When we focus on what was, we lose sight of what is, and miss out on what could be. That is a statement that went through my mind in the not too distant past as I laid in bed at 11:30 at night with a giant bag of chips streaming in my mouth while streaming a time wasting show over Netflix. I was on the verge of giving up, struggling to care about anything, and resigned to believe that my greatest moments for God were in the past. That because of some lab work and doctors telling me that if I didn’t step away from my position as a pastor, that a major health event was on the horizon; that God was done with me. I had fallen into one of the greatest traps of the devil, a shift in focus.
My favorite disciple of Jesus is the Apostle Peter. The reason? He was impulsive, unpredictable, genuine, honest, and real-he made mistakes, like me-especially so when it came to focus; looking back more than ahead. Remember Peter proclaimed to Jesus, with passion and conviction, “I will never deny you”? Yet, when Jesus was brought before the religious leaders, starting His journey of suffering, Peter did that very thing, he denied Jesus, not once, but three times-and ringing in his ears was a rooster crowing (Matthew 26). Fast forward to after the resurrection of Jesus, we find Peter back in his boat-continuing his fishing gig, overwhelmed with guilt, shame, and regret-focused on what was. Then, as the early morning fog begain to lift off the water, Peter saw Jesus on the shore. This was a pivotal moment in the life of Peter; would Jesus condemn Peter based on his past mistakes, failures, and poor choices, or would Jesus pick Peter up, dust him off, and confirm that love ceases to look to yesterday? When Peter got to the shore, Jesus had breakfast prepared for him and started a three-fold question and answer session. Jesus asked Peter three times, “do you love me”, to which Peter responded, “Yes, Lord: you know that I love you”. Three times Jesus asked, and three times Peter answered (John 21). Why three times? Jesus was showing what the power of love can do; overcome any past no matter how sinful. And, before we move on, why not lunch or dinner, why breakfast? Remember the rooster crowing the third time Peter sinned against God? That sound, I am confident, haunted Peter from that moment forward, holding Peter prisoner to his past through a constant reminder of his mistakes. Everytime a rooster crowed, which was every morning, Peter was once again focused on his past. Jesus chose breakfast becasue He wanted Peter’s past to be forgotton and replaced with the power of love. Peter heard that rooster crow on that morning on the shore with Jesus while Jesus was embracing Peter with His forgiveness and love, allowing Peter once again to enjoy the day and look forward to tomrorow.
While I was walking with my wife on a trail the other day, I looked behind us-nothing was there worth spending time on. But, when I looked ahead I saw the woman that I still get excited to enjoy in the present and one that wants to be with me in the future. Even more so with God. That, and that alone, is what compelled me to put that bag of chips away, rise out of the ashes of my past, and jump out of bed the next morning, thanking God for His forgivness and a love that casts our very past into His ocean of forgetfullness. While my life may be forever different, because of my health, my life is still His and I am confident that as long as I have breath, He is not done with me. The plans of God are not limited to the to the paths of old, rather His plans are always forward-focused!
Friend, I don’t know what kind of past you have, or how much regret, guilt, and shame live there. I do know this, God does not want you to look back, rather He longs for you to enjoy His love now and celebrate all the things He has yet planned for you. Are you willing to have breakfast with Jesus today; asking Him to help you not lose sight of what is, so that you don’t miss out on what could be?
Scripture: “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” -Philippians 3:13 ESV
Prayer: Father, it is so easy to spend so much time in the past that I miss out on enjoying the present. Sometimes I feel so unworthy, so inadequate, so defeated, especially when I think on all the times I have let you down. Even those times in my past that, because of things out of my control, I feel that you may have moved onto someone that can love you more, or serve you better. Father, please help me move out of yesterday so that I can enjoy your life-changing love today. Father, I just want to curl up in your lap of love until I know everything will be ok. May the story of Peter remind me that it was Peter that was questioned about his love for you, not your love for him, because that never changes. Father, I want to focus on you and your plans for me to prosper; today and tomrorow. May I rise up with my head held high, my chest out, a spring in my step, celebraing how much you love me. Thank you for forgiving me, for loving me, and for not reminding me of all of my failures, but a future full of your power and presence. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray, amen.