“Brothers I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14, ESV).
We make the mistake of looking back in three ways:
- Mistakes in the past: Here we marinate in our mistakes, hobble our current Christian endeavor, because we made mistakes. Paul certainly had much to regret in his past. Yet we can learn from our mistakes, repent of our sins, and grow. Don’t look back in regret.
- Past achievements: The church had good preachers “back then.” The church was successful and victorious “back then.” Constantly saying so is not respectful to current servants of the Lord, discourages them, and appears to be our excuse for doing nothing now.
- Past wrongs: Here we recall – in vivid Technicolor! – the wrongs someone did to us in the past. We recall each inflection of their voice, every gesture of their betrayal, nursing again and again our hurt. Yet you cannot live any length of time without collecting cuts and bruises.
If you have sinned or hurt someone, by all means make amends, repent. Upon doing so, however, don’t look back.
Paul employs the image of a sprinter in the final instants of his race. Every ounce of strength, every glimmer of his attention is concentrated on the finishing line. He looks forward, not backward. One glance to the side or the back and he loses the race!
God has graced us with many opportunities to start over. We begin a new day every 24 hours; we gather round the table of the Lord every week, we begin a new year with opportunities to start again.
If you made a mistake this year, join a humongous demographic group – human beings! Now, start again. The finish line is ahead, not behind you.