Wasco Tribune - Serving the community since 1970

By Jim Neal
First Southern Baptist Church, Shafter 

Pastor's Corner

Forget the past, prepare and move forward


“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” --Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:12-14

If you are a college basketball fan, then you see the admonition played out game by game during March Madness by young men playing the game of basketball. They constantly must “forget the past” (failures or successes), focus on the next play and press on. If you are not a fan, it does not matter, for this tidbit of wisdom is as poignant to whatever field of endeavor you find yourself.

Confucius, who lived 551-479 B.C., said this, “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential…these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”

Just the idea that folks had the same thoughts and desires that we feel today over 2,500 years ago is amazing to me. I guess that old adage “the more things change the more things remain the same” was just as true then as today. The Great Apostle and Confucius makes a three-point synopsis that could be preached from any pulpit or pontificated from any fulcrum of any business or athletic team in our present day as well.

When I read such quotes, I tend personalize it to my own life. My mind tends to ask questions of itself. The first question that pops into my mind is this: “Is the will to win something that can be developed or is it innate in the individual?” The second is “Is there a formula for successful living that can be adhered to?”

I do not often quote nor agree with Bobby Knight, the often-embattled ex-collegiate basketball coach; however, he did make a statement several years ago that sheds a deeper light to this topic. He said this: “The [BEGIN ITAL]will to prepare[END ITAL] is much more important than the will to win.” The longer you ponder this thought the more profound it becomes, for you see, if one is not willing to prepare for any of the challenges of life, they will find themselves in the same spot day after day, month after month and year after year.

Adding that thought to the Confuciusian “success formula” it might look like this: “the will to prepare, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential will birth the will to win which will open the door to personal excellence.”

OK, it is time for us to crawl into our personal “confessionals” and get really honest with ourselves. There yet? Comfortable? All right, just one question to contemplate. If you are not where you desire to be in life, in which of these four elements are you falling short? Having trouble with preparation? Desire to win? Or the urge to reach your full potential?

Wait now, put the whip away -- you are just contemplating, not flogging. The greatest truth of this life is having the opportunity to live out the famous Yogi Berra quote, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” As long as we have breath in our lungs, strength in our loins and hope in our hearts we can rectify whatever is past and move rapidly and with great assurance into the future.

Now take a fresh look at the Apostle Paul’s immutable formula for successful living and allow it to illumine your way. Writing from a jail cell in Rome to a fledging Church in Philippi he exhorted: "…forgetting the things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” No greater encouragement could be given than to forget the past failures (and quit resting on the laurels of past successes), clear your head, get a new vision and press on believing that you can and will reach the pinnacle that lies ahead.

Have a great week trusting, believing & receiving,

Jim Neal is pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Shafter.


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