Philippians 3:13-14 (TLB) I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus is calling us up to heaven.
Here, the Apostle Paul is telling you to forget the past and to dwell upon the future. He is telling you to let go of whatever has happened in the past and is still causing you worry, fear, to become angry or miserable.
Paul is saying you have one of two options:
You can forget it and be happy, or hold onto it and be unhappy. But you cannot do both!
So many people are unhappy because they are holding onto or dwelling on things that have happened in the past. A fact of life is we will get hurt, a lot. But happiness means we have to let go of all the pain, hurt and grief of the past. Holding onto it will only perpetuate the pain, hurt and grief.
Paul says (paraphrased) “I’m not wasting any energy over who has done what to me, why I didn’t get something or what I did wrong – I’m focussing all my energies on what lies ahead and God’s purpose for my life!”
But there are three key traps to forgetting the past:
1. Eliminate Regret – Regret is replaying all the wrong things you have done and allowing guilt and/or condemnation to well up within you. You play “if only” over and over in your head – if only I did this or didn't do that. But this will never change the fact that it happened and the more you replay this record in your mind, the deeper you fall into regret!
2. Eliminate Unforgiveness – Unforgiveness is replaying what others have done to you. (Regret replays what you have done). The only way out of this trap is to forgive. But I can’t! Well you must, for three reasons:
I. because God has forgiven you
II. because resentment makes you miserable
III. because you will need forgiveness in the future
3. Eliminate Tradition – Tradition causes you to become so set in your ways that you will not change. One thing you cannot stop is change – your body is growing older and will change, your job will change with time, society and culture will change. Even your church will change. So don’t fight change – just accept it.
Your ability to eliminate these three traps is a measure of your spiritual maturity. Spiritually mature people are not perfect people, they have just learned to cut off regret, they have learned to forgive, and they have learned to accept change.
When you do these things, like Paul you too will start forgetting the past, and you will press on towards everything that God has planned for you in the future!