I have always been intrigued with the last verse in Luke 9 where Jesus says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” As I understand it, Jesus is saying that if we spend a lot of time looking over our shoulder at past regrets, second-guessing decisions that we have made, it can paralyze us. We become so backward-oriented that we are no forward-good.
Paul seems to say the same thing in perhaps a more positive way in his letter to the Philippians. “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13) Again, scripture instructs us that we can become so immersed in reflections on our past failures, regrets or pains that we have little left for the future God intends for us.
These two passages remind us how an unhealthy obsession with our past can be debilitating. Yet, ironically, the Bible frequently commands us TO remember! That word appears more than 160 times in scripture. This is not the regretful, second-guessing against which Jesus and Paul warn us. No, this is the healthy, life-giving, faith-building remembering of God’s faithfulness to us in times past. It is an admonition to recall and rejoice over the many, many acts of good grace that God has poured out upon us.
In other words, dwelling on the past failures and disappointments—BAD! But dwelling, reflecting, remembering ALL the good things that God has done for us—GOOD. GOOD, GOOD.
My wife says that I don’t spend nearly enough time remembering and celebrating what God has done; I’m always too focused on what’s next. I always listen to my wife! So—before we launch headlong into a new year, we are going to pause, remember and celebrate the incredible things God has done this past year. You may not realize it—but 2018-19 was an epic year for us in many ways. It might have slipped your mind—but when you come this weekend, we will help you remember. (AND—we’ll get a glimpse at what is coming next year.)
We will even do some precarious rock-stacking in the service! Do come—and bring a friend.
Dr. Mark J. Toone
Senior Pastor, Chapel Hill