Philippians 3:12-14 NLT I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is call us up to heaven.
Some years ago, as many of you know, I went through a terribly difficult period after losing my husband. One Sunday I was sitting in church listening to my Pastor’s message and God, the Holy Spirit, spoke to my heart and said, “you can’t fully embrace the good things that I have for you in your future if you don’t turn loose of your past”. It was at that moment that I realized that in order to move forward in my life I would have to leave the past behind and walk into my future expecting God to do what He had promised. Paul speaks of that very idea in this portion of scripture in Philippians. Sometimes we get caught up in what has happened in the past to the point that we lose sight of the possibilities of anything good happening in the future.
Your past does not have to determine your future. The only power your past has over you is what you give it. You may have some things in your past that you really don’t want to see show up again in your future. It won’t if you don’t empower it through fear. Fear is described as false evidence appearing real. God had a great plan for my future which He has so graciously provided in my current husband, Gerald. But I have had to battle the spirit of fear that has repeatedly come to try to steal my peace after having lost my former husband. The spirit of fear is always around trying to tell us that what has happened in the past will repeat itself. It is our responsibility to fight the good fight of faith where fear is concerned.
James 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
The progression in fighting the fear that all of us encounter at one point or another is to first submit yourself to God. God’s will is the most important part of my life. I want to be in the center of His will. When I submit myself to Him I am saying, “Father, not my will but Yours be done”. Regardless of what His will is, I know that I will be content if I am in that place where He is in the center of my life. After we have committed ourselves to Him then we must resist the temptation from the devil to allow fear to step into that place of authority that is only reserved for God. When we resist the temptation presented by the devil, he must turn and run from us. We am then the victors in that situation.
1 Peter 5:8, 9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
The devil is pretty dumb, really. He uses the same tactics over and over again. His main weapon is deception. If he can deceive us through fear and convince us that what he is saying is true then we will come into agreement with him, empowering him to fulfill the fear that he has given us. The scripture says to be sober and vigilant, watching and listening for him so you can identify his strategy. Then we are to resist him being steadfast in the faith.
The Greek word for sober in this verse means “self-controlled”. God speaks to us about being self-controlled in 2 Timothy 1:7 when He says:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
The fear that this scripture is talking about does not come from God. The only fear that God wants us to have is a reverence for Him; a holy awe that is known as the “fear of God”. The fear that is referred to in this scripture comes from the devil; it is a spirit of fear.
The word for “sound mind” is sophronismos and it means “safe-thinking”. The word denotes good judgment, disciplined thought patterns, and the ability to understand and make right decisions. It includes the qualities of self-control and self-discipline.
A part of resisting the devil is using self-control in watching for his strategies. You can’t lay down on the job and think that he won’t try it again. When he finished his temptation with Jesus in the wilderness the Word says that he left Him for a more opportune time.
Luke 4:13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
We have an enemy who watches to see how we react to his attacks. He cannot read our minds, but he can hear what we say and he watches to see whether we will react or respond to the thoughts that he sends to attack our minds. It is with that in mind that I must remind you that the Word says we are to take captive every thought that comes to us that doesn’t line up with the Word of God.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
We are to filter our thoughts! If they are in opposition to what the Word of God says, then we are to cast them down, or arrest them! We do not have to receive every thought that lights upon our minds. We are to judge them and bring those wrong thoughts into captivity. Replace the wrong ones with the Word of God that counteracts the thought. That means that we need to have a working knowledge of God’s Word. How can you stop a wrong thought if you don’t know it’s not right?
Psalm 119:97-100 Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, Because I keep Your precepts.
We come to understand what is a right or wrong thought by meditating on the Word of God. His Word makes us wise so we can recognize the error in a thought and then counter it with a correct scripture. God speaks wisdom to us through His Word as we meditate on it. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness He countered the attack by speaking the correct scripture to the devil with “it is written”. He is our example!
If we want to fully embrace what God has for us in the future we must forget the past, turn aside from fear and wrong thoughts and, as Paul said in Philippians 3:13, reach forward to those things which are ahead. We must “press” toward the goal that God has for us!
As I stated earlier in this post, when I was sitting in that service listening to my Pastor’s message and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart about turning loose of the past, my Pastor made the statement that “the best is yet to come”. At that time I couldn’t see anything good out there in my future. I had to grasp that statement with every ounce of faith that I could muster. I went home with the assurance that God indeed had a good plan for my life even though my past did not reflect a promise of good for my future. We all have choices to make every day of our lives. We can either listen and obey God’s voice and directions for our lives or resign ourselves to living a repeat of the past.
Reaching toward the prize and pressing into it requires faith! Faith is trusting God to do what He has promised before we see even a glimpse of the reality of it.
It’s not easy to resist the temptation to fear, but it is possible. It’s not easy to step out on a limb believing that God is there to grow it out for you, but it is possible. Faith makes it possible; but not easy!
What is it in your past that seems to haunt you and stop you from stepping out in faith to receive the impossible? Praise God, I am living proof that God is faithful to fulfill His promises when you believe Him and obey His directions. He has so blessed me with my Gerald! He is everything that I could have ever wanted in a husband! He is my gift from God!
Father, I thank You for the good future that you have planned for each of Your children. I pray today that those who read this blog who may be experiencing difficulties in life will be able to see that You are good and that You want to bless them with a good future as well. Father, I pray that they will get a glimpse of the good that You have planned for them. I pray that they will turn loose of their past and look forward to the future. Father, I ask You to show them the attacks of the enemy before they happen. Help them to recognize the false thoughts that he sends to attack them with fear and deception. Bring back to their remembrance the scriptures that You want them to use in countering those thoughts. I pray, Father, that they will speak out loud Your promises and use them as the Sword of the Spirit at Your direction. Thank You, Father, for the victory that You promise each of Your children as we fight the good fight of faith and stand firm and steadfast on Your Word. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.