This is a guest post by author Dr. Frank Chase Jr
Scripture Reference: Philippians 3:12-14
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 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,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Forgetting the past and learning from past mistakes and setbacks keeps you focused on your destiny. That means the ability to forget is a vital mental step in accomplishing desired goals. If we allow negative past events to have legitimacy in our lives, then the drive toward destiny often seems unattainable. No matter how much the past has done, we must learn how to brush aside yesterday’s memories and focus on tomorrow’s set purpose. Otherwise, past issues become like roadblocks or spike strips in our lives. Roadblocks can stop progress and spike strips will puncture our dreams and leave us swerving and wavering on the road to our destination.
When we talk about the indispensability of forgetting bad memories, especially if they’re profound, unforgettable, infamous, incidents that severely impact our lives, letting go is not as simple as some people purport. I know that forgetting is not an easy task, and I’m unquestionably aware of how past misfortunes can hindrances in life. Also, I’ve seen many people who struggle with past feelings and pain, but stay immobilized without deciding to move on with their lives. Sometimes people internalize pain and live in deafening silence that allows the past to dictate their present and future.
In Phil 3: 12-14, it is pertinent that Apostle Paul addresses this important matter of forgetting the past because the implications of not letting go can be devastating. Forgetting is a key characteristic that helps us focus our mind on what’s ahead in life. Paul perhaps mentions the drive to forget because he dealt with an unsavory, villainous and murderous past of fighting to stamp out Christianity. He gives candid insight into his thoughts on forgetting by alluding to the mental battle that he fought trying to forget the past misdeeds he perpetrated. You might say, how do we know this? Well, to stress the need to forget means there was an event in the past to forget about. He emphasized his desire to press on to a higher calling in God, and the only way he does it is to forget what events he recalled from his past.
Saul became a driven, zealous, prosecutor, judge, and jury of believers in the Messiah. Not only did he witness the stoning of Apostle Stephen, he also held his coat until the last stone took his breath. At that time in history, Paul’s marching orders from the chief priests were to arrest people of the way (believers) and any sympathizers, but that mission suddenly came to an abrupt end with an encounter with Yeshua on the road to Damascus. Paul, an educated man, had an objective before his conversion and without warning his objective changed, but the significant point is his motivation and drive remained intact. What do I mean? Paul unexpectedly became the greatest and strongest ally of the followers of Christ. His engaging and personal conversation tells us that forgetting the past is not always an easy road to take. As Paul wrote the letter to encourage the Philippians, he retrospectively began to examine his life and gave them an honest assessment. He empathizes and instructs them that he too had to forget the past. Paul acknowledged he was not perfect, puffed up or above anyone else. He wanted the Philippians to understand that forgetting takes great effort and entails pressing toward God’s plan and purpose which helps leave the past behind.
We can extract from Apostle Paul’s words, that he was a touchable man with a clear view of the devastating impact the past can have on our lives if we loose sight of where we are heading. I can honestly say that at times my past clouded my present and made forgetting difficult. If you don’t think the past interferes with present thinking, consider the man Ananias who God spoke to and instructed him pray for Paul after his conversion in Acts Chap 9. Paul’s reputation struck fear in the hearts of many people and Ananias who had not forgotten Paul’s past was not quick to hear the call of God to pray for Paul, but reminded Jesus of Paul’s notorious track record. For Ananias, to pray for a man who could snuff out his life was a press.
To press reminds me of weight lifting. Bench-pressing weight, especially heavy weight takes proper training and motivation. Stacking the weight on the bar, getting under it and pushing the weight against gravity to a certain point means you’ve pushed it to its destination but not without a spotter. Sometimes in the press of life, we need a spotter or motivator to assure us we can push until something happens when life is heavy. For Ananias, the Lord gave him strength to push back the weight of Paul’s past so he could press on to reach his destiny. The past can weigh heavily on our minds but like weight lifting, we have to get under the situation and press toward the goal. Paul shows us that where he was heading was more important than where he came from. He kept his forward-looking attitude as the priority and would not allow his past to interfere with what God had purposed for his life. He kept pressing into being as great defender of the faith as much as he was an enemy of the faith. He went after the prize in God.
If we have a reputation that precedes us and wish it would vanish, don’t despair. If we permit the past to control our lives, then we will always operate through inaction or reaction when we ought to operate from a proactive stance in our progress. Like Paul, who battled with his past misdeeds, it is important to remember the way to rise above past issues is to put your energy into forgetting what’s behind and press toward the goal ahead. Even among detractors, Paul did not stop pressing.
Now think about your past for a minute. Could you admit that past event may have hindered your progress? Thinking about Paul’s past and his reputation, I can say he was no joke. Even history in-and-of itself has misfortune, sadness, war and horrific events. To press through bad memories of divorce, financial ruin, racial hatred, slavery, prison, discouragement, and failure, we have to get under the situation and push back the weight of the matter out of our mind. Examine the time spent on pondering negative remembering past events and divert that energy to hone your focus on what you can achieve to make life better. Whoever we are, wherever we’ve been and whatever we’ve done, there’s a race to run and a calling and destiny we must pursue and fulfill.
It’s important to remember that forgetting is not just casting aside what happened in the past, it is forgetting with a purpose to become an a defender of that which was once looked upon as evil. For example, people who hate others because of their skin color and perpetrate violent acts can become a staunch defender of another race. And those who suffered the wrath from misguided racial hatred have an equal responsibility. Both parties must forget because the greatest purveyor of injustice, like Paul, (Hebrew name Sha’ul) turned out to be the greatest ally of justice and advanced the cause he once hated in ignorance with all his heart. And those who perhaps suffered, such as Ananias, had to forgive and forget so they could pray for those who hurt them.
Our main purpose is to never allow the past the opportunity to dampen our progress to press forward. Reaching for the prize and the pursuit of dreams and talents God placed within us must not be hindered. As we press toward the mark of God’s planned goals and purposes, the past becomes a distant memory and the present stands clearly before us. We press forward knowing the skeletal issues of the past fall to the power of forgetting what’s behind.
Pressing forward puts you in a position to forget what people said you couldn’t be or do. Forget what the naysayers believe. Forget the mistakes, forget the old hangouts, forget the old destructive relationships and learn lessons from them to gain insight. Because if you don’t, you’ll find yourself not focusing on the future but looking in the rearview mirror of yesterday’s difficulties and wreck your life. Treat the past like an unprofitable business and close it down. Likewise, hang out a shingle on the door of your mind’s past that says, “closed for business.”
Remember, P–perseverance in the face of opposition; R–running the destiny race despite yesterday’s setbacks; E-encouraging ourselves as we move on with life; S-seekingthe Lord’s purpose spiritually and naturally to demolish the vice grip hold of the past, and S-striving to reach our assigned destiny means you must PRESS.