“This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24, NASB
Last week, I wrote about how God uses memories of His past work in our lives to encourage us both for today and the future. We looked at a number of verses where God encourages us to remember the past. (See “Something Worth Remembering.”) But sometimes memories from the past threaten to keep us from moving forward in our walk with God. And He has a word for us about that as well.
Psalm 118:24 says: “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (NASB). I begin every day–first thing in the morning–with this verse. And it reminds me of several things:
♦ The Lord has given me the privilege of another day on this earth to serve Him and to share with my wife.
♦ This is His day, not mine, so I need to see how He wants me to use it.
♦ I can rejoice no matter what the day brings because God is in control. He loves me, and I’m in His safe and faithful hands.
God warns us about getting stuck in the past in Isaiah 43. The Israelites are facing severe opposition from their enemies. And Isaiah encourages them by reminding them how God has helped them through extremely difficult times in the past–such as the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. (See Isaiah 43:1-7.) Once again we have an example of how remembering God’s grace to us in the past can be a help in the present.
But God then leads Isaiah to tell the people to not only focus on the past. For they must trust Him in the present situation and trust that He will continue to be with them in the future.
God says in Isaiah 43:18-19: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” This is a reminder (for Israel and for us) that God has worked for our good in the past, and this is encouraging. But we must not stop and dwell on anything in the past–either good or bad.
God is at work today to always keep us growing in our walk with Him, turning us into that new creation He promises. Remember His promise to us as believers in Christ: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Philippians 3 gives a New Testament example of our need to remember the past as we live in the present and look forward to the future. In the beginning of this chapter, Paul writes about how he once depended on his own righteousness to save him, through obedience to God’s Law. But then he met Jesus, realized his works were “garbage” compared to God’s standard (Philippians 3:8), and was saved by believing in Christ’s death on the cross as payment for his sins.
Paul writes that his life has been totally changed through his faith in Christ. He now seeks to live for and become like Christ. He concludes this section as he writes in Philippians 3:12-14: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 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.”
What a great picture of what God’s Word has been teaching us. Paul uses what God has done for him in the past in saving him to motivate him to live for Christ today. He doesn’t allow his past sins and failures to keep him from pressing forward. He remembers what God has done for him, but uses that memory to keep him pressing on to serve Him today. This also gives him hope for the future, because of the faith he puts in God each day.
And this is exactly what we need to do in our marriages. We need to remember what God has done for us together as a couple. We need to recall His mercy, grace, and goodness to us. To seek together His wisdom and guidance for decisions we must make about the future, having confidence He will guide and take care of us.
Our main focus, however, should be on the present–this day. One of my wise mentors once said to me, “Stay faithful to the last word you heard from God and be open to His next word.”
Have you ever noticed that no person in the Bible was given a long-term, precise plan? Joseph was not told when he was in prison that he would be in Pharaoh’s palace, reunited with his family, and used by God to save His people. Paul was not told, when he was converted on the Damascus road, that he would be a leader of the early church and write half of the New Testament. John had no idea when he was exiled on the island of Patmos that he would receive the book of the Bible we now know as Revelation. They simply and faithfully followed the Lord each and every day.
It is the same in our marriages. Let’s remember how God has worked in our past. But don’t let it halt you or slow you down. Even if the memory is painful, allow it to encourage you that God is at work “doing a new thing.” Let us also allow God’s love and grace to encourage us about our future. But most of all, we must pray and study God’s Word together seeking how He desires for us to live and serve Him together today. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33-34: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Questions for Discussion
- Read together again the passages of Scripture in this week’s lesson. Discuss what you have learned from each of them, how it applies to your lives, and how it applies to your marriage.
- What is the difference between enjoying and/or learning from the past and living there?
- Have you been, or are you currently, “stuck” because of the past or for any other reason? What does God’s Word teach us about becoming “unstuck” and moving forward?
- Are you too focused on the future? What does God teach us in His Word about the future, and how to deal with it?
- Pray together asking God to help you deal with the past, present, and future the way He intends us to. Ask Him to help you deal with any issue(s) that may come from your past, be concerning you in the present, or worrying you about the future.
Until next week, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked (NASB) taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org