There are very few Westerns I am interested in. The last one I really remember loving was Tombstone. Yes, it was a movie not just a pizza, and now you know I am really much older than you thought. Today the kids and I went to see The Magnificent Seven. First, it was great. But this is not a movie review. I only mention it because there was a line in the movie that really struck me. Not like “wow that was good” but like “Wow. That is truth.”
A small town is being taken over by thieves and a man named Sam gathers a group of men to help fight for the townspeople. Sam has a painful past and as the men make their way to the town, one of Sam’s friends asks Sam why they are going to enter this fight. Sam tells him the people need their help, but his friend knows Sam’s past and his response is stunning. He says “Just making sure we’re fighting a battle in front of us not behind.”
Just making sure we’re fighting a battle in front of us not behind. Wow.
So I ask you, are you fighting a battle in front of you or behind? If you aren’t sure, here’s a clue- if it involves regret or shame- it is probably a battle behind you. This is so important! We have to know what we are fighting and why.
As a believer there are a lot of battles ahead of you. I’m sorry if this is news to you. I hate to be the one to tell you, but someone had to. You are at war. You have an enemy. I will give you some strategy though. Pay attention to the battle you are in. The enemy loves to wear us out fighting for something that has already been won. Your past has passed. If you have sin that you haven’t confessed or apologies you haven’t offered- then go take care of business with the Lord and those He brings to mind. But if you have placed your sin and brokenness in His hands, then there is no place for shame or regret.
The battle over your past is a lot like winning an award. The award ceremony has happened, you have the trophy on your mantel, the newspapers have reported your victory on page 67 of the local section so that the only people you know that actually saw it are your grandmother and some distant aunt you only see on Thanksgiving. But still- it’s official. You have won. But your annoying next door neighbor stands in the front yard and tells you every day that the award isn’t really yours and you don’t deserve it. You clearly have it. It’s in your house. But he insists on telling you it was meant for someone else, that you are not worthy of anything that wonderful on your mantel. You don’t deserve it. But yet you have it…
The Apostle Paul said, “ Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
If anyone had reason to get stuck in shame and regret it was Paul. He was basically a first century terrorist. He approved and assisted in the killing of Christians to the point he was known and feared by them. And here he is saying to forget what is behind. We cannot literally forget our past. I don’t think that would even be a healthy thing for us to attempt and sometimes we do have to revisit the past to allow the Lord to heal areas of hurt. But we don’t have to live there. We don’t have to do battle there. And we can let go of the shame and condemnation because our sins have been paid for by Jesus on the Cross. And we can press forward- keeping our eyes on where we are headed and Who we are headed toward. Not looking back in regret and shame. That battle is behind us. It has already been won.
So I encourage you today to look at your battles. Are you fighting the right one? When we let go of the battle over our past, we have energy to fight the battle at hand. For our hearts and our families today. No matter what our mistakes or sins have been, no matter how much failure we have experienced or the brokenness we grew up in – our future is the same in Christ Jesus. The ground is level at the Cross. We all need a Savior. If Jesus can transform a Saul into a Paul, imagine what He can do with you. Pick the right battle. Satan wants to keep you in the past so you never step into your future. You have a glorious future in Jesus, not just eternity with Him beginning in heaven but eternity with Him beginning now – bringing light into darkness here and now on earth, defeating the powers of darkness. Your battle is now, today. And your victory is assured.
Jesus, show us what battles we have been fighting that are behind us. Make sure we are fighting the battle in front of us. Settle in our hearts and in our spirits anywhere we are struggling with shame or regret and wrestling with things that need to be laid to rest at Your feet. Fill us with your peace over our past so we can press on toward all You have for us.