Rough road to San Miguel Alto Uno, Peten, Guatemala

Get your head out of yesterday

I don’t run. I’m not built for it. My body tends to revolt against me whenever I try, but I have a lot of friends who run. And they don’t just run; they compete. These folks do triathlons and marathons and all sorts of other forms of torture like that. And one thing that I have noticed when you’re running is that you really need to keep your focus on what’s in front of you, otherwise you could run into trouble … literally.

I’ve never seen a runner trying to compete by running forward and looking backward. I’m sure people do it because people are strange, but I’d be willing to bet, they don’t run well. Because even if you find a way to look backward as you’re running forward, your focus won’t be where it needs to be–on the goal.

I’m also reminded of a line from an older movie, Gumball Rally, an old racing movie we used to watch with my dad. It was a movie about racing. All these different people in all kinds of different cars had to race from coast to coast, regardless of the legality of their actions, and one of the racers was this Italian guy who ripped the rearview mirror off the car windshield and tossed it in the backseat, proclaiming: “What’s behind me is not important!”

These people race. They’re moving forward toward a goal. Looking behind and focusing on where they’ve been will only slow them down and make them unhappy in most cases. And in all honesty, following Christ is very much the same.

 

Rough road to San Miguel Alto Uno, Peten, Guatemala

Rough road to San Miguel Alto Uno, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are Philippians 3:12-14.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

We all came from somewhere. Some Christ-followers came from Christian homes; some didn’t. Some have come from a legacy of people who always loved God; some didn’t.  But no matter where we started, God is moving us somewhere else, sometimes physically, always spiritually. We’re all moving forward, and if we look backward, we’re going to slow down or we’re going to hamper the efforts that are going on around us.

Paul was majorly into sports from what we can tell from Scripture. He talks about running and racing and fighting and wrestling, and actually there are a lot of comparisons between the Christian life and sports. Sports require training. They require focus. They require pushing yourself to achieve something you’re pretty sure you aren’t able to achieve. They require teamwork most of the time. The Christian life isn’t a competition, though, but the other similarities are kind of cool.

And in this case, running is a great example because all of us are runners. If you follow Christ, you’re in a race. You’re not competing against anyone. It’s like a marathon or a triathlon, and Christ has already run the race and won. So the rest of us are competing against ourselves really, and it’s our goal to finish. And you can’t finish the race in front of you if you can’t get your eyes of what’s behind you.

The past is important. Don’t get me wrong. In some cases, it is important to remember the past. We need to remember where we’ve been and recognize what God wants us to learn from where we’ve been, but you can’t focus on yesterday. What’s done is done and can’t be changed; what can change is how you react to it.

I know people who bury themselves in the past. They forget about today and don’t even consider tomorrow, and all they can talk about is what happened before. Where they used to be. What they used to do. And living today is torture for them because all their focus is on yesterday, and they can’t handle the stress of right now or the implications of what might happen tomorrow because they can’t get their heads out of yesterday. And they’re miserable for it.

So what does this mean for us in 2013? Stop living life in a rearview mirror. Stop looking backward to find happiness and contentment in yesterday and start looking forward to what’s coming. Yes, what’s coming is unknown. What’s coming might not be fun at all. But it’s very likely that you’re already prepared for what’s coming, whether you know it or not. You probably experienced yesterday what you needed to know for today and for tomorrow. That’s what yesterday is for.

Learning.

You can learn from yesterday. Just don’t live there.

God sets our paths. He doesn’t let us run alone. And He always provides exactly what we need exactly when we need it.

Keep your eyes forward and run. Don’t worry about the other runners; they’ll handle themselves. Don’t worry about the road behind you; it’s past. Don’t worry about the road ahead of you; take it a day at a time.

 

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Storm rolling in

God can still work things out even when we screw up

I don’t know how often you screw up, but I make a lot of mistakes. I’m not perfect, of course; nobody is. But in the instances when I know the right thing to do, sometimes I choose to do what I know I shouldn’t in spite of the fact. And I have spent a lot of time worrying over my past mistakes and how my actions have affected the people around me.

But I don’t think it’s healthy to live your life looking backward and second-guessing what you could have done differently. You can’t change it. Yes, you can change the way you live because of what you learned, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but after a day when I am less than perfect, I can sink into a deep pit of self-loathing because I didn’t live up to my potential. And I feel like a wretched person because if I had done right, maybe God would have used me to help others.

Storm rolling in

Storm rolling in - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Jonah 1:16.

 The sailors were awestruck by the LORD’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.

I have always glossed over this verse before. It didn’t really matter to me. After all, the Book of Jonah is about Jonah, a godly man who God sent on a task and who promptly ran the opposite direction. Don’t be too hard on Jonah for trying to escape God; we’ve all tried it too and failed just as miserably.

So what’s important about the sailors?

Well, you really should read the whole first book of Jonah. Actually, you should read the whole book if you haven’t. It’s pretty phenomenal. But in any case, the sailors were the men on the boat to Tarshish, the boat Jonah got on when he was running away from God. And God sent a storm, and the sailors freaked out. Jonah convinced them to throw him in the ocean, and the storm stopped. That’s the story in a nutshell. But a couple of things stand out to me.

One, if you read the whole fist chapter, you’ll see that the sailors knew Jonah followed a different god than they did. Two, they knew Jonah was running away from God. Three, they already respected Jonah’s God enough to pray that He wouldn’t strike them down for throwing Jonah overboard.

And so they threw Jonah over the side, and the storm stopped. And that brings us to verse 16.

The sailors were changed by what they had experienced. And though Jonah played a small part, it was mainly God who did the work.

Do you realize that Jonah probably never saw those sailors again? I mean, it’s possible that he did. But if you know the story, as soon as he gets out of the fish that God sent to save him, he goes directly to Ninevah, where he should have gone to start with. And Ninevah is in the opposite direction of Tarshish. So it’s really unlikely that Jonah would have ever encountered those men again. Jonah would not have known how his circumstances affected them. He wouldn’t have known about their decision to serve God. All Jonah would know is that he screwed up.

Yes, he made the right call on the ship when he told them to cast him overboard. And God redeemed that one good decision to reach the men on the ship. But Jonah didn’t know that.

So how does that apply to us? Well, we’re going to screw up. We just do. You can try to be perfect, but it won’t work. Does that mean we shouldn’t even try? That’s not what I’m saying, so please don’t misunderstand me. We all should aim to be like Christ, to live the way God has directed us. But once you make the decision to do wrong, that decision is made. You will face the consequences, and hopefully you’ll learn the lesson and change the way you live afterward.

But after you ask forgiveness and after you change your thinking, don’t go back and regret what you did. Don’t live in the past. God has forgiven you, and — what’s more — He will use what you did to bring glory to Himself, even if it’s something you screwed up.