A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of returning to a country where I spent two years of my life. I left in 2003, and this was my first time back. As you can imagine, my heart and mind were filled with countless memories of the people I had met, places I had visited, girls (now women) I had discipled, and a life I had lived.
Every other ministry after this one I invested in and every city I have lived in after, I compared to this time in my life. Sadly, for over fifteen years, I was stuck in a place from the past.
It was a good place: A place where I grew in my faith. A place where I learned how to really read the Bible and realized I could understand it. A place I learned how to do ministry. And, a place where I saw God do amazing things.
But, there was one problem – I had relegated God to the past. I was stuck in this cycle of remembering or idolizing the past. I’m sure I am not alone.
So, how do we move forward? Thankfully, God gives us answers in His Word:
In Philippians 3, Paul writes:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Phil. 3:12-16)
God doesn’t want you to live in the past.
Living in the past can take many forms. Some of us live with the mistakes of our past and cannot seem to move beyond them. If this is you, friend, realize that the Father desires for you to live in His freedom! There are countless promises in His Word that remind us of His forgiveness, redemption, grace, and new life in Him (Rom. 8:1-4, 2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 5:1). Grab your Bible and begin putting these verses to memory. Do not allow the enemy to steal your present or your future by causing you to feel shame and rejection. Jesus died for your forgiveness and freedom, and the Father longs for you to accept and live in that reality.
But then, some of us live idolizing our past instead of seeing the blessing of the present. While I was in Taiwan, my husband and I got to spend a day in the city where I lived. I was excited to share with Chris a place I loved so dearly. But, there was one thing I overlooked: I had not accounted for the difference 15 years can make in a city. I almost didn’t recognize the mile radius that I called “home” for so many years. There were new streets, new buildings, new shops, and new people. It was as if I was seeing this place for the first time. Yet, in that moment, God spoke something so clear over my heart that brought freedom I didn’t realize I needed. He said, “Amanda, I’ve brought you back in order to move you forward.”
Ladies, God does not want us to stay tethered to our past, good or bad. He wants to move us forward. God has a present ministry and purpose for each of us. The past is there as a reminder of His faithfulness when difficult seasons come. However, the past was never meant for us to settle into and stop living in the present.
God want you to live in the present while looking to the future.
Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian believers towards the end of his life. He is still one of the greatest missionaries to ever walk on earth, and he experienced some incredible ministry moments.
But, that was not his focus.
The fact that he was in prison writing a letter back to this church shows that he thought about them. But, he didn’t make them or the success of his ministry with them his idol. Paul would die soon, but he still looked towards the future. His prize and his goal was Christ.
My husband is a college pastor, so our home is always filled with young people. One of the traps I see is the temptation for them to wait to begin serving or leading out in a ministry. Their excuse sounds a lot like: “I’m just too busy to do _______.” “I can’t wait until I am married because then I will be able to do _____ for the Lord.”
Ladies, the only time we are promised is now. The past, with all its blessings and mistakes, is behind us. The future, though bright with possibilities and inevitable challenges, is not yet. Now, the present, is all we are promised.
So, what are you going to do with it? How are you going to live? What is it, right now, the Father has put before you to do? Are you being faithful with your current calling? What’s before you might not feel all that important, but God is still asking you to be faithful to it.
As a minister’s wife and a mom to three small kiddos my days are filled with seemingly mundane tasks. I want to help my husband be the best minister he can be to the glory of God and to train my children to follow after God’s commands. On a moment by moment basis, it doesn’t feel like what I’m doing is all that important. Organizing schedules, preparing breakfast, lunch, and supper, having people into our home, or teaching my son how to use the potty is not very glamorous.
But, it is extremely important in the eyes of God. Who else is going to fix my family’s meals? Who else is going to teach my children who God is and who He has created them to be? And, who (besides us) is going to teach my son how to use the potty like a big boy? My present ministry is preparing me and my children for our future blessing. A future that I do not yet know and cannot yet see.
Do you find yourself living in the past or waiting on the future? If so, my prayer is you would let God teach you how to live in the present. I’m learning right along with you!