REMEMBERING AND FORGETTING
I received an unexpected call the other morning. In the middle of my morning busyness, I was interrupted by a rude voice informing me that the due date for the payment of my credit card bill had passed and asking me if I was intending to pay. Needless to say, I was deeply embarrassed and I rushed to reply that I had inadvertently forgotten to pay, but would do so within a few hours. Remembering and forgetting the right things in life is important. We live in an age of information overload and our memory is often guided by not what is the most important, but by the last mail in our in-box, the last phone call received and the last voice heard. No one these days can remember all the information that our brain miraculously manages to process in a few hours, but it is important to remember what to forget, so that one doesn't miss out on the important bits.
Pursue The Goal
For instance, if I were competing in a 100-metre race, what do you think would happen if, with the gun fired to start the race, I slipped while bolting out of the blocks, and paused to look around at the blocks to see why I had slipped? Most likely I would lose the race. Or, suppose I were running a 400-metre race and were positioned beside a runner known for his speed. And suppose when the starter fired the gun, I thought that this adjacent person started falsely, but there is no such indication from the starter. What would happen if I stopped to argue with the starter about what I perceived? I probably would lose the race. Or, again (and I know that this may sound monotonous), suppose that I were running a 1500-metre race, and coming around the last bend of the track, neck and neck with a competitor, with 100 metres to go, I tripped and stumbled, but I did not fall. What would happen if I were to look behind, wondering what caused me to trip and stumble? I probably would lose the race. It is clear that I only have an opportunity to win if I forget what previously happened and simply pursue the goal.
Do we see the obvious application? If we are going to press on, then, in one sense, we have to forget what lies behind. More particularly, we need to forget the past, in a qualified sense. We need to forget the past so that there may be nothing hindering us as we press on toward the goal for the prize. To be preoccupied with the past can present an unfortunate and debilitating distraction, preventing us from pressing on as we ought to and successfully finishing the race. Now, we are not advocating irresponsibility, nor are we suggesting that we avoid dealing with 'unfinished business', but we are stating what is necessary in order for us to advance.
Many of us Christians are still living in the past. Some are still trapped in the past, overwhelmed or troubled with what has happened, and thus they remain in bondage. But there comes a time when we must break with the past, when we must forget it. We cannot press on unhindered unless we forget the things that lie behind. The primary sense of this forgetting, to which we are called, refers to past accomplishments, achievements, attainments, status, etc., (Php.3:5, 6). It refers to past power secured, past prestige experienced, past position enjoyed, etc. I suppose that what we are basically considering here is forgetting the self-life, that which pertains to our comfort and ease, that which relates to status and recognition, and that which brings attention and applause. We need to spiritually forget (i.e., no longer be controlled, influenced, or shaped by the past)-not to be preoccupied with earthly glory; not to be concerned about whether someone thinks we are important; not to put self-centred stock in our training, education, and degrees, as if these things define us and determine what we are; as if these things determine our sense of personal value and worth. We must not only forget our past accomplishments, achievements, etc., but we must also forget our past lifestyle and practices, that which was marked by worldliness.
Forget The Past
We must not only forget our past lifestyle and practices, no longer seeing them as attractive and appealing, but we must also forget our past sins. Some are seriously haunted by their past sins. Some of us know what we are talking about; the sins that you committed before you became a Christian, the debauchery and licentiousness that you fell into because of natural desires and lusts. These are the sins that Satan may continue to mercilessly use to discourage us, to make us feel guilty and ashamed, to drive us to condemn ourselves, to make us question our salvation, to make us feel utterly unworthy of Christ. We are to forget these past sins, for Christ's blood has atoned for them; and you were freed from them when you became a Christian.
With forgetting, you need to reach forward - "reaching forward to what lies ahead." Are we showing that kind of spiritual commitment to win the race? Are you following hard after Christ, the prize, and not casually, saying, "Well, I had my devotions this morning, I punched my spiritual clock. I am good for the whole day"? Are we following hard after Christ, using all our spiritual energy, to reach the goal? Now, if we are going to follow hard after Christ, if we are going to strenuously stretch forward toward the goal, then the first thing that must be evident is a desire to win. Are we even thinking in terms of winning? Do we have this desire to win, that we must do everything in our power to win? If you do not have the desire, then you are not going to run well. You will plod and dally. If an athlete does not have the desire to win, to intensely and determinatively race down the track, he will lose the race. If he does not have the desire to win, evidenced in conditioning himself, training himself, and regularly exercising, he will lose, regardless of what he or she thinks. Now, it is a simple question, but it demands an answer, "Do we have a desire to win?"
The Right Focus
Not only do we need a desire to win, we must minimise distractions. It is the distractions that trip us up. We need to have the distractions minimised, and eliminated. Many do not mind having these distractions. We have to get rid of the distractions, the things that cause us to be unfocussed and undetermined. There are many good things in life that we could do, but there are only a few necessary things we should do; and those are the things that we need to focus on. On that final day, we will stand before the Lord and may say, "Lord, look at all these good things I have done and been involved in." And I suspect that He will say to you and me, "Were they the necessary things?" What will you say then? What will I say then? We should be concerned about whether we are running well, whether we are giving everything we have, whether there are different choices to be made, more commitments to be made, a deeper surrender to be made. Are we ready? Are we honestly wondering, "Lord, are You pleased with us? Did we focus on You today? Were You our priority today?" Let us ask these questions honestly and respond honestly.