Pastor Tim: Past, present & future

Torbay Weekly

Have you got a favourite film you enjoy watching again & again?

Mine is the 1985 science-fiction comedy Back to the Future, starring Michael J Fox, that tells the fantastical tale of teenager Marty McFly, who accidentally travels back in time 30 years in a time-travelling DeLorean car invented by Marty’s eccentric scientist friend Dr Emmet Brown.

Last month, a musical, based on the story of the film, unsurprisingly entitled “Back to the Future – The Musical”, opened in London’s glittering West End, and during a recent weekend visit to see our boys in London, we got tickets to see the show.

I didn’t think the musical would be anywhere near as good as the film, but it turned out to be a wonderfully entertaining night out – and the enthusiastic standing ovations as the actors took their curtain calls confirmed that the producers have a hit on their hands.

The basic plot of the movie and the musical are the same. Having travelled back thirty years to 1955, to his home town of Hill Valley California, Marty inadvertently prevents his future parents' meeting, which threatens his existence.

And so, he has to find a way to reconcile his mum and dad, and then somehow get back to the future. The story reminds us of something that we all have in common - that we are creatures of space and time.

We live in the present, reflecting on how we are influenced by our past, anticipating the uncertainties of the future. But, unlike Marty McFly, we cannot do anything about all that’s in the past, even if there are things that we’ve said or done that we would wish to go back and undo, change, or erase.

When, in the New Testament, the apostle Paul encourages his readers to live in the here and now, looking forwards rather than backwards, he uses the analogy of an athlete running a race to describe how a Christian should live their life:

“One thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13 & 14).

A real-life sporting example of what Paul is describing, took place during one of the most memorable finishes to the Tour de France cycle race, back in 1989, when, before the final day’s racing, the yellow jersey was held by the French cyclist Laurent Fignon, who was fifty seconds ahead of his nearest rival, the American rider Greg Lamond.

The closing stage was a 24.5 km time trial, and almost everyone reckoned that Fignon had an unassailable lead. But, during his time trial, Lamond chose to forgo the normal updates he usually received from the support vehicle that followed him.

“I don’t want to know how I’m doing, compared to anyone else”, he said. “I’m just going to ride this leg flat out, with my eyes purely focused on the finishing line.”

Lamond completed the course a full 58 seconds ahead of Fignon, beating him to the title by eight seconds. It was a remarkable achievement.

In trying to help us understanding what the Bible means when it says that those who follow Jesus should forget what is past and press on to what is ahead, American pastor John Piper writes:

“Forget everything that hinders your faith in and obedience to the Lord, but remember everything you can that serves your faith and obedience. If there’s something negative that dogs you with guilt – some past sin that you know you’ve confessed, and that God has dealt with - then get it out of your head.

“But if a memory of what the Lord has saved you from humbles you, and fills you with joy and makes you more thankful, hopeful and confident, then remember it.”