Pastor Jon Heikes
First Baptist Church, Pella
The highest-ranking officer and oldest man (at 56) in the July 6, 1944, D-Day Invasion of France was Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt III, oldest son of President Teddy Roosevelt. He was one of the first men to land on Utah Beach. He immediately discovered that they had drifted almost a mile off course and landing crafts were coming into the wrong place. After making a personal reconnaissance of the area, he made a decision that he announced with the words, “We’re going to start the war from here.” Throughout that day, in actions that General Omar Bradley would later describe as, “the single most heroic action he had ever seen in combat,” General Roosevelt reorganized and led the assault on the beach.
The words, “We’re going to start the war from here,” strike me as having an insight we could apply to our own lives. What General Roosevelt meant when he said them was, that while things had gone seriously wrong and they were not where they expected to be, they were not going to waste time complaining about the bad hand that fate had dealt them, they were not going to try to find someone to blame for going off course, and they were not going to sit around kicking themselves for mistakes or errors they had made, but they were going to begin where they were, and fight.
Paul seems to be describing a parallel to this situation in his letter to the Philippians. In chapter 3, he describes his past confidence in his obedience to the Old Testament laws and how it led him to persecute the church. But rather than focus on how badly he had gone wrong, or stew in regret, Paul says, “… but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul begins the spiritual fight where he is and moves forward.
Paul gets under my skin here and asks me, how much of my life do I live looking not forward but backward? How often do I ask myself “What if this or that had been different,” catching myself saying, “Things just didn’t go my way,” or bury myself in regret? General Roosevelt and Paul stand before me in times like this as examples. General Roosevelt with his words, “We’re going to start the war from here,” and Paul’s telling us “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal …” remind me that I am not called to relive my past life and mistakes, but to face forward and seek today to follow where Christ leads. This isn’t to deny the importance of repenting past wrong and seeking to make amends for it, but it does call us to move forward, to face the struggle of today, beginning where we are now, and seeing where God will lead us.