Written by Ken Barnes copyright© 2014
You can visit Ken on his blog at: Ken’s Blog: The Power of the Towel
“Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.“ “Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:18-19 NASB).
God is always on the move. He is continually creating new things. The key to the success of Moses was his willingness to move as the cloud did. Our tendency to cling to the past, be it good or bad, can hinder God from creating fresh spiritual realities in our midst.
The Things Of The Past
Often we allow our past to define our future. As Israel, we have experienced failure and corresponding hardship. God’s people had failed miserably and were in bondage in Babylon when Isaiah penned the above-mentioned passage. Despondency can deaden our spiritual stamina and cloud our vision of what God wants to do in our lives. We should always learn from the past but never let prior experiences limit what God wants to do now. God does not see us just as we are presently, but how we can be.
But there may be a different slant that we can take with the prophet’s message. Reverend Benjamin Reaves, an African-American preacher, once said that Israel was “a prisoner of a positive past.” Although I do not think that this is the most correct interpretation of the passage, I believe he made a valid point. We may have once seen God move in our lives and but are not now seeing the same type of things happening. We may be from a denomination, a church movement, or spiritual renewal that has seen it’s glory days. We have tried the best we know how to replicate the movement of God, but something is missing. We can start to live on the afterglow of previous miracles and blessings and subsist on spiritual nostalgia. We are like the athlete who has lost his reflexes and his legs and sits around talking about how it used to be. Rev. Reaves said that many in the Body of Christ have become “pesoptimists.” He defines this, as “a person who believes that things are going to work out, but when they do it will be too late.” We are still trying to do the best we can because we don’t want to deny our calling and ministry, but we are just going through the motions. In our heart we know that we don’t really believe anymore that it is going to happen.
Forgetting What Lies Behind
What should you do if you look in the mirror in the morning and find that in a large or small way I have described you? Maybe you should take the advice of one who had a positive and negative past, the Apostle Paul. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. There seems to be a pattern in the Bible. Before we can receive something from God, we have to give up something. It may be the disappointments and hurts of past failures, or pleasant memories of previous successes. Both, if they prevent us from hearing a new Word from God, can be counterproductive.
Furthermore, the things that God wants us to relinquish most often turn out to be our sacred cows. Methods, and ways of doing ministry that were viable in their season, but now can be hindrances to what God wants to do. Almost every new revival has been resisted by the previous one. If we are not willing to loosen our grip on these things they become our temple shrines. The famous UCLA basketball coach John Wooten once said, “failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” It really comes down to attitude. Do we believe that “The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings” (Psalms 145: 17 NRSV)? Rev. Reaves has told a story about a son and his Dad that might instruct us in relation to our spiritual outlook.
He was just a little fellow. His mother died when he was just a child. His father, in trying to be both mommy and daddy, had planned a picnic. The little boy had never been on a picnic, so they made their plans, fixed the lunch, and packed the car. Then it was time to go to bed, for the picnic was the next day. The son just couldn’t sleep. He tossed and he turned, but the excitement got to him. Finally, he got out of bed, ran into the room where his father had already fallen asleep, and shook him. His father woke up and saw his son. He said to him, “What are you doing up? What’s the matter?” The boy said, “I can’t sleep.” The father asked, “Why?” In answering, the boy said, “Daddy, I’m excited about tomorrow.” His father replied, “Well, Son, I’m sure you are, and it’s going to be a great day, but it won’t be great if we don’t get some sleep. So why don’t you just run down the hall, get back in bed, and get a good night’s rest.” So the boy trudged off down the hall to his room and got in bed. Before long sleep came, to the father that is. It wasn’t long thereafter that the boy was back. He was pushing and shoving his father, and his father opened his eyes. Harsh words almost blurted out until he saw the expression on the boy’s face. The father asked, “What’s the matter now?” His son said, “Daddy, I just want to thank you for tomorrow.”
Are we thanking our heavenly Father for tomorrow? God is always a few steps ahead
of us, even in the desert, working one-upmanship. Providentially, creating the best for His kids in reaching a dying world. And you can take that one to the bank.
Listen to a short but powerful musical piece sung by my friend, Terry DeSeta of Richmond, VA.
Behold, I Will Do Something New
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