I’m not a big sports fan, but you know that. I have a favorite hockey team, and I picked the Habs because that has the potential to annoy the most people. But I really don’t watch sports. If we have a Super Bowl Party, I will watch some of the game. When the Habs make it to the playoffs, I will watch them play.
In Australia I faithfully watched a yearly rugby league match called the State of Origin. And I watch the Olympics, when the Canadians are in competition, mostly.
And while I don’t always watch the competitions there were two stories that caught my attention. One of course was Bolt winning Gold in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 400 metre relay, for the third time. And the big one of course was Michael Phelps bringing his lifetime total to 28 medals, 23 of those gold.
They have not only been winners; they have been consistent winners. They have proved themselves over and over.
We’ve just finished with the 2016 Olympics and this 3:16 seemed a natural because it contains an analogy of sports competition.
Through the past 10 weeks we’ve been looking at various Chapter 3s verse 16 in both the New and Old Testament. Not because there is anything mystical about the combination but simple because it seemed kind of cool. And you’ve heard me, Stefan and Deborah look into a variety of books and topics.
This week we’ve landed in Philippians 3:16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. And you know the cardinal rule of biblical interpretation right? Yep; after the but comes the truth.
So like all the other verses that we’ve looked at Philippians 3:16 can’t stand by itself.
So, let’s go back a little bit and we land in the Scripture that was read this morning Philippians 3:12-15 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you.
And so Paul compares the Christian experience to a race, and with that comes two thoughts for having a successful race.
He says if we are going to reach the end of the race and claim the prize that we will need to do two things. We will need to forget what is behind and we will need to look forward to what lies ahead.
And then he reiterates the point in vs 16 by telling us to “Hold on to the progress we’ve made.”
Two distinct commands, made in opposite directions and yet affirming one another.
Throughout the Bible we are treated to a Hebraic Literary device called parallelism and that simply means that something is stated twice in different ways. For example, Psalm 23 says “The Lord is my shepherd” “I shall not want” and Psalms 78:1 says Psalm 78:1
“O my people, listen to my instructions.” “Open your ears to what I am saying”
and Ecclesiastes 3:1 “For everything there is a season,” “a time for every activity under heaven.”
I'm sure that King David would have been proud of Paul and his writing style.
So if we are going to achieve all that we have been called to achieve, if we are going to run the race that has been set before us and if we are going to hold on to the progress that we’ve made to this point then there are somethings that we are going to have to let go of.
Things that need to be disposed of. Not simply placed in a closet to be taken out and dusted off from time to time, fondled and examined, but gotten rid of completely.
So in the race we discover that what is behind is fine, but it is behind and unless our effort remains consistent it has little bearing on the result of the race. A runner doesn't place any stock in how many circuits he's done, only the number that are left. If you watched the 200 metre semi-finals last week in the Olympics in those last 20 metres Usain Bolt knew that the first 180 metres weren’t going to count for anything unless he stepped on it.
And as great as yesterday may have been and regardless of what you may have accomplished yesterday you need to understand the reality of the old cliché “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”
How do you want to spend today? Yesterday is gone, it cannot be altered, changed or relived.
If you continue to live for yesterday you won't only miss out on today, there's a pretty good chance that you'll miss out on tomorrow as well. What do we need to hold on to and what do we need to let go of?
1) In Order to Hold unto Forgiveness We Need to Let Go of Resentments Our lives stretch out in front of us like an unmarked page, maybe we'd better take the time to clean our pens before we leave our mark.
Resentments are dangerous toys for Christians to be playing with and there is no place for them within the grace that God has given us. My favourite American President of all time was Abraham Lincoln, and Emerson once said about Lincoln “His heart was as great as the world but there was no room in it for the memory of a wrong.”
If somebody did something to you yesterday or last year, forget it. If somebody said something about you as a kid, forget it. I love the comment that says “Speak well of your enemies, after all you made them.”
You say “Preacher I can forgive but I can't forget.” That may be your philosophy but it's not the philosophy of the Bible. Instead Jesus told us in Mark 11:25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
You see the measure with which you forgive is the measure that Christ uses when He forgives you. “But Denn you don't know what they did to me or said to me.” No I don't, and my heart breaks for all of the hurts out there, but it also breaks for the hurt that people do to themselves when they hold on to and nurture the hurts of the past. Why? Because that will destroy you quicker than anything.
We all know 1 Corinthians 13 as the love chapter of the bible and part of that chapter tells us 1 Corinthians 13:5 It (love) keeps no record of being wronged.
So when you constantly bring those old hurts up to your friend, family member or spouse, when you can’t let it go, you are really saying “I don’t love you enough to let this go.”
When you dwell on how hard done by you are it will eat you up and make you bitter. If someone can make you stoop so low as to hate them, they win.
As we step from today into tomorrow let's forget all of the petty hurts and injustices, and all of the big hurts and injustices from the past. It’s time to let go of those resentments.
If you can forget only one thing in today, forget the grievances that you have against others whether they be friend or foe and get on with your life.
2) In Order to Hold unto Trust, We Need to Let Go of Worry If you've been in our living room then you know that we have a rocking chair, and rocking chairs are like worry. They give you something to do, but they don't get you anywhere.
I am convinced that 2/3 or those who suffer mental illness are worrying about something over which they have no control.
What happens is that worry starts off as a thin stream of fear trickling through our minds. But then as it is encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained. All your good positive thoughts are diverted into the channel of worry.
Has that ever happened to you? You start worrying about something and pretty soon you discover that it has consumed all your other thoughts.
Let's put it into perspective. There are 773, 672 words in the Bible, don't ask me how I know, just trust me on it.
The word worry is used 36 times. compare that with trust that is used 137 times, faith used 255 times, believe used 185 times and love used 646 times.
And most of the times that the word worry is used we are either being told to not worry or being asked why we are worrying.
It's been said that “Worry has killed more people than work.” but maybe that's because more people worry then work. Listen up people, “Worry” is a sin. it's not just a danger, not just a nuisance, not just a pastime, not just a habit it is a sin!
There are Christians who can’t understand why people struggle with alcohol or tobacco or cussing and yet they say they can’t stop worrying.
The same Bible that says do not commit adultery and do not kill also says do not worry. Worry is a sin because worry is saying, “I don't believe that God can handle my problems.”
Too often we are like the old lady who said, “I always feel bad when I feel good, because I know that I'll feel bad after a while.” There are two types of things that we worry about, a) things we can do something about, and b) things we can't do anything about. So we ought to do something about the first group and forget the second group.
Corrie ten Boom survived the concentration camps of Nazi Germany and she reminds us “Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
Face it; Whatever is going to happen will happen, whether we worry or not.
3) In Order to Succeed, We Need to Let Go of our Failures Too many people today are paralysed by the fear of failure. Much like Mark Twain wrote, “The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won't sit upon a cold stove lid, either.”
Nobody likes to fail, but it is unfortunate that some people seek to escape failure by not trying, which in itself guarantees failure. Maybe we need to adopt the philosophy of George Bernard Shaw who said, “When I was a young man I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures, I didn't want to be a failure so I did ten times more work.”
We can't be afraid of failing because fear of failure becomes the fear of trying. With every attempt comes the possibility of failure.
Let’s go back to sports analogy. Every runner in the hundred metre sprint with the exception of one failed to win. But that doesn’t mean that they will never run again. Here is an aside, did anyone see the difference in Andre De Grasse’s reactions between when he won the bronze in the 100 metres and when he won the silver in the 200 metres? Recently there was a study done that showed that athletes were visibly happier with bronze then with silver, and it was almost palpable in Andre’s case. Think about it when you win bronze, you just made the podium, when you win silver you just lost the gold, you were the first loser.
Every achievement in human history had the potential to fail. When we were recruited to start what would become Cornerstone we were told that it would be really tough and the majority of new church projects actually failed. That was encouraging. As a matter of fact, since Cornerstone started our district has started 10 new churches, only 5 are still worshipping.
But if we had allowed the fear of failure to colour our decision there would be no Cornerstone today.
Everyone one of us has failed at some point in our lives, and if we are going to be all that God wants us to be then we will need to look beyond our past failures to future successes. Failure is not defeat, at least it shouldn’t be.
And the person who decides whether or not yesterday’s failures will colour what you are attempting to do today is you.
The only impact that yesterday's failures should have on today's endeavours is that they should have made us wiser. Let's forget our failures as we move into the future.
4) In Order to Reach for the Future, We Need to Let Go of the Past We’ve already talked about not letting our failures get in our way but we can’t let our successes get in our way either.
There is nothing wrong with having pride in the achievements which God has permitted us, if it's not a gloating pride and we recognize that it was God who was the author of our success. But our achievements have as little bearing on tomorrow as did yesterday's failures.
When I was selling on commission it didn't matter how good last week was you started on Monday with no sales.
No matter how high our attendance was last year, no matter how many people came to our services over the past twelve months, no matter how many people were touched and no matter how many people came to the Lord we can't stop trying.
It doesn’t matter how fast Andre De Grasse ran at the Olympics, if he wants to eventually win gold in the Olympics he has to keep pushing himself for tomorrow.
When the runner is a lap ahead of his opponents he doesn't stop to gloat, the race isn't over until the very end. Too many sports teams have gotten lazy in the last period, inning or quarter only to have an almost certain victory snatched out of their grasp by a hungrier team. No matter how good we think we are doing we are never good enough to stop trying.
Victories need to be used just as failures are, as simple lessons of life. If we learn not to do a particular thing because it results in failure, then we have to learn to follow our successes. The trick is just because something worked well yesterday doesn't necessarily mean that it will work just as well tomorrow. New ideas and concepts can quickly become dated and traditional if we aren't careful. We can't hold onto the old simply because it is old, nor can we embrace everything new that comes down the track just because it's new. The church is here to minister to society and as society changes so must the church. We don't change the message, but we may need to change the medium.
Techniques, programs and equipment that were suitable 50, 30, 20, 10 5 or even 1 year ago may not be suitable or effective today. We can't always base our operation or what worked in ancient history or for that matter what worked yesterday. We need to continue to learn and to use those things that we learned to further the Kingdom of God. We need to forget the failures and also the victories of yesterday and push onto new victories tomorrow. Let's never become one of those churches that is always talking about the good old days, and how good God was back then, and what a perfect world it used to be.
But simply forgetting isn't enough, Paul continues to say in Philippians 3:13-14 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
It's not enough to let go of the past if you're not ready to stretch ahead and grab hold of the future. You know what they say, “It doesn't matter if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.”
God has great things in store for you! If you want them. But unless you reach out and take them they'll never be yours.
Today you are at a different place than you were yesterday. And tomorrow you will be at a different place than you are today. Some things that will happen you have no control over, but you can control how you will face tomorrow.
Your future belongs to you, it's yours and it's there if you want it. No matter what your past may be your future is spotless.
I believe that this is going to be a great year for Cornerstone and I intend to do everything I can to make it just that.
I plan on straining ahead toward what is ahead. I believe that things will be done in, through and by Cornerstone Wesleyan Church that have never been done before, do you believe that?
Can you join me in believing that? Do you believe that Cornerstone Wesleyan Church has something to offer to our communities, to Hammonds Plains, Bedford, Sackville, Dartmouth and Halifax? Do you believe that we are preaching a Christ who is relevant for today and do you believe that we are offering the needed love and acceptance that the people of our communities are crying out for?
I believe that we do, and I believe that we can see souls saved and lives changed. Can you see it? Can you reach it? Can you believe it? but more than that I believe that our people, you, are going to get a deeper vision of the Lord and reach out to the people whom you love and care for.
We have to dream. We have to have a vision of the future. But more than that we need to be willing to reach out for that dream, willing to strive for it to yearn for it to strain toward what is ahead.
The picture that Paul is drawing is that of a runner, not content to simply run, but pushing himself to be victorious, reaching out with his fingers straining to push himself over the finish line before his competitors.
Paul was ever pushing, ever straining for the cause of Christ. He was never content to simply watch the race go by but instead had to be in the very fore front. Not content to finish last, or third or even second. Instead Paul sought to run the race as a winner, forgetting the laps that were behind him, his eyes seeing only the victory tape at the end of the course and pushing himself on to that victory.
God has brought you to where you are, you don’t have to start over but every day you have to start.