by Brian Daniel
It’s been said that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. I’ve always felt like that was a bit dramatic but as I’ve felt — not only seen — the years roll on I’ve become more acutely aware of the need to look increasingly closer at my conclusions, the way I process the world around me, how I engage relationships, and not only my habits but also the motivations behind them. Much like a piece of wood that’s been lying outside in the elements for some period of time, it may look fine on the outside but be rotting underneath. As men we need to “pick up” our lives and examine the condition under the surface and beyond what a casual glance might reveal. If we are willing to deal with whatever rot we might find, we will see God do a fantastic work in us and then through us.
LifeWay Men’s most recent Bible study, No More Excuses by Tony Evans, has been created to help us do just that. Taking on topics like No More Hiding Behind the Past, No More Holding Back, No More Weak Leadership, No More Going Through the Motions, No More Compromising Your Integrity, No More Sifting Through the Rubble, No More Half Stepping, and No More Standing on the Sidelines, this group Bible study for men has been developed to take your group on a journey into purpose, vision, and God’s design for us. As an overview, we’re going to briefly explore these 8 topics in a series of blog posts over the next several weeks.
We begin this series with “No More Hiding behind the Past”. I don’t know about you, but the past can feel like a difficult thing to out run. Looking back, my days in high school and even in college came up woefully short of the person I could have been. I think a lot of us struggle with the sense of being “worthy” of our wives, children, job, friends, or a number of other things. Then there are others of us that likely have a past that leads to the erroneous conclusion that our future is set, our past impossible to overcome. Either way, this is what Dr. Evans is referencing in this opening discussion about our past, how we can hold ourselves hostage to it, and how it can become an excuse for not moving forward toward the men God has created us to be. While I might be the first to say that it doesn’t often feel like I’m hiding behind my past, if I’m serious about living an unexamined life I have to be open to areas that need work in this regard.
Jacob’s son, Joseph, had a very shaky family tree. You can read more about Jacob in Genesis 25 – 31 and if you do you’ll see that’s there’s little wonder that his oldest sons turned out to be as treacherous as their father. The biblical account of Jacob and his 12 sons in no way represents what you would call a well-adjusted family. Yet when the Bible presents Jacob’s 11th son, Joseph, to us, it ultimately presents a man of greatness, self-control, patience, and dignity. I point this out to let you know that just because your father was bad or your mother wasn’t always present or your siblings were less than supportive, you don’t have to end up the same way.
So how can you break the power of the past? Below are 5 steps you can take toward freedom from your past.
Commit to Godliness • You don’t have to look any further than Joseph’s reaction to Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:8-9) to see Joseph’s mind-set. He was sold out to God and trusted Him in every respect. Too many times we get wrapped up in God’s will for our lives but forget that what He asks of us is obedience now. Why would we be concerned for some future decision when we aren’t acting in obedience to His commands now? A commitment to godliness is the first step toward breaking any power of the past.
Make the Most of the Present • The first thing God did once Joseph was out of jail was elevate him to the rank of prime minister in Egypt. That took care of his living conditions. Because he was still void of his family, however, God gave him a new family and new relationships to replace the bad ones. Joseph married and had two sons. Instead of lamenting what was lost or living in anger or resentment, Joseph embraced the life God provided. As Christian men, Dr. Evans has said, you and I need to develop thankful hearts toward God. Make the most of the time you have with your wife, children, and church family.
Let God Be God • Romans 12:17-19 reads, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.” At least one point that can be made here is that once you look back, it becomes hard to look forward. God says that He will take care of it. Trust God to be Who He says He is.
Seek God’s Greater Purpose • God interacts with us in three basic ways: intervention, prevention, and redemption. Toward the end of the Genesis account of Joseph he understands that while his brothers meant ill towards him, God meant it for good (Gen. 50:20). In Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers there is a great purpose. Sure, it requires discipline but we have to be willing to put our personal experiences aside and look for God’s greater purpose in our circumstances.
Forgetting What Lies Behind • The challenge to us is to not allow our pasts to control our walk with God in the present as we keep moving toward the future He has for us. We can on from the stuff in the past if we will submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ and live under the rule of God and His kingdom agenda for our lives.
This is just a glimpse of the discussion you and your men’s group might have as a result of engaging No More Excuses, the most recent release from LifeWay Men. For more about the more complete No More Excuses experience visit lifeway.com/nomoreexcuses.