Forgetting what lies behind . . .
With the familiar words above, Paul reminds
the Philippians—and the rest of us—to continue to
gaze forward in order that we keep in view the
things of the present and of the future. The
apostle understands as well as we do that there is
nothing that can be done to alter the past. What
has happened has happened (or, as many in our
day are prone to say, “It is what it is”). We know
that a moment gone is a moment that can never
be relived. Accordingly, we are best served to
keep our eyes ahead.
But there is value in considering what has
gone before. There are actions people have
taken, and events that have occurred—both good
and bad—that serve to educate and warn us.
There also are moments in our personal pasts
that teach us how better to live and act in this
world. It is a useful exercise to recall how we lived
before in order that we might emulate that which
is good and holy, and also that we might avoid
that which is not.
Paul certainly was not telling the Philippians
that he never looked back or never reflected on
his past. In fact, in many of his letters he did just
that—he retold his own story for the purposes of
teaching and encouraging. This is good for all of
us to do from time to time. It is healthy to return to
our past for the sake of our own learning and
maturity. It is good to remember our history on
occasion, for the sake of the future. But it is never
good to remain mired in the past, wallowing in
previous failures, or attempting to rest on old
triumphs. The apostle undoubtedly challenges the
Philippian church—and us—to race instead
toward what lies ahead.