Lesson Learned #6: Let go and grow.
I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG)
I’m a longtime tennis buff. I played tennis competitively from the time I was about ten into adulthood, and I coached tennis for several years. I can watch the pros play for hours. I simply love the sport! One time I heard a commentator say that an important quality of a good tennis player was amnesia. The player must be able to completely forget the last point—good or bad—and be fully present for what came next. One point at a time. As a tennis coach, I said this phrase to my players over and over. I never realized the phrase could be traced back to Paul’s words in Philippians!
One of the most challenging parts of this verse is “I’m not turning back”, or phrased another way, “forgetting what lies behind” (NIV). If we are to grow in our spiritual walk, we have to be able to let go of our past. As is the case with a tennis player, we can’t focus on our previous triumphs or disappointments. We can learn from them, but we must move on in order to grow. Looking back at failures and successes can potentially stifle our growth.
First, let’s address failures—areas in our lives where we have fallen short. It is hard to forget bad choices, poor decisions, and mistakes. However, not being able to forgive ourselves and accept God’s forgiveness can leave us feeling defeated. If we are not careful, our focus can be on what we have done wrong instead of God’s grace. In Colossians 2, Paul reminds us of how everything changes when we accept Jesus.
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. Colossians 2:13-15
In order to grow we must work to see ourselves as God sees us—forgiven. We can make better choices. We can make better decisions. We can ask forgiveness when we fail. As we hold onto the truth of God’s Word and leave those failures behind, we grow.
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2
Becoming transformed is a daily walk of obedience, faith, and trust. Sometimes it’s tough because others continue to see us the way we were in the past and try to hem us in to that old definition of ourselves. We have to be careful and remember what the Apostle Paul says, “Forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead.”
What about our past successes? It may be just as hard—or even harder—to let go of our past achievements. Paul knew the importance of keeping our eye on the goal—Jesus. If we are not careful, focusing on past successes can allow pride to get a foothold. We can begin thinking that we deserve more, should have more, or be more revered. We all need to be reminded periodically that pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness (arrogance) before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
Believers know that our successes are not solely the result of our actions anyway. Obedience is rewarded, but God is always at work paving the way for us. We are simply recipients of His grace. The glory is all His.
While I believe our past helps shape us into who we are, we can’t let the past prevent us from growing into who God wants us to be. We have to let go to grow! So what must we do in order to let go?
1. Change our focus. Our thought life is critical to moving forward. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us we can demolish every argument and pretension that is set up against the knowledge of God and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Memorize this verse. When issues arise, simply whisper, “God help me to see this situation as you do. Make my thoughts your thoughts, aligned with your Word.”
2. Manage self-talk. Being purposeful about our self-talk can keep us focused on Jesus and moving toward the goal He has for us. Select two or three verses to say every morning and throughout the day. Post them where you can see them. Put a reminder on your phone. For example, if you are struggling with a stronghold in your life, focus on Galatians 5:1. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. God’s Word is one tool to help us grow. Use it!
3. Praise and thank God. While I have been encouraging you to look forward to grow, I do think it is important at times to reflect on how God has changed and is changing us on a daily basis. A few years ago, my daughter Samantha, released an EP called Glory Days. Take a look at some of the lyrics from her song Glory Days.
Usually I hate to look on the past but then, on occasion, I like to know where I am at from where I have been.
I would be lying if I said those days didn’t matter anymore; that’s what forgiveness is for.
I can be set free from those days, but those days remind me of where I’ve come from—much worse and I’ve won.
I want to always remember to praise and thank God for what He has done in my life. I don’t want to take anything for granted. God is so good. He only wants what is best for us. Press on toward the goal of God’s call on your lives.
Let go and grow!