“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” —Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian writer regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. (Quote source here.)
Yesterday I posted a blog post on my other blog titled, “All Things New,” that is themed around the changes that have occurred in my life over the past decade. One of the things I noted was how much I have changed during this past decade. While the external circumstances of my life changed dramatically over this time period, the internal changes for me personally have been, well, quite remarkable.
In continuing with the theme of change from “All Things New,” here is what the apostle Paul had to say about “pressing on” in Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT):
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
It is hard to move forward when we allow the past to hold us back. In an article titled, “Leave the Past Behind,” by David Zerfoss, Owner of The Zerfoss Group, Chair of Vistage International, and Executive in Residence at Queens University McColl School of Business, he writes:
Without realizing it, we often carry something around with us everywhere we go. We bring it out in our conversations, and it shows up in our attitudes. Whatever that thing is from the past may never have really existed, yet its power lives inside us and keeps us from moving forward.
Listen to people talk throughout the day, and take note of where their conversations are grounded—in the future, in the present, or in the past. Where would you guess most conversations draw from?
The answer is the past.
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. — Isaiah 43:18–19
Some of us take our past—and, therefore, stress—with us everywhere we go, towing it along behind us. Why do we do it? It’s familiar to us. It’s that warm and fuzzy bag of stories we like to take out and share with our family, friends, and coworkers. This comfortable past is often our “best friend.” It’s who and what we know best. It’s like a worn-out easy chair or an old pair of shoes that fits us and feels just right. But God commands us, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18), lest we miss the new thing He is doing right in front of us!
When people talk about or think about their past, it seems to take on the characteristics of a real-life being. The past cannot breathe, talk, think, or do. However, it is immensely powerful and can take over our future—if we let it. It’s like the sirens on the shore, luring you toward the rocks over and over again. Focusing on the past will certainly limit your choices for the future.
For a lot of people, I know the past holds a difficult childhood, an abusive marriage, or a financially draining job loss. Yet no matter how painful our past may have been, for some strange reason we often choose not to let go. In order to get on with our future and simplify our lives, we must choose to make a clean break and leave the past behind.
There’s an engaging Peanuts cartoon where Lucy is apologizing to Charlie Brown for missing a fly ball during a baseball game. She’s sorry she missed the fly ball and says it’s because she started remembering all the others she missed. “The past got in my eyes,” she says.
Many of us know people who are very reasonable—they have very good reasons for why they can’t move forward in life. Take for instance a person who has endured multiple bad relationships or marriages. He is certain that because of these relationships, he’s stuck in the terrible spot he’s in today. Isn’t it difficult to watch that person once again become attracted to the same type of person with whom he just ended a contentious relationship?
Carrying the past forward to the future will provide us with only one thing—incremental change—in our lives. “Unreasonable” people make a choice to create transformational breakthroughs, without “reasonable” ties to the past.
Each of us has a powerful choice. We have the ability to create our own simplified future by starting with a blank sheet of paper and a heart surrendered to God’s will for our lives.
Choose to leave the past behind, and begin living a life filled with new possibilities! (Quote source here.)
And in another article titled, “Moving Forward,” by Trey Bradley, speaker and evangelist, he writes the following in two sections titled in his article titled, “Forget the Past But Never Forget the Past,” and “Don’t Settle”:
Forget The Past But Never Forget The Past
When Paul spoke of moving forward [see Philippians 3:12-14 above] he said that he was going to forget what was behind him. Paul definitely had a past and a dark one that surely haunted him often. We all have a past and the enemy often uses this to try and distract us or stop us from being effective in the kingdom. As Paul stated we must leave the past behind and recognize that it does not define us anymore. We have a new identity and a new name in Christ. The old person is dead and we have been raised to new life in Christ Jesus so we cannot allow past mistakes to keep us from moving forward. It is the past! Done! Forgiven! At the same time we must never forget the past as far as remembering where God has brought us. We must never forget where we come from! By always remembering how the grace of God brought us through in the past, we will be reminded that this same grace will get us through our current circumstance that is keeping us from moving forward. God came through before and He will come through again. He freed me from that sin in the past, and He can free me from this sin that I currently struggle with so I can and will move forward by His grace.
Many of us often settle for less than God’s best for our lives whether it’s our own spiritual walk, relationships, or career path. God has offered a feast at His table, and we often settle for scraps that fall on the floor. I find it interesting how Paul is in prison for following Christ and could have easily just gone into cruise mode. He could have just given up and quit by assuming that God must be done with him. However, he was not willing to settle based on his circumstances. He vowed to continue to move forward toward the goal and had a desire to know Jesus in such a way that he never had before. He knew that since he was not dead, that God was not done. If Paul can move forward while in prison than we can move forward despite what our circumstances may be. In fact your circumstances just might be the vehicle in which the gospel will go forth in your circle in ways that it never has before. Let’s not settle and think that our current circumstance is reason to just ride things out until the end. Keep moving forward.
Trey ends his article with the following statement:
It is so easy to allow apathy to set into our hearts, minds, and emotions but we must keep moving forward. I want to have the heart of Paul and never let myself become stagnant regardless of what my current situation may be. Let’s continue to run the race, leave the past behind, and press ahead. (Quote source and complete article at this link.)
Those are good points to remember–continue to run the race, leave the past behind, and press ahead (with enthusiasm!).
We all have things in our past that we wish we could change, and often they are very major things that have had a huge impact on our lives and even our relationships. But whatever those things are, we should not let them hold us back or stop us from moving forward. Paul was in a prison cell at the time he wrote those verses above in Philippians 3:12-14, and he didn’t let that hold him back. Moving forward in not just something that is external; it is also, and even more so, internal. It’s an attitude as much as an action. So, in closing, let’s remember to . . .
Continue to run the race . . .
Leaving the past behind . . .
And pressing ahead . . . .
YouTube Video: “Moving Forward” by Hezekiah Walker: