But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained (Philippians 3:7-16, NIV).
I have been writing this series Forward Motion on Philippians 3:7-16, which teaches that Jesus delivers you from your past, disciples you in your present, and directs your future. We can live these truths out by learning from our past, looking to Christ in our present, and leaning on God’s promises for our future.
Don’t lounge or languish in your past, learn from it. Don’t be a “rubbernecker.” Don’t let your past define who you are, be it good or bad. Rubbernecking gets you into trouble. When you constantly look at your present through your past, you are giving your past too much power. Your past does not define who you are. David was a success as a leader, a king, a warrior, and a man of God, but his past did not keep him from falling into horrible sin with Bathsheba. Yet his past with Bathsheba did not keep him trapped in a guilty past. Three times after this event, David is referred to in Scripture as a man after God’s own heart. Christ defines you, not your past. Don’t lounge or languish in your past, learn from it.
Look to Christ in your present. Don’t get distracted and trapped by your current circumstances. Several years ago while I was driving around picking up food for a youth event at my church, the car in front of me stopped a bit fast to make a turn. I was watching the road so I was able to stop and be a safe distance from the car in front of me. The driver behind me however, was not looking at the road. He was putting away a CD he had just finished listening to. He was not able to stop in time and smacked right into the back of my car. Have you ever done something like that? We get so distracted by things that we think are important or urgent that we forget to see the forest for the trees.
One time I remember getting ready heading out in the procession of cars to the cemetery for a committal as part of a funeral I was officiating. I had done this many times by now. I was relaxed, listening to the radio. All the sudden I looked up and realized I was no longer behind the black caddy with the flowers! I had somehow become so distracted that I had become separated from the people who were leading me to where I needed to go. I don’t know how that happened! It was so embarrassing. I ended up having to call the funeral home and who had one of their people leave the procession so I could meet them and lead the way to the cemetery.
Stuff like this reminds me of Matthew 14:25-32 (NIV),
About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came to them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him, they screamed in terror, thinking he was a ghost. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “It’s all right,” he said. “I am here! Don’t be afraid.” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you by walking on water.” “All right, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him. “You don’t have much faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” And when they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.
Like Peter, we can get so focused on the waves that we forget Who is with us, leading us, and teaching us. Don’t get fooled into thinking your present circumstances are random. And don’t get so distracted by your circumstances that you lose sight of Jesus who is leading you. Look to Jesus in your present.
And finally, lean on God’s promises for your future. Paul says we should live up to what we have already attained. Our future is with Christ and in Christ. We don’t need to worry about it. Jesus says in Matthew 6:27 (NIV), who by worrying can add a single hour to their life? As you begin 2015 give your future to God. Or, more accurately, realize it is in His hands already, so by worrying about it, you are worrying about something that is already being handled by the best and most loving hands.
Know that Christ has delivered you from your past, disciples you in your present, and directs your future. So learn from your past, look to Jesus in your present, and lean on God’s promises for your future.