What’s The Worst That Can Happen?

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Years ago, a friend helped me through a tough time in my life. There are many things that she said, and I value much of the advice she gave during our talks.

But there was one phrase she came back to repeatedly – and it always seemed to make me stop and say ‘hmm’:

“What’s the worst that can happen?”

Used properly, this ranks among the greatest questions of all time (in my humble opinion).

Here’s the deal – the things that we dread thrive in the darkness. When ideas are half-formed and fears are nebulous, they seem very overwhelming.

But when we start to take a closer look and actually think through them, we realize that they are not nearly so disastrous.

It’s the nature of the unknown. Unknowns often seem larger than they are.

Have you ever noticed that when you travel somewhere new, the trip there seems to take much longer than the return trip? Or if you go back again to the same place it doesn’t take nearly as long as you remembered it taking the first time?

That’s the nature of the unknown.

So, the key to conquering fear, dread, and anxiety is to tackle and expose the unknown element(s). When you start to feel these emotions forming, step back and consciously think through whatever is causing the angst.

Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen.”

And then slowly, calmly and purposefully – with lots of deep breathing, if necessary – answer the question.

If circumstances permit, take the time to sit down and write out all the things that could happen.  Map out the possible paths and consequences. Think through all the alternatives. Literally find the worst possible scenario.

Then think about the probabilities of each path coming to reality. Realistic probabilities. If it helps, use a numbering or a high-medium-low scale to grade the likeliness of each one happening.

When you go through this exercise, the monsters that panicked you will usually prove to be toothless and ineffective in the light of clear thought.

I’m not saying that there will never be scary possibilities. There may be things that are terrifying! But I can almost guarantee they won’t be as terrifying as they were before you put them into words.

They may be hard, but they are things you are perfectly capable of handling – especially when you have a God who said “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).

Snake Charmer

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“He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15b).

“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).

I was contemplating the concept of ‘power’ the other day, particularly as it relates to our battles with temptation and sin.

How often do we treat temptation as if it is a snake and we are merely a desperate snake-charmer, trying our best to either placate it, hold it at bay or dodge its next strike – allowing it to have the control, and reacting as best we can to avoid getting bit? Giving it the position of power does not give us freedom. It binds us.

To keep something at bay while playing defense is a recipe for defeat. Just ask any football fan who has watched his or her team blow a fourth quarter lead thanks to the ‘prevent defense.’

To compromise with wickedness is equally a recipe for defeat. Just ask the nations that thought a peace treaty with Hitler was a good idea.

But look at the Genesis passage above, and put your particular weakness in the role of the serpent for a moment. I see here two important truths related to that confrontation.

God tells the serpent “he [man] will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.” Let me work right to left.

God said “you will bruise his heel.” What this tells me is that sometimes our sin lands a blow, and that’s okay.

Well, I mean, it’s not okay, but it’s okay…if that makes sense.

We’re human. We make bad choices.

John writes “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9), which presupposes we have sins that need confessing. In fact, he even goes on to write that if we say we have no sin, the truth isn’t in us (v. 10). (And remember, John is writing to church-going Christians here!)

Missteps and offenses are part of life. Temptation and weakness will get the upper hand once in a while. From the very beginning God acknowledged as much. It doesn’t mean we have a free pass, but it means His grace is enough to cover it.

The best part of this passage, though, is where God tells the serpent “he will bruise your head” or, in the NIV: “he will crush your head”.

God is using language that suggests not merely avoidance or keeping our sin at arm’s length, but outright aggression.

We were intended to meet the enemy head-on in the power of Christ. In Luke 10:19, Jesus tells His disciples “I give you authority to trample snakes and scorpions…” Again, His intention is for us to conquer.

Paul starts his ‘Armor of God’ discourse with the phrase, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might…that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

He didn’t say find a safe place to hunker down. Or learn some good footwork so you can dodge the blows. Or give it some slack so you can avoid the ‘big sins’.

He said “be strong, take on God’s power, and stand !”

So next time you’re faced with that habit or addiction or weakness that plagues you, remember that God doesn’t empower you to dance around it, He empowers you to meet it head on.

Don’t dance with it, don’t flirt with it – claim the power that resides in you as a believer, and crush it!

Let me close with one more verse. Something to cling to whenever you start to think that the serpent is too strong for you and all you can do is compromise or avoid…

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory” (Ephesians 6:20-21).

The Perils of Time Travel, Part II

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I wrote last time a couple of reasons why I think God doesn’t allow us to go back and change our past. In a nutshell, our susceptibility to repeating mistakes or our flawed way of fixing things – or both – have potential to get in the way.

But it goes beyond that.

God has a desire and a specific intention for each of our lives. That intention does not include our brokenness or bad choices – we can look at every bad choice and be assured that God would have preferred we chose differently. He doesn’t cause us to make bad decisions, and He is not the author of our bad circumstances or our hurts.

However, He has woven each and every one of those things into His plan for our lives. He is completely sovereign. Nothing surprises Him and nothing ever comes up that He doesn’t know what to do with. And so He takes everything and uses it to build us into the persons we are.

This is a hard concept to get our heads around, but remember our inability to understand something doesn’t make it any less true. Look at Isaiah 55:8-9 – God is essentially saying “I know what I’m doing, even when you don’t get it.”

Scripture is full of stories where people’s poor choices were part of God’s plan. Look at Joseph in Genesis 37-50. Talk about a winding, broken, dysfunctional road.

From Joseph’s hubris in proclaiming to his family his dream in which they bowed before him, to his brothers’ resentful plan to do away with him, to Potiphar’s wife’s lust and false accusation, to the broken promise of the chief butler who was supposed to put in a good word for him.

How many things do you think Joseph would have liked to go back and change? To keep his mouth shut about his dream? To not go looking for his brothers on that fateful day when they sold him into slavery? To avoid being in the wrong place so the Egyptian woman couldn’t make her accusation stick? To keep his interpretation of the butler’s dream to himself?  Yet every one of these things were cobblestones in the road that led to Joseph attaining a position from which he could save his family from starvation, and the future nation of Israel from extinction.

And so, if we went back and fixed our mistakes, how could He use them to build us and others up? How could He use them to further His kingdom or accomplish His plan?

See, and you thought the whole concept of time travel was mind-boggling!

Admittedly, this is difficult on a whole new level for those of us guilty of breaking others’ boundaries.  It feels almost immoral to say that things I did to hurt someone else are being used for my or others’ growth. And it seems callous and insensitive toward the persons I hurt to say their pain is part of the greater good.

Knowing there are some reading this that fall on both sides of hurtful situations, please know that this is not to dismiss or minimize anyone’s hurt, or to justify anyone’s offenses. It’s merely a humble attempt to analyze the inner-workings of the grace and sovereignty of a loving God. I pray that is understood.

So the next time you want to lament your inability to change the past, turn your thoughts instead to the people, circumstances, and opportunities in the present that your pothole-covered path has led you to.

And thank God for it.

Commitment

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“Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” – Psalm 31:5 (NKJV)

Have I completely committed my spirit to Him? Am I really ‘all in’ in this Christian relationship?

Romans 12:1 tells me to submit myself as a living sacrifice to Him, which is a powerful illustration of this commitment. A sacrifice didn’t just get up and walk back to the livestock pen – it was totally, irrevocably, entirely committed.

So, as a living sacrifice, am I totally, irrevocably, and entirely committed? Or am I committed during certain time-boxed segments of my life and handling things on my own the rest of the time? Or daily committed, but only with certain parts of my life?

Do I trust Him with my security, my protection, my abilities, my well-being?

Do I trust Him to help me do my job? To fulfill expectations and plan the work? To make the right connections and develop the right partnerships?

Do I trust Him to help me relate to my family and friends? To treat them as the valuable persons that they are in my life? To make sure they know they are appreciated and treasured?

Do I trust Him to enable me in the ministry that He called me to? To understand His truths, and find the words to convey them to others? To keep me confident and focused in the face of apparent disinterest or flaming arrows of criticism?

Do I trust Him with my reputation? To protect from misinterpretation or misapplication of my words? To shield me from lies, rumors, and mishandling of the truth?

Do I trust Him to keep me pure? To help me make good decisions, even when the temptations seem larger than life and the battle seems most dire?

Do I trust Him to help me properly interact with others, with discernment and caution where necessary, with compassion and encouragement always? To give place to others in a way that is not self-demeaning? To show a full measure of His love and grace, while not compromising His truth?

Do I trust Him with my family? To reconcile and heal where needed? To shield them from hurtful attitudes and harmful words, directed at them sometimes merely for choosing to love and support me?

Do I trust Him enough to say that even if it leads to hardship, embarrassment, loss, pain, broken relationships, or death, I’m in?

I wish I could say that the answer to all these questions is a resounding ‘Yes!’ but of course it’s not. I still want to worry over and try to manage many of these areas myself, rather than trust Him to handle it all.

When the psalmist says “You have redeemed me” I agree without a doubt.

When he refers to God as the “Lord God of truth” I respond with a heartfelt ‘Amen’.

But tying that back to the first half of the verse and wholly committing my spirit into the hands of the Lord God of truth who has redeemed me…that’s where the connection gets fuzzy.

In my head, I can tie it together. In my heart, it’s a little more challenging.

What about you? How are you doing with all this? What do you need to let go and commit to Him?

Whatever it is, He can handle it. But don’t take my word for it…take His:

“The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” – Psalm 18:30 (NKJV)

Marvelous Grace!

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I was reminded of God’s marvelous grace this past weekend and the way He displays it through His people.

There are many definitions of the word Grace, but the simplest and most fitting is “undeserved favor”.

Sunday, my church family bestowed undeserved favor on me by allowing me to stand before the congregation and present Freedom Rising Ministries.  The church I’d had to walk away from two and a half years ago opened their arms and allowed me to share my heart and the vision God has given me.

It was humbling, healing, and God-honoring.

When Once You Have Turned Again…

One of the driving verses behind Freedom Rising Ministries is Luke 22:32. After telling Peter that Satan had requested to sift him like wheat, Jesus assured him that He was praying for him.  Then He said “And you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Before Peter ever let Him down, Jesus had already bestowed grace on Him. He knew that Peter would falter. But He also knew that Peter had a calling. Jesus was able to look past the failures that would come, and see that Peter would not only serve Him, but would be able to grow from his experience and even use it to build up others.

Three Facets of God’s Relentless Grace 

When we stop to examine this interaction, we can see similarities in how God’s grace shined on Peter and how it shines on us.

God’s Personal Investment

First, Jesus prays and intercedes for all His followers. Romans 8:34 says “It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” And Hebrews 7:25, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

As with Peter, you and I are on Jesus’ prayer list!

God’s Purposeful Calling

Second, our individual calling is sure. It is not dependent on our successes or our failures. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).

That calling may look different along the way, but only because of adjustments in our perception and understanding of it. His vision and purpose for you and me is set from the beginning. But as we grow, we are able to see more clearly the calling He had in mind from the start.

God’s Persistent Restoration

Finally, Jesus knows the end from the beginning. He knows we will stumble. He knows there will be times we will fall flat on our faces. But He also knows failure is not the end of our usefulness, no matter how devastating it may seem to us in the moment.

Our failures are not the epilogue to our story. They are merely another chapter. And in many cases, they are still part of the prologue!

Grace that Never Runs Dry

God’s grace.  Sometimes, it can be astounding, breathtaking, and outright stunning. On occasion, it’s scandalous and messy. Always, it’s abundant, limitless, unstoppable.

I recall the closing verse of Amazing Grace…

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.

…and I’m thinking that eternity still won’t be enough time to express our gratitude and love for amazing grace and the God who made it possible!

A humble ‘Thank You’ today is a good start, though.

Freedom to Stay the Course

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Stick with your work. Do not flinch because the lion roars; do not stop to stone the devil’s dogs; do not fool away your time chasing the devil’s rabbits. Do your work. Let liars lie, let sectarians quarrel, let critics malign, let enemies accuse, let the devil do his worst; but see to it nothing hinders you from fulfilling with joy the work God has given you.

He has not commanded you to be admired or esteemed. He has never bidden you defend your character. He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood (about yourself) which Satan’s or God’s servants may start to peddle, or to track down every rumor that threatens your reputation. If you do these things, you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourself and not for the Lord.

Keep at your work. Let your aim be steady as a star. You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered, wounded and rejected, misunderstood, or assigned impure motives; you may be abused by foes, forsaken by friends, and despised and rejected of men. But see to it with steadfast determination, with unfaltering zeal, that you pursue the great purpose of your life and object of your being until at last you can say, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.”

This quote is from an anonymous writer. I found it years ago in John MacArthur’s Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically (Thomas Nelson Press, 2005, p. 14).

These words have been on the wall above my desk since I discovered them. I have looked at them often. I have prayed over them. I have read them aloud, and hand-copied them in my journal as an exercise to internalize them. I have pleaded with God to help me live by them when doing so seemed impossible.

Though the quote was found in a book on pastoring, it is certainly not limited to pastors. It can be applied to every person who is trying to follow God’s call.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are all in ministry in some capacity (see Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:27-31, and Ephesians 4:11-16). And if we are pursuing that ministry, we are going to meet opposition.

Opposition can arise from where we might expect it, or from where we don’t expect it at all. Though we must be careful not to dismiss true loving correction, when it is pure antagonism and slander we should rest in the One who holds us securely in the palm of His hand (John 10:28-29).

Opposition can be based on truth or lies (or a mixture of both).

If it is truth concerning something from the past, claim God’s promise that you are redeemed (Colossians 2:13-14) and a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). If truth about something current, then own it, break the cycle, and seek accountability and help. In either case, don’t allow hateful or condemning words to drive you to despair. God is not surprised by your brokenness… He knew about it before the world began, and He loves you anyway. You can move forward.

If it’s based on lies, know that even the Lord Himself faced lying accusations and was assigned false motives. Let Him be your defender. He’s capable, willing, and always on the job (“For He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you'” – Hebrews 13:5b).

Overall, remember this: God is able to complete what He set out to do through you. Man will not derail what God has established (Isaiah 55:11, Philippians 1:6). This gives us freedom to stay the course.

So take heart. Trust Him. Stick to your work even when the fight seems hopeless. It will definitely be worth it in the end.

He promised.

Winning

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I just want to win. Really. Most days that’s all I’m asking for – to get through without lust or jealousy or coveting creeping in, or bitterness toward someone who hurt me, or guilt over how I’ve hurt someone else.

Just one day without labels undermining my confidence in who God says I am; without anger welling up or judgmentalism sneaking in; without acting on impulses that leave me feeling dirty and unforgivable.

To lay my head on the pillow and not lament like David “[O God] …my sin is always before me…” (Psalm 51:3).

That’s all I want. But I rarely get it. And it sucks, to use a less-than-upright-Christian vernacular. To want so badly to please God, only to find you’ve fallen on your face again…it can be so demoralizing. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

This is the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit (see Galatians 5:17). Life is lived on a battlefield.

But here’s the deal: winning isn’t the point! That’s right – getting to the end of our day with our good deeds outweighing our bad deeds shouldn’t be our focus in the first place.

That’s tough to get our heads around, isn’t it? Every part of us screams “Of course winning is the point! Where would we be without winning?!?

Truth: we are in the exact same place without winning as we are with winning.  No matter what our score sheet looks like at the end of the day, we are still under the watchful care of an almighty God who loves us regardless.

The real goal is living in His presence and in His will. Enjoying the journey with Him at our side instead of fretting over whether we’re doing well enough to have Him at our side. His presence is not contingent upon our performance. And when we get that, the battles throughout the day are far less intimidating.

This doesn’t mean we raise the white flag and accept the loss. It doesn’t mean that whatever we may do, no matter how right or wrong, is okay. When we spend our days enjoying the journey with Him, we discover a desire to please Him…but without the anxiety of worrying whether we’re doing it right.  No longer are we fighting against the negatives. We’re basking in the positives – love, grace, and the simple unchangeable fact that Someone far bigger than me believes in me unconditionally.

And then when we get to the end of our day, we realize that we did win after all! The stuff that wanted to drag us down didn’t gain a foothold nearly as easily. And when it did, we were able to get back up and walk on.

We don’t end the day with a perfect score. We still make poor choices along the way. But those poor choices, we find, are far less frequent and have less impact.

This is the freedom of focusing on our Companion rather than on our adversaries; focusing on His love rather than our faults. It’s resting in Christ instead of striving to win in our own strength.

And in the end, that’s the best win of all!

Our Inner Testimony

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We talk a lot about it as believers.

As we should.

We are Christ’s ambassadors, and the image we project as we represent our King is important. We cannot represent a compassionate God with outward shows of irresponsibility, corruption, hypocrisy, intolerance, and other subpar behavior.

But there is another aspect to our testimony that is more subtle, and extremely enslaving and limiting.  I call it our “inner testimony”.  It’s those weaknesses and struggles that remain in our private lives and never see the light of day.

At some level, we all have something that we wrestle with privately.  Maybe yours is big or maybe it’s trivial. Maybe no one knows about it, not even those closest to you. If that’s true I’d venture to guess it’s not because you’re leading a double life, but because you’re ashamed and embarrassed for anyone to know (that’s the case more often than not).

So we dig in and we fight alone.

As valiant as we might be, there are days when we come limping off the battlefield dragging our sword behind us and nursing a gaping wound.

In time, those occasional losses start to wear on us, and we become more and more prone to giving up the fight.  Sure, we still go through the motions.  We beat our chests and rattle our swords and let out the most intimidating cries we can. But deep down, we’ve resigned to the fact that this is what we are and we can’t win.  In other words, we start to believe the labels and the lies. Then comes compromise and bad habits and deeper and deeper levels of shame and thoughts of “Well, I surely can’t talk to anyone about this now”.

So you just go with it and try to ‘make up’ for it in other areas of your life. You sacrifice that fight and hope you can win everywhere else. If only you can be the very best Christian (with just this one weakness that no one has to know about…) it will all come out in the wash, as they say.

Here’s the truth:

If you indulge that secret weakness – pornography, sexual misconduct, sneaking hits of your drug of choice, ducking into the casino or strip club with that little bit of money no one knows you have in an area where no one you know will see you… you could very well get by. You could conceivably get by your entire life.

In theory, your outward testimony could remain intact.  After all, when you indulge you’re either by yourself or you’re completely surrounded by unfamiliar faces. ‘You’re not hurting anyone else,’ you reason (though actually, you are). And you can’t show a bad Christian testimony to people who don’t even know you’re Christian. So maybe – maybe – you get away with it.

Now, I could launch into a sermon on Numbers 32:23 (“and be sure you’re sin will find you out”). But the truth is, some people do manage to go to their grave with that secret sin tucked away safely (not because they “got one over,” mind you, but because in His divine wisdom God chose not to expose it).

But even if your outer testimony is never impacted, your inner one will be.

Because these things reinforce our chains.  They undermine our confidence, create cracks in our foundation, and on subconscious levels make us insecure and unable to fully engage. You can be effective, and to many it may look like you’re doing great things. Others may see something a little off, but something they can’t quite put their finger on.

Either way you won’t be living up to your potential. You won’t be able to live out the freedom God has for you and impact others the way He intends.  Because when your inner testimony is tainted, your whole is out of balance.

So if you’re in that place right now, where you’ve allowed yourself to be resigned to compromising your battle plans – convinced you have to give ‘this’ ground so you can hold ‘that’ – snap out of it. Find an accountability partner, resolve to win the battle on every front, and watch how your outward life can be transformed by a solid inner testimony!

Surveying the Battlefield

Military 1148Sometimes battles are lost. We won’t always win. That’s just part of the ebb and flow of this thing we call spiritual warfare. 

But when losses come, it’s good to take time to look back over the battlefield and survey the landscape for lessons learned.

When I do this after a stumble or a fall, what I find is a battlefield littered with the armor that I should have been wearing.  

The Shield of Faith was sufficient to stop any fiery darts of lust or self-doubt or anger or whatever the Enemy launched at me. But it is lying on the ground. Cast aside in a moment of fear or frustration. Or out of sheer exhaustion from the overwhelming onslaught.

The Sword of the Spirit (scripture) could have given me the ability to deliver an effective counter-punch.  After all, that is what Jesus used when confronted by Satan in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. But I didn’t reach for my Bible when temptation came, or recall scripture passages. Instead, I loosed my grip on that sword and allowed it to clang to the ground alongside the shield.

The Belt of Truth should remind me of who I am based on God’s promises. Instead, it’s slack and falling down, allowing lies and labels to form my core in the moments when I most need to be girded by the truth. When that belt is firmly in place, I see myself as redeemed, forgiven, called, favored, blessed. When it slips, I see myself as worthless, incapable, emotionally out of control, lustful, addicted, helpless. 

Because the belt has fallen away, the Breastplate of Righteousness is askew. It no longer guards my heart properly against insecurity and frailty. A loose breastplate means I am now drawing from my limited humanity which is incapable of attaining righteousness. Had the breastplate stayed straight I’d have rested in my Spirit-filled self, which finds value and worth in what He has done rather than what I can do.

If I’d cinched fast the chinstrap on that Helmet of Salvation, I would have been protected against the ungodly thoughts and carnal imaginings that invade a mind focused on this world.  The knowledge of a secure salvation would keep me honed in on an eternal perspective.  Instead, the helmet toppled off into the dirt and I became overtaken by temporal concerns, emotions, and pleasures.

Shoes of the Gospel are there to remind me of the “death, burial, and resurrection” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) that completes me. But when they are not laced up securely they fall away and I am easily overtaken by a message of false fulfillment.

That’s the whole armor in Ephesians 6:13-17, strewn on the ground at the site of the defeat.

The losses look different. The circumstances change. The opponent varies in appearance and tactic. But ultimately, it all comes back to the armor.

It comes back to too much focus on the enemy and not enough focus on the armor that protects me from him.

Let’s make a conscious effort to change that focus. The battle is ours.

One. More. Step.

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“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.” – Philippians 3:13-14

Many of us have been there. That place where we don’t think we can take another step, what feels like the very literal end of our rope.

Maybe you’re there today.

Maybe your own bad decisions have caught up with you. Maybe you’ve finally realized that that habit or addiction has control of you instead of the other way around like you always claimed. Maybe your latest burst of anger has resulted in serious injury to someone. Or maybe your secret sin has been exposed, or that past which you hoped above all hope you could carry to your grave.

Perhaps someone else’s decisions have caught up with you. Maybe a loved one’s secret sin or hidden past or covert addiction has surfaced and tore your world apart. Or a friend’s rush to judgment or outright betrayal has completely knocked the emotional wind out of you. Or possibly you feel as though you’re being crushed under the weight of the rumor mill, unsure if your reputation will ever recover from the roaring and fast-moving wildfires started by a loose tongue.

In writing to the church at Philippi, Paul made it clear that he was always reaching to obtain greater fullness in his relationship with Christ. And in so doing, both the achievements and mistakes of the past were of no use to him.

“Forgetting those things which are behind…”

That meant every bit of knowledge he’d acquired to make himself acceptable to God, every good deed he’d done to achieve a godly appearance, every shred of righteousness that he’d accumulated.

That also meant every bit of misapplied knowledge that made him unacceptable to God, every bad deed he had done that gave him an ungodly image, and every shred of unrighteousness or fake piety he had donned in his striving after self-made righteousness.

Our past deeds, and others’ past deeds, are just that – past. They have no bearing on our forward walk with Christ. They won’t get us any closer to Him, nor keep us any further from Him. Those things form the definition of self that relies on lies and labels and false identity.

“…I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God.”

Pressing toward the goal involves looking forward, defining ourselves by God’s call and who He says we are. It means constantly, moment by moment, putting all those things which want to define us behind, and stepping forward with the knowledge of what truly defines us.

Particularly if you’re in the midst of the storm, this can be a step-to-step exercise. Possibly all you can do right now is pick up your foot and take one more step. That’s okay. Paul didn’t say that forgetting those things that are behind is an easy endeavor. It takes work, practice, resolve. But that one more step will get you that much further along in your journey.

So wherever you are this moment: take heart, know that God is there, remember what defines you (it’s what’s ahead, not what’s behind), and step out.

The walk will get easier. Your strength will build. The resistance will fade. And one day you’ll look around to find God did bring you through it after all.