Study 7 THINGS BEHIND AND AHEAD
(Scripture Portion: Philippians 3: 12-21)
The life and ministry of the apostle Paul was dominated by one supreme objective, and it is to this that he refers in Philippians 3:13-14 – “But one thing I do. Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal.” Paul is employing an illustration from the realm of athletics. He pictures a Greek runner. As he runs along the prescribed course he banishes all thoughts of past failures, and he strains every nerve in an effort of tremendous concentration on reaching his goal; his one and only concern is to win the race. Likewise, if we are to succeed in the race of life we must very deliberately “forget“, and very deliberately “press on“.
1. THINGS WHICH ARE BEHIND WHICH WE SHOULD FORGET
Strangely enough, a good memory is not always a great asset! It is not the things we forget which we should have remembered which cause the most trouble; it is the things we remember which we should have forgotten.
- We must forget our past sins. That is, if we have truly repented, confessed and forsaken them (Proverbs 28:13), then we must forget them. If we have confessed and renounced our sin, God has forgiven it and forgotten it (1 John 1:9, and compare Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 44:22; Micah 7:19 and Hebrews 10:17). If God has forgotten our sins we must do the same, otherwise the memory of them will hinder us.
- We must forget our past failures. This is not easy, but if we are constantly dwelling upon our failures and reviving the memory of them, we shall find that our peace is destroyed, our progress is impeded and our usefulness is limited. Some people are always filled with regret over what might have been. “Don’t cry over spilt milk!”
- We must forget our past successes. To dwell constantly upon our past achievements will certainly not ensure present victory, and it may in fact engender pride. Some Christians are living on a past experience and some Christian workers are living on a past reputation.
- We must forget our past pleasures. The Children of Israel failed just here, and frequently we read of them crying for the abundance of food and water which they had had in Egypt – look up Numbers 11:5-6; 20:5 and 21:5. To be engrossed with the past advantages of Egypt is to fail to realise the value of God’s present miraculous provision.
- We must forget our past unhappy experiences. Have we lost a fortune? Forget it! – thinking of it cannot bring it back. Has someone let us down? Forget it! – to keep reviving the memory of the experience will cause resentment, and this will do far more harm to ourselves than to anyone else.
- We must forget our past blessings. They are insufficient for today’s needs, so we must cry out with the psalmist – Psalm 103:2! – but yesterday’s provision will not suffice for today’s demands. The Lord’s provision is “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23).
- We must forget the sins and the failures of others. This needs to be said, for we so easily remember the shortcomings of other people. If we have been wronged, we must forgive and we must forget. Do not say, “I can’t!” You can!
In order to forget we must reverse the process of remembering. To remember one must revive the image and keep on reviving it. Now reverse the process; refuse to revive the image. Forget!
2. “THINGS AHEAD” WHICH WE MUST STRIVE TO ATTAIN
The apostle speaks of three things for which he reached forth…for which he was constantly “on the stretch”.
- We must press on to perfection. The first part of verse 12 tells us this, and the word “perfect” means “spiritually mature”, not sinless or faultless. Here the need for growth is implied – look up Hebrews 6:1. In order to grow we must feed upon the Word of God; we must regularly engage in prayer and have sufficient work to do in the Lord’s vineyard.
- We must press on to take hold of the purpose for which God has taken hold of us. The second part of verse 12 tells us this. God’s general purpose for us is indicated in Romans 8:28-30, but He has a particular purpose for every one of us – a life plan. Have you discovered God’s plan for your life, and are you pressing on in it? look up Acts 9:6 and make Paul’s question your question every day!
- We must press on with deep concern to win the lost. This surely should be our attitude to those mentioned in verses 18-19. As we hurry on to the time of the Lord’s coming, which will mean glory for us and gloom for the lost, we should be burdened to win souls – look up 2 Peter 3:11-12. What an urgent need there is to evangelise!
3. WHY ARE WE TO DO “THIS ONE THING”, WHICH CONSISTS OF “FORGETTING WHAT IS BEHIND, AND STRAINING TOWARD WHAT IS AHEAD”?
- Because we are citizens of Heaven. Heaven is our home; our names are written there (Luke 10:20), and many who are members of God’s family are already there (Ephesians 3:15).
- Because the Lord is coming to take us Home. What an incentive this is to holy living (1 John 1:3) and to patient endurance (Romans 8:25)!
- Because we shall exchange these old bodies for new ones. This is what verse 21 says. We shall have a body just like His body – look up 1 Corinthians 15:20 and 23.
- Because the Prize Day is coming. Verse 14 tells us this, and it reminds us that we shall all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, to be rewarded or to suffer loss – look up Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 and 2 Corinthians 5:10.
- Because Glory is coming. Just revel in verse 21.