The seemingly most inescapable thing known to man is the past; every single person has one. It does not matter how good that past might have been or how bad that past might have been, we all at the end of the day have the tendency to dwell on it. There are many different ways in which we like to dwell on the past. Individually, we dwell on the past remembering the “good old days,” or maybe remembering our childhood… saying statements like, “I tell ya, kids today will never understand how great life was when every town in America was like Mayberry.” Or maybe we dwell on other people’s past and remember something they did or some way they acted and decide within ourselves to never forget what they did. Or maybe we tend to dwell on our own past and not allow our future to take place because we cannot move on from our own mistakes or shortcomings.
I have seen, heard, and even taken part in remembering the past when it comes to the Church. We remember how things USED to be with such twinkling eyes, warm feelings, and deep longing for it. We think if we could just recapture that fire, that dedication, or that success we once had… then all would be well again. Which got me thinking, is this truly what God wants us to do? Is this something that God is honored by? Do not misunderstand me, I understand that the moral code that the average American USED to have is better than the one that most carry today. I also understand that the Church was stronger, more dedicated to the Scriptures, and more willing to share the Gospel with others as a whole in yesteryear. However, if all we ever do is sit around talking about the past, how will we ever duplicate it in the future? Not only how will we ever replicate it in the future, but how will we ever exceed the success once found in the past?
The goodness and sometimes greatness of the past is not the only thing that we tend to dwell upon. Sometimes our own personal failures and shortcomings in our past, keep us from being who God calls us to be today. It might be the case that you have been hurt by a brother or sister in Christ, or that you have had a bad experience with a minister or elder or person in leadership. The experience you had with them may have kept you from bearing fruit for God in the present and future.
Maybe you tried to be evangelistic once and it blew up in your face, and so that experience in the past has kept you from ever going out on that limb again. It might even be the case that you are in a position of leadership and a certain ministry or service you tried to implement once failed, and that has caused you to never approach the subject again. It might also be the case that your congregation has lost a certain leader whether it be an elder, minister, deacon, or Bible class teacher. They were a pillar in the success there, and losing them is something that you were not ready for, and you are convinced deep down that their times of service there were the golden age of success.
Regardless of what you personally have been dwelling on when it comes to the past, I want to look to God’s Word and see what He has to say to us. God Himself says in Isaiah 43:18-19, “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” This passage clearly points out the expectation God has on His followers to be VISIONARY. Though many things of the past are wonderful, and many things of the past are difficult… God desires that we all become those who dwell on the present and on the future.
I think if we decide to look at this passage and break it down, we will walk away with a better understanding on who our God is, and who we should strive to be going forward. The first thing to point out here is that God commands us to not dwell on former things, not to even spend time considering it. That is hard is it not? Why would God NOT want us to dwell on the past? Why would God NOT want us to spend time looking back to the past in endearment? God comes right out and says why by telling us and promising us that HE WILL DO A NEW THING. God does not want us to focus on how great the past WAS because of the promise of what He WILL DO in the future!
I do not think we have fully grasped this concept in our lives today, we think there is no way that we could EVER have the success we USED to have. We think there is no chance there will ever rise up a preacher like the preachers of our childhood. Is that fair to say? Is that limiting our God? Absolutely it is, and I believe many need to realize just how powerful our God is. Just look at what He promises He will do. He says that He will make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. What in essence He is trying to say is He is able to perform the impossible in our lives. The Bible tells us multiple times that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37; Matthew 19:26; Jeremiah 32:17, 27; Job 42:2; Mark 10:27; Mark 11:24). We have read, and know these passages, but do we BELIEVE them?
The problem is not that we do not know God is powerful; we all know that. The problem is when looking at the past, we tend to give ourselves WAYYY too much credit. The success of the past was not our own, IT WAS GOD’S. The success of the future will not be our own… IT WILL BE GOD’s. When we look back at the past and think about the great preachers who were able to bring thousands to Christ, we need to realize that God was “making roads in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” We need to realize that all glory, honor, and praise goes to God and God alone… It did in the past, it does in the present, and it will in the future.
So many times, we do not allow God to “do a new thing,” in our lives. We know God wants us to be soul-winners, but because of a bad experience in the past, we keep from trying ever again. This is considering the things of old, and remembering the former things. Sometimes we see sin, failure, iniquity, and shortcomings in our personal life and that keeps us from ever branching out and starting anew. Again, this is considering the things of old, and remembering the former things.IF we let Him, God will do a new thing. IF we allow Him, God will make roads in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. IF we give Him a chance, the greatest days of the Lord’s Church are ahead of us. God is ready to make a road and make a river, if only we will let him. I leave you with this passage:
“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 which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism