I have had the pleasure of watching several of the Pleasant Dale kids and teens run in cross country meets over the past few weeks. Cross country is a demanding sport. Physical training is important, essential in fact. But much of distance running is mental. What do you set your mind on accomplishing? What do you envision? What do you tell yourself when you don't think you can take another step? What self talk propels you ahead? Looking ahead and never looking back are keys to success.
In my recent Bible reading I was in the book of Joshua. While I have read the passage before, I was captured by a list in chapter 12. It is the list of the various kings that were defeated by the Israelites. It is a list that represents 31 countries/people groups that God defeated in order for his people to have a land of their own. A whole generation would perish because of their disobedience in the wilderness before their heir would set foot in this land. A land that was promised to their forefathers before leaving captivity in Egypt. Kings of 31 countries would be like moving up 31 places in a cross country race. An impossible feat. A huge accomplishment. A mental and physical challenge. A time when God's work was obvious.
There are times when it is easy to focus on what has happened yesterday, last week, last month, last year, in the past. I can become so fixated on the past that I ignore the present. I forget to look at today. I neglect the potential of tomorrow. I spend too much time looking back instead of looking ahead. That list in Joshua can be a good example for us to follow. While it is important to us to remember the victories that God has given to us. These victories over sin and weakness in our lives need to be acknowledged. But we don't want to spend all of our time remembering every detail of those battles. We want to remember that God has given us victory. We don't want to stay in the past. We don't want to be stuck. We want to move on in life. Can you make a list of the things that you have defeated because of God's love and grace? Just to list those things can give you freedom. A chance to see exactly what God has done in your life. A simple list to review, then move on.
As you move ahead in your spiritual walk, as the people of God moved ahead into the promised land, remember that moving ahead is the goal. While realizing the ways that God has been involved in your life in the past, living in the present and anticipating the future should take a more important place in our lives.
This quote from Bob Russell in After 50 Years in Ministry summarizes where I think Pleasant Dale is today. “Why would you want to go to a church with a great past when you're at a church with a great future.” We can certainly see where God has worked in the lives of individuals and in our congregation. He is not finished with us. The best is yet to come.
As Paul tells the Philippians in chapter 3, verses 12-14, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Let's keep pressing forward. Let's keep the past in the appropriate place and seek to win the prize that God has set before us.