Forward looking is a skill that I’ve been either blessed or cursed with – I haven’t decided yet. I often can see the impacts of actions two or three steps out. I’m not clairvoyant, I’m more practical and approach most things with common sense and a strong dose of reality. The challenge in our lives today is that when we look forward, we often do it with our own point of view as a lens. When we look to our future through that lens, we see all of things that we want, desire or can make happen through our own work. We often fail to recognize what God is planning for us. When we start to rely on our own thoughts and actions to get ahead, we are leaving out the one who is really in control – God.
We must leave our past behind! And, when we strain toward the future, we should be straining toward the teachings of God. We need to start recognizing when He is opening doors for us. Humans are prideful creatures and we often pat ourselves on the back for work that God did in our lives. I’ve written several times about being significant to others, instead of being successful and how we must let God guide our paths. Just when we start thinking that we are in control, God will often remind us that we aren’t as powerful as we think we are.
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. 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.” Philippians 3:14-15
St. Paul was telling the Philippians to leave the past behind them, to forget their old ways, old habits, old beliefs and old understandings. His advice to us today is the same, look toward the future and to what you can do today to live a better life. No matter what you’ve done, leave it in the past. At the time Paul wrote these letters, the people of the world were leading pretty brutal lives. They raped, pillaged and murdered each other. It was an “every man for himself” world. They watched human slaughter for entertainment in places like the Coliseum in Rome.
He was telling them to leave all of it in the past and focus on the future prize promised by God – eternal life through Jesus Christ. I have no idea how many people read this each week but I will bet that no one has lived a life today like those who lived in the First Century. No matter what you you’ve done, look toward the future you have through Christ. God wanted you saved, that’s why He sent Jesus to die for our sins – then and now. You are forgiven! As it is written in Acts 10:43 “…Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” There are no other versions or ways to say it; you are forgiven. Now start living and looking toward to the future with Jesus Christ.
Once again, I find myself with another painful reminder of the lesson: “no good deed will go unpunished”. Two weeks ago I sat on a discussion panel at a state association meeting representing elected officials who were once or are still, fire service members. I have a completely different perspective than many of my counterparts because 1) I am retired and 2) I am more closely connected to city management than line functions at this point in my career. We were asked what we thought our department needed to improve on. A question like that cannot be answered because no one wants to speak poorly about their own agency. In an attempt to answer very generically and broadly about what the fire service needed to do as a whole (prefaced extensively), I gave an answer about how differing requests from labor and management send mixed messages to elected officials that call into question reliability of the messages. It was a statement intended to help future conversations. It wasn’t received that way, people thought I was referencing current events and I heard about it from both our fire chief and his union. In these circumstances, we often find ourselves exclaiming, “What difference does it make anymore! No matter what I say, it always gets twisted!” Shouldn’t we just stay focused on what matters today and not worry about the future? If I had done that, I would have been silent just like everyone else and we’d have moved on to the next question. I’m a believer that the future matters, so I spoke up. The point of the panel was to tell what it looks like from the elected perspective. I hoped to have an affect not on today but the future by signaling how a fire chief could prevent future issues. I paid a price for my willingness to help. I would do the same format again if I had the chance because I believe in the purpose just not this particular outcome.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” John 17:20
I once heard a story about a firefighter’s first day on the job back in the early 50’s. He was mopping the kitchen with an old fashioned “stringy” mop when one of the strands got caught under the table leg. He left behind the single strand but his Captain saw it and asked him why he left it. He replied that it was only one strand and it didn’t matter. His Captain calmly explained that if he left that one and another was left tomorrow and so on that, soon there would be a full mop under there. Picking it up, he realized that “tomorrow” is important. Jesus cared for tomorrow too. He is telling us that he was praying for those spreading the good news at that time and those who would grow in faith because of what they had heard. He was praying for us! Jesus knew that future believers were just as important as the present ones. His focus remained on being our Savior despite knowing what he had ahead of Him. This verse confirms that Jesus prayed for you and for me and, that the Bible is the inspired word of God (the message). Each of us will have doubt about our future and we all will, at times, have doubt about God’s love, thanks to sin and the devil’s work. We must stand strong over those doubts knowing that Jesus once prayed for us and continues to keep watch. The past holds nothing but the future is where we can find eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Let go of the past and look toward the future.