Do you feel worried and anxious about today? Maybe you are worried because of the future that you fear? Maybe you are worried because of something in the past that haunts your mind? You know you cannot live in the past or the future? You can only live now in the present. So how do we stay here in the present? God has a few good things to say about our plight.
The past is gone and nothing can bring it back. You can’t play it over even if you are playing it over in your mind. Instant replay seldom is useful, except perhaps in football, so you can figure out how to play next time. Did you miss a tackle or get blocked out of something? Perhaps you fumbled and the team lost the game. It is painful and embarrassing. What do we do with the past? Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Move on! But you say that is easy for you to say. No not really easy for any of us. The solution of “forgetting” and pressing on is good, but Paul leaves out what usually goes with forgetting and that is forgiving. We must forgive the past, people, circumstances, tragedies or triumphs. They can’t be changed unless we forgive the people involved, including ourselves. Jesus said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 7:14-15). It is God who “Forgives all of our sins; who heals all of our diseases” (Psalm 103:2). Yes, “As far as the east is from the west has He removed our transgressions from us” He has compassion for us and remembers our sins no more. If we don’t forgive we will never forget. The past will haunt us until we confess and forgive. Until we do this we are imprisoned in it, chains of regret wrapped around us. That is a personification of our un-forgiveness that should give us pause. Do it, and do it now. If someone has abused you, perhaps you need to forgive from afar or take a safe person with you for protection. But do it. Failing means that perhaps you have not received God’s gift of salvation as yet.
So what about the future? It is in God’s hands and we cannot get there from hear except by living or being mindful of the present. My Bible titles a passage in James 4, Boasting About Tomorrow saying. “Now listen, you who say, ‘“Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16). Live for now and tomorrow will take care of itself. Jesus taught on this in His Sermon on The Mount. “’Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?...But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own”’ (Matthew 6:25; 27; 33-34).
The solution for regretting the past and fearing the future is “seeking first the kingdom of God.” Mary got that right as she sat at Jesus’s feet and heard the words of God instead of worrying about everything as her sister Martha did. Two friends at the YMCA this morning said, “don’t miss it” and “live in it.” God is the Alpha and Omega, but He is the more so present now in our lives if we will seek Him. We can “Enjoy Peace In His Presence.” That is the subtitle for the best selling devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young that has sold several million copies. However, remember that the Bible, the historically bestselling book, has sold more than 7 billion copies.
Psalm 16:11 says, “In His presence is fullness of joy, at His right hand pleasures forevermore.” That takes Young’s writing to another level. Chuck Swindoll, through whose voice I submitted my life to the Lord some 28 years ago, writes in his book, Intimacy with The Almighty, that the key to living in the presence is finding “simplicity, silence, solitude and surrender” in His presence. We are so busy in this hectic and morally bankrupt society that we don’t pause or as Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Now is the time to seek Him. We need to “pray continuously” as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. James says, “Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). It is the Holy Spirit who lives within you if you trust in Christ as Lord who will draw you near for He is near to all those who call upon His name. This is a discipline that requires self-control in this crazy world. Oh, yes the world as created is beautiful, but people have made it ugly. So seek purity and perfection in His presence now while it is still day as Jesus said in John 9:4. Do what He tells you to do. God’s will is provided through prayer, His word the Bible, other godly people and circumstances.
“This is The Day The Lord Has Made, Let us rejoice and Be Glad it” (Psalm 118:24).