History is remembering the past, looking back, considering what has happened. Remembering the past would be a delightful experience if it were not for sin. Too many times the bad is remembered or told when we ought to focus on the good. The memory of the good things in the past should be accented.
We should exercise that wonderful capacity with which the Lord has blessed us — forgetfulness. In this sense forgetfulness is a blessing, not a curse. November is my birth month, a time when I look back to see from where I have come. My life has really been an adventure — a wonderful experience, rich in blessed friendships, studded with joyous relationships, only darkened at times with disappointments or discouragement. Christ has been and is working in my life.
One of the most important things in my life has been my experiences and associations with people. I began my Christian adventure April 24, 1959, in coming to know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord in a meeting at First Baptist Church in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky. From that experience, I have spoken in over three hundred churches in many different states and several nations where doors have opened for me.
I’ve mostly been what is commonly defined as “bi-vocational” in my work with churches and educational institutions. My preaching work began in the summer of 1960 between my eighth grade and freshman year in high school. I began teaching through the influence of my history mentor, Professor Kerney Adams, who was the chair for the Eastern Kentucky University history department. He asked me to assist him in teaching his senior history course “The Ideological Foundations of Western Civilization.” I worked with him in this discussion course for three years, finishing my B.A. in history/sociology in 1968, and through his influence staying to complete my M.A. in history in 1969. All through my educational experience I have also been reading, studying, writing and growing spiritually as I have walked and worked with Christian friends. I am remembering many of these experiences and friendships as I look back during this birth month.
It is helpful to look back. We can see what was done right and do it again, or perhaps even better. We can look back and note what was wrong, and hopefully not repeat the same mistakes again. However, we must recognize that the past is dead. It can only live as we relieve it and remember it. If we resurrect it too often, it becomes our master and enslaves us.
Our goal should not be to out do anyone in the past (or present for that matter), but to live up to our own potential in the present. God has given us this moment to live. He has granted us talents and gifts and opportunities for this hour. He will judge us on what He has given us and what we do with it, and not on what others have and do.
You may outshine others in what you do, or don’t do, but that is not the measure. The measure by which God measures us is not against what others do, but against what we were capable of doing and did not do. We may outshine what others have done, yet not win our Lord’s “well done” because we did not live up to our potential. My commitment has been to do all I can in the time God has permitted me here on earth. I want to be the best I can, do the best I can with all that is within me for as long as I can. I have not always succeeded. I have failed many times. I believe you understand this thinking because I know you have failed in some way at some time in your past.
Knowing this I want to share a positive word with you — take heart, there is good news. Even though we fail, there is hope. It is possible to even succeed in your own eyes and fail. There is hope for the successful also. Here is the good news that we need to couple with our past. If we are to continue, to go from here to victory in our personal and professional lives, as we look back, remember that God has forgiven and freed us from our past. A new day is always dawning in Jesus Christ if you trust Him. We are no longer slaves to our past, present or future sins. Jesus is the Great Deliverer. The Red Sea of sin has been swept away, we can walk through on dry ground.
If God has forgiven us, we can forgive ourselves. So many folks live in fear and anxiety because of some past sin or failure. God never intended us to live that way as His children. Satan wishes to afflict us with a guilty conscience, an inferiority complex. He is the great accuser of the brethren who seeks to pull us down in discouragement and despair. Read the book of Job in the Old Testament.
It is true, as Paul said to the Ephesians, “In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins. But God’s mercy is so abundant, and His love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience He brought us to life with Christ” (Ephesians 2:1,4-5).
Charles Wesley wrote a marvelous hymn entitled “Blessed be the Name.” One service in a past church as we sang that hymn, the first words of the third stanza jumped off the page and gripped me. “He breaks the power of cancelled sin...” Cancelled sin! How could cancelled sin have any power over us? Only by our allowing it to do so.
Jesus Christ has broken sin’s power. I need no longer be enslaved by my past. Jesus has forgiven me and can even heal the memories of my sinful past. What is even more wonderful is that Jesus has freed us from our successes. Success can often chain us and prevent us from growing and going on in life. As we look back, we must remember the power of God in forgiving us and freeing us from our past failures or successes.