I remember it well. I was a gymnast at the time, and I had just fallen off the balance beam in a competition. As I was getting back up onto the beam to finish my routine, I could hear my team mates shouting from the sidelines, “Finish strong!”
Those two words have been ingrained in my head ever since my days as a competitive gymnast. It was so easy to let a big mistake or a fall get the best of you. Allowing a fall to ruin your concentration could easily lead to more devastating mistakes. Those two words were a great reminder to forget the mistake and to move forward.
I could never undo the fall, but I could choose to have a strong finish.
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Now as a runner, I still find that I need to remind myself to finish strong. When I have a rough day training, it’s hard to not let it ruin my training for the week… or worse… ruin my mindset for an upcoming race.
I have learned that the same is true in life. We can’t let our past mistakes and failures keep us from finishing strong. The Bible actually has a lot to say about looking forward and forgetting about the past. Paul speaks of it in his letter to the Philippians:
…but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. – Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)
A lot of us like to look back and reminisce, myself included. I love looking back at old photographs and to see how much my children have grown or how much my husband and I have changed over the years. Looking back can be a good thing when you are using it as a point of reference. It becomes a dangerous habit, however, when we begin to live in the past.
God wants us to progress forward, and we can’t do that when we are stuck looking backward.
We either get stuck longing for how great it was “back in the day” or we let past mistakes define us and keep us from moving forward. Either way, we’re stuck.
Genesis 19:1-29 tells the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot and his wife, along with two of their daughters, are rescued from the city before it’s destroyed. Lot’s wife, however, decides to look back as she is fleeing. The Bible tells us that she turned into a pillar of salt.
Now there are many different thoughts as to why this happened. Some say she turned into a pillar of salt because of her disobedience to God. (She was warned not to look back in an earlier passage.) Others, however, believe that she was looking back at the place she called home. She wasn’t just looking over her shoulder to see what was happening, but instead, she was looking back at a life she knew and loved. She loved her past too much to move forward where God was leading her.
Take a look at what Jesus had to say in the book of Luke:
Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. – Luke 17:32-33 (NLT)
The Bible tells us to look forward. When we choose to serve Christ, we are giving up our love for this world and choosing to love God instead. The Bible guarantees it will be worth it in the end. This world has nothing to offer, yet Christ has everything to offer.
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. – 1 John 2:15-17
The Bible tells us to anxiously be waiting for Christ’s return. He tells us to look forward in anticipation because it keeps our focus where it needs to be – forward. You can’t be effective for the Kingdom if you are stuck in the past.
While God is calling us to finish strong, the devil likes to use our past to keep us from the race altogether.
Anyone who is alive in Christ is a new creation in Him. We need to choose to live like it and to not look back. Instead of letting your past mistakes define you, allow God to define who you are in Him. Keep running; keep moving forward.
In the race of life, don’t let past failures ruin your concentration. Focus on Christ, keep your eyes forward, and finish strong.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.