“Forgetting those things which are behind . . .” (Philippians 3:13).
A FAMOUS MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER USED TO SAY THAT WE SHOULD LIVE IN “DAY-TIGHT COMPARTMENTS.” He wasn’t speaking in a religious context, but I believe what he said is true for religious people. Having learned from the past, we need to forget it . . . and seize the fresh opportunity that each new day brings to us.
One of my personal daily disciplines is to review each day at the end of the day. I don’t always have a lot of time to do it, but I try to review each day at least briefly before going to bed. I try to learn as much as I can from the day, even from the mistakes that were made. But once that review is done, I commit that day to the Lord and go to bed looking forward to the next morning. When I arise, my morning routine has nothing to do with the day before — it has everything to do with the new day that has arrived.
I’ve never “put my hand” to any kind of literal plow, but even a boy raised in town can see that it would be hard to plow a straight furrow if one kept looking backward (at least in the days before GPS-guided tractors). And Jesus did say something about that, didn’t He? “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
The past can be a valuable resource, certainly. We should be encouraged by it, and also humbled by it. Above all, we should be instructed by the past. But the past is gone. So whatever we were, what we are now matters more. We need to think about our past as Paul thought about his. What he had been was regrettable. “But by the grace of God,” he said, “I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
Many people nowadays keep a daily journal. Imagine a person writing in so much detail each day that he or she needed to begin a new journal book each morning. In a sense, that’s what we are called upon to do at the start of each new day. But as we expectantly open that fresh, never-before-used book and start writing, we need to have decisively closed the previous day’s book.
“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).