A New Year’s Challenge
By Virginia Brandt Berg
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“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 3:13–141
As we stand before the new year, we don’t know what’s in store for us. But there’s one thing we do know, and that is that we can leave the past behind with all of its cares, pains, heartaches, and mistakes. We can’t undo one single act and we can’t unsay one single word, but if we will give our grief and regrets to God, He can make this new year a thing of joy and beauty. The Bible promises, “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord”2—even our past.
Every day of the past year is beyond our reach, and we should leave it there. God has the past in His keeping, and we should not go back and be tormented with regrets. It’s sad how some people say they’re trusting God, yet they worry about the blots and stains on the pages of their past.
Susan Coolidge once wrote these words:
The past is now a part of forever,
Bound up in a sheaf, which God holds tight.
With glad days and sad days
And bad days which never
Shall visit us more
With their bloom or their blight,
Their fullness of sunshine
Or sorrowful night.3
Once we have turned to God and confessed our mistakes and wrongdoings and asked for forgiveness, then we must not go picking around in the past and bringing up those things again. God says of your past sins, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.”4
God’s Word says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”5 Rather than going back into the past and regretting this and that and weeping over things that we can’t change, we should remember God’s comforting promise: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”6
I once read a poem that went something like this: “If I could find the road to yesterday, I’d write the page with cleaner pen and wipe out yesterdays.” I don’t want to find the path to yesterday, because I can’t wipe out anything! Only God can cover those mistakes of the past, and when He looks at us in light of the sacrifice that Jesus has already made for us, that makes all the difference. It isn’t God’s way to make us relive the past, and who wants to when the future is as bright as the wonderful promises of God?
When I think about the year that is set before us, I think about all of the promises in God’s Word and about the wonderful things that can happen because those promises are unfailing, unchanging, and meant for each of us personally. With all of those promises, why would anyone want to go back and retrace the past, to walk the road to yesterday?
The cross of Christ, like outstretched arms, stands blocking the way to the past. Because Jesus has already paid the penalty for our wrongdoing, we can and ought to say with the apostle Paul, “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”7
Forget those things which are behind! Press onward and upward toward the goal and the prize! You can’t make the sands in the hourglass run backward, and even if you had the wealth of the whole world, you couldn’t retrace the path to yesterday—you couldn’t go back.
What a pity if we carry the burden of the past when the Lord paid such a price to lift that burden and set us free! “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe,” as the old hymn so beautifully expresses.
A young man once came up to me after I’d spoken to a large group about that. He was an ex-convict just out of prison, and he couldn’t believe that it was so easy, that God would cleanse his past if only he would confess his wrongdoings and ask Jesus to come into his heart and be his Savior. He kept talking about all his wrongs. It was hard for him to believe that God could forgive such an awful past, but that night he gave his heart to Jesus, and Jesus lifted that load. Jesus forgave that man and gave him freedom he’d never known. After that, the man never stopped talking about the mercy of God and how God had rid him of the torment of the past. He would often repeat the words of a hymn that he fell in love with: “My yesterdays so filled with guilt and shame, my yesterdays are gone, oh praise His name!”
I wonder if there is anything more wonderful than the miracle of forgiveness. Is there anything more glorious than the assurance of having your sins forgiven? Jesus died for all of us and His forgiveness is for all of us. All you have to do is accept it, confess your sin, and receive Him as your Savior. “He is faithful and just to forgive you your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.”8 All unrighteousness! He cannot fail His Word, and He has promised this. “Hath he not said it and will he not also do it?”9 That’s His unqualified, unbreakable promise to you.
May the Lord bless you and make you a blessing and use you in His service. May you have a wonderful new year, with a fresh revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ to your soul, and may God bless you every step of the way!
From a transcript of a Meditation Moments broadcast, adapted. Published on Anchor December 2019. Read by Irene Quiti Vera.
2 Romans 8:28.
3 Susan Coolidge, “New Every Morning,” Verses (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1889).
4 Isaiah 43:25.
5 Romans 8:1.
6 Isaiah 1:18.
7 Philippians 3:13–14.
8 1 John 1:9.
9 Numbers 23:19.