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One of professional hockey’s biggest legends is Wayne Gretzky. This native Canadian’s career spanned over two decades. His approach to the game offers a peek into the reason for his immense success. His keen strategy? “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”
This renowned athlete knew a crucial strategy in his fast-paced sport. You must think forward. You can’t determine your course of action based on where the puck has been. You need to intentionally (and accurately!) anticipate where the puck is going next in order to triumph. Winning at hockey—and also at life—necessitates forward thinking.
As Christians, we must forget what is behind and press forward to what is ahead. We cannot idle our brains in the past, whether by exulting in the good times of glory days gone by or by wallowing in disappointment over what has transpired. We must choose to forget the past—and yes, it is a choice—and then keep our eyes fixed firmly on Christ and the future He has for us.
The Apostle Paul encourages us to do this in Philippians 3:13–14 when he declares,“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”
Paul’s advice to us? Forget about it! Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t fix your mind on yesterday—or even yesteryear. Don’t waste time reliving a past achievement. And don’t beat yourself up for a past mistake when you’ve already sought God’s forgiveness. Move ahead and pursue God’s heavenward call that is promised to you in Christ Jesus. The gospel changes our view of the past, and it changes us. We can determine to let God use our personal history for His purposes as we cooperate with Him and point others to Jesus.
God promises that in Christ, we can become something better than what we have been. Let’s focus more on the “promise” and less on the “have been.” Life is happening right in front of—not behind—you. Strap on your spiritual skates, disregard what’s in the rearview mirror, and glide into the future God has prepared for you.—Karen Ehman1
“Courage is not the absence of fear,” Ambrose Hollingworth Redmoon wrote, “but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” So how do we find the courage to do what we are otherwise afraid to do? We have to look beyond the fear. We have to keep our eyes on the goal, on the “something else.”
There was a TV show called Fear Factor, in which contestants competed in a series of tests of courage—or more precisely, tests of overcoming fear. To pass to the next phase of the elimination process, they needed to accomplish certain feats under terrifying, bizarre, or revolting conditions. Why would anyone willingly submit to such torment? For the prize that goes to the last man or woman left standing, the “something else”—$50,000 in this case.
And they are not the only ones. Mountain climbers risk life and limb under grueling conditions such as exposure to the elements, hunger, and exhaustion, all for the thrill of reaching the peak and seeing the world from a perspective that few others ever have or ever will. Athletes exercise incredible self-discipline and push themselves to the limit because they are focused on the trophy, the gold medal, or the prize money.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 11, the apostle Paul recounts how he toiled long and hard and went without sleep, how he suffered hunger, thirst, and nakedness, how he was flogged and beaten, stoned and left for dead, how he was shipwrecked and imprisoned, how he was in constant danger and often on the move. Where did he find the courage to endure such things? In Philippians 3:13–14 he tells us his secret. “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” That’s the secret! Press toward the mark. Keep your eyes on the prize.
This world is full of problems, sorrow, and pain, and both today’s news headlines and numerous prophecies in the Bible tell us that things are going to get worse before they get better. Where will we find the courage to face what’s ahead? We must look beyond this life and focus on the prize.
For most people, heaven seems very far away; it’s difficult to perceive as the Bible describes it—a world far more real and infinitely more enduring than the material world we now live in. But that heavenly vision is at the very core of faith. It’s where the believer finds courage. By faith, Moses “endured as seeing Him who is invisible,”2 and so can we. —Misty Kay
I was face down on a surfboard about half a mile off the beach at Waikiki. I had always wanted to try to ride the Hawaiian surf, but out here among these giant green swells I suddenly didn’t feel very adventuresome.
“This is far enough,” said the brown-skinned beach boy who had accompanied me on his own board. “Now turn and face the beach. When a wave lifts your board, paddle hard. Then stand up.”
Stand up? “Tell me,” I croaked, trying to keep the panic out of my voice, “what’s the main thing to remember?”
“The main thing?” he repeated with a smile. “Don’t look back!”
The next wave lifted the board. Ahead of me a great chasm seemed to open in the sea. The board tilted down and plunged deep into an emerald precipice that seemed almost vertical. I tried to stand up. Behind me, I knew, a million seething tons of saltwater were poised above my head. In that instant I forgot what the beach boy had said—I looked back. …
Well, I didn’t drown. Not quite, anyway. I stayed there, floating in the Pacific while my board went plunging away by itself, until finally I summoned the courage to try again.
I’ve always remembered what the beach boy said: Don’t look back. At past mistakes. At lost opportunities. At hurt feelings. At grievances, real or fancied. No, look forward. Face forward. Concentrate on what lies ahead. That’s the main thing to remember.
Lord, as I face the New Year, help me to reach out to the challenging future, not look back to the unchangeable past.—Arthur Gordon
You cannot be lost to My love. You can never be despised by Me. There’s never a fraction of a second that I am not caring for you. There is never a thought in My heart that is unloving toward you, My child whom I love and for whom I gave My life.
Never fear for the future, and do not agonize in remorse over the past. Look up into My loving face. Come unto Me, and you will find perfect strength, perfect love, perfect forgiveness, perfect comfort, from now until the day that you come Home for eternity.—Jesus
Published on Anchor January 2021. Read by John Laurence.
Music by Michael Dooley.