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DEAL WITH IT!YOU CANNOT CONQUER WHAT YOU WILL NOT CONFRONT
By PAULA WHITE
Nelson IgniteCopyright © 2004 Paula White
All right reserved.
"A person with my background just can't succeed."
A part from the unnamed woman in Proverbs 31, Ruth is the only woman in the Bible who is called a "virtuous woman." That wasn't, however, a description that came from her early years.
Ruth was born and raised in Moab, and the Moabites worshipped a god by the name of Chemosh. Part of this very lewd form of worship involved the sacrifice of young children to Chemosh as an offering (see 2 Kings 3:27). The mentality of all the Moabite people was distorted by this idolatry. A society that sacrifices young children is a society that has very little value for life or family. We can conclude from the atmosphere of her childhood and teenage years that Ruth was exposed to a highly perverse culture and the worst forms of human behavior.
Moab was considered a "cursed" place by the Jewish people. Centuries before, Abraham's nephew, Lot, had escaped Sodom with his two daughters. Lot's wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. Lot and his two daughters managed to hide out in the mountains after Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone. The daughters, no doubtthinking that they and their father were the only three people left alive on the entire earth, got their father drunk on two successive nights. They each had sex with their father and they each became pregnant by him. One of the children born out of this incest was named Moab. His descendants were the Moabites.
Because of the sin in which he was born, Moab and the nation that he produced was "accursed." God's Word tells us that there was no dancing, no praise, no gladness in the fields, and no joy in the streets of Moab because it was a cursed place. The Bible says this about Moab: "'Fear and the pit and the snare shall be upon you, O inhabitant of Moab,' says the Lord" (Jer. 48:43).
Can you imagine what it might have been like to grow up in this lifeless, idolatrous, sorrow-filled place? Those who worship idols are always disappointed and bitter to some degree because no idol can give a person life or blessing or a future. The idol worshiper invariably has to come face-to-face with the fact that he is worshipping a self-made, dead, lifeless god. What could be more sorrowful than taking the body of a dead child from before the altar of a dead god? A spirit of death hung over Moab, Ruth's homeland. She grew up under the oppression of that spirit. Her upbringing was very different from that of the man she married.
Ruth became the wife of Chilion, the son of Elimelech and Naomi. Elimelech was a Jewish farmer who had come to Moab with his wife and two sons to escape a severe famine that had brought all Judah to the point of starvation. Elimelech and Naomi were from Bethlehem. Both of their sons-Mahlon and Chilion-married Moabite girls. The older son married a woman named Orpah. The younger son married Ruth.
Now, it was acceptable in Moab for a Moabite girl to marry a Jewish boy, but it was not acceptable in the Jewish tradition for a Jewish boy to marry a Moabite girl. Even if nothing was said out in the open, there had to have been an undercurrent in that home that something "wasn't quite right."
Mahlon and Chilion were apparently prone to sickness. Mahlon's name means "puny"-he may have been born prematurely. Chilion's name means "unhealthy." Both of these men died young. Elimelech also died. Naomi found herself a widow with two widowed daughters-in-law.
Ruth, who had lived under the shadow of death all her life, had encountered even more death. She who had known the bitterness and disappointment that are part of idol worship now found herself living with a mother-in-law who was bitter and disappointed.
All of these things must have played a part in making Ruth who she was. Experiences such as the ones she had, and the atmosphere of the environment in which she lived, must have had an impact on her psyche. We can say that our environment doesn't impact us, or that the comments of other people don't have an influence on us, but deep inside, we know that isn't true.
In the light of her past and the events of her present, there was something great about Ruth-she rose above her past. She had an ability to look at her past and present and say, "I want no more of this. I want something better. I want something more."
After the death of the men in this family, Naomi heard that the famine was over in Bethlehem, and she decided to return home. She began her journey with both of her daughters-in-law by her side, but along the way, she stopped and told them to turn around and go back to Moab-to return to their people and their gods. One daughter-inlaw agreed and returned. But Ruth loved Naomi and "clung to her" (Ruth 1:14).
Naomi said to these young women, "Go back to your families. Go back to the customs and ways in which you were raised. I'm going to a place that is unfamiliar to you."
Ruth refused to return and said, "Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God" (Ruth 1:16). Ruth wanted the customs and traditions and God of Naomi. She was saying to her, "I'm going where I've never been to create something I've never had ... because in knowing you, Naomi, I've come to love you. I've come to know your God and love your God. I'm willing to go where I have never been to become something I want to be."
Ruth recognized that she had already experienced her past, and she hadn't liked it. There was nothing left that had any value to her. She made a choice.
Millions of people are where Ruth was in that moment. They each have a past they wish they could forget. They've already experienced their pasts, and what they experienced brought them nothing but pain and heartache. They see nothing of value in the pasts they've lived.
Are you there?
Is your past one that you wish you had never lived?
Is your past something that you want to continue to relive again and again?
You cannot enter your tomorrow as long as you hold on to your past. You must let go.
This is often easier said than done. For many of us, our pasts hold brokenness, disappointment, and scars from life's tragedies, and we are still living out the consequences of our failures and foolish choices. You might think that letting go of the bad things in the past would be easy-yet often in a twisted, distorted way, we hold on to our pasts because they are something with which we are familiar. There's a sense of security in holding on to the familiar ... even if the familiar is bad.
Often we are afraid to enter the future because it is unknown and unfamiliar. Even though it may be much better than our past, we haven't been there yet. It isn't what we're used to. Therefore, we drag the past into our future because we feel more comfortable being abased than we do abounding. As long as we do this, we can never be free from the past.
What about you?
Are you ready to let go of your past? Are you ready to give it a graveyard burial and not resurrect it?
Are you ready to move forward into the future God has for you?
Your tomorrow does not have to be like your yesterday. Where you came from doesn't determine where you are going!
Too many people today are predicting their endings based on their beginnings. In life the most important thing is not where you start, but where you finish. I am so thankful that God can interrupt a person's life and change the course of history for that person for His good. God does not use your past to determine your future ... so why should you? It's a tragedy to plan your future by comparing it to your past. Stop using what was to determine what will be!
LEAVING YOUR PAST
Ruth made a decision to leave her past, and it was the most important decision of her life. It's one of the most important decisions you can make.
Most people don't move beyond their upbringing.
Most people don't go beyond the socioeconomic barriers of their parents.
Most people don't go beyond what they have been exposed to in their pasts. Most people don't break out of their ethnicities or cultures.
Why was Ruth willing to leave what was familiar? What caused her to embrace an unknown future and leave behind a well-known past?
A DELIBERATE AND CONSCIOUS ACT
As a child who was sexually and physically abused, I developed forms of behavior that were abnormal and "sick" to a normal person, but they were comfortable and familiar behaviors to me. At the time, I did not have the ability to move beyond those behaviors as a child being raised in an ungodly home. It takes a very deliberate conscious act on the part of an adult to confront old familiar habits developed in childhood and move beyond them to wholeness. It is a choice that you must make.
Leaving the past behind does not mean that we only leave the negative aspects of the past behind. For some people, the struggle is in leaving behind a past that they perceive to be better than their present. There are some people who have trouble letting go of past success. They might be fifty years old with lots of cellulite and a hundred extra pounds, but they are still putting on the tiara and remembering the days when they were prom queen. Or they create a fantasized past and dwell in a set of false memories. The past-no matter what it is-needs to be left in the past!
"Leave and cleave" is a Bible principle that applies to every person. You must leave your past and cleave to what God has for you.
Leave your yesterday ... and cleave to today.
Leave your failures ... and cleave to God's promises.
Leave your old sin ... and cleave to the forgiveness God gives you.
The truth is, you can't look backward and forward at the same time. If you try to move forward while looking backward, you'll be highly unstable. You won't keep your balance and you'll fail. Jesus said, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). To be "fit" means to be appropriate or qualified. The kingdom of God is God's system, the royal realm of God. If you do your work while looking over your shoulder to your past all the time, you won't be qualifying yourself for the royal future God has for you.
A CONTINUAL PROCESS
Leaving your yesterdays is a continual process. You don't just "leave" the past once and for all. You leave yesterday behind the moment you begin today. As you move into tomorrow, you leave behind the today that has become a yesterday. With every step forward, there must be a leaving of what is past.
Stepping into the promise of your potential is always a matter of stepping out of your past.
Let me share with you five things about your past and your future:
1. God does not consult your past to determine your future. Everybody has a "past" of some kind-a past that God expects us to leave behind. The book of Joshua reminds us that even Abraham and his family "dwelt on the other side of the River in old times" and "served other gods" (see Joshua 24:2). Even the man who was chosen by God to become the father of all who have faith, had a "past."
God does not consult your past to determine your future.
God does not bind you to your past.
A number of people told Randy not to marry me. They said, "She's not 'ministry material.'" I didn't play the piano. I didn't look like or dress like a preacher's wife. I didn't come from a Christian upbringing. I used to say to people, "Randy was from five generations of preachers, while I was from five generations of heathens."
My father committed suicide when I was five years old. I was sexually and physically abused from the age of six to thirteen.
I never heard the gospel until I was eighteen years old.
Family gave up on me; friends gave up on me; psychiatrists gave up on me ... but God never gave up on me.
After I was saved at the age of eighteen, God gave me a vision. He let me see myself standing before masses of people, and everywhere my voice was heard, multitudes were saved, healed, and delivered. Where my voice was not heard, people were falling off into utter darkness. He spoke in my spirit, I have called you to preach the gospel.
For many years, although I knew God had supernaturally called me, I struggled with pursuing that call because of my background.
One night Randy and I were at dinner with a leader in a holiness pentecostal group, and as we were talking with this man about ministry, he said to me, "Paula, God knew every mistake you would ever make. He knew everything you would go through. He knew everything that would happen to you. And He chose to call you. Who is man to override the decision of God?"
Those few words began to set me free. If God, who is omniscient (all-knowing)-fully knowing all of my experiences and all my mistakes-chose to call me, who was I to back away from that call? I could be free of the opinion of man! I could begin to believe that yesterday is in the tomb, tomorrow is in the womb, and what we are intimate with right now is what we will birth in our future.
2. God commands you to leave your past and press toward the future He has for you. You must let go of your past to embrace your future. The apostle Paul wrote, "I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14).
Forgetting. I had to make a decision to "forget" the things behind. Forgetting does not mean that I developed amnesia. I still have a memory about the tragic events I've experienced. But ... I choose not to dwell on those memories. I choose not to rethink those same sickening thoughts that once led me into depression. I choose not to think about the times when I was locked in a closet as a child. God's Word tells us, "As he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). Our thoughts become our words. Our words become our actions. Our actions become our habits. Our habits become our character. And our character becomes our destiny. You must choose to forget and leave the past behind. Reaching Forward. A part of "reaching forward" is thinking new thoughts. God's Word says, "Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you" (Phil. 4:8-9). I have to consciously and purposefully choose to think about things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy. Pressing Toward the Goal. Paul wrote, "I press toward the goal." To press is to resist that which would hinder your moving into your destiny. Every time a negative thought and feeling about the past rises up, you must say, "I resist the tendency to think this way and feel this way. I choose instead to think new thoughts and to meditate on those things that are praiseworthy. I choose to put the focus on the goal-the prize of an upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Excerpted from DEAL WITH IT! by PAULA WHITE Copyright © 2004 by Paula White. Excerpted by permission.
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