The month of January is named after the Roman god Janus, who was usually depicted as a man with two faces. One face looked back into the year that had passed and that face showed sorrow and dismay; the other face looked forward into the coming new year and showed signs of hope and confidence. Around this time of year we cannot help looking back, and as we do we see what highlighted the previous year. Sometimes it is failures, personal trials, or just unfulfilled plans and projects. At other times we view the peaks and pinnacles in our lives; the successes and the victories. As we take a look back to 1991 what do you see? No matter what this past year has been like for us, one thing is for sure: God is giving us a new start for 1992. One thing that I like about playing golf is that no matter how badly I may play one hole I have an opportunity to start all over again with the next one. The Lord used the apostle Paul to give us some excellent counsel concerning the past and the future.
NOTE: Ph. 3:12-14.
I. We Should Forget the Things Which are Behind Us.
A. Our past can be a great barrier to future success.
1. Many folks are in bondage to their past failures.
2. So much so that they are afraid to try to do anything again.
3. I was thirteen years old before I ever learned to ride a bicycle...I had tried to learn many years earlier, but the pain and fear of falling so overwhelmed me that I refused to get on a bicycle.
4. Unfortunately there are many believers who allow their past experiences or failures to control their futures.
B. Past sins must be forgiven.
1. Paul wrote, "Forgetting those things which are behind..."
2. No doubt Paul was conscious of the many failures and sins in his life.
3. The way that he had blasphemed the name of Jesus and persecuted the church of God must have haunted him day and night.
4. But the time came when he confessed them, repented and found forgiveness and cleansing.
5. I am thankful that we have a forgiving God who tells us in His Word, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 Jn. 1:9)
C. We must forget past successes.
1. They also can hinder our future success.
2. One of the most subtle devices of our enemy is to slow us down by getting us to think and reflect on the memory of past successes.
3. Our past serves a purpose of reminding us of God's faithfulness and blessings, but we cannot live on yesterday's blessings.
4. God taught this important lesson to the nation of Israel in the wilderness.
a. God provided enough manna for their daily needs.
b. They were not to store it up, but to look to God daily to provide for them.
c. Jesus taught the disciples to pray and ask for "daily bread".
d. The prophet wrote that "The Lord's mercies...are new every morning." cf Lam. 3:22-23
5. The key to a successful and fruitful life for Christ is to concentrate on today and not live on yesterday's blessings.
6. This church has seen hundreds and perhaps even thousands of souls saved in its rich 30 year history...for that we praise the Lord...but today is the time that is important!
7. What are we doing now? That is what we must concern ourselves with!
II. We Should Reach Forward for the Future.
A. "Reaching forth unto those things which are before."
1. Most people are afraid of the future because of the uncertainty and insecurity of not knowing what lies ahead.
2. However, this ought not to be for the child of God.
3. There is nothing that can ever happen which is not known by God and included in His permissive will for those who are His
4. A phrase that was made popular by a recent movie is "Seize the Day" and that is what we need to do as believers!
B. "Press toward the mark"
1. The picture Paul uses to illustrate this truth is that of a runner in a race.
2. He has a goal in mind...his eyes are upon the finish line.
3. We will never be all that God wants us to be if we have no goals.
4. Someone has said that "If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time."
5. Many have business, career, personal, and financial goals.
6. But what are your spiritual goals for the coming year?
C. "The Prize"
1. This prize that Paul talks about is his reward at the judgment seat of Christ.
2. He is looking forward to hearing "Well done thou good and faithful servant."
3. Note: 2 Timothy 4:7-8
4. Righteous living now will result in rewarded living in the future.
Conclusion: What a wonderful opportunity God is giving you and me in allowing us to serve Him in the coming year. What will we do with this opportunity? Perhaps Jesus will return in the next year, it is certainly a distinct possibility. With that thought comes the realization that time is precious. What we do for Christ we must do quickly. Tonight I want to challenge you to set some goals for 1992. Put aside the past failures and the successes, and lets band together to reach greater heights than ever before for the cause of Christ. Is there something that is hindering you from pressing forward and reaching for the prize? Get it settled tonight!