“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.” – Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)
Press on. This phrase implies effort toward a goal. It calls us to focus and keep moving forward. The prerequisite from verse 13 is clear. We can’t keep looking back if we are going to press on.
Sometimes people get caught in a trap of analyzing their past mistakes over and over in hopes that they will learn from them. But there is a danger in this habit. I won’t deny that God causes us to go through a variety of experiences to train us in godliness, but I don’t think it’s His plan for us to dwell on the difficult ones for long periods of time. The danger is looking at our mistakes and falling into a pattern of regret. The more we focus on our past failures, the more regrets we have. We can’t change the past and we don’t get to do it over. We certainly can make better life choices in the future and we can learn from our mistakes. But if we were in a race, as Paul alludes to in this passage, we would surely lose if we spent all our time looking over our shoulder to see where we’d been.
This is not to say that we are never to think about things that happened before this moment. God tells the Israelites in 1 Chronicles 16:12 to remember His marvelous works. We are supposed to remember the wonderful things that God has done in our lives. We are supposed to tell the story of God’s faithfulness to us.
But we are not supposed to dwell on our failures or even our successes. It’s God’s marvelous works we are supposed to remember, not our own. We have to ask ourselves a question. “Is there any good thing in my life that God shouldn’t get the credit for?”
If we could follow Paul’s example and quit looking behind us—if we could focus on the goal of giving our all for the Lord—how great an impact we could have on those around us.
No more regrets. No more looking over our shoulders. We run toward the goal, free as the wind, with nothing to hold us back! What a race and … what a prize!