Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.
— Philippians 3:13
On this first day of the year, family and friends are gathered together around the world to celebrate the New Year holiday. Millions of people are thinking and even talking about changes they need to make in their lives as they get started in a brand-new year. Unfortunately, this is also a day when people experience deep regret for what they didn’t accomplish in the previous year, such as commitments they made to themselves that they didn’t keep, promises they made to others that they left unfulfilled, or goals they set that they didn’t attain. Some are disappointed in themselves for a lack of spiritual progress.
I have a suggestion for you: Rather than live in regret about what you didn’t do last year, make this a day to spend some quality time with the Lord and repent for not doing what you should have done. Then make the decision to stop wallowing in regret about something that’s in the past and that you can’t do anything about now. It’s time for you to shake off that negative focus of what you didn’t do right last year and to start thanking God that today offers a new opportunity to do better! Think about it — this new year presents you with a golden opportunity to make some serious changes in your life!
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That’s why I love to meditate on Philippians 3:13 every year on January 1. The apostle Paul gave us sound advice for leaving the past behind and focusing on the future before us! He said, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”
Today I want you to focus on the part of this verse that says, “…forgetting those things which are behind….” The word “forgetting” is taken from the Greek word epilanthano, which is a compound of the words epi and lanthano. When these two words are compounded into one word, as they are in this verse, it forms the Greek word epilanthano, which the King James Version translates as “forgetting” in Philippians 3:13. However, the first part of this Greek compound word is epi, which in this context denotes a turning, as in turning from one thing to focus on something else. The second part of this compound word is the word lanthano, which comes from a root that describes something that is finished, done with, or obsolete.
When these two words are joined together, they form the word epilanthano, which portrays the idea of something you should turn away from and forget. When used in a passive sense, it pictures something to be put aside, deliberately ignored, purposefully disregarded, and completely forgotten. It denotes something that may have really been true in the past, but is no longer applicable. If you were to paraphrase this word in today’s language, you could say: “Stop thinking about it! Put it out of your mind. Put it behind you, wipe it out, and erase it from your memory. Get it out of your system; quit paying attention to it; get your eyes off of it; be oblivious to it; and forget about it!”
But wait — what was Paul telling you and me to forget about? He said we must forget “those things which are behind.” Pay close attention to this, because what you are about to read is really powerful! The word “behind” is the Greek word opiso, which categorically describes something so obsolete that it should be permanently relegated to the back or to the past, abandoned, or left behind. This is something in your past that should be left in the past. It is behind you, and you are never to turn around to look at and focus on it again. In other words, the Greek word opiso means, “Leave it behind and never revisit it!”
It is very interesting that this word opiso is the same word used in Matthew 16:23 when Peter tried to interfere with the plan of God. After listening to Peter protest His impending death, Jesus spoke up with great authority and said, “…Get thee behind me, Satan….” Of course, Peter was not Satan, but the devil was speaking through Peter, as he has done with people so often throughout history — and still does today. But rather than listen to those words, Jesus spoke with firmness and rebuked the devil-inspired insinuations and ideas that were being spoken through Peter’s lips.
When Jesus said, “Get thee behind me,” the word “behind” is this same Greek word opiso that Paul used in Philippians 3:13 when he told us to forget the past. This means when you are hassled, harassed, or tormented about past failures, it may not be just your memories speaking to you — it could be Satan trying to harass you! This is especially true if you have already sought forgiveness and this mental onslaught continues. The devil could be trying to drag you back into regret over past things that are done with, over, and not changeable.
In such moments, you must do as Jesus did when He rebuked the devil. You must speak with bold authority in Jesus’ name! Speak to those thoughts like they are enemies sent from the devil to drag you down into depression and defeat. Don’t listen to them! If you do, the devil will hound you relentlessly with thoughts of failure — and little by little, you’ll find yourself becoming trapped in the memories of past disappointments. Don’t let that happen! It’s time for you to speak out loud and remind the devil that those failures and negative memories are in the past. They are under the blood of Jesus and therefore no longer applicable! Resist those thoughts of failure just like you would resist the devil. Command them to get behind you and to stay away forever in Jesus’ name!
Make the decision today that you’re finished with fixing your mind on things that are in the past — things that you have repented about, that have been erased by the blood of Jesus, and that you can’t do anything about now. You have the power right now to turn away from yesterday and start focusing on what is in front of you. Yesterday is a done deal! The clock cannot be turned back. Living in regret will only keep you from moving forward into the future.
- Maybe you made a commitment to lose weight last year, and now you’re upset because you failed to do it. If so, it’s time to stop moaning about the weight you didn’t lose last year and to become willing to do whatever you must do to lose weight this year.
- Maybe you promised yourself that you were going to start exercising regularly and get in better shape last year, but you didn’t do it. What does it profit you to sit around and condemn yourself about what you didn’t do? Shake off that condemnation! This is a new year and a new opportunity!
- Perhaps you didn’t exercise enough discipline to get your finances into better shape last year. If so, repent for being irresponsible and then stop fretting about last year’s failures! Today represents a new opportunity! This is a new year and a new opportunity to get victory in this area of your life.
- If all you’ve been thinking about are the promises you made to yourself that you’ve broken, it’s time for you to say goodbye to the failed commitments and personal disappointments in your past. Leave all those things behind you, and say hello to the fabulous future that lies before you!
Today is the first day of a new year — a brand-new start and a new opportunity for you to repent for past failures. This is your opportunity to say goodbye to the past and hello to the future. This is your golden moment to begin reaching forth to the wonderful possibilities that lie before you!
An interpretive translation of Philippians 3:13 could read:
“It’s time for you to turn loose of the past! You need to put it aside, deliberately ignoring and purposefully disregarding what happened yesterday. The past is old and obsolete, so why fixate on it any longer? Stop turning around to reflect on the past. You need to get it out of your system, put it behind you forever, and purposefully forget about it…”
If you’ve repented for past failures, it’s time for you to turn them loose and let them go! Since Jesus has forgiven you, you should quit looking backward. That’s right — you can put the past behind you and never revisit it again!
If you need to repent for past failures, then repent. But after you sincerely repent, it’s time for you to quit fixating on what you failed to do last year. Thank God for repentance and cleansing. Now it’s time for you to start thanking God that He has given you a new year filled with new opportunities to do better than you’ve done in the past 12 months! He has given you the gift of a new year, so reach forward to achieve those dreams and longings that you’ve put off again and again. Throw open your arms of faith, and embrace the rich future Jesus has waiting for you as you follow Him step by step in the days ahead!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I repent for not doing what I should have done last year, and I receive Your forgiveness. I thank You for this new year and for the new opportunity it presents for me to make serious changes in my life. You are the God who makes all things new. I yield to Your power at work in me as I deliberately choose to do Your will and to walk in Your ways with diligent obedience. Holy Spirit, I ask for and receive Your help to fulfill the will of God for my life. My past is not a prophecy of my future! Today I make the decision to put aside memories of past failures, and by faith I reach out to the future You have planned for me.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am not a failure and that my past is not a prophecy of my future! Even though I have not done as well as I should have in the past, God’s Spirit in me will enable me to do better from this point forward. I am willing to make whatever changes I must make. I will alter my lifestyle. I will fix things in my life that are messed up. I will do whatever is required to move forward into the fabulous future God has waiting for me! From this moment on, I will run this race with my eyes fixed on the goal before me. I am committed, determined, and willing to pay any price to obtain full and complete victory in my life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- As you begin this new year, have you taken time yet to make a list of the things you would like to accomplish in the next 12 months? If not, I recommend that you take some time to pray and seek the Lord regarding what He wants you to achieve in your life this year. Afterward, write down those goals, and keep the list in a place where you can read and regularly pray over it.
- If you failed to accomplish important tasks or goals due to a lack of commitment last year, have you taken time to repent before the Lord? It’s important for you to do this so you can “clean the slate” and start this new year with a right heart before God. Why not take the time today to get honest before the Lord and ask Him to forgive you for any past failures?
- Are there any changes you need to make — such as toxic relationships or environments you need to remove from your life — so you can fulfill what God has given you as goals for this new year? What are those changes?