One passage that tormented me for years was Phil 4:11-13. Paul boasted that:
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
I read that verse and have wanted to reach out, grab Paul by the throat and demand of him, “Okay, what’s the secret?” He does not tell us and leaves the answers to theologians, pastors, evangelists, and us sheep.
In his letter to the Philippians (3:1-6), he warns new believers to be aware of those who want to continue living by works, by the deeds of the flesh. He lays forth his credentials as a Pharisee of Pharisees, one who was schooled in the law and zealous for its enforcement. He considers that past zeal as rubbish (the actual Greek word is best translated as excrement) because of his new righteousness and love for Christ.
In verses 12-14, he urges the flock to transition into their new life in the Spirit by modeling what he does:
“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.”
Forgetting what is behind. Wow, what a concept! Easier said than done, don’t you think? Is that a realistic goal for us today?
I hear many who are tormented by their thought life by what has happened in their past. Some cannot progress past what others have done to them. Many beat themselves up repeatedly for their own misdeeds.
One woman, who had come out of a lifestyle of addiction and was clean for three years, succumbed to the attack of physical pain she was suffering. One night, she drank some alcohol-laced hairspray and began to rage. Even though she was part of the 12-step program, she lashed out at family around her about their attitudes and behaviors toward her in the past. She had walked through forgiveness, still needed deliverance from demonic torment and felt driven to rehash the past.
God would not allow any commandment to stand in Scripture if it was not possible to fulfill it.
How does one forget what is behind? Some clients are upset with God because they ask Him to take away the memory. I do not believe that is a reasonable request. The memories are there, in our brain and memory loss typically happens through injury, disease and old age. Who wants those scenarios active in their life (although, old age is better than the alternative!)?
Forgiving Before Forgetting
I’m going to lay out six suggestions to help you on that journey.
- Forgiveness comes before forgetting. If you are having difficulty forgiving others or yourself or past misdeeds, you need to get that sorted out. Forgiveness is not a process, and we do not need God’s help to forgive people. It is a choice, a decision that we can make or ignore. We’ve created lots of articles, podcasts and videos on forgiveness; check them out.
- If memories are a source of true mental torment, you should consider going through deliverance. If demonic strongholds are behind these, the only remedy is driving them out.
- After deliverance, the battlefield will continue to be the mind, but the fight is winnable. In 2 Cor 10:5, Paul commands to take thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. You cannot stop thoughts from coming in, but you can prevent them from staying.
- If you dwell on what others have done to you, you must rise up and acknowledge that they did but that you have forgiven them, as God has forgiven you for your sins.
- If you have focused on your own sins, you need to remind yourself and the devils that God has forgiven you and remembered your sin no more.
- Replace the ungodly thoughts with countering scriptures and positive thoughts. Philippian 4:8 tells us that:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you”
Thinking is not a random, free-form endeavor. We alone are responsible for our thought life, and it’s up to us to take charge.
The above points present a crib notes framework to help you make a shift. You may need help with the process to turn the corner. Locate competent, Spirit-filled counseling resources, so you do not have to make the journey alone.
You can gain the victory over your thought life and focus on what is ahead, pressing on towards the goals before you.
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