What Paul is talking about is some next level stuff. Paul says he doesn’t just want to know about Jesus. That is, he doesn’t want to just know some facts about Jesus. He wants to know Jesus. Why? Because there is power in the name of Jesus. Life in Jesus is greater than anything else in this world. It’s better than drugs, it’s better than any high. And Paul so identifies with Jesus that he actually considered it an honor to suffer for him. That’s radical stuff.
How do most people respond to suffering? We blame God. We get mad at God. We say things like “God, why did you allow this to happen to me?” First off, you can’t push God away and then wonder where he’s at. We are constantly pushing God out of our lives and culture. The second thing is that this thinking is a Western way of thinking about God.
Pastor Andy Stanley responded to “Why, God?” after the Sandy Hook shooting on Atlanta-based radio show, The Bert Show: “The people who want to differentiate God from pain and evil, they’re not talking about the Christian God because from the Old Testament to the New Testament, God is in the midst of pain, leverages pain and, here’s the key, redeems pain for good because God is a redeemer. That’s the essence of the Gospel. The murder of the innocent son of God resulted in the salvation of the world. That’s redemption. It’s taking evil and leveraging it for something that’s good.”
If you have suffered in your past, you are in a perfect place to truly follow Jesus because we have a God who has not only suffered, but redeems suffering.
Paul isn’t saying, “Woe is me. My life stinks now. I wish I was back in the past.” No! Paul is living in the moment and allowing God to redeem his suffering. Look at what Paul says next…
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, 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. (Philippians 3:12–14)
Did you catch what Paul said? He said he hasn’t already arrived at his goal. That is, he still struggles. He is still imperfect. That is, he isn’t dead yet. He might be currently suffering, and he might have had to go through a lot of pain in his past, but let’s look at what he says again.
“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.”
Paul says, “There is one thing I do. I don’t live in the past.” In fact, Paul says he forgets what is behind. Now, I don’t believe Paul is saying that he has no memory of the past. In fact, just a few verses earlier he writes about his past accomplishments. Paul isn’t saying don’t have any memory of your past. He is saying forget what is behind. You will miss your future when you live in the past.
“Cleaning up the past is the simple action of facing it. If you don’t, you cannot find joy, won’t find peace and won’t have true happiness if you are firmly planted in old resentment, challenges, stories about your health, your vitality, your income and past relationships that have gone awry.”–Tom Ferry
If you want to clean up your past, you must face it. That means you have to have some tough conversations. It might mean you have to write a letter that expresses your hurt and pain. Now you might need to burn that letter after you wrote it, but you’ve got to get your past out in the open.
Christine Caine speaks in Tweets. What I mean is whenever I hear her speak she has the most amazing quotes. When talking about facing one’s past she says…
“Disappointment is a place we pass through, not a place we stay.”—Christine Caine
I love that! You don’t have to stay in a disappointment. You can face it and move on.
“Has it ever occurred to you that, if you’ll revisit your disappointment, God can give you a new perspective of it and that it can become a tool to help others?”—Christine Caine
Drop the mic!