For the next few minutes I’d like you to think about things you have launched. Maybe at some point you launched into marriage. You launched into parenthood. You launched a new career. You launched your kids into college and adulthood. You launched into retirement. Some day you hope to launch into heaven.
To launch anything significant in your life, you need a pioneer spirit. The future needs to look brighter than the past. I read a few weeks ago that when your memories exceed your dreams, the end is near. But when your dreams exceed your memories, you pioneer.
After being launched into space on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first astronauts to land on the moon. That event defined NASA for decades to come. Even though they had many additional successes, they never quite gained clarity on a new vision. Past successes can become future challenges, especially when the past defines a group.
Have you noticed the older you get, the bigger the rearview mirror becomes? This happens to me all the time. When I get together with family and friends, I find it much easier to talk about where I’ve been than where I’m going. This is the disease of “past-itis,” where the past hinders the future.
Of course, we should celebrate the past, but do so to give thanks, to gain courage, and to get going.
Why am I writing about the past and launching into the future? Because I don’t want your past launches to keep you from moving forward in faith. Maybe you had a launch that fizzled, and now you’re afraid to try again. If so, remember, “God is the one who makes all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Now is the time to “forget the former things and don’t dwell on the past.” God says, “See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19a).
Maybe you had a launch that succeeded, but now you want to quit while you’re ahead. Oh, don’t miss out on future victories due to past wins. Most teams know that when you’re in the lead, you have to keep pressing on. When you stop playing to win and start playing not to lose, you give the opponent the edge, the fire, and the motivation to be the victor.
Finish strong and finish well. The apostle Paul could have spent his final years reminiscing on all of his successful launches—new churches, new followers of Jesus, letters written that became part of the New Testament. He could have sat back and basked in the glory. But he didn’t, at least not until he received his eternal reward.
He kept launching. He kept the pioneer spirit. Even from a prison cell where he could have easily given up, he wrote, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:23b-25).
And so now, keep launching and keep dreaming, for when your dreams exceed your memories, you, like Paul, are a pioneer.