In picking up this book, many of us are making great promises to our families, friends, others, and ourselves. In ‘fits of optimism,’ we are proclaiming that we are going to do ‘it.’ Now, it doesn’t matter what our ‘it’ is. The important thing is that we are now recommitted to accomplishing something and looking for this book to give the nudge we need to propel us towards accomplishing ‘it.’ How do we accomplish “it?” First we prepare.
Preparation is an essential for any and every human endeavor. It affords one the opportunity to plan ahead and to make ready for what is about to occur. Preparation helps us face what lies before us. Preparing ourselves allows us to handle the unexpected, persevere, withstand and contend against the toughest odds.
Today many search for “relevancy” in God’s Word to answer the complicated questions presented in our lives. At the core of its definition, relevance dictates that we prepare ourselves for what comes next. Relevance dictates that we not only identify problems, but that we also discover, from God’s Word, practical and pragmatic ways to overcome the problem.
Relevance: a: relation to the matter at hand
b: practical and especially social applicability
As Christians, we must understand that relevance takes on a greater importance and urgency when we recognize that we are on a “premier assignment.” It will take all of us to complete this premier assignment. We need no one, not one of us, to fall along the way or to fail while along the way. We need to be ready for the journey. But what does it take to Get Ready for the Journey?
“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, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus....”
In the preceding verses, Paul sketched what we will acknowledge as his “spiritual program” for a new year. Like Paul, we, too, should be determined to adopt a new “spiritual program” to move us toward the completion of our personal journeys.
During our lives, we learn great lessons through trial and error, hurt, danger and failure. But, in retrospect, these experiences teach us that if we get the “spiritual program” right, then we can more easily get through everything else and can even be more successful in our varied endeavors.
Even with all that he experienced, in our anchor text, Paul reasoned that much of his attainment was still before him; so much, in fact, that he determined to live in the future instead of in the past. Life is a race towards a goal and just like in a race, the runner must forget the ground he covered in order to pursue the goal ahead.
“Onward Christian Soldiers....” was the battle cry we sung when I was a child. Well, in getting ready for this journey, we, too, are called to move onward. Make no mistake about it; we are not called to Military Onwardness, but Moral Onwardness which is necessary for “spiritual advancement” and, necessary if we strive for “divine excellence.” What is Moral Onwardness? It is spiritual advancement reaching divine excellence.
If any of us are going to experience, demonstrate and enjoy Moral Onwardness, we must acquire three things:
In our present lives, our daily walk, we all experience moral earthquakes. Moral earthquakes are those moral lapses we have that lead to major disasters in our lives. Moral earthquakes take on the same character of geological earthquakes, the have aftershocks that ripple out beyond the immediate seismic activity. These moral aftershocks disrupt our lives with broken homes, broken marriages, and even broken lives.
Oh yeah, it is at these times when we feel extremely sorry for ourselves so we pray and ask for forgiveness. Many of us cry out and repent. But year after year, we find ourselves right back in the same old rut, unable to shake the ripple effects that keep troubling us.
In our anchor text, Philippians 3:13-14, Paul clearly states that he is not satisfied, “...I count myself not to have apprehended....” But what does this mean to us? We say it all of the time. We often say things like “I’m saved, but not perfect....”
We cannot settle for simply saying that we are not perfect, we have to become consciously dissatisfied with our moral progress. However, conscious dissatisfaction is not enough; we must also develop a comparative obliviousness to the past.
Memory is a precious gift. Without it, we simply could not progress, but there are some things in our past that need to be forgotten. Again our scriptural text, Philippians 3:13-14 tells us that Paul was highly cognizant of this one fact: memories of past sins and failures will only reproduce them.
“...this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind....”
One way to forget things of our past experiences that we must leave behind is to have singular unity of purpose. Paul reminds Christians to gird up the loins of our minds, gather the dormant strengths in our bodies and bring those energies into a single, unified purpose.
Just as with Paul, we can not dwell on the past nor attempt to amuse others by touting our accomplishments. Paul never presented himself as a “moral marvel,” proclaiming to have the market cornered on his greatest accomplishments or his greatest failures. Quite the opposite, he became oblivious to both his great accomplishments and failures.
We have to do the same. We are to learn from our past and not allow it to dictate future and forget about our past transgressions and inadequacies, no matter how grievous we think our actions or inactions were. Like Paul, we must forget: forget the lies, liars, abuse, betrayal, set-ups, set-backs, and disappointments. Forget them... We have to become oblivious to it all.
Even after following the great examples Paul revealed to us, we still may not be content with our Moral Onwardness. That’s because there is another step that we are commanded to take. The first two steps—developing a conscious dissatisfaction with the present and a comparative obliviousness to the past—only leads to a greater question: “How do we proceed from here?”
“...and reaching forth unto those things which are before....”
Proceeding toward the goal of achieving Moral Onwardness requires that we engage in a concentrated struggle for the future. Concentrated? Yes, you see, to concentrate is to steadfastly think on something. We have to focus all of our thoughts or mental activity on one subject or activity. This is usually done in silence. Concentration requires us to direct our attention, our time, and our resources to one particular area or activity for some period of time.
Paul would not allow his past, be it positive or negative, to distract him from proper concentration. Like Paul, we have to set our whole soul upon this one thing: Moral Onwardness. Concentration is essential in every aspect of our lives. Concentration anchors many of our valued historical successes:
The soul who refuses to be distracted by the past steadily prepares to fulfill the mission God has given him. Therefore, according to our text, a concentrated struggle for our future requires that we not only forget the past, but that we must also reach forward. There is a lot at stake in this struggle: my Moral Onwardness, my assimilation with Christ, my credibility with God, my crown, and my eternal hope. And it is concentration that is essential to acquiring these.
“...and reaching forth unto those things which are before....”
The simple but radical thinking Paul provides, reminds us that in order to connect with our future; in order to get in touch with our future; in order to get through to our future; in order for us to get a hold of our future, we simply have to forget some things and reach forth for new things that lie ahead for us. Hence, the Apostle Paul tells us, “If you’re serious this time, if you’re certain this time about finishing the journey, forget the things behind!”
It is God’s Holy Spirit that separates us from that which we used to be! It is God’s Holy Spirit that creates a new man to which the old one is a stranger! For Him there is no crime that cannot be blotted out, nor restitution that He cannot pay! For Him there is no time without recall, no destruction to damaging or death that He cannot resurrect! The past cannot swallow up anything!
He is the only One who can make sense of the quagmire of interpersonal dynamics. He is the only One who can understand the intricacies of “what I say, verses what I do!” He is the only one who can organize our personal paranoia, cause our schizophrenia to get in line, and our borderlines to follow the guidelines! He is the only one who can help our distress, calm our disgust, quiet our despair, ease our disappointment, and heal our dementia!
So, let us then, judiciously cultivate this forgetfulness. We must have the courage right here today to forget past sins and past failures. Otherwise, “our press is in vain, and our prize will be unattained!”
Develop a Conscious Dissatisfaction with your Present
Moral lapses are the main cause of disruption and damage in and to our personal life. Describe the events and results of your last moral lapse.
1. What effect did your moral lapse have on you?
2. What did you do to correct it?
Although prevalent, moral lapses are not final countdowns. But sometimes they cause us to get stuck. Deliberate initiatives must then be taken to change and develop a conscious dissatisfaction with your present in order to move onward.
1. List some of the things that you know you have been passively content with that are not in line with what God wants.
2. List at least three things you can do to move your mindset to a place of conscious dissatisfaction with those things and begin now to align with the heart and mind of God for your “Moral Onwardness.”
Our lesson taught us that residing in our past (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) hinders our future. So we must acknowledge the hurts and failures of the past, and do something to move past the pit falls of lingering there.
1. What things of your past are you hanging on to, that you know are hindering you from moving in your future?
Our lesson says that we must “forget those things which are behind....” In doing so, we must “become comparatively oblivious to our past.
2. List three specific steps you plan to use to accomplish this.
As we ‘Get Ready For the Journey,’ our lesson taught that we must set our whole soul upon “Moral Onwardness.”
1. What is your greatest area of concentration today? What controls your mind?
2. Does it line up with what God and his plans for you? If not, what adjustments do you plan to make?
As you prepare to complete your premier assignment,
1. What will you purge, strengthen, or take on in order to enter into a concentrated struggle for your future, in God?
Take on: _________________________
2. Who in your life will keep you accountable during your “concentrated struggle” for your future?