Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Philippians 3:13 … Forgetting what is behind…
Luke 9:57, 61- 62 57As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, … “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” 62Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Yesterday we looked at one aspect of Paul’s challenge to forget what is behind us: to forget past failures and press on towards excellence. For some, being given permission to forget failures is refreshing and liberating. It comes as welcome news and is embraced with enthusiasm. Who of us doesn’t want to wipe the slate clean and be free of regrets?
But we must also consider all the other things we are to forget as well, and these are much tougher – things like past successes and things we love. Forgetting failures is highly desired, but please, can’t we carry our past successes with us?
When Paul was writing this passage, he was reflecting on all his past success as a Pharisee: success that became failure in comparison to the surpassing excellence of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord. But even that may have been easier for him to forget than our successes, because his were sin, and in our opinion, ours may not be. Who can call our success at raising our families a sin? Who believes that our career success is a sin? Who thinks that the skills and talents we have must be shunned and ignored because they are sin? I hope none of us does, because they aren’t…UNLESS they have become important enough to us to interfere with our obedience to Christ’s purpose for our lives. If any of the things we consider a success in our lives slow or stop our pursuit of the goal to win the prize of Christ-likeness, then they have become sin to us. This requires serious contemplation.
Consider carefully and honestly the following questions of analysis:
- Has your love for your family and friends kept you from stepping out in faith to pursue the call of God you heard at one time to some form of Christian ministry?
- Are your skills and talents in one particular area being used to promote a lifestyle choice you have made rather than to promote the Kingdom of God?
- Has your career success become so comfortable to you that you would not give it up to do whatever God asks you to do and go wherever He asks you to go?
- Has your current involvement in Christian ministry of any kind become sufficiently satisfying to keep you from hearing God’s call to some different form of ministry?
- Is there anything in your life right now that you believe you must be able to take with you on your heavenward journey with God to win His prize?
My friends, I speak from a heart that struggles with this just as you may. I am the pastor of a wonderful church and it seems they love me as much as I love them. I am privileged to have my children and grandchildren all living within 3 hours of me. I live in an area of our country that is supremely beautiful and offers every opportunity for the outdoor activities I enjoy. I know that being a pastor is God’s call on my life. But has it become so comfortable that I would not consider forgetting it all to pursue God’s call somewhere else were He to beckon me?
Years ago, when I first contemplated the effects of my comfort zone on my commitment to Christ’s cause, I received an email from my one of my dear spiritual daughters in the Philippines. My heart was overwhelmed with the love I have for the people of that island. Now, many years later, still longing to go there, God has opened new doors of ministry in India, and I also long to be with them carrying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of that nation. But there are two things I must consider:
- Am I willing to put myself in danger of death to go anywhere God directs me? The dangers are real, but who am I to hang on to this life if Jesus says that for His glory my death would serve His purpose?
- Am I willing to forget the success of past visits to those places and never go again if that is God’s purpose for me?
In the past when I have read Paul’s words to forget what is behind, I have only considered the ugliness of my past and been thankful that it has been forgiven and can be forgotten.
But now, I must also consider the good things of my past, and make sure they are not competing with Christ for a place on the throne of my life.
You must do the same. Let us press on towards the prize of the high calling of Christ, and once we have put our hands to the plow, may we not longingly look back at anything. Rather, let us fix our eyes on Jesus alone and the joy that we will experience with Him both now and forever more. The joys of all earthly successes cannot compare with the joy of knowing and serving Jesus.