Looking back, looking forward

There is an opportunity every year to reflect on the previous year. It is time to consider who we are and where we are. It is not always easy to do because the noise overwhelms us. However, it is helpful to take a moment to reflect and do a personal retrospective. As we do, it may inspire us to look back over the past year and seeing new insight. Doing so, we learn.

Dr Dale E. Turner said once,
“Some of the best lessons we ever learn are learned from past mistakes. The error of the past is the wisdom and success of the future”
Taking time to look back, it helps us to be ready for the unknown future. We can’t change the past, neither we can know the future, we decide our present. Looking in the past and what we have missed, it leads us to consider where we have been and where we are heading.

Paul was a learner, even when he was a scholar. He learnt from his previous life. He realised things that they were precious before; they did not have any value. Learning the lessons of life will empower us to embrace our destiny fully.

I have reasons for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:4-14).

Paul writes about his past; doing so, he declares his future. He discovers the need to rethink himself in light of Jesus. He finds the fulfilment in Christ, letting the desire of the fresh fade away. Let us learn biblical principles that will help us to look forward.

God wants us to learn from the past, not live in it.

I have met people entangled in their past. Unable to let it go. They consumed by their anger, unforgiveness or hurt to the point that they let go of the future.

It is easier to think about how our life could have been different if we did this or that. There are great movies and engaging novels base on this preposition. It is easy to find ourselves thinking about how our life could have been if we just ... (feel the blanket). This exercise has some benefits; sadly, it may stop us from living the present and getting ready for what it is ahead of us. Looking back does not mean to desire to change our past; it intends to discover our experiences and life lessons.

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 desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Israel received this command from the Lord, at the time when they did not seem to see their outcome of God’s purpose. So, Isaiah reminded these words to Israel that point it out to their departure from Egypt, and the time of God’s deliverance. 

God wants us to learn the past lesson, but keep moving. 
“As long as you are too attached to your past, you negate what God wants to do in your future. Learn from yesterday; don’t live in it” (Dr Tony Evans).
Paul learns from His past and reminds the Corinthians believers that they should learn from God’s people in the Old Testament if they desire to look forward. “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come...” (1 Corinthians 10:11, see verses 11 to 13 for the whole context).

A simple way to overcome the temptation to live in the past is to count the past blessing and, then, rejoice in what the Lord has done. Whatever we have faced, one thing is sure; the Lord has brought to this point. “Afterward, Samuel took a stone and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, ‘The Lord has helped us to this point’” (1 Samuel 7:12).

Learn from the past, but stop living in it. Be thankful to God for His love, grace and help. He has carried us, even when we have not seen it, neither realise it. He is always near, even when we are not. For this reason, as we looked back and recalled all God had done, we found the courage to face the future.

God wants us to carry on spiritual values.

Paul expressed this idea in today’s reading, “My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.

We establish spiritual values upon spiritual truths. A life found in the teaching of Jesus is a life worth living today. If true, such a statement requires to act upon it. Carry on our spiritual values; it means to pass on to others those lessons learned. “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you...” (1 Corinthians 11:23 ).

Israel always left signpost to remember what the Lord has done for them. It was a constant reminder of God. It was opportunities to teach the younger about what the Lord has done in their life.

Carry on spiritual truths also means to discern those values not worth to give to others. Paul expresses this principle in the following way, “More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Once we have learned a surpassing value, we must leave behind the previous matter held as central.

Paul discovered in Christ more value than he had with all the titles and honours that the world offers. For that reason, he considered all of them as dead to him to follow Jesus.

Dissatachment is such an important spiritual principle, not so easy to live it out. It is impossible if we are people regularly dissatisfied in life. The reason is it hard to know what it is essential in life if you are discontent. The sad thing is we miss God’s blessing when we are not satisfied in the Lord.

It’s hard to see your future when you are staring at your past. It is time to let things go and bring on spiritual truths that firmly establish our lives in spiritual values.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude” (Maya Angelou).
Let us follow the example of Paul. He discovered what Israel discovered before him. The Lord is our ultimate goal and centre. He alone provides good, pleasing, and perfect will. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

God’s promise and desire are to bless His people, whatever circumstances there are. We just have to let it go, and flow in the living Word to discover God’s purpose.

God wants to look forward without fear.

Paul knew things were uncomfortable. There was a cost involved following the Lord. He expressed in a precise term when he wrote, “Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung,...

“Losing all things” does not seem fun. It causes a sense of fear. Satan puts thoughts in our mind. “Be careful, what is God going to give up?”

Fear is such a powerful tool because it paralyses us. It stops us from moving forward. It makes us worry about the future. Sadly, we forget that it will not help us worry about the future, nor does it accomplishes anything.

We can’t do anything about the past; the past is the past. Neither, it is worthy of worrying about the future, because we are not yet there. Be prayerful about the present. If you face a dilemma if you can do something to resolve it, then act upon it. Then, you can stop worrying about it. If there is nothing you can do, trust the problem to the Lord and stop worrying. Worry creates fears, and fears will take us places that we don’t want to go.

Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34).

To look forward requires to be optimistic about the future, and confident about the outcome. It is not a requirement to have all the answers. It is, in most cases, a step of faith. Trust is part of what God requires to embrace the unknown. If we know the outcome, then it is not faith.

Life is an open book that is being written as we walk by it. The Lord knows all the details and how things will develop at the end. However, we just see white pages. We decide what we will do tomorrow or even next year, but we just forget that nobody except the Lord knows what the future will bring.

Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15).

We should take comfort in these words because God is for us. When troubles and doubts overwhelm us, we can look back to the Lord and step bravely into God’s future.

Paul reflected about the future when he wrote, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”


What can we take from today’s Word?
“We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude” (Charles R. Swindoll).
Many things are out of our control. One thing is our response; how do we act when we face an unexpected situation?

Let us look at Jesus. He is still the light of the world. In the midst of all, we must be confident of his promises are, “Yes and Amen”. He is with us, in the past hurts and experiences of life, and on our future, even before we are there.

Let our values reflect the Kingdom values, and Paul’s words inspire to follow Jesus, as we look back and look forward to our destiny.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).