In the past, I’ve talked about reset as the ability to embrace and move into the new things that God has for us by not allowing the hurts of the past to hold us back. We can’t change the facts of the past, but we can change how we feel about them and how we allow them to affect us today. It’s possible to reframe our past experiences into a story of redemption by looking at them and talking about them through the lens of Jesus’ love and grace.
The outcome is that, as we experience redemption, we are able to move into the new life God has for us; we stop keeping our future a hostage to our past. We free our future by allowing God to redeem our past and reframe our whole lives around a new story of hope, redemption, and new life.
Today, I want to talk about our future. When I use the word “relaunch,” I mean the action, the opportunity, or the decision to try again that which has not been going well.
Our text comes from Isaiah 43:18, 19:
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
The context of Isaiah’s writing to the people of Israel takes place at a bleak period in Israel’s history. They were in captivity, conquered by the Assyrians who had become the dominating military and political power of the region. They had lost everything they thought they would keep forever, and they were homesick for the land and the blessing God had promised them.
This happened because they were suffering the consequences of wrong choices against each other and God. Israel had abandoned everything they once represented as God’s people; they had become selfish and unjust. They had missed the mark of their mission and calling as people of God. They had forgotten time and time again that the blessing given to their father Abraham and their mother Sarah was meant to be stretched out to all the families of the earth and that this was the reason for their existence, their purpose and goal as people of God. They failed because they forgot who they were meant to be. Instead of pursuing their purpose, they settled with ephemeral comforts and tried to become like everyone else.
No doubt Israel was discouraged because they thought this was the end of them. They were stuck – emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – in their past, unable to see the new life and opportunities that God was opening up. God was speaking hope and encouragement to them in the midst of their darkest times.
God wanted them to know that even though they were suffering, they were not forsaken. God wanted the people of Israel to understand that the hardship they were experiencing would not be the end of them. God wanted to give them a fresh start, a new beginning in their life, a relaunch, so to speak. By telling them, “forget the former things,” God was saying, “it is time to move on.”
Maybe that is where we are! We may feel we are stuck, that we have failed people we love – including God – so many times that we are just getting what we deserve. If God dealt with us based on what we deserve, we wouldn’t be here. No, God deals with us with grace, to bring out the best of us and make us whole again.
God is not in the business of annihilation, but of redemption. Our God does not dwell in the past, for he is always doing a new thing. Don’t ever believe that God doesn’t want anything to do with you. If you think that you have no future, I have good news for you. God is saying, “it’s not over, I have plans for your life. I am about to do something new for you,” because God is always on the move, and he is always calling us forward.
Today, I am saying this so you can not only believe it, but so that you can also fully embrace a new life.
How can we embrace this new thing that God wants to do in our lives?
We begin by realizing that our God is forward thinking. Consider: the moment things went wrong at the beginning with Adam and Eve and their sin, God introduced a plan of salvation. Every time people got it wrong and messed up God’s work, God would continue to keep his plan unfolding. When Jesus called the disciples, and everyone else for that matter, he did it so they would follow a new path, a new way of living. He called them forward. So it is with us!
This tells us that God is far more interested in our future than in our past, that we are not a final product, and that God wants to do something new in us every day regardless of what has been. Some people think that all God wants to do is remind them of the things they have done wrong. God is more interested in your future than in your past. God is always working a future for us.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Back to the Future. In this movie, when Marty goes back to the past, he stands out. He knows things and has seen things and acts differently because he is from the future. In the first film, there are some scenes where he is thought of as weird for making peculiar decisions because his peers don’t understand where he is coming from.
In the same way, we can view all of us, Jesus’ followers, as people of the future. Let me explain. If you jump back 2,000 years to when Jesus was walking the earth, a majority of the Jewish people believed in the resurrection of the dead. They believed that at the end of time, when God set the world right, the righteous would be resurrected and vindicated. The twist is that Jesus accomplished that in the middle of the history, not at the end. God did for Jesus in the present what Jewish people thought he would do for all at the end. So, in the resurrection, it’s like Jesus became a person of the future.
In the same way, everything else Jesus has done for us – how he brought a new world, a new way of living – is about bringing the promises of the future into the present. With this, God calls us to live as our future selves right here in the present, to step into what God says is true about us, and to stand out.
We don’t have to wait for our best life to happen someday; it can begin to happen right now if we step into it. Most of the things that get in the way are our choices. I know you are thinking, easier said than done. And you are right.
How do we relaunch our lives to embrace the new thing that God wants to do in our lives? Let’s look again at the story of Israel and the challenge they had.
The problem that this story presents may help us to understand why we too struggle to embrace new life today: they forgot who they were meant to be. They lost their way. They allowed things to get in the way that disrupted their purpose and sent them onto a path God did not intend for them.
The miracle in the middle of this story and all of our stories is that God never gives up on us. God is always working to give us a future. God is always invested in our healing, redemption, and restoration so we can get back on track.
This is not just about wanting to save us but wanting to give us a good, abundant life that accomplishes the desires of God’s heart and our hearts. God has written in our hearts his goodness and creativity, all the best he wants for us.
What is your heart telling you today? What are the things that have gotten in your way, in your marriage, your family? What are the thoughts, the dreams, the desires of your heart that have been lost or forgotten over time?
Many of us have learned to have our faith in God –and that is a beautiful gift. Our faith in God grounds us in the hope for tomorrow. But let me add something else that has do with the voice of our heart: our faith in God does not mean we must doubt ourselves. Our faith in God ought to lead us to trust ourselves too. Our faith in God leads us to know not only how much we are loved but also why we were created.
Here is where many of us struggle. Do we know how much we are worth? Do we know how large our life is meant to be? Let me tell you something. Self-doubt forces us into lives that are too small for our dreams. We settle too soon. For the most part, our lives are about safely conforming to what has been, rather than building up new and wild dreams. And we doubt ourselves because we focus on our weaknesses, on our mistakes, on what people think and say about us, rather than on the beautiful ways we were created and gifted by God.
To this God says: “Forget the former things!” My friends, this word today is God telling us, “remember who you are, who you are meant to be. I am always with you.” God knows that when we live in doubt and undervalue ourselves, we give up on what we are meant to be, on any pursuit of our heart’s dreams. But we are the only creation in the universe that was created after God’s own image. Are we to reject that? No, we need to embrace it because by doing so we honor and glorify God.
Today, God is telling us to stop doubting ourselves and to find our strength and purpose. I believe that God placed dreams in our heart as the fuel to move and encourage us to live forward, and that God is overjoyed when we pursue those desires.
Can you hear God’s voice in your heart? What is God saying? How is God encouraging you right now? What dreams have been placed in your heart?
Often, when we pray over and over again for the same thing, it is not because God is failing to give us an answer, but because we have not heard the answer we want. What if this year we go with what we have already been told, with what is in our hearts, as scary and challenging as it may be?
I finish with this. To relaunch is not to keep things the way they are but to endeavor into new things. When God says “I am making a new thing,” that new thing is for you… you are not forgotten. What we think is the end is actually the beginning of the next chapter. It is time to move on to what’s next. You can only grow if you allow a new chapter to be written in your life. To relaunch is not about replaying the same old song but learning a new one.
If we welcome God’s love and grace in our lives; if we have faith in the future he has promised us; if we know that God is for us and not against us, then no matter what situations we face, we will be able to engage with them in a positive way, because we know that we have life ahead of us, and that whatever the former things were, they have no claim over us anymore: we have moved on from them.
I invite you to look for the courage to act on the dreams God has placed in your heart, on what you are meant to be. Maybe you are like a bird who for a long time has had thoughts of flying but is in a cage. Here, the door is open. God created us to spread our wings toward the bright sky he created for us to enjoy. May your choices reflect your hopes for the future and not the fears of your past. Live tomorrow today. Amen.