I read an interesting post entitled "Are You Hanging on to the Past with One Hand?" The author wrote, "Let go of the past with both hands. Are you hanging on to the past with one hand? If so, you are letting the past steal your present. Only when you let go of the past completely, can you get hold of the present completely. The interesting thing is that when you let go of the past, it no longer has a hold on you. The energy it takes to hold on the past is actually keeping you from your future. It’s takes work to keep reiterating the same old negative stuff. Letting go with both hands means that you don’t secretly ponder or wallow in memories of the past."
The Apostle Paul let go of his past with two hands. When he wrote, "But on thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead..." (Philippians 3:13-14) When you think of all that Paul had to let go of...his privileges, his accomplishments, his persecution of the church (Philippians 3:4-7) and his pain caused to Jesus (Acts 9:4) adds to the significance of these words, "Forgetting what is behind." One translation refers to this as 'given over to oblivion or 'to lose out of mind.' He let go of his past completely.
10. Coachable people let go of the past and push forward into the future.
Much of the work in the coaching process is helping leaders to completely let go of the weight of personal failures, bad ideas, immaturity and poor execution and helping them to experience the freedom to attack the future knowing God is for them and not against them.
Why do people hang on to the past?
- Lack of understanding the work of Christ. The gospel driven life in not performance based, it is based on the performance of Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7). Salvation is a gift, an unearned gift...a gift that nullifies the boasting of all people and thrusts us into the mercy of God. Thinking we can or have to add anything to the gospel keeps us in bondage to the past and cripples us from moving forward.
- Unwillingness to own one's failure and deal with its consequences. If we have a deep understanding of the richness and power of the gospel then owning our moral, spiritual and leadership failures will drive us to a quicker resolution to move forward while clinging to God's grace through the consequences. Jerry Bridges wrote, "God's grace, then, does not supplement our good works. Instead His grace overcomes our bad works."
- Underestimate spiritual warfare. There is a real enemy that wants to devour, discredit, derail, discourage, distract and disqualify Christian leaders (I Peter 5:8). Too many times we lack the discernment to see how the enemy is seeking to get a foothold in our lives and churches (Ephesians 4:27).
How does one let go and move forward?
- Embrace the centrality of the gospel. What does that mean? It means that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not only the means of our salvation but that it is the fuel of our Christian life (Titus 2:11-14) and the focus of our mission (Titus 3:4-7). Tim Keller says, "We need to learn how to play the gospel in our lives like a musician practices their instrument."
- Acknowledge your ownership in the failure. If we do not own up to our part of the failure God will not show up. Asking God to search us and show us our part in the problem is critical for moving beyond it with a clear conscience (Psalm 139:23-24).
- Here are a few questions to consider:
- Was it willful sin?
- Was it pride?
- Was it God's discipline?
- Was it youthful inexperience?
- Was it lack of wise counsel?
- Was it inadequate oversight or management?
- Was it poor execution by leadership?
- Was it just a bad idea?
- Here are a few questions to consider:
- Trust God to work through the circumstances and consequences. Seeing the hand of God in the good is easy but seeing it in the bad is another thing. That is where our faith is tested. That is where our of picture of God is really revealed. That is where our position in Christ is really challenged. Paul saw beyond the criticism to reinforce the mission (Acts 15:1-35). He saw beyond a personal conflict to the advancement of the mission (Acts 15:36-41). He saw one closed door as a new mission direction (Acts 16:6-10). He saw beyond the imprisonment to the establishment of a new church (Acts 16:11-40). Paul knew this precious truth -- that the only way we make sense of our personal failures, difficulties, defeats and even tragedies is by running to God and not from Him (Romans 8:28).
- Live by faith not by sight. The life of a missional leader is a life that encompasses nothing but faith. Paul knew that it begins with faith and that it progresses by faith (Roman 1:16-17). A complete dependance on the gospel through the ups and downs of life is essential for a followere of Jesus, especially a follower who is a leader.
- Remember the mission. Many times in scripture we see Paul referring to his calling of taking the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Acts 22:21; Acts 26:17; Romans 1:5; Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; Galatians 1:16; Galatians 2:7-21; Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 4:17). Remembering your higher purpose will propel you past your personal set backs because they are small in light of the big picture.
- What does the centrality of the gospel mean to you and your sanctification?
- How do you evaluate a personal or corporate set back or failure?
- Why do you hang on to the past with one hand?
- What keeps you moving forward in the face of defeat or tragedy?
- How often do you reflect on your conversion and calling?
“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future." ― Fulton Oursler
Check out the Ten Marks of a Coachable Leader series.