31st October 2012

Don’t Be A ‘When I…”

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things that are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJV)

The inhabitants of an Island which has a favourable tax regime find a lot of people retire there after a successful career. They tend to be well off with good pensions and are rather inclined to remind people of their past success by saying ‘When I was chairman of X company’, or ‘When I was Managing Director’, or ‘When I was in charge of whatever it was’. As a result, the locals tend to call them ‘When Is’, as they are always going on about their past success, their past status and the impact they had on the success of whatever company or organization they once managed or owned.

‘What’s wrong with that?’ you may say, and the answer is absolutely nothing. There is no harm in reflecting on our past in a positive way. The problem comes when we are constantly looking backwards and we become obsessed with our past, whether we were successful, or in our own eyes a failure by the false standards of this world.

Human nature being what it is, we tend to get more hung up on our past failures and this is a problem which Christians can struggle with.  Feelings of failure or guilt can make us feel unworthy as Christians. Sometimes in Church the preacher, quite rightly, is focused on the ideal, and we can be all too conscious that we are not living up to it. But there is a simple answer to those feelings. We are unworthy and we are failures by the standards laid down by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. But God still loves us and wants a relationship with us. The very reason Christ came to earth in human form was to live a perfect sinless life on our behalf. Then to pay the death penalty for us precisely to free us from the grip of sin. As a result we need have no fear of failure because Christ has given us the victory, in spite of what we are and what we do.

Looking back at all we do wrong can paralyse us and fill us with doubts and fears. When we sin it’s good to have feelings of guilt because they make us determined not to sin in that way again. But as the scripture says, our job is to press forward, forgetting those things that are behind. You will never be a perfect Christian and you will never meet someone who is. Only God is perfect. It is awesome to think that God loves us in our imperfect state. That God looks at what we can be, not what we are.

Our great purpose in life is to come to know God and develop a relationship that will last for eternity. So whatever the trials and tribulations of this world, if we do that we are a success, not a failure. Look back to learn, look back to reflect, look back to appreciate past blessings, but always look forward to the wonderful future we have as Christians.

Don’t be a ‘When I…’ looking back on success or brooding on failure, be a Christian who looks forward to what they can do today and tomorrow.  

Help us, Father, to live in the present, seeking to serve and give as we are able, not arrogantly focused on past success or filled with guilt about past failure. Let us be secure in your love knowing that because of our weakness Christ is our strength.


 Study by Keith Hartrick

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