By Asst Ps Lai Keet Keong
While we are already well into the 4th month of the year, somehow the extraordinarily busy 1st quarter of 2023 still had me pensive about the year and all that is going on. Sometimes I feel like the year has barely begun and the June Church camp is already round the corner. How time flies.
So one sleepless morning, I decided to go for an early stroll. Partly to clear my mind. And partly to make my wife happy that I am at least doing some form of exercise. Not surprisingly, there were already several joggers in their routine at a nearby track. As I walked, I noticed that all of them carried very little. Except for what they wear, some merely strapped a nifty pouch to hold small belongings. They carried nothing unnecessary for the task at hand.
Just then, I felt the Holy Spirit said to me, “What you carry with you from 2022 can affect how you run for the rest of this year.” Then, I recalled the words of Paul in Philippians 3:13-14, where he wrote, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
So what did Paul mean by “forgetting what is behind”? Well Paul did not mean to ignore the past. To ignore merely means to put past disappointments and frustrations under constraint, and bidding the time when they no longer influence our lives. To be fair, it works to a degree! Haven’t we experienced ignoring certain life’s irritations and one day we find ourselves forgetting that they even exist? Well, the problem is that we do not know when they might rear their ugly heads. And as irritable things in life accumulate, one day they will spill over and become the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Scars and consequences of sin do not disappear just because we imagine they are not there. God wants us to live a life of liberty in Him. And ignoring the past will not work.
So how do we forget the past? I can imagine Paul, perhaps in one of those sleepless mornings, when he reflected on his pasts, the Holy Spirit brought to memory the last words of Stephen, the first martyr, when he prayed one of the most amazing prayers. He said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And he breathed his final breath as Saul stood overlooking the entire execution.
Do not hold this sin against them. Do not let the consequence of this sin be held against them and hold them down towards God’s loving will for their lives. Forgive them. Do not let them be pinned down by what they did that day.
It does not mean to ignore what happened, for that would mean to ignore the works of Jesus.
It does not mean to wipe them off our memories, for that would mean to forget the hefty price Jesus paid on the cross.
But because of what Jesus did, we do not let the past hold us down. We find the courage to face them, and faith to use them as steppingstones. We move on from our pasts into our God-given destinies.
Isn’t this true for both negative and positive experiences? Like a group of friends chatting about the good old days, when Kopi-O costs only 10 cents, and for 30 cents you get a bowl of delicious Bak-Chor-Mee with chilli, and when tiny fishes can still be found in the ‘long-kang’. The lyrics of a song by Johnny Hates Jazz seems to sum it all up when it wrote, “I wish that I could turn back the clock. Bring the wheels of time to a stop. Back to the days when life was so much better.”
Sometimes good experiences can hold us back from the new things God wants to do in our lives. We thank God for past blessings and treasure these amazing, cherished memories. But with change comes transition. And transition is sometimes spelled d-i-s-c-o-m-f-o-r-t. Will we respond to God’s call, as a church, to step out of our comfort zones?
My dear friends, as we pursue God’s loving will in our lives, let us not allow our pasts to pin us down or hold us back. Because Christ’s atonement means we have been set free! And Christ’s resurrection means He has given us the power to overcome every obstacle. May the rest of 2023 unfold for you new beginnings and new breakthroughs through the power of our Risen Saviour.
May you have a blessed Eastertide!
18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 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. 20…I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.