“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.”
The apostle Paul had great reason to beat himself up for past failures and to indulge in feelings of remorse and guilt.
Before his encounter with Jesus, when he came to accept him as Lord, he had passionately persecuted the believers and caused sufferings and maybe even death of many.
From being the early Church’s greatest opponent he became God’s greatest instrument in his days to advance the good news of Jesus Christ (by his missionary journeys throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and the distribution of his epistles) and to lay the foundation of Christianity (his doctrinal revelation became a substantial part of the New Testament).
With God such a radical transformation is indeed possible and he often turns around dead-end situations, out of destruction and hopelessness he creates something new, living and beautiful.
The best example is the crucifixion of Jesus, when God turned what appeared to be his ultimate defeat into his greatest victory on Resurrection Sunday!
Also in our lives God can resurrect the dead and turn sorrow into joy, but he needs our cooperation: like Paul, we too need to be willing to move forward, to leave our sin and our failure at the cross of Jesus and pursue the purpose God has prepared for us.
We need to discern what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives and submit to his leading, do the tasks he gives us and fulfil the role God has called us into, with our eyes fixed on him.
Had Paul not let his past be past, he would have stayed in Damascus, maybe in hiding, ashamed of his former conduct, not ready to face his former victims and to be confronted with possible rejection and resentment.
Had he not forgiven himself and humbly accepted that the past could not be changed, but that he could, by following the Spirit, live for a different, entirely new future, God would not have been able to use him, and such a powerful instrument of his would have gone wasted.
His decision to look ahead and walk in his calling laid the foundation of Christianity as we know it today.
Are we holding back because of our past?
Not letting go of failures, hurt or sin will hinder us from moving forward in our calling and the purpose God has for our life.
Jesus has dealt with our sin on the cross, he went though unimaginable pain for it – is it not about time that we also let the past be past, something we cannot change anyway, and move on, move forward to a better future?