Look to the Future with Hope

By Paul Cooke |

Brothers… I do not consider that I have attained…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 3:13-14

Dear Friends,

As the year ends and a new year waits before us, perhaps we feel tugs of regret about the past—things we said or didn’t say, things we did or didn’t do. Perhaps we feel disappointed in some way or a certain apprehensiveness about the uncertain future—nothing oppressive perhaps, but just wondering, “What will the new year bring?” We may feel the weight of past sufferings, too, as well as sense of our lack of strength for what lies ahead. Or maybe we are just short on hopefulness. Even if we call ourselves people of God, we can still be troubled and cast down and sometimes these feelings come at year’s end. King David, a man of great faith with a heart for God, once wrote of himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Psalm 42:5). Like David, we may at times be aware that there are storms coming and we may not feel ready to weather them.

The Edge of the Common

A storm approaches. “The Edge of the Common,” by Thomas Barker (1769–1847) Photo credit: Southampton City Art Gallery

The great Apostle Paul wrestled with troubles and storms, too, in a life of faith and of trust in God—being a believer doesn’t exempt any of the people of God from being downcast or from times of storm and trouble. But Paul made it his practice to look to Christ and look ahead, not letting the mistakes or hardships of the past discourage him. He knew he was far from perfect, but because he knew that Jesus Christ had died for him, loved him and was helping him in his pilgrimage in this world, he could say that the one thing he was determined to do was this: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

He understood that the past was covered by the forgiving love of God, whose son, Jesus Christ, died to pay for all our sins. Therefore he didn’t have to beat himself up over past shortcomings and could look ahead in faith that the God who had brought him to faith in Christ would bring him safely home to the heavenly kingdom promised in the Word of God.

Paul wrote of his confidence in God, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). The Bible promises those who trust in Christ that in this troubled world there remains a peace for them which will guard them when they go through the storms of life: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Jesus told his disciples as he was about to go to the cross, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” John 14:27. He told them, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The one who overcame the world now lives to be our refuge day by day.

He rose from the dead three days after his death on the cross, never to die again, and he hears our prayers as we look to him. He can give us such peace in the midst of any trouble as we look to the future. In the midst of troubles we can look him, to what he did for us on the cross, paying for our sins, taking the penalty we deserve in our place—and promising us eternal life.

Each soul that looks to God, trusting in his provision for them by sending Jesus Christ into this world, can look ahead then, forgetting the things that are behind, because he or she knows that God is a God who forgives sin, who knows our sufferings, for he, too, suffered—and who loves us. The Lord knew we cannot save ourselves and need the mercy of God and in love for us, and for his Father, he came to be our savior. Though we may fall, the Lord is ever-ready to lift us up, to forgive us and to provide a future for us with himself in a world beyond our dreams—in a heaven which is a world of love. Because of Jesus, we are freed to know God and love others.

In the year ahead, let us look to him by looking in his Word, by prayer, and by sharing our faith in his love with others. But if any of these things seems too hard for us at any point, remember, he stands ready to help all who ask. As David said to himself long ago, we can now say, too: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:11).

Our hope is in God who forgives our sins and in strengthens us to go bravely into the future where he will be our refuge and guide. In the year ahead may we seek his help as we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” That prize is really just knowing him—it is in knowing the love of God in Christ, a love which passes all understanding and which lasts forever! God bless you!