By Mark Walz
I too often make serious mistakes in my life. And as a result, I find myself wishing I could go back in time and do things all over again. I suspect you do too. There are too many movies and stories written about this sort of thing not to be a common experience of us all. Marty McFly chose to do it in style in a Dolorean; but I can guess that you would do it much less showy as long as you could get back that decision you’ve regretted all these years.
In the meantime, we all hope for a better future. Thankfully as Christians we have a strong hope in the redemption of all things.
I am reading Numbers in my personal devotions with the Lord these days. This book has a great deal about the hardships of God’s people in the wilderness and how their wanderings are reflected in our own uncertain days! Though much of their suffering is not of their own making, much of it is. And they had to live through the consequences of it — 40 years worth. Not surprisingly, God makes it a point to encourage and bless his people even when they do a great deal to mess things up.
And one very important thing jumped out to me today as I was reading this verse:
But the LORD said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand…” (Numbers 21:34)
Did you catch that? I did not at first. It is in the past tense! As far as God was concerned, though it had yet to take place, it was as good as done. They had no need to fear because the future was just as certain as the past. One God set His mind to shift the course of his people, He could announce it to them as done.
We can get really bent out of shape and depressed over the past. I cannot count the things I wish I could go back and do differently. There is something sadly factual and final about events and decisions in the past.
But what if we were to know that our hope in the future is not just that it could be better and brighter, but that it already is? I say ‘is’ because the hope we have is so sure it changes not only our prospects for the future, but also our standing in the present. We see this centrally in our own salvation. When the new testament writers speak of our salvation — that we will one day be made anew and live forever with Jesus — they speak of it as if it is now. They announce it like it is already happening. Our salvation may have come a day in the past, and find its fulfillment in the future, but it is also happening now in the present.
For me, what is so heartbreaking about things I’ve done in the past is that it labels me. I have lied; so I am a liar. I have cheated; so I am a cheater. I have stolen; so I am a thief. But this is not what God says of me! Because of His salvation, and the righteousness of Christ that is now mine, I am none of those things. I am not a liar, a cheater, nor a thief. I am a son of God, being made into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ. I am now defined by the goodness of God in Christ.
And since the hope of a future has all the potential to outshine the past; and since that future is determined by God, it is more certain and more powerful than my greatest mistake.
So the certain past can be joyfully outshined by a better and more certain future — even right now; this minute.
What a great joy we have! What a bright and better day we enjoy right now!