As we stand in the first hours of the new year, the past year casts its shadow across our lives. That shadow might be the shadow of past joys, or past sorrows, past hurt, past heartache, past failures, or even past moments of great success never to be repeated.
The shadows of the past, that cast themselves across our present, can cloud the future or even shape the future in such a way that there is even more sorrow, more hurt, and more failure.
How do we allow God to redeem the past that He might sanctify our future?
If I approach the past with my emotions or my passions, seeking to accomplish my purposes, I am sure to hinder the purpose of God for my future.
I’ve been talking with some of my friends this wee about the Field Goal Kicker for Ohio State who missed the winning field goal in the last seconds of the game against the Georgia Bulldogs. He will remember that for the rest of his life. No one was more disappointed than he was. And yet, he can’t change it. The shadow of that past failure may shape his life in a negative way. Or, he could determine that he will not allow that moment, that can be measured in seconds, to determine his future or to define his life.
Most of us, have responded very negatively to some small moment in the past so that it continues to shape our lives and our families in a negative way. We must allow God to redeem the past so that He might sanctify our future.
What does that mean? What would it look like in your life or in mine?
First, it would require me to commit my past to God.
“Our yesterdays present irreparable things to 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.” (My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers)
Where do we get the idea of committing the past to God?
Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13, “This one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching toward what lies ahead…” What would it take for you to forget what lies behind? It would require you to commit the past to God. It would require you to let the past sleep on the bosom of Christ. The past is beyond repair, but unless you commit it to God, it can destroy your future. That is something that doesn’t have to happen.
If you will remember, when it came time to enter the Promised Land, the only ones of the past generation that were allowed to enter were Caleb and Joshua. They buried the past in the wilderness. The past would only hinder their future, defile it and destroy it. In order to reach forward to what lies ahead I must leave the past and move forward.
This week, my reading has taken me into the book of Deuteronomy where the Lord speaks to His people, saying to them: “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.”
Of course that was Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb. It was a place they had known as the place of God’s presence. But even that past experience, though a good one and a blessing, was not to shackle them from reaching forward to what lay ahead! Paul committed his past to God by forgetting what lay behind and reaching forward to what lay ahead.
Committing your past to God means leaving every part of the irreparable past at His feet.
This includes your failures. Isn’t it good to know that we can leave our failures there. We can let our past failures sleep on the bosom of Christ and His mercy, and we can, in faith, reach forward to what lies ahead?
Do you have irreparable hurts in your life? Most of us do. Why do you think that is so? Why is some hurt of the past still fresh? Why does it shape our lives and hinder what God is able to do, not only in the present, but in the future? It is because we have never committed that past hurt to God. Instead, we have chosen to nourish it and cherish it. Paul said, “Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.”
Unless I allow my past hurt to sleep on the bosom of Christ, I will wake up one night and find it fresh on my pillow with me as I try to sleep. I will find the anger from past hurt boiling up inside me. I will find myself still thinking of ways I can put my hands on that which caused my past hurt. As a result, the shadow of that past hurt will be forever cast over my future.
Perhaps the best example of one who discovered the true freedom of giving the past to God was that man of the Old Testament we know as Joseph. His brothers threw him into a pit, later sold him as a slave, and told his father he was dead. Joseph wound up in and Egyptian prison for years—but God was with him. God blessed him. God was able to sanctify his future so that He became second only to Pharoah. When Joseph’s first child was born, he named him Manasseh, saying, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”
But did he forget them. No! He never forgot them. But he laid all that hurt at God’s feet. He committed his past to God—including his past hurt. And in God’s own time and in God’s own way, not only did God sanctify his future—God sanctified those relationships. He healed that hurt in their live and his.
But that would never have happened if Joseph had not laid left that hurt with God. Later, he would tell his brothers, “You meant it to me for evil but God meant it to me for good.” I have come to love that little expression “BUT GOD”.
Imagine what God can do with your past—your past failure—your past hurt—your past heartache—if you give it to Him. That hurt is real. That heartache is real.
BUT GOD can sanctify your future.
It hasn’t happened yet for some of you because you are still holding on to the past—still clinging to your hurt and your heartache. Do you suppose that if you laid all of that at the foot of the cross, if you let the past sleep on the bosom of Christ that He might be able to sanctify your future the way he did that of Joseph? Forgetting what lies behind requires me leaving my past at the feet of Jesus.
Reaching forward to what lies ahead requires me to take a step of faith.
I can’t stand there waiting to see what Christ will do with what I have given him. I can’t wait and wonder how he will work it out or whether he will. I must walk forward by faith expecting Him to work in ways that I can’t see and to do things in my life and in the lives of others that I could never do.
Is God asking you tonight to allow Him to Redeem your past that He might sanctify your future? Is there something that this very night needs to be laid at His feet? Once for all?
Once for all, place it at His feet, and walk away from that hurt, allowing Him to do with it what He will for His glory—trusting Him to carry it—to understand it—to Redeem it—So that one day you look back and say, “There was a time when I had all this hurt in my life from the past. I carried it for so long. It cast a shadow across my life. BUT GOD spoke to me one day asking me to surrender my past to Him. I don’t know how He did it BUT GOD redeemed my past and He sanctified my future so that who I am today and where I am is all to His glory?”
What lies ahead? Do you know? Would you know? Are you ready to reach for it, to long for it, to see what God can do in and around your life? Then here on the first day of 2023 you need to allow God to redeem the past so that He might sanctify your future.
13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14