November 25, 2012

Living in the past? Or eyes on the future?

One of my uncles lived in the past. All he ever talked about were events that happened years ago. Others live in the future and are constantly making plans and talking about next week or next year. 

For me, right now seems more important, even to the point that I tend to forget the past and not plan very well for the future. Today’s devotional challenges me to think about what the Bible says concerning how to focus on time.

Paul didn’t dwell on the past, particularly in regard to sin. He knew it was covered by the blood of Christ so he could say…

But 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 upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13–14)

However, Paul or whoever wrote Hebrews did encourage Christians to remember the past, particularly in regard to the faithfulness of God…

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. (Hebrews 10:32–36)

Here the Bible says to remember the past. I understand why. If I don’t, fears about the future or distress about today will continually plague me. I need to recall those former days when God proved to me His faithfulness. At times, I have suffered, but He has never let me down. At times, He put my focus more on others than on myself and even gave me joy when my own life was experiencing trouble. It is good to remember the past when those memories focus on God’s goodness and His grace.

Today I notice that these verses also point to the future. Someday God will reward me. I need to remember that when I’m tempted to disobey or grumble or sin in any way. My situation might be uncomfortable, even harsh, but His promises will not fail. It is good to focus on the future when those thoughts include God’s promises and the certainty of future grace.

Thinking about right now can be negative if I focus on current negatives. For instance, right now my back hurts and my to-do list is too long. However, thinking about right now can be positive if I mix in memories of the past grace of God and His promises to hold me and take care of me no matter what is going on in my life.

God does not live in time. For Him, the past, present and future are all one constant NOW. For myself living in time, I glimpses of eternity by thinking the same way. That is, I can put my focus on the past (His faithfulness), the present (both blessings and needs), and the future (where all life’s trials will be over).
When I do that, then I have a great sense of God taking care of everything. I can look back and say along with the psalmist, “You have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” (Psalm 63:7).

I can also look at right now and add faith’s glimpse of the future, saying, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by” (Psalm 57:1) knowing that the mercy of the Lord endures forever. He will get me through whatever trials I might experience and all of it will pass by, leaving only the memories of His grace.

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