Here we are at the beginning of a brand new year. I like January. A fresh new year yet to be written lays before me with new challenges and opportunities for growth and ministry to others. I think it is exciting to have a fresh start and new beginning. But sometimes it is unbearably hard to begin again. Whether due to fear of the unknown or baggage from the past that feels like an anchor around our soul and spirit, we may find it hard to move forward. This is often the case when people come for counseling. They want to move forward in life, but something is holding them back. Something that keeps them tethered to the past. They often say they feel stuck. Perhaps it is an idol that they hold tightly even though they say they want to let it go. They figuratively cling to it in their right hand as a pathetic item of comfort. It has been said that old habits are hard to break. As Paul said in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep doing.” (NIV) Certainly we must first of all choose to walk in the spirit and not according to the flesh. And then we also need to intentionally leave the past in the past and, by faith, step out of the pit and move forward.
I was reading recently about Oswald Chambers. He served as a YMCA Chaplain to British Commonwealth soldiers in Egypt during World War I. He died suddenly of complications following a ruptured appendix at the age of 43. He left behind a young wife named Biddy and their four year old daughter, Kathleen. He also left behind all his teaching notes from his years at the Bible Training College in London and his messages to the troops in Egypt which his wife had recorded in shorthand during his talks. Biddy later transcribed them into the 50 books bearing his name, with no mention of her own name. One of those books is My Utmost For His Highest which has been translated into several languages and has remained continually in print since 1927. It is a devotional book with readings for each day of the year.
Biddy chose words from her husband’s New Year’s Eve, 1916, watch-night service message to soldiers for the December 31 reading in My Utmost For His Highest:
Security from Yesterday. . . . Our present enjoyment of God’s grace is apt to be checked by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them in order to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual culture for the future. God reminds us of the past lest we get into a shallow security in the present.
Security for Tomorrow. ‘For the Lord will go before you.’ . . . He will watch lest things trip us up again into like failure, as they assuredly would do if He were not our reward. God’s hand reaches back to the past and makes a clearing-house for conscience.
Security for Today. ‘For ye shall not go out with haste.’ . . . the God of Israel will go before us. . . it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.
Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him. (Excerpt from Our Daily Bread, November, 2017)
. . forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NASB)
Blessings for 2018,
*A worthy goal for 2018 is: Face the past, and acknowledge and own your mistakes and sins. Confess and repent of your sin to God and those you have hurt. Leave the past with Jesus, and move on in freedom with deliberate intention to walk in God’s holiness, grace and truth.