A friend responded to my recent ‘Chicken Lesson’ installment with a sweet word that that particular blog post had been a big encouragement to her daughter. They are moving soon, and leaving her comfort zone is scary for her. I already had today’s installment in mind and replied to my friend that an upcoming post would be a perfect follow up for her daughter. I changed the title and wrote with a special heart for a special young lady.
Growing up, this verse was usually taught from the aspect of forgetting all the ‘bad things’ you’ve done and moving forward, or pressing on, with ‘good things’. Rightly so, I guess, when you consider the lifestyle of the region in the first century. After all, this group of believers in Philippi were first generation believers. They all—as are we—were in a position to leave their former lifestyles behind and move forward in godliness.
One evening, however, when I was listening to a devotional message from this passage, I saw it in another light. My husband and I had just gone through a life-changing event where a job change was necessary. That meant the thought of a possible move! (My dear, sweet friend…that wasn’t something I looked forward to!!) There were other possible changes in the mix, too, and my heart was heavy and confused.
Then, I thought…could it be that ‘forgetting what is behind’ goes beyond not focusing on past sins, but on having a willing heart to leave behind friends, a much loved ministry, or home and move forward with a gracious, obedient heart?
Is this taking the verse out of context to look at it so differently than what I’ve always been taught? Well, I did some research and discovered that it appears my thought actually fits with Paul’s intent much more than leaving behind past sins, although the principle holds true.
In the Philippians 3:13-14 passage, Paul was setting himself as an example to this young church. What did Paul give up---forget about--- as he pressed forward to pursue his goal in Christ? Robert Lightner, Th.D. explains it well. Paul “refused to be controlled or absorbed by his past heritage and attainments” (BKC).
Before his salvation, Paul was a high ranking Jewish leader. Earlier, in Philippians 3:4-7, he lists his credentials and considers them to be ‘loss’ or ‘rubbish’ in order to move forward in the Lord.
And, when you think about it, these young believers were leaving behind more than a sinful lifestyle. They were also leaving behind beloved jobs, families, friends, and probably even homes as they were persecuted and ostracized for committing to this ‘new way’.
It is important to note, however, that ‘forgetting what lies behind does not necessarily mean completely wiping the past from our memory---although I’m sure there are times and circumstances that should be erased---, but, instead, not holding on to those memories in such a way as to impede our progress going forward (EBC)
Sometimes when we dwell on past blessings, we don’t make room for new blessings God has in store for us in the future. Kelly Minter emphasizes this in her study entitled No Other Gods.
My dear friend, I know moving, and the change it entails, is hard and scary, but as you face this change, see it as God’s plan to move you forward in such a way as to help you know Him better, and allowing God to prepare you for His goal for your life—-and new blessings and memories. Hold your memories dear without allowing them to interfere with your progress of growing in your knowledge of God’s grace and wisdom. Make new friends. Make new memories. Learn that God is faithful, trustworthy, and wants the best for you---even when it leaves you scratching your head.
And for those of you who tuned in to this personal message, I trust it encourages you as well.
Move forward expectantly,
Barker, Kenneth L and Kohnlenberger, John R III, editors, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary- Old Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.
Minter, Kelly, No Other Gods. Nashville: Lifeway Press, 2017.
Walvoord, John F. and Zuck, Roy B. (editors), The Bible Knowledge Commentary-Old Testament, Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Publishing Co., 2004