Henry was reading his paper early one morning at the breakfast table. His wife Betty came over to him, gave him a hug, smiled, and said, “I bet you don’t know what today is, do you?” He looked at her and said, “Of course I know what day it is!” and went back to reading his paper.
The reality was that he didn't have a clue. He was afraid that he would make his wife upset - she was really sensitive about special occasions. He thought to himself, “Is it her birthday? That must be it.” So after he got to work he called the florist and had a bouquet of white roses sent to his wife. Then as the day went on, he began worrying that flowers may not be enough for such an important day. “What if it’s our anniversary?” So he went to the jewellery store down from his office, picked out a beautiful gold necklace and had it special delivered to his wife.
As Henry started home from work he decided that maybe he should also stop and buy an expensive box of chocolates to bring to her - just in case. He pulled into the driveway and his wife ran out to greet him. As he got out of the car and presented her with the box of chocolates, she threw her arms around him and said, “Oh, honey, this is the best ground hog day I've ever had!”
How many of you like history? In history, there are certain dates that we remember. For example, if I say 1492 – we all know what happened. In 1492, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” What about October 31, 1517? On this day in history, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg. Most scholars call this very moment the beginning of the Protestant Reformation – an event that changed the world forever.
We’ve just come through the Easter season and remembered what happened centuries ago on Good Friday. What about Good Friday, April 14, 1865? That is the date of the death of President Abraham Lincoln. What about July 1, 1867? This was the birth of our nation—the Dominion of Canada. April 14-15, 1912 was the date of the sinking of the Titanic. December 7, 1941 was the day that Pearl Harbour was attacked. How about May 8, 1945? It marked the end of World War II or VE Day.
Let’s try a couple more dates now. Some of you may even remember where you were on one of these days. November 22, 1963 was when President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated. We all will remember the very tragic day on September 11, 2001 which marked the downing of the Twin Towers in New York City.
Now, one more date to remember. What happened on this date, April 16, 2000? Today is a special day for us as a church. If you haven’t figured it out yet, today we celebrate 20 years of God’s faithfulness to us as a church. Some of you were assembled together for the birth of Carriage Country Baptist Church.
As we look in the Bible to Philippians 3:12-14, we notice some things that we can apply to the life of Carriage Country Baptist Church. Paul wrote:
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14)
1. Evaluation (Phil. 3:13a)
Paul says that he has not arrived yet. That is an amazing statement. Paul is an old man now. If anybody had the right to claim he had arrived it would be Paul. He wrote most of the New Testament. He helped spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. He made an incredible impact on the world. Yet Paul, at the end of his life, says “I don't have it all together. I haven't arrived. I'm not perfect. I'm still growing.”
God has done some wonderful things through this church in the last 20 years. Part of our celebration however is evaluation. Anniversaries are great moments to look back but we need to be careful with nostalgia. Someone once said that “nostalgia is the sand paper that smooths the edges of the good old days.” Over time we tend to forget the hardships and remember only the blessings.
Paul could have taken great pride in what he had already been able to accomplish. Instead, we see that he was not content and was still striving for more. I think it is important to remember that. We have been so blessed as a church in the last 20 years, but we still have a long way to go. God is not done with us yet. We have not arrived. We are still growing.
2. Elimination (Phil. 3:13b)
This is our 20th anniversary and some of us will spend some time remembering. So why am I referring to a scripture that talks about forgetting what is behind? While it is important to learn from the past you cannot live there. To move forward involves two things:
a. Forget your Failures
Don’t rehearse things in your heart that God has long since forgiven and forgotten. Satan's favourite desire is to paralyze us with the past, to manipulate us with the memories. Paul is saying, “I learn to forget the past.” Do not sit around beating yourself up for mistakes. Everybody here has blown it. I’m sure that as a church we have made mistakes in the past. There are probably things we are not proud of. There may be some hurts that need to be forgiven and forgotten.
Paul, of all people, probably had many regrets that could have haunted him. He was a persecutor of the church. He hounded people who were believers and had them locked up and stoned. Nothing you or I could ever do will change the past. It is gone. Since you or I can’t change it, let it go. Learn from it, but then let it go.
b. Forget your Successes
Just like failure, you can learn from success but you can’t live in them. It is easy to rest on your laurels. Sometimes we try to live in the past and base our security on past performance. The “good old days” are gone. Let them go. Success tends to make you complacent and fills you with pride. Then you stop growing and learning and then you're going to fail.
Over 2,000 years ago a young Greek artist named Timanthes studied under a respected tutor. After several years the teacher’s efforts seemed to have paid off when Timanthes painted an exquisite work of art. Unfortunately, he became so enraptured with the painting that he spent days gazing at it. One morning when he arrived to admire his work, he was shocked to find it blotted out with paint. Angry, Timanthes ran to his teacher, who admitted he had destroyed the painting. “I did it for your own good. That painting was retarding your progress. Start again and see if you can do better.” Timanthes took his teacher’s advice and produced Sacrifice of Iphigenia, which is regarded as one of the finest paintings of antiquity.
Today we celebrate our past but we cannot live in the past. You can't run a race looking backwards. You've got to focus ahead.
3. Determination (Phil. 3:13c)
In verse 13, the words “reaching forth” come from the Greek word dioko (pronounced dee-o'-ko) which means to run swiftly. It is the same word as persecution. Before Jesus met him, Paul would persecute or dioko the church – chase after them with all his might. Now Paul is chasing after Christ. The intensity was the same, the direction was different.
As we look to the future, should the Lord tarry His coming, I pray that we would have the same determination that those who went before us had. We need to have the same daring faith that the charter members had when the church bought the land and built the additional auditorium. As the Lord directs, we need to be ready to try new things and let old things go. We celebrate 20 years as a church today, but what we really celebrate is the goodness and grace of Jesus Christ. To Him and Him alone be the glory.
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today” (Hebrews 3:13)