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DO NOT LIVE IN THE PAST

 

There are a lot of folks, particularly those of us who are older, who look back over the course of our lives to the way things were when we were a good deal younger, maybe three or four decades ago, or even farther if we are old enough, and we have a tendency to say at least sometimes, “Life sure was better back in those days!”

 

We think over the good times and are filled with feelings of nostalgia. Sometimes we wish the past could spring back to life, for the pleasant sunshine of our yesterdays to dispel the gloom of today. When I drive through the neighborhoods I walked through as a teenager and as a young adult I see the old familiar landmarks—the houses, the hills, the trees—and they are all at once both familiar and alien to me. The land is the same and yet it isn’t. People have moved on, gotten older, or died. The whole atmosphere of the times we live in is different than it was back then. Like tombstones in a cemetery, the landmarks point to what was and no longer is. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, contemplated some of this same stuff and this is the conclusion that God led him to:

 

Ecclesiastes 7:10:  Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?” For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.

 

As a person who reminisces about things, that verse was a little hard to take when I first read it, but even then I already understood that it is a part of God’s Word and therefore must be heeded no matter how I or anyone else feels about it. What is this verse saying? Is it wrong to reminisce? No, not in and of itself. Is nostalgia wrong? Same answer. Well, then, what is the problem? There are several problems with this, actually.

 

For one, we know “the good old days” were not always good. When I think of my life and read back over my testimony and recall the bad things that happened, I am sometimes surprised that I get nostalgic, although honestly things were not all bad, either. Back to the point—life was not always good and sweet and pleasant for us in the past. In addition, there are actually a lot of good things about life today, especially the technology we get to enjoy as opposed to how it was back in the days when you pushed buttons or turned a dial on a phone and computers were mostly found in science labs and businesses.

 

If we go back further in time, people had to get water from wells, creeks, and streams. They had to hand-wash—or even make—their clothes. Instead of putting gas in your car like today, back then you had to feed and water your horse or mule. We also have cures for diseases that would have been fatal in the past. There are a multitude of other examples which could be shown, but by now the idea should be clear: We are not to live in the past.

 

People get caught up in their pasts for a number of reasons. When it is all boiled down it seems like a major root cause of this behavior is that something or someone is missing from today. Some beloved person such as a spouse or a parent may now be deceased. A great relationship may have ended. An excellent job could have disappeared, and so on. While this way of thinking may be understandable, it is not wise to get caught up in it. Unlike in sci-fi shows, we cannot travel back in time. We cannot drag the past forward into the present. All we ever have to live in is today. As the saying goes, yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not promised to us. Besides, we get into living a lie when we become overly nostalgic because, again, the truth is the old days were not always good to us.

 

We are ignorant of the times we did not live in. For example, I can read a history book and get a feel for what life was like in the year 1000. With my imagination I can even picture myself living back then. However, I will never be able to truly understand what it was like to live in the year 1000 because I did not live in those days, and also all I can ever know about it is what people have written about those times. Besides all this, if we are stuck in the past we can neither appreciate, adjust to, or benefit from life in the present time.

 

In contrast to living in the past, look at the apostle Paul and what he had to say about living his life:

 

Philippians 3:13-14:  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Paul’s focus was on his life in Christ. He did not spend his time dwelling on his past mistakes, nor did he waste it in glorying over past victories. Paul did not sit around wishing for “the good old days” to return. As a human being, he almost certainly did think back over things sometimes, including some fond memories, and again, in and of itself that is not wrong; it’s normal. What separated Paul from those who dwell on the past was his perspective. As believers we would do well to follow his example. We are in Christ, blessed with eternal life. We also each have a calling from God. Therefore we should be living for Jesus, growing in our relationship with Him, being guided by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, finding out and then fulfilling His calling on our lives.

 

Why would I want to live in my angry, abusive, drunken, lustful, criminal past? That is not who I am anymore; I am saved now. But also, why would I even want to live in my younger Christian days when I was immature in the faith, less knowledgeable in the Word, and more of a denominational believer? I am glad that it is not physically possible to do any of these things, but the mental aspects of it are very possible, and to try reliving even the best of my past in the present is foolish.

 

None of us has very long in this world. Even for those who live to be 100 or older, that century plus is less than a drop in the bottomless bucket of eternity. This world is only the beginning for us. Eternity is our true state, our destination dependent on whether or not we are born again. We should be looking forward, not back. God has great things in store for us as believers. Our lives may not always be great as the world defines it. As Christians we could suffer persecution and various other losses.

 

But again, the world is not all there is. What lies in eternity for us is great beyond all natural imagining. For those who are lost, good memories and worldly success are as good as it will be for them if they die without knowing Christ. We must pray for their salvation and try to reach them. As Christians, let us do like Paul did: Reach forward and press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Psalm 90:10:  The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:10-11a:  I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time.

 

1 Corinthians 2:9-10a:  But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.

 

2 Corinthians 4:16-18:  Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

 

Mark 10:28-31:  Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

 

1 John 5:12:  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

 

Matthew 28:18-20:  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

 

Philippians 3:20-21:  For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly await for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

 

 

 

 

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