By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: Philippians 3:12-14
Sunday 8th September 2013
We began a conversation last week, which has during this week developed into a series, titled ‘The Journey Ahead’. From the scriptures we read last week, the word ‘arise’ occurred repeatedly. ‘Arise’ means to ‘get up’, ‘stand up’, ‘stir up’ and ‘be lifted up’. Unless a person arises, there can be no going forward. It is worth noting, that there is a prophetic future for your life, and for our church. However, in order to access the future, we need to be positioned and prepared for it, which is often what God speaks about. There is a bright future ahead of you; there is no doubt about it.
We concluded the message last week with seven ways in which to draw strength for the journey ahead of you (i) know God intimately (ii) Understand God’s vision for your life (iii) Celebrate and appreciate God’s gifts in your life (iv) Unity (v) Intimacy with the Holy Spirit (vi) knowing the joy of the Lord (vii) Encourage yourself in the Lord.
From our foundation scripture in Philippians 3:13 which reads: ‘No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,’ I want to focus on the phrase ‘looking forward to what lies ahead’. God is calling each of us to be forward looking, and would rather that we focus our minds on the future than being engrossed in the memories of the past, or on what is going on around you. The degree to which you can attain the future is directly proportional to the degree to which you can see that future. This is why you need to ensure that you are not overwhelmed by your present circumstances, so much so that you cannot see ahead of you. Your future is bright, but you need to see it!
To look forward means to ‘anticipate, to expect, to hope, to focus on the future’. It means to look beyond and to look ahead. Regardless of the circumstances around you or the problems you are facing, God would like you to look beyond it all and focus on the future. Have you noticed that you cannot change the past, then why should you spend time working yourself up over it? It’s gone, so put it behind you. Forget the past, the pains and the disappointments. God has great promises for you; focus on those great dreams He has for you. Remember that, each of us will ultimately end up becoming what we focus on; that focus will soon become a reality. So it is important that you gaze your eyes in the direction of what you want to eventually become.
There are things that lies ahead that you must be looking forward to such as; becoming successful in what you’ve been called to do, starting a family or getting married, a successful career, investment or business, a fulfilling and successful ministry touching the multitudes across the nations and so much more.
Again let me reiterate what Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:13a – ‘Forgetting those things that lies behind you,...’, this is a prerequisite to looking ahead. The two words ‘those things’ is represented in Greek as ‘ta’ meaning ‘this’, ‘that’. In other words, the apostle admonishes us to forget this and forget that. 'Ta’ could also mean ‘his’ ‘her’ – Some people should not travel with you into the future, if they are not going in your direction. Otherwise you may end up where you did not plan to go.
So forget those mistakes, regrets, failures, challenges and disappointments, irritations and frustrations, sicknesses, debt, sins and faults that are behind you.
In Genesis 13:14, we read of the story of Abram, after Lot separated from him. God spoke to him saying; “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward"; conversely, God wants each of us to lift up our eyes from whatever we may have been looking at here thitherto, and look at the possibilities that lies further ahead. Verse 15 gives us a reason why we need to do this: ‘for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.’ In other words, what you see is what you get. If you do not like what you are receiving, then change what you are looking at.
Remember this: the blessings of the Lord are set and ready for you, but your disposition determines the resources that are released to you. Your vision determines your provision. So change the image of the future that you have and begin to see things the way God wants you to see.
In Genesis 30:37-39 we read the story of Jacob and as he reared the livestock of Laban. He placed almond and chestnut trees, peeled to expose the white strips, before the livestock as they came to the watering troughs to drink water. Soon enough, the flocks conceived and produced their young that were streaked, speckled and spotted – a replica of what they focused on as they drank from the trough.
So can I ask you ‘What do you see about your life?’. Each one of us will conceive, and it is whatever you focus your attention on that you will produce. What picture of the future comes to your mind? Little wonder that God instructed Joshua to meditate on the word, day and night (Joshua 1:8). The result of such meditating and confessing of the word is a mind that is captivated and enraptured in God’s word – creating godly pictures of a bright future. Your thoughts soon generate the corresponding action. If for instance, you start meditating on God’s promises that you will become rich, soon enough, your mind and actions will begin to move in the direction of producing wealth.
Even though we are God’s creatures designed to look forward, it is easier to focus on the past. The past reminds us of what we are familiar with. As good as the past may be, it is worth remembering that this is not all that God desires for you. The story of Lot and his wife that turned into a pillar of salt should warn us of the danger of looking behind (Genesis 19:26). And so though we’ve been designed to look forward, it takes discipline to remain a forward-looking person.
In Ecclesiastes 7:10 reads, ‘Don’t long for “the good old days.” This is not wise.’ Refrain from thinking of the good old days as the best days of your life. This could abort your future. The past may be great, but the future is greater.
Here are two pit-falls you must avoid as you look forward:
(i) Don’t evaluate the future based on your current situation: Many people only see the continuation of their current situation when they look at the future – Don’t. God’s mercies are new every morning. Desist from drawing such a self-defeating conclusion. The devil has no power to keep you where you are. Isaiah 43:18-19 reads “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert."
I declare that from this day forward, good things begin to manifest in your life! Your days of struggles and limitations are over.
(ii) Don’t evaluate your future based on the fear of the unknown: Always recognise that God is with you. The ten spies who visited the Promised Land returned to give a warped report because of the fear of the future, and concluded that they were like grasshoppers in the eyes of the giants of the land.
You must look forward with hope. Jeremiah 31:17a reads:"There is hope in your future, says the LORD". Look into your future with the eyes of faith and be excited about what God has in store. Remember how Caleb and Joshua responded to the lies of the spies; ‘Let’s go up at once and take possession; for we are well able to overcome.’ (Numbers 13:30). Be assured of the future, and begin to make plans for the days ahead. If God has promised you a child or a spouse, begin to prepare your heart and your environment for that blessing.
Here is a thought to ponder on: ‘The way you live your life presently is an indication of the understanding of your future.’ You must be deliberate and intentional about how you live your life. Isaiah 50:7 puts it this way: “For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore I will not be disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed." Do not entertain distractions.
Here are three right views of the future:
(a) Look towards God: We all need God, because He is the only one guaranteed not to fail and His grace is sufficient for us. Isaiah 41:10 says – ‘Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ It is vital that you lead a life of devotion to God, serving faithfully as all we do, ultimately count towards someone’s eternity.
(b) Look forward to new opportunities: There are great opportunities ahead of you – It is not over. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says ‘But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”.’ I am looking forward to new opportunities in this house – packing out the two services and beginning the third service; moving into a campus and establishing churches around the globe; influencing governance both locally and nationally. I am looking forward to members of this church taking a stake in the seven pillars of culture – government and politics, economy, education, religion, family and medical sciences, entertainment, arts, sports and entertainment.
(c) Look forward to a life of purpose: You were created on purpose for a purpose. Jeremiah 29:11 reads: 'For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope'. There is an expected end that God has in mind for you, so live a purpose driven life.
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