Episode 1. Weighing Up the Past
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Here we are at the beginning of a brand new year – a year full of hopes and dreams and possibilities. But the truth is, we can’t lay enjoy the present or lay hold of the future, until we’ve …
There are so many people walking around planet earth today who’s failures and the disappointments of their past are ruining their present and robbing them of their future. Can I ask you a question? Are you one of those people?
I remember a time in my life when my past was weighing me down. A time when, in fact, my past became such a burden, such a huge load, that it was completely unbearable. It was so bad that I came very close to taking my own life. I remember standing on that eighth floor balcony of a hotel seriously considering jumping over the edge. I’ll share with you a little bit later what it was that pulled me back from the brink.
Now you may be thinking, here we are kind of at the threshold of a new year with all sorts of possibilities, what is Berni doing talking about the past? Why is he going there? Shouldn’t we be looking forward to the year ahead? Shouldn’t we be talking about all the possibilites, the hopes, the dreams we have for this fresh new year ahead of us?
Well that would be a great thing to do, I agree and over the coming days and weeks on the program that’s precisely what we’re going to be doing. We’re kicking off the year with a series of messages the I’ve called, ‘The Art Of Living’ because if we’re going to realise the hopes and the dreams that we have for this new year we need to spend some time thinking about our lives.
Most of us don’t do that. We might spend some time thinking about the problems, the hurts, the things that aren’t working so well. A lot of people brood over the negatives in their lives but mostly we just think about the symptoms. So today and over the coming weeks we’re going to go a bit deeper than just the symptoms, we’re going to be chatting about exactly how we live our lives.
We’ll be looking at the ordinary things in our lives from a different perspective because when we do we can end up living an extraordinary life. And one of the very ordinary things in life is our past. We each have a past and, as I said at the beginning of today’s program, there are just so many people for whom their past is ruining their present and robbing them of their future.
In a very real sense, unless we let go of the past we simply can’t enjoy our lives today. We simply can’t look forward to our future with that sense of hope and anticipation.
Let me give you an example. I know a man who’s had a very difficult life. He was abused when he was young and for many years people told him he wasn’t good enough. Instead of encouraging him the people around him, his work colleagues, even his family kept on telling him what was wrong with him. They focused on his failures and his faults rather than on the good things about him.
Now come on, we are all something of a mixed bag aren’t we? We each have certain strengths on the one hand and certain weaknesses on the other and it’s really sad when people just focus on our weaknesses and that’s exactly what had happened to him.
So today he looks at his world through that set of eyes, through a mind set that’s deeply affected by the past. He can’t enjoy who he is and what he has and you know what, he has rather a lot. When he looks forward to his future he doesn’t have that sense of anticipation or hope even for tomorrow or the next day let alone for the rest of this year or the rest of his life.
We can talk about all sorts of things, wonderful things that this year might hold for you but unless we first let go of the hurts and the disappointments of the past then not a lot of that has any meaning.
You’ve probably heard that old saying ‘don’t cry over spilt milk’. You know what, there’s a reason for that because once the milk has been spilt you can’t un-spill it. You can clean up the mess, you can apologise to someone if it hurt them or inconvenienced them, you can even learn a lesson that might stop you from spilling the milk again but the one thing you can’t do is undo it.
None of us can change the past and for some people today it’s time to let go of the past. When I was standing on that balcony that day almost twenty years ago now, it was the past that was pulling me over the edge. Now don’t get me wrong I’d had a lot of successes along the way but I’d made some mistakes, some very big mistakes and I just didn’t know whether I could live with the consequences of the mistakes that I had made.
It seemed like the present wasn’t just worth living. It seemed like the future was so bleak and so hopeless that there was just no point. See when we lose hope what’s the point of living? I know there are some people who are thinking that very way today and what makes it even harder is that everybody else is out there focused on starting off the new year, looking forward to what the year has to hold and what possibilities there might be.
Let me tell you, the thing that pulled me back from the edge on that cool sunny morning was something that I’d read the night before. For some reason someone had put a Bible in the top draw of the bedside table inside my hotel room. I’d taken it out and I read something and here is what I read. It was in the Old Testament in the Book of Isaiah chapter 41, verse 10. This is what is says:
Don’t be afraid for I am with you. Don’t be afraid for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
Do you see? That’s what gave me hope: the hope of a present where I wasn’t completely alone; the hope of a future that just might be worth living. None of us can change the past, it doesn’t matter how much we sweat on it, how hard we work on it we cannot change the past.
And so on that day on that hotel balcony began for me a process of letting go of the past. The future, the future begins today. The past’s gone and while we can and we should learn lessons from it. While we can and we shouldn’t make mistakes that we made before.
The past has no right to rob you of the days and the months and the years that lie ahead in your life and can I tell you that’s the very reason that God sent us Jesus His Son. The first time Jesus stood up in public and spoke He read these words from the Book of Isaiah chapter 61, verses 1 to 3. He said:
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me because he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, the bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, to comfort and provide for all those who mourn, to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
My friend Jesus has a future for you. He understands how the past has battered you and bruised you. He knows the baggage that you’re carrying around just as He knows about all the baggage that I’m still carrying around and what He wants to do is to lighten that load, to lift that burden.
Since that day when I stood on that balcony my friend my life has changed completely. It’s not that some days aren’t still hard, of course they are, we all have hard days, we all have challenges in our lives but I look forward to each day and each month and each year with this sense of hope and anticipation because Jesus has healed me of my past.
My failures and my hurts no longer are the things that rule my life, He does and that makes all the difference. So as you stand on the threshold of a brand new year, your brand new year I want to leave you with this fantastic truth. My friend Jesus came to set you free from your past and to give you a present and a future that truly is worth living. Does it get any better than that? I don’t think so.