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The Good Old Days

Do you ever find yourself longing for the “good old days?”  Do you wish for a simpler time when problems were not so complicated and things did not move so fast?  Do you yearn for that old, quiet way of life that seems to have been forgotten?  Many people have such thoughts as they remember their childhoods or young adult years, and some even long for times that existed before they were born.  We may have some pleasant thoughts and memories about such times, but there is a certain danger involved if we allow our minds to obsess about things of the past.

The Bible has some advice regarding the good old days, and we would be wise to heed it.  At first, this advice may seem contradictory, but it really is not.  In one vein, it is foolish to obsess about the ways of the former days, but in another, there is much to be learned from the persons and events of the past.  Let us consider the Bible’s instruction.

The first piece of advice we will notice is in Ecclesiastes 7:10 – “Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’  For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.”  There are at least two reasons why this question is not from wisdom.  One reason is that the question falsely assumes that the former days were better than the present.  The truth is that the good old days were not always so good.  Every age has its good times and bad times, but we tend only to remember the good when it suits our minds.  The other reason that this question is not from wisdom is because we cannot recreate the past nor return unto it.  It is fruitless, counter-productive obsession to long for something that can never be again.

Compliant with this line of thinking are the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:13-14.  Regarding the resurrection of the dead, he said, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Paul understood that obsessing about the past held no benefits for him.  If he had allowed himself to be marred in the guilt and shame of having been a persecutor of the church, then he would not have been able to make any progress in preaching the gospel.  If he had decided to revel in his success in making many converts to Christ, then he would not have been motivated to carry the gospel to many others who still needed salvation.  Instead, he forgot the past, whether good or bad, and pressed on.

Let us understand that pressing on to what lies ahead does not preclude us from looking back for the sake of learning and the wisdom of experience.  The Bible itself is our foremost guide in all things, and yet most of it consists of the history of ancient events and people.  Paul said, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).  The Bible tells us the truth of the old days, both the good and bad.  It would be a foolish waste of a valuable resource if we did not learn from the pages of Scripture, imitate the good examples of those who succeeded in serving God, and differ from the poor examples of those who failed.

Judah is a good example of what can happen when people refuse to learn from the past.  Consider how God rebuked Judah for their failure to learn from the ways of their faithful forefathers.  Notice Jeremiah 6:16 – “Thus says the LORD, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.  But they said, “We will not walk in it.”’”  Because of their stubborn refusal to turn back to the former ways, Judah was carried away into captivity by Babylon through the providence of God as punishment for their disobedience.

Taken altogether, we may understand that we must learn from the past, live in the present, and press on for the future.  Regarding the good old days, we can never go back, so it is foolish to long for something that can never be.  Moreover, it is also foolish to idealize the old days as if they were always free from difficulty.  Regarding the present, we should live today in ways that are time-tested and proved to be right.  There is no need to repeat the mistakes of the past when we have already seen their outcomes.  Likewise, there is no need to struggle to find the right ways when the past has already revealed them.  Regarding the future, it is best served by making the most of the present.  The Lord said in Matthew 6:34 – “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Therefore, let us live by the wisdom of God and make these present days the good old days.

Stacey E. Durham




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