Overcoming Our Past

Everyone has a past. Everyone must learn to live with it.  But there is also another axiom: everyone has a future. We get a say in the direction of that future.

I am reminded of Paul when he was known as Saul of Tarsus. He was fervent in his pursuit of those who were of The Way. Personally, he never forgot what he did. There were also others who never let him forget. But he did not let either of those keep him from moving forward.  He might have had a past, but he lived for his future. He said, “I am an apostle by the will of God” (Eph. 1:1). He also said, “The grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love which are in Christ” (1 Tim. 1:14). Paul did not let his past define him, nor keep him from his future. Also, just think of how those people who were widows and orphans, because of Saul’s work, must have remembered him.  Yet they listened to Paul preach.

Also, Peter had a past. Yes, we remember how he denied the Lord. We remember how he played the part of the hypocrite. But we also remember him becoming the rock Jesus said he would be. We remember his sermon on Pentecost. We remember how he was ready to fight for the Lord.  He encourages us, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you” (1 Pet. 5:10).

Further, remember the ten brothers of Joseph. Remember how they wanted to kill him, but sold him instead. Remember how their envy caused them to despise him. They even lied to their father about Joseph’s death. They watched Jacob grow gray and bend closer to his grave each day, believing Joseph was killed by a wild animal.  If there was ever a man who had every right to get even, it was Joseph. Yet, when he finally reveals to his brothers who he really is, he said, “God sent me here to preserve life.” (Gen. 45:5). And God appoints those ten brothers head of ten of the twelve tribes. See, it is not who they were, but who they became that mattered to God, and Joseph.

I want us to see that people of faith, in the Old and New Testament, all had a past. But that past did not define who they became. God worked in their lives and produced men and women who had a great future. The greatest future is with Him. God offers us hope. He offers us peace. He gives us His love.

Here is the rub: can we offer those with a past the same thing? Do we have to keep our foot on their throat just to make sure they know how they hurt us? Must we keep reminding them of their failures? Maybe they did not straighten things out exactly like we might have wanted, but they have changed their life. Let’s give them grace like God did. Let’s encourage a future with God. Let’s lift them up with hope. Let’s help them attain peace.

Rickie Jenkins