul.
Philippians 3:7-14– But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
A few observations:
· We are encouraged to forget what we’ve accomplished, earned, or achieved, so that it doesn’t become a source of pride and cause us to miss what is truly valuable in comparison…knowing Christ.
· We are to recognize that our achievements are not the source of our righteousness, but that our righteousness, our “right-standing” before God, is only through faith in Christ. We can infer here that neither do our failures detract or mar our “right-standing” before God, if it is truly obtained by faith in Christ (see Romans 8:33-39).
· We are also to forget the things we have suffered, as our sufferings can also distract us from the real goal. In fact, Paul says that anything we have “lost” is to be counted as “rubbish” in comparison to the real and tangible value of knowing Christ. These are strange words, considering that many have suffered loss of things and people very dear to them. Yet they are true words, because only an intimate knowledge of Christ can fill up the gaping holes that real loss has carved in our heart, mind and soul.
· Our goal is to be conformed to Christ in His death, attaining the resurrection from the dead…which is practically experienced as we die to self, the “old” man, and allow Christ to live out His life in us (Philippians 1:21, Luke 9:23, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
· This “conforming to Christ” is a continual process, not fully achieved in this life.
· We are to forget what lies behind, and reach forward to what lies ahead.
· We are to press toward this goal of “Christ-conformity”, in anticipation of a prize – the upward call of God in Christ.
So…as we forget what lies behind, whether good or bad, how do we “press forward” toward the goal of conforming to Christ? We do the opposite of forget…we remember!
We remember what God has taught us in His Word, as we have looked intently into scripture, and obeyed it.
James 1:23-25 – For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
We remember what God has taught us through the lessons we have learned from our spiritual mentors: our pastors, teachers, and those friends who have pushed us toward a passionate faith and walk in Christ.
Hebrews 13:7 – Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.
We remember the ways that God has brought us through, giving us confidence to press hard into the coming year, leaning only on Christ, trusting Him because He has shown Himself faithful.
Hebrews 10:32-36 – But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
Do you notice the difference between what we forget, and what we remember? We forget us…our achievements and our failures, our victories and our losses. And we remember Him…what He has accomplished, what He has said, what He has done, who He has shown Himself to be, how He has revealed Himself to us.
As you reflect over the year, take stock of what needs to be forgotten and put behind you. And as you make that list of goals or resolutions, use as your template the mighty things that Godhas begun in your life and desires to complete.
Don’t waste time with regret.
Don’t waste time with bitterness.
And definitely don’t waste time in glory on yourself.
Lay the year to rest, and look to the path ahead, asking God what He desires to do with you in this coming year.
Here’s a practical exercise.
Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the center. On the left side, write down all the things you need to forget. What have you accomplished this year? What have you suffered? What are the areas of failure? What have you lost? On the right hand side, corresponding to each thing you listed, what did God teach you…about Himself? What scripture comes to mind as you remember how He brought you through each hard place? What about His character do you know more intimately because of the things that have occurred this year?
As you ponder how Christ wants to live out His life in you this next year, go through your list of “forgets” and give each one to God. Present the list to Him, and ask Him to help you put those things behind. In the same way, thank Him for the ways He has been faithful to you and ask Him to seal those lessons and revelations in your heart and mind.
Then take a fresh, clean piece of paper and ask Him what areas of your life He wants to work on this year. Meditate on scripture, and spend time listening. I promise He will speak to your heart and give you peace about the past, and hope for the bright future of the coming year.
Hebrews 10:23-24 – Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.