One of my aunts who died a few years ago had a very difficult life. My childhood memories of visiting her are memories of visiting the dairy farm that she and her husband operated. She had no children. There were times when she had to manage and operate the dairy by herself.

When her husband was in his forties, he committed suicide. In time her health failed. She had little family and few options. She actually chose a nursing home for herself, made all the arrangements and preparations to move into the home, and spent the last years of her life living there.

The circumstances of her early marriage were unusual and difficult. Once I had opportunity to listen to my mother and my aunt talk about those unusual, difficult times. In those early days they shared a close bond. As they talked about those days, my aunt would smile and her eyes would brighten. I clearly remember her saying, "I would live every one of those days all over again!" Mom asked, "Without changing anything?" And she replied without hesitation, "Yes! Without changing one thing!"

She is one of the few people that I have ever known who truly had a hard life and would live it all over again without changing a thing. I do not have the slightest doubt that she would have.

  1. How about you? If you had the power to change your past, what would you change?
    1. Most people would like to alter their past in some way.
      1. Some would eliminate a tragedy or hardships.
      2. Some would add some opportunities.
      3. Some would change decisions and make different choices.
      4. Some would remove a disease, or suffering, or eliminate a death.
      5. Some would make basic changes in his or her family.
      6. The list of ways that people would alter the past go on and on.
    2. What about you? What would you alter?
      1. Personally, I am glad that is not an option for me.
      2. "Was everything about your past wonderful?"
        1. No.
        2. I don't think I ever met someone whose past was nothing but wonderful.
        3. I have noticed that people who tend to think that every moment of their lives was wonderful usually have "selective memory."
      3. "If everything was not wonderful, why are you glad it is not an option?"
        1. I am not wise enough to know what changes to make.
        2. Let me illustrate that fact: when I was 5 and 6 years old, I was a very sick kid, a severe asthmatic.
        3. Because I was in such poor health, Dad moved our family to the mountains when I was seven.
        4. That fall I met Joyce in the second grade.
        5. Because we moved to the mountains, I had opportunity to begin preaching at an early age.
        6. Joyce is the greatest earthly blessing God has given me.
          1. We have known each other all but six and a half years of our lives.
          2. I cannot imagine what my life would be without her as my wife.
        7. One of the greater spiritual blessings God has given me is the joy and fulfillment of teaching and preaching.
        8. If I had not been such a sick kid, I doubt that I would have met Joyce, and I am skeptical that I would be a preacher.
        9. If we altered our pasts, we would change who we are as well as our lives.

  2. May I suggest that none of us need to change our pasts, but most of us need to survive our pasts.
    1. Be very careful to understand what I say.
      1. I said that most of us (perhaps all of us) need to survive our pasts.
      2. Not run from our pasts.
      3. Not hide from our pasts.
      4. Not fantasize about our pasts.
      5. Not deny our pasts.
      6. But survive our pasts.
    2. "I don't know what you mean. Why would you think that most people, perhaps all people, need to survive their past?"
      1. The person who was pampered needs to survive his or her past.
        1. When we are pampered, the message of the pampering is this: "You are so special that you deserve special treatment."
        2. "You should get good treatment before others receive consideration."
        3. "It is right for you to be first, to receive special treatment, and to receive consideration that others do not receive."
        4. Why does anyone need to survive pampering?
          1. Pampering equips a person to be selfish, self-centered, and to consider and think of self first.
          2. Being conditioned to be selfish is a curse, not a blessing.
      2. The person who was taught to be materialistic needs to survive his or her past.
        1. This person was taught to look at people and life in terms of monetary value.
        2. The most important measurement for everything is money or financial value.
          1. How does a materialist determine value?
          2. How does a materialist measure success?
          3. How does a materialist define prosperity?
          4. How does a materialist determine worth?
        3. Being conditioned to value things above God or people is a curse, not a blessing.
      3. The person who has been taught to indulge himself or herself needs to survive his or her past.
        1. The foundation philosophy of indulgence is this: "the purpose of life is to experience the joy and satisfaction of pleasure."
        2. "Life is for having fun."
        3. "Life is about doing what feels good and gives you pleasure."
        4. "If something does not give you gratification, don't do it."
        5. "If something interferes with your gratification, don't do it."
        6. "Your primary responsibility in life is to you; you owe it to yourself to have fun."
        7. Being conditioned to surrender life and self to pleasure is a curse, not a blessing.
      4. The person whose life has been touched by the agony, the loss, and the grief of tragedy needs to survive his or her past.
        1. A horrible disease devastated him or her or someone he or she loved.
        2. Death robbed him or her.
        3. An accident changed the course of his or her life.
        4. A crime robbed him or her of far more than what he or she possessed.
        5. Whatever the form of the tragedy, whatever loss the tragedy inflicted, the tragedy created situations to be survived, not blessings to be enjoyed.
      5. The person who had a troubled past needs to survive his or her past.
        1. Troubled pasts take an unbelievable toll on life and relationships.
        2. "What do you mean by troubled pasts?"
          1. The agony, grief, destructiveness, and rejection that produces divorce.
          2. The agony, grief, destructiveness, and rejection produced by divorce.
          3. The fears and insecurity of a broken home.
          4. The devastation of abuse, no matter what caused it: alcohol, drugs, sexual exploitation, or rage.
          5. The devastation of abuse, no matter what kind it is: physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological.
          6. Abandonment.
          7. Anything that denies us the opportunity to know and experience healthy love produces a troubled past.
          8. Anything that reduces us to a object to be used instead of a person to be loved and appreciated produces a troubled pass.
          9. Each person who experienced those kinds of troubles needs to survive his or her past.

  3. To survive the past, three things must happen.
    1. First, the person must destroy his or her burden.
      1. You cannot do that by yourself.
        1. You cannot do that even with someone else's help.
        2. You would be hard pressed to find someone who believes in the value of good counseling more that I do.
        3. But as beneficial as counseling is, counseling cannot destroy burdens.
      2. To destroy your burdens, you have to give your burdens to someone bigger than an human being.
      3. You have to give them to the burden bearer, the only one who can carry your burdens: Jesus who is the Christ.
        Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:6,7 "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    2. Second, the person must accept and trust forgiveness.
      1. It is impossible to survive your past if you live in the slavery of guilt.
      2. As long as you are chained by guilt you have no hope of surviving your past.
      3. The fascinating thing about forgiveness is that you will not forgive yourself until you accept and trust God's forgiveness.
      4. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, God through the prophet Jeremiah declared a special forgiveness that God would send. The writer of the book of Hebrews quoted that promise to declare that this was the special forgiveness that God has given us in God's special priest, Jesus the Christ.
        Hebrews 8:12 "For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And I will remember their sins no more." (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        In 2 Corinthians 5:20,21 Paul explained how God made it possible to destroy our sins. "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    3. Third, we must be liberated from the person created by the past.
      1. The horrible thing about being enslaved to the past is we keep living and acting like the person of the past.
      2. God saved us to give us the opportunity to escape the "same old me."
        1. That is the existence he wants us to escape.
        2. One of the purposes of salvation is to change us.
          As Paul emphasized the changes that should occur in a Christian's life, he told the Colossian Christians, (Colossians 3:9,10) "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him--" (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          Paul urged the Christians in Rome, (Romans 12:2) "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        3. This liberation is not a magical occurrence.
        4. It is the opportunity and power to choose created by God's forgiveness.

The power of the past is based on a very convincing deceit. "You cannot change the past. Because of the past, you are who you are. Because of the past, you will always be who you are. You are wasting your time if you try to be a different person."

God says, "I am the God of your past, the God of your present, and the God of your future. If you allow me to be your God, I can recreate you. I can make you a new person with a new life and a new future."

God can do it. That is not the issue. The issue is this: do you believe that God can do it?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 6 December 1998

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