The following post is adapted from Jamie Malcolm's message on Sun 6 May at the 10am service at C3 Oxford Falls. Watch the message here.
Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)
Nothing held Paul back, not jail, not flogging, not shipwreck and in Philippians he says there is one thing he does: forget what is behind.
What is behind Paul, what is he forgetting?
We always think it is something bad but if you go back to the passage before (Philippians 3:4-6), we see that what he is forgetting is human effort. Paul’s history of his early life paints a picture of a young boy who had a passion for God’s word and pursued it, doing the right thing for his family, his community and for God.
Paul is forgetting what might have been. It is believed that when he wrote these words he was over 60 years old and rotting in a jail cell. He says he chose to forget what might have been and press on to what could still be - what faith!
Sometimes we find it easier to put our faith in the past than in what God can do now and in the future. When God speaks about our future we start to focus on what might have been, the “if only”s.
Consider the story of Lazarus in John 11. Before Lazarus died, his sister Martha asked Jesus to come and He didn’t show up. When He arrived she only had faith for the past “If you had been here”. It was easier for her to have faith for the “if” of the past then to have faith for the future.
Isaiah 43:19 (MSG) says “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”
We ask God to add things to our lives and He wants to bring it out of us instead. Don’t overlook the small things in your relationship with God like prayer and reading the Bible daily – what God is doing is not external, it’s in you.
Often when we first accept Jesus into our life we have a vision, a hunger and a process - we want to go with God anywhere. Sometimes this can fade over time. God is making a road in the desert and you may think that the road leads to the new thing but what if the road is the new thing He is making. He is making a way in you again to run with Him into all He has for you.
Hebrews 12:1 says “throw off everything that hinders”. Cast aside every weight and run. We are born to run but we struggle because we are carrying stuff. Picture the way children after school dump their backpacks so that they can run and play.
So what are we carrying that is stopping us from running? We try to forgive everyone each day but perhaps we haven’t let go of our questions for God. “Where were you God, on my past mistakes? You know everything so why didn’t you warn me?” Sometimes we’re not so frustrated about the bad thing that happened but WHY it did?
God says He will give us beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3). Ashes means something went through the fire and didn’t make it. We walk around with massive urns of ashes, pretending that everything is fine. The word for beauty in the scripture here means adornment, like a crown.
We can get so used to the beauty around us that we no longer see it. If there is a massive urn of ashes on our scales, no amount of beautiful things is going to balance it out. God said to Jamie that He couldn’t give him all the answers but if he gave God his ashes, he would run again.
Sometimes we don’t believe that something better is possible with God and so we don’t let go. We try to find other things that we can do instead of surrendering our quest for answers. When you surrender your quest for answers, like Paul with his thorn, you get grace instead. We are not made to know everything, we are born to run. Choose faith in the future, choose to run with God.