If you are like me, this time of year always causes me to become very reflective. I spend a lot of time thinking about the past – performing a “searching moral inventory” of myself. I reflect on where I was this time last year and ask myself: “Have I become more Christ-like? How many opportunities did I miss? Did I catch all the God moments? Did I make right decisions and choices? Did I keep my focus on Christ, or was I only interested in my own selfish desires and wishes? Did I screw up? Was I so caught up in my own situation and life that I failed to see those around me and their need? Did I get involved in God’s work?
It’s a good thing to do an inventory. Oswald Chambers writes that « God is the God of our yesterdays and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present ». So, it is a good thing to reflect and learn from the past – to be honest with ourselves and face the future head on. To admit our failures and shortcomings. To come clean about things. To let God shine His light in the dark places of our hearts. To then to ask for and receive His forgiveness, accepting His love. Laying all the garbage of the past at the foot of the cross and leaving it there – taking with us only what we have learned, what He has revealed to us. If we let them, the insights and lessons learned in the past will shape our future and protect us from repeating the same mistakes.
We cannot change what has gone before. I love this quote from A Christmas Carol – « These are the shadows of the things that have been, that they are what they are do not blame me ». And to quote Oswald again: « And God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all the claims against our conscience. Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him. » Our past failures and sins are wiped clean. We can step into this day with new insight, lessons learned – the past behind us.
And as we reflect on God’s faithfulness and goodness to us we can also step into the future with hope.
Perhaps the past was filled with very challenging circumstances . . . death, illness, broken relationships, financial burdens, families in distress, shattered dreams, disappointments, sadness – crisis after crisis.
Perhaps there were times when we thought we would be crushed under the burden of it all. Times when we asked God to just take us home – we were so done here. We could not face another day! But oh, how in those dark times, God’s goodness came through for us. How He sustained us during our trials. How His Love shone through all the turmoil. How we felt His care and comfort. How we could see His faithfulness to us. He did not abandon us. He walked with us through every crisis faced. He provided the peace and comfort we needed – if only we reached for His hand. He will keep the family of believers together – in spite of the battle that rages around us both individually and corporately. We are still here, thanks to the grace of God. And this gives us hope for the future.The future is known to God, but unknown to us. Some us woke up this morning to find that our circumstances have not changed . . . they may even have gotten worse! It might feel like we are walking in a fog.I want to share an excerpt from my journal: « I have no idea what the next year will bring – right now it’s confusion, uncertainty, like walking in a dense fog. But I just need to keep taking steps and moving forward. It is enough that You know the way and that You know each place I put my feet. And if I stumble on the path because I cannot see clearly, well – You are there to pick me up, dust me off and set me on my feet again. You have faithfully walked with me these past years and I know You will continue to guide my steps. I only ask that if I am straying to the left or the right, that you would pull me back onto the path You have prepared for me. Wherever that leads and I don’t really need to know because if I did it would not be a life of faith nor a life of adventure!
And so I will keep walking, my eyes fixed on You – the author and finisher of my faith. »
So here we are, facing the future. The past is gone . . . done. What will we take from it with us? Will we take new insights, lessons learned. Will we take hope?
This is my list of desires for this new day (and they can only be if I keep my eyes on Jesus.): To live passionately and on purpose for my God. To not become complacent about the life He has given me. To seize each day with wonder and awe. To capture every God-moment. To not miss opportunities to share about Jesus through word and works. To get involved in His work. To walk by faith. To live with my heart beating with His. To dance in His arms. To be compassionate and forgiving. To be a valiant warrior for Him. To be strong and courageous. To be bold. To be a risk taker for God. To not settle for less than His best for me. To encourage others not to settle. To learn from the past. To not be afraid of the future. To live in an intimate love relationship with God as my Saviour, Lord and Romancer.
What are your desires for the future? Can we make a commitment to each other that we will walk together as a community, caring and loving for each other, encouraging and supporting, and praying for one another – no matter where the path leads us? Can we make a commitment to not be « lukewarm », but to be « on fire for Jesus » living radically changed lives, being real, raw and experiencing Him daily? Can we make a commitment to get beyond ourselves and see a bigger picture . . . getting involved in our church, our community and beyond; bringing God’s message of healing to hurting people, freedom for those struggling, love, peace and restoration.
We only have one shot at life. This life is short. Let’s not waste it – let’s seize every moment God has given us.
So I say we jump into the future with both feet, arms wide open shouting “bring it on”! For we have the God who created all things walking with us. We have nothing to fear, and everything to live for . . . everything to hope for.
Written by Susan Phillips, Associate Pastor at New Heights Community Church in Mission, BC.