Past sins, mistakes, failures, rejections, disappointments, etc. can become weights that burden the soul and rob the heart of any hope for the future. Life then becomes an endless cycle of day-to-day survival with no hope that things will ever be different.
Things can, however, be different. In Philippians 3:12-14 Paul lays out a clear statement of how he is dealing with a very difficult past and laying hold of his future in Christ. Here are three keys from this passage and Paul’s own experience for laying hold of God’s best in 2012.
Realize that You Have a Future
In Phil. 3:12 Paul says that he has not yet been “perfected.” The Greek word is teteleiomai and refers to a goal or destination. In other words, Paul is saying that he has not yet completed his reason and purpose for being on this earth. He still has a future of which he says, I press on that I may lay hold of.
It is not personal goals and agendas that Paul is pursuing. He makes it clear that he is pursuing and laying hold of the same purpose for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. From the heavenward side, Christ Jesus has laid hold of him for a purpose. From the earthly side, Paul is diligently laying hold of that same purpose. Even though he has been through so many trials and now writes this letter from prison, he knows that he still has work to carry out on this earth. He still has a future.
You too must realize that the very fact that you are alive and reading this, that God is not finished with you. You have a future and you can lay hold of your future by following Paul’ example.
Forget the Past
In vs. 13 Paul tells how he is dealing with his past which was filled with pain, rejection, and remorse. He says that he is forgetting those things which are behind.
If anyone had an excuse to be bound by his past it was Paul. First of all, before his encounter with Jesus he had grievously sinned against others, even involved in the murder of Christians. Such guilt could easily paralyze Paul with remorse and regret. What is his answer? Forget! And he could forget because he knew something of the great mercy and grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. So can you!
Since becoming a Christian he had suffered wrongs at the hands of so many others—being stoned and left for dead in Lystra, being beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, being mobbed by his own people in Jerusalem who tried to kill him, and being imprisoned by the Romans in Rome where he now writes this letter. Such painful experiences could leave one with anger, bitterness, hopelessness, and a sense of rejection. What is Paul’s answer? Forget!
It is not a super-spiritual technique or methodology that Paul has discovered for dealing with his past; but a practical decision to forget it—leave it behind—and not allow it to affect his present or his future. Forgive and forget! Your future is too valuable to allow it to be robbed by past experiences of pain or regret. Forget it—let it go—and move on. That's what Paul did. That is what we must do!
Lay Hold of the Future
In regards to his future Paul says in vs. 13 that he is reaching forward. Paul here uses a metaphorical picture from the sporting arena of a runner in a race waiting for the signal to begin. His body is bent forward, his hand outstretched, never giving a backward glance, and his eyes fixed on the goal. All his mental and physical energies are focused on what is ahead—the goal or finish line.
In vss. 12 and 14 he uses the expression press on in regards to his attitude toward his future. “Press on” is from the Greek word dioko, which is an intense word that means to “pursue” or “go after.” In vs. 14 he says he is pressing toward the mark (goal) of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. The mark or goal which Paul is pursuing with all his might is the fulfillment of his Divine destiny, i.e., his reason for being on earth.
God’s purpose for our lives will not just fall on us out of the sky. His plan will not just automatically unfold without any cooperation or effort on our part. His plan and purpose must be diligently pursued. We should prayerfully ask ourselves this question, “What practical steps can I take in 2012 to move me toward the fulfillment of my Divine destiny?
Shake off the Dust of 2011
Acts 13:49-51 tells of the opposition that arose against Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia and how the people there expelled them, i.e., ran them out of town. Vs. 51 says, But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. This act was based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:14 where he told the disciples that when they went to a city and they and their words were not received, they were to shake the dust off their feet and go on to the next city. In other words, they were not to take any of the dirt—the pain, the rejection, etc.—from that situation to their next place of ministry. They were to “forget” and “go on.” The outward demonstration of this was to not allow any dirt from that city to go with them to the next city.
There will be challenges in 2012, perhaps some major challenges. But in spite of what goes on in the political and economic world, it can be a great year for the people of God if we will follow Paul’s example and advice. I urge you now to shake off the dirt of 2011 and begin now to lay hold of the future God has for you in 2012. Don’t allow your past to rob you of your future!