We are still in the early days of the New Year and I guess the New Year euphoria hasn’t died out yet. In this series, Navigating 2014, I will be sharing with you some truths from the life of one of the most successful servants of God that ever lived— Paul. Though, I don’t consider these few points new information, because they are things we already know, I believe reminding ourselves Once A While about the truth of God’s word is very beneficial. Now, let’s begin to glean our lessons:
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14).
1. Forget Past Failures
“...forgetting those things which are behind“.
If Paul says he forgets the past—“forgetting those things which are behind”—we have to pay attention to him. He is a murderer. He has blood on his hands. If you cast your eyes a few verses upwards, you will understand the things Paul wants to leave behind. Before his conversion from Saul to Paul, he persecuted Christians of his time and handed them over to be executed. It was on one of such persecution trips that he met Jesus. Hear his own words: “And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him” (Acts 22:20).
I believe Paul, as human as he was, had to deal with this regret constantly. The devil might even take advantage and constantly whisper in his mind “You're a murderer”. Remember one of the credentials of the devil is “accuser of the brethren”. I bet you can identify with the effects of having to deal with past regrets, mistakes and failures. It can be energy sapping. Dwelling on past failures can breed guilt and immobilise us from moving forward. Everyone, without exception, got things in the past they not proud of. But we have to rise above our past failures and press forward. “... reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).
2. Forget Past Successes.
Paul, unlike the first Apostles, was highly educated. He studied in Tarsus under Gamaliel, one of the best teachers of His time. Not only that, he was a Pharisee---the highest order of his time. He was also a qualified lawyer. Paul in fact, never considered himself inferior to any of the Apostles. At a point in time in his ministry, he had to defend himself and let people know he wasn't a “Riffraff”: “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant...” (2 Corinthians 11:23). Did you read that? “I am more, in labours more abundant...” Simply put, Paul is saying that I worked more than all of them. In 1Corinthians 15:10, he says “...I laboured more abundantly than they all...”
In fact, it is on record that Paul wrote all his epistles before any of the earlier Apostles penned their writings. So we are not looking at a man with average success in Paul. We are looking at a highly successful minister of the gospel. In today's world, Paul could qualify for a “Mega church” pastor. Yet, despite his success rate, he had no time for complacency: “...I count not myself to have apprehended...” What Paul seems to be saying is that: “I have not achieved it yet”. “I have not arrived”. “I have not become all I was called to be”. “There are still territories to cover.” “There is more success ahead” “There is more work to do”. In this New Year, let’s leave behind us all the successes we achieved in the previous year and “...press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”.
3. Focus on the future:
Focus on the future: “...reach forth unto those things which are before”. Life is meant to be progressive; building on successes and learning from failures. The day the past becomes the standard, we stop growing. We stop achieving and our purpose on earth gets clouded. In Deuteronomy 1, we see a comfort zone situation where the Israelites, instead of moving forward; they pitched camp in a comfort zone and stopped moving
I surprisingly found out that refusing to reach out for the future is considered rebellion and sin before God: “Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God:” (vs26). Don't sit stagnant in life. Reach forth into the future.The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: Turn you, and take your journey ... and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them“ (vs 6-8).