“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:13, 14
If we hope to have a peaceful and productive future, one thing is essential: we must make certain our past has been properly dealt with. This is a common problem with God’s children, the inability to distance themselves from their pasts. In our text, Paul states that moving forward in faith requires the grace to forget his past, “forgetting those things which are behind.” Our past does not have to determine what our future will be. If anyone had the opportunity to get bogged down with his past, it was the Apostle Paul.
His past included admirable accomplishments and could have caused him to trust in his flesh and his achievements rather than depend on the Lord. “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more” (Philippians 3:4). Sometimes, the fact that we have seen a measure of success in our past can open the door for us to be prideful or presumptuous. It is a mistake to find relief in our past service to Christ, and allow the memory of previous ministry to excuse us from the responsibility of present sacrifice and duty. We cannot live in the past and its accomplishments.
Paul’s past also included things he greatly regretted. In I Timothy 1:15, he stated, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” Paul remembered what an unworthy sinner he was, recalling his years of pride and persecution of Christians, and never forgetting how merciful God had been to him. When we come to Christ in repentance and faith, we are assured that the sins of our past are forgiven. We do not have to live in the regret of past mistakes, regardless of how shameful they may be. Those sins are under the blood of Calvary’s Lamb, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). We may never be able to completely forget the painful memory of past failures; but by the grace of God, we can know that God has forgiven us and promises us a future filled with opportunity.