“WHAT’S NEXT?” By Pastor YAU
Text: Philippians 3:12-16 February 7, 2010.
1) Mindset of a president: In the popular television series, The West Wing, fictional president Josiah Bartlett, usually ended the discussion of an issue at staff meeting with two words: “What’s next? It was his way of signaling that he was finished with the issue at hand and ready to move on to other concerns. The pressures and responsibilities of life in the West Wing of the White House demanded that he not linger on what was in the read mirror. He needed to keep his eyes ahead, moving forward to what was next in the life of the president and of the nation.
2) Mindset of an apostle: In a sense, the apostle Paul had a similar perspective on life. He knew that he had not arrived spiritually the kind of life God had set for him, and that he had a long way to go in becoming like Christ. Instead of fixate on the past with his self-righteous pursuit and persecutor of Christians, he chose to move on to the next stage of life to accomplish what God had intended for him. Placing focus of life in the past, either the bad or the good won’t change anything. Life is a progression, a motion to move forward. Besides brief pauses to realign the course and direction, keep looking back can only slow down the progress and miss opportunities and minimize results.
REASONS OF LOOKING FORWARD?:
1) It is in our nature: God installed in each one of us the desire to become someone, do something meaningful and enjoy the satisfaction of life. Listening to the dreams and hopes of children is a great joy: when I grow up, I want to be this and that. Children seldom look back to the past of their life. They always look forward to life they hope and want to have. It is this desire and hope for the future drives them to grow, to learn to become someone they dream to be. All healthy Christians should have the same desire: to grow more like the Lord.
2) It is all in the Bible: From the call of Abraham and the promise of God to him and his descendents, both God and Abraham looked forward to the nation of Israel as a chosen people. From the call of God to Moses and the Exodus experience, they looked forward to the Promised Land. When Jesus called his disciples and later gave them the Great Commission, it was all about the Kingdom of God in the future. Since we become Christians, we look forward to growth, spiritual maturity, His grace and leadership in our lives to go higher and serve more.
3) It is all about our life: Except in rare or isolated incidents, life is a process of going forward. We grow bigger, taller, hopefully wiser and better. We also go forward in knowledge, experience, ability and achievements. We push forward to a higher goal, better life, wiser decisions and more usefulness. Life without the perspective of going forward is hopeless and meaningless.
4) It is where we will go: Our life in earth is only a temporary stay. Jesus promised us He was gone to prepare us a new home. He will come to bring us to His new home someday when He comes back so we will meet him. We don’t look back to the life in earth, we look forward to the day we will see Him and all our loved ones. No matter who you are and what you have here, we all look forward for the day to be with God.
HURDLES OF LOOKING FORWARD:
1) When there is no vision: When life is without a vision, there is nothing to look forward to. Ever since the very early days of history, when people did not have a vision, life became chaotic. King Solomon commented: “Where there is no vision, the people cast off restrain.” (Proverbs 29:18) We see many people are just spinning their wheels of life without any vision for their future. There is nothing for them to look forward to.
2) When there is no hope: In Christian life, most of us are keen to recognize the importance of faith and love, but fail to give the same weight to hope. When Paul said: “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love,” he didn’t mean to place hope and faith as secondary. In real life, we see the importance of hope against all hopes. Paul placed hope closely attached to faith in verse 1 of the most read Chapter of Faith, Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for.” When one loses his hope, nothing can motivate him to look forward, much less to go forward.
3) When there is distraction: Yesterday, I listen to a country music station. The title of the song was “ Every body wants to go to heaven.” But the repeated sentence was: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but no body wants to go there now.” I believe this statement is true to many people, including some Christians. We just have too many distractions here that are blocking our vision and desire to move forward. Check your life to see if there are unwanted distractions that are blocking you from moving forward, higher and getting more for the Lord.
4) When we got tangled up: The rich fool was completely bolted down by his wealth that he lost the interest or incentive to do more. He told his soul, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink and be easy.” (Luke 12:19)Many people can’t get over from their burdens, either it is their success or failure, injuries in their soul or pride in their heart. Life is either too good or too bad that holds them back from seeing the opportunities and the blessings God has in store for their future. Paul encourages us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangle us, so can run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
HOW SHOULD WE LOOK FORWARD? (Phil. 3:12-16)
1) There is room to grow: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect.” (3:12)Some years back, a commercial said: There is room for improvement. This was the attitude of Paul when he looked forward for room to improve his dedication and service to God. When we think that we have done enough, that’s all we can do, there is no future, nothing to look forward to our Christian growth.
2) It is what Christ wants: “But I press on to take hold (obtain) of that which (the purpose, the goal) Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (3:12b) When Jesus called Paul to missionary endeavor, He has a purpose, a goal, for Paul to achieve. Paul realized he had not obtained nor completed that purpose or goal Jesus had set for him. So, he vowed to continue, to press on to complete that goal. This is the driving force Paul had to his looking forward. He did not set his own purpose goal or limit (this is what I will do). We are not serving God what “we want.” We need to focus on what Jesus wants us to live, to do and to serve.
3) Let go of the past: “This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” (3:13)Our past may become the entanglement to hold us back from looking forward. Our past failures may intimidate us to hold us back because we lose heart. Our past successes may hold us back from looking to the future because of our pride. Either way, looking backward is not the right thing to do if we want to be all God wants us to be. We need to let go of our past, be it is good or bad.
4) This is not just for Paul: “All of us who are mature, should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” (3:15)Some of us may think that only people like Paul need to look forward to grow and achieve more. Ordinary Christians may just lay back and take it easy. But that is not what the Bible said. Paul said all of us should aim to grow, to mature and to think the same way as he did. And if anyone thinks differently, God will make it clear to him that he also needs to look and grow forward too.
1) What is your next? Here is where you are today. What is the next for your life as a follower of Christ? What do you know God wants you to be, to do, to become, this year and the next few years? Do you want to live a static life or want to improve, do better, grow higher. You may look for growth in Christian walk, in witnessing, in personal relationship, in character or temperament or in service and giving. “Be all you can be” is a good way to look forward. Life is all about growing to have meaning and be satisfied both to God and to your self.
2) Important next step: This next step is very important to you if you have not yet believed in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Nothing you may achieve here on earth will mean anything when you finish your life on earth. So, take this next step: ask Jesus to come into your heart, to lead your way and be the Savior of your soul. Ask Him to forgive your sins and to receive eternal life. He will bring you to a higher ground for a more meaningful life in the new years and many years after.