It’s the first month of a brand new year. At 12:00 midnight on December 31st, a shift took place and we landed in another year in a second’s time. This shift into something new usually causes us to look back at all that happened in the past year. I suppose it is a salute to it as we leave it behind and embrace a fresh start. Or maybe it’s to glean a little wisdom from its experiences – both good and bad, losses and gains.
God told His people to remember all He had done for them. His instructions were to repeat it often to make sure their children knew of His character, power and the miracles He performed on their behalf. God also reminded them that He alone is God. There is no other. Some things we don’t need to forget.
1 Corinthians 10:11-12 tells us that all the events recorded in God’s Word about His dealings with His people are there so we can learn from them. We can be encouraged and warned by them. “Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
We can also learn from our own relationship with Jesus. Our failures can teach us how to avoid snares in the future. The times we go through trials can serve as future encouragements when we remember how God walked through them with us. Or when we stepped out in faith and God made a way in the wilderness. The past can be a wellspring of inspiration and encouragement, but we are not to get stuck there and refuse to move ahead. The present and the future are vital parts of God’s plan too.
In Isaiah 43:18-19, we read, “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.” (NKJV) Here God is telling us to step out into the “new thing” He is doing. He has a fresh anointing, a new song, a new direction, a new season for our lives. The Spirit of God is constantly moving us forward. Will we step out into it by faith, or will we stay in the shadow of yesterday, holding on to what was. Take the lessons learned from the past with you as you press into the path God is leading you into now.
As we remember God’s mighty acts in the past, it should give us courage and confidence to boldly follow Him into the future. It should help us better understand His purpose and join with Him in bringing it to pass. Never let the voice of the past keep you from hearing what God is speaking now. It is meant to be a springboard from which we continue to see His miracles and His power at work in the present.
Just as God provided for His people in the past, He will provide for us. Just as He used ordinary people in the past who were listening and obedient, He will use us if we are listening and obedient. We have to keep moving along with Him and keep pace with where He is leading us today. The kingdom of God stretches before us, and He wants to do a new thing. He cannot use us to carry it out if we refuse to move forward.
Our God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is not limited by time. He is in the past, present and future all at the same time. That is hard for us to understand because we have limitations, but God knows the future as well as the past and present. We can trust Him and confidently follow His leading. We can move beyond what is known and comfortable to us, because the future is known and comfortable to our God. In following the vision He shows us, we fulfill the work He has called us to do in His kingdom.
What God determines to do will be done. The question is, are we going to be part of it? Are we going to look at life from our own narrow perspective, or are we going to catch God’s vision and run with it? We need to ask God to show us His perspective. Ours is usually skewed by the world system or what we already have experienced. We cannot follow God’s vision and our own, too. It is time to press ahead and stop looking back, except to use the past works of God to encourage ourselves to move forward against all odds and trust Him completely.
What are we going to do today? Paul said, “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.” (Philippians 3:13-14) Paul knew he had not arrived. There was more work to do in God’s kingdom. And he was determined to do his part.
What are you reaching for? What goal are you pressing to accomplish? What vision has God placed in your heart for today? We can look to the past at all the men and women of faith who were godly examples and be strengthened to press on ahead. Each one seized the moment and followed the way God told them to walk. For many of them it was something new and even frightening. But they obeyed in faith. That is how we, too, can work with Him to fulfill His purposes.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Wherefore seeing we are also compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
A weight is a burden or anything that is a hindrance to us. It may not be sinful, but if it is keeping us from reaching God’s goal for us, we need to lay it aside. What is keeping you from accomplishing God’s direction? It could be an attitude, the things of this world, fear, pride or even seemingly good things. A lot of things are good, but they are not the things God has called us to do. Sometimes it may be possessions that we label as “mine” that keep us from following Jesus. Jesus did not allow weights to attach themselves to Him. He did not become entangled with the things of this world. He remained free to finish the work He started, our salvation! He kept His perspective and knew when to say ‘no’. He is our perfect example.
This passage also speaks of sins that beset us. When we allow sin in our lives, we throw the door open wide to the power of evil. And it will act as a opponent in a race or an enemy who thwarts us in every direction. Have you ever tried to walk through a large crowd and everyone seemed to cut you off from your destination. You try to find a space to push through, but doing so takes you farther from your goal because you have to make so many turns. After awhile, you lose where you are in relation to your goal. You are just trying to find a place where you can walk without being crowded out of space, regardless of where it leads. The sins that beset us do the same thing. They will turn us away from the race. They also cause us to completely lose sight of the goal. We need to make sure we can see Jesus from wherever we are. If we cannot see Jesus, we are in the wrong place, and need to get back in right relation to Him. So, instead of being bent down by weights, and turned aside by sins, we are told to look to Jesus, to keep our eyes steadfastly on Him. In order to do that, we have to turn our eyes away from other things and fix them on Jesus.
We are also told to run the race that is set before us. Notice it is not behind us. That part of the race is over. There is nothing we can do to change any of it or to bring it back. We can, however, choose to start from here and run this race without sin and without weights, looking ahead and allowing Jesus to guide us through the course. If we allow hindrances in our lives, we will bow under the weight and be unsuccessful. If we open the door to sin, we will never make it to the finish line. The race is in front of us. Jesus is going before us, so keep focusing on Jesus. If we are always looking behind, we won’t see it. If we keep our focus on Jesus, He will lead the way.
Look to Him and reach for His goal. Jesus had a fixed goal – the joy of completing the will of the Father. We have that same goal. We can pursue the way God puts before us just like Jesus did. He finished the work and is now “set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” God’s race has everlasting rewards.
Start out fresh this year determined to run the race that is set before you.