Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Special thanks to Peggy Graff and her guests for providing this uplifting and inspiring addition to us in her Dog Days Duets series. I pray that these weekly selections will uplift your spirits and feed your soul as much as it does mine.
Philippians 3:10-14 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
10 I want to know Christ[a] and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Pressing toward the Goal
12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;[b] but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved,[c] I do not consider that I have made it my own;[d] but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly[e] call of God in Christ Jesus.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Remembering is a great gift. Looking back and telling stories of adventures and great times is a delight. Our memories largely make us who we are, how people know us and how we know others. It is that reality that makes dementia such a devastating condition.
On the other hand, memories can be painful. Remembering past wrongs others have committed against us can lead to corrosive grudges. Remembering past wrongs we have committed against others can lead to chronic guilt which so easily morphs into shame.
So, another gift by God’s grace is the ability to move on and leave the past in the past. I remember an old retired preacher who said that his favorite Bible passage was “And it came to pass…” When something bad comes our way, it passes—or we pass it and leave it behind. In this way, a kind of forgetting is a gift, too.
Paul wrote to the Philippians, “This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Remembering—looking back—is a great gift: that’s true. But, we have been given another special gift–the gift that allows us to lead a NEW life. It is the gift of looking forward.
Paul must have loved sports. There are a number of places where he uses illustrations and images from sports, especially the foot race. This passage is one of those. Picture it in your mind: runners coming down the home stretch, STRAINING FORWARD, leaning forward, stretching out toward the finish line, the GOAL. It’s that goal that’s on their minds—not ANYTHING else. Their eyes are fixed on the goal—they’re straining forward–thinking of nothing else—forgetting the first part of the race. Do you see the image? Do you feel the feeling of a runner running for the prize? That’s the feeling that Paul wants us to have about the Christian walk, except that he wants us to see it more as our Christian run! How can runners get anywhere if they’re so preoccupied about where they’ve been? How can runners press forward and concentrate on the goal if they’re concentrating and worrying about how they stumbled in the first turn? How can we press on in our Christian run and serve Christ and live life to its fullest if we can’t forget what lies behind?
Forgetting is helpful because it helps us move forward. Now, I know that when you forget where you put your car keys, it doesn’t seem helpful. I know that when you forget an appointment, it doesn’t seem like forgetting could ever be useful. Forgetting doesn’t seem helpful at all when you are staring at a dreaded essay question on a test and your mind is blank. But, forgetting can be a very good thing because forgetting helps us to look forward.
To look forward, we have to forget what lies behind, as Paul said. That means leaving behind the hurts we’ve suffered, the wrongs we’ve done to others, the disappointments and defeats and pressing forward—like a runner running a race.
Henri Bergson, the French philosopher said, “It is the function of the brain to enable us not to remember, but to forget.”
Haven’t you wronged someone in some way and then received forgiveness only to think about it every time you saw him or her? It puts a damper on the relationship, doesn’t it? Paul knew this all too well: forgiveness and forgetting go hand in hand. There’s no place where he sensed this more than in his relationship to God: to dwell and concentrate on the past is to be unable to fully receive the forgiveness that God so freely offers us in Christ. To dwell on the past takes our attention away from the present where life is lived and the future where we are going and we can’t, as Paul said, “Run the race which is set before us.” The remembrance of past wrongs is like so much heavy baggage–it weighs us down and keeps us from being able to run. Imagine trying to run the 880 with a packed suitcase! The Good News is that we don’t have to carry that baggage–through Jesus Christ forgiveness and new life are freely offered to us.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster