When I was a teenager, it was popular for those of us in the church youth department to claim a "life verse". We would choose something that we personally identified with and we would even sign our names on things and include the verse underneath our names. I chose Philippians 3:13-14 which says, "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. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (King James Version)
I can remember at the time feeling like this verse resonated with me in such a big way. At the ripe age of 14 years old, I felt I had a lot of mistakes and failures in my past. I felt that I had really disappointed God and I was really ashamed of some of the things I had done. It's almost humorous now to me to think about. I mean, what kind of horrendous things had an honor roll, law abiding, church attending teen girl really done?
I clung to that verse in Philippians though. It meant everything to me. Written by Paul the Apostle, who at one time was a persecutor of believers, those two verses take on a deep meaning. Paul was choosing to forget the things in his past, and to instead look forward to what was before him. He had dedicated his life to serving God and spreading the Gospel to people all throughout the land. And ironically enough, though he at one time was imprisoning and probably killing Christians, he later on himself was believed to have been beheaded by the Romans for being a believer and follower of Christ.
And here I was, a young kid feeling like that verse was written for me. And yet I had no idea of what my life would eventually unfold. I would never have dreamed that later in my adulthood, I would fall so hard, and in such a big way, that those verses would become much more real to me. I wouldn't have been able to even dream that I could disappoint God and those that love me in such a devastating way. And that someday, I would need those two verses to give me hope and belief that I too, like Paul, could come back from the depths of disgrace.
My mom recently sent me the lyrics to an old song written by Ron Hamilton (known to many as "Patch the Pirate"), a Christian songwriter, singer, composer and preacher. I remember singing this song as a young person often:
Rejoice in the Lord
God never moves without purpose or plan
When trying His servant and molding a man.
Give thanks to the LORD though your testing seems long;
In darkness He giveth a song.
I could not see through the shadows ahead;
So I looked at the cross of my Savior instead.
I bowed to the will of the Master that day;
Then peace came and tears fled away.
Now I can see testing comes from above;
God strengthens His children and purges in love.
My Father knows best, and I trust in His care;
Through purging more fruit I will bear.
O Rejoice in the LORD
He makes no mistake,
He knoweth the end of each path that I take,
For when I am tried
I shall come forth as gold.
Reading over these words now, they take on a much deeper meaning. That young girl, singing these words back then, didn't yet know what it was like to truly be tried and tested. She really had no clue what going through a difficult and trying time was like. But she does now.
And I can testify, that I have "come forth as gold". God did see me through each and every step of that path. And when I came out on the other side of it, I was stronger, better, purified, and could rejoice in Him for what He had done in my life.
So though I can't completely forget about what is in my past, I can quit looking back on it, and instead LOOK AHEAD. It doesn't serve me well to look back at my past failures and dwell on them. Those are all forgiven. God has BIG plans for my future. I will continue to move forward and strive for that prize of the high calling of God in my life.
How do the words of the song "Rejoice in the Lord" resonate with you? Feel free to share below or reach out to me privately if you need prayer or encouragement. And during this difficult time, as we are dealing with the coronavirus in our world, we can cling to the truth that God is with us each step of this uncertain and scary journey. He will see us through this and we will all come out stronger because of it. Keep the faith and trust in Him.