Philippians 3:13 (KJV) “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,”

It seems that an increasing number of people are spending more time talking, thinking, and troubling themselves about the past. I cannot estimate how many souls whose identity were directly related to and determined by their past years. While our past is part and parcel of who we are, it was never designed by God “hold” us in place; but, rather God designed it to “hone” us so that we could be more effective with each day in the future.  In other words, God designed that the “Past” portion of time would prepare us for the “Present” portion of time, and “Propel” us into the “Plan” He designed for us, when He designed us!

Last week I alluded to this in our discussion of Joseph and how God “Redeemed” Joseph from death to fulfill his destiny in the future.  In this vein, the Holy Spirit inspired Joseph to say, and Moses to write, Genesis 50:20 (KJV) “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”

Allow me to restate Joseph’s statement, “God used what happened to me in the past, to prepare me to accomplish what He placed in my future.” I’m grateful that God does not waste anything!  He always redeems what He allows!  I am encouraged by that principle, especially when I did something that hurt someone else!  You see, while God is using what others have done to me, He is also using what I did to others!  Whew!!  Thank You, Lord!

(Note: I do NOT use this principle to justify when I hurt others – either through sinful acts, selfish acts, or significant correction.  I learn to appreciate and praise God’s Sovereignty more.)

When God created time, He created it to have three distinct frames – Past, Present, and Future.  Yet, IN all this, He is the “I AM!”  Without going into the discussion more deeply, allow me to give a brief glimpse.  Today, I awakened in the Present, became a part of someone’s Past, and was an agent in people’s future – the future they had yesterday.

For today’s discussion, let us talk about how talking, thinking, or troubling ourselves about the past affects our “Present.” Knowing that God uses what happens to us, in us, through us, and on us for good, we must consider how, and what, we draw upon from our past to affect our “Present.”

While there may be more ways and reasons that we look at the “Past,” I have discovered three common practices that dramatically affect the effectiveness of our witness in Christ.

Regarding their “Past,” some people…

  • Revive it.

Those who continually revive their “Past” are individuals who are defined by their “Past.”  Perhaps this is because they have not learned, or have become unwilling, to forgive themselves or others of their past sins or hurts.

These are people who cannot carry on a lengthy conversation without desiring not only to inform others of their past experiences, but they seem to enjoy reliving the emotional aspects of their experiences.  In this, they CONTRIVE to either convince others that what was done to them was unjust, or what they did in response was justified. Because of their inability, or unwillingness, to forgive or repent, they are held captive by the “Past;” therefore, it is the only time frame in which they are comfortable.

In the Bible, Cain would fit this model.  His unwillingness to confess and repent, placed a more pronounced “Mark” upon him then the mark God placed (Genesis 4:14-15). It is certain that he “Revived” his “Past” as we research his descendants.  His “victim” mentality followed throughout.

Jesus set an unnamed Samaritan woman free from her “Past” (John 4:5-26). This woman maintained the cycle of her “Past” until Jesus presented her with an opportunity to embrace her “Present” and move toward her “Future.”  Thankfully, this woman confessed, repented, forgave, and lived. How do we know she did?  She went to those who shunned her and told them about the One Who set her free.  She no longer lived in her “Past!”

Regarding their “Past,” some people…

  • Rehearse it.

Most of these are individuals who have suffered loss and learn to “Rehearse” their “Past” to maximize their happiness and minimize their sorrows.  They reflect upon the good things from their “Past” to minimize the pain of the “Present.”  In this, they find a way to SURVIVE.

In the Bible, David would fit this model.  While we can legitimately claim that much of his sorrow came because of making bad choices, we must also recognize that hardship seemed to be his lot because of the choices of others.  Nonetheless, David learned to “encourage himself in the Lord,” many times.

We cannot read Psalm 42 without seeing this.  Also, consider the following…

Psalm 63:1-6 (KJV) “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches” (Emphasis Added).

Jesus and Apostle John had a special relationship.  I believe Jesus taught John how to “Rehearse” the “Past.”  Consider the following…

John 17:1-5 (KJV) “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (Emphasis Added).  Can anyone doubt that Jesus was encouraging Himself with these words?

Consider the following…

Revelation 1:9-10 (KJV) “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,” (Emphasis Added). Can anyone doubt that John was encouraging himself by “rehearsing” what he had experienced in the “Past?”

BUT, I believe BOTH Jesus and John did more!  They also did the 3rd thing…

Regarding their “Past,” some people…

  • Review it.

These are individuals who look over their “Past” for one main purpose – to THRIVE!

We “Thrive” when we remember what God has done for us…

Psalm 77:11 (KJV) “I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.”

Psalm 103:2 (KJV) “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:”

We “Thrive” when we remember where God has brought us from…

Ephesians 2:11-13 (KJV) “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Emphasis Added).