“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, 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.” Phil. 3:13-14
January was hard for many of us. None of us were ready for what unraveled at our nation’s Capitol and it seems like overnight — the world as we knew it was usurped from us. It was bad enough with the pandemic but now this?
How do we go on?
Will you take a deep breath with me? Just stop for a minute. Inhale deeply (inviting the Holy Spirit to fill you) and breathe out whatever it is that’s stressing you out.
Now, let’s take a look at what the apostle Paul advises us to do. Paul lived in a time when there was great political unrest and when it was a crime to preach the Gospel. His faith in Jesus would cost him his life.
Yet, even in a prison cell, Paul taught us how to overcome and move forward.
Forget the Past
We may not understand what is going on in our nation or in our own private world, which for me often seems filled with storms. But one thing we can do is forget the past.
The prophet Isaiah wrote:
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Is. 43:18
The life we once enjoyed before the pandemic will never come again — not in the same way. Yes, there is the mourning — a deep mourning of the losses we’ve each faced. This month, I got news that my aunt passed away; then a dear friend who was a stalwart of faith in our community went home to be with the Lord, and finally my son’s 5th grade classmate — one of the brightest kids in the class — succumbed to a long-term illness.
So hard to understand and accept on this side of eternity. Maybe like me you’ve asked, “How can a loving God allow these things to happen?” I don’t have a good answer. I only know that this world is not what God meant for it to be. There is unspeakable evil but the evil is not from Him. I also know it will not always be this way.
Another way to forget the past is letting go of hurtful memories and failures. Last year held many painful moments in my relationship with my oldest child. We are no longer in that place of pain, but I’m tempted to think of those moments when something happens to trigger memories. I experience something like a parental PTSD reaction and fear grips me.
But I’m learning to breathe deeply — to pause and ask the Holy Spirit to fill me. I am reminded of the prophet’s words,
“Do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Is. 43:18-19
Dwelling on the past keeps us from the reality of the present. It’s a new day, new year and God is doing something new.
Paul urges us to reach forward to those things which are ahead. Your calling in life does not depend on who is in power. Yes, it may be harder or different but the high calling for each of us has got to start with loving God and loving people beginning with those closest to us.
Ann Voskamp paints a beautiful picture of how to get unstuck and move forward. It begins at the cross. The cross of Jesus has the power to get us unstuck from shame, fear, rejection, failure or whatever is keeping us bound.
We can reach forward to Jesus and let him be the center of our lives. It’s what Paul did. He was clear about his goal.
Press toward the goal
Did you make goals for this year? I set six goals for January and so far, I’ve faltered at two out of the six. I made habit goals like to drink 64 ounces of water daily and to start on my tax receipts (groan). But I love Paul’s goal: “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Paul’s upward call was to be a child of God, a follower of the Lord Jesus, an apostle of the church of God and a missionary to the Gentiles (of whom I am one). I loved that he wrote down all that God was teaching about who Jesus is what it means to be a believer. His old scrolls became most of the New Testament Bible.
God did not rescue Paul from death. But Paul fought the good fight; he kept the faith and finished the course. I believe the old apostle could do so because he knew whom he had believed in.
And that’s my prayer for all of us — that despite and maybe because of the times we are living, may we be drawn to know God more and more and experience the reality of His goodness and kindness to us in 2021. And may we out of the abundance of His overflowing love, reach out to those who are afraid and hurting.