This year one of my Christmas presents was a book written by Dr. David Jeremiah entitled “Forward” with the subtitle “Discovering God’s Presence and Purpose in Your Tomorrow.”
The first thing I do when I receive a new book is look at the table of contents. Then I read the author’s introduction. When I did that, I thought of two things:
First, was the apostle Paul’s words in 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.”
Secondly, I thought “Reaching Forward” is going to be my preaching and writing theme for the year.
So, we begin 2021 with the word of the week and the word of the year–“Forward.” In fact, I want to write on that topic all week.
“Reaching forward” is one Greek word, epekteinómenos.” William Barclay writes that it “is a very vivid word and is used of a racer going hard for the tape. It describes him with eyes for nothing but the goal. It describes the man who is going flat out for the finish.”
The ESV translates the word, “straining forward.” This is a graphic picture that we’ve all witnessed when watching the Olympics. The gun sounds for the 100 meter event and the runners shoot out of their starting blocks. I remember seeing Usain Bolt set the record in 2012 at 9.63 seconds. He and every other runner sprinted down the track with their arms pumping the air. The muscles in their legs pulsating with every stride. Their eyes on the finish line. And their bodies angled forward as they hit the tape.
This animated and energetic metaphor describes the Christian life. It’s not a stroll in the park. Or a leisurely walk. Or a spectator event. It’s a race that requires our every effort. Our daily focus. And our totally committed aim and aspiration for the heavenly goal that lies ahead.
The past year’s events, COVID-19, racial unrest, and political partisanship, has captured our attention. With lockdowns, social distancing, self-quarantining and the interruption of our worship services, it’s easy to lose sight of our purpose. In too many cases fear has replaced faith. Doubt has clouded hope. Opinions have obscured Truth. Timidity sapped courage. And spiritual unity has been fractured by divisive attitudes and actions.
It’s time to reach forward in spite of the challenges, circumstances, or conditions around us. It’s important to remember that Paul word’s were not written in the early days of his ministry. But toward the end of his life. And from a Roman prison. However, he was neither reminiscing about the “good old days” of his missionary accomplishments, nor was he bitterly complaining about his lot in life. No! He was “reaching forward.”
“Reaching forward” means leaving behind past problems, physical hindrances, and personal defeats as well as spiritual victories. Like Paul our eyes must be on the future. Our focus spiritual. And our goal heavenward.
Regardless of where we are in the Christian race, we cannot waste time, effort and energy looking back in regret. Or basking in the pleasant memories of bygone days. And while there is some benefit in remembering God’s grace, past blessings and looking back to the cross, these must not hinder us from moving forward.
In the introduction to his book, David Jeremiah compared our spiritual lives to your car’s mirror and windshield. “Your car’s rearview mirror is a fraction of the size of the windshield, and there’s a reason for that. Safe drivers glance in the mirror but focus on the road ahead. But how would you like to be the kind of driver preoccupied with the mirror? Too many people travel through life that way. They regret yesterday’s failure, rehash yesterday’s blessings, coast through life on a quarter-tank of fuel and hope for a scenic overlook ahead. Too often that leaves them stalled by the side of the road.”
Let’s wash off the dirt and grime of 2020, and get a clear view of the road ahead. Wash away fear, doubt, and worry. Expunge complacency , indecision, and suspicion. Brush off anxiety, pessimism, and despair. And be washed in the spiritual water of faith, hope and love.
Let the Word lead you forward. Follow Jesus forward. Set your sights forward. Together as soldiders of Christ, let us march forward.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman