Have you ever considered the difference between faith and presumption, or optimism and wishful thinking? Realizing that these words may represent differing concepts to many of us, we are fortunate to have the Biblical record as a common point of reference. And while it is likely that both optimists and pessimists might consider the Bible to be a powerful resource for reinforcing their particular views, we are of those who hunger and thirst for living Truth in the Person of Jesus Christ! In Him alone can we possess a confidence that will see us through these troubled times!
On the pages of Scripture we see the life of Jesus as a perfect portrait of the character, grace and love of God. Also in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians we find a powerful and eloquent ballad describing this very same love. Those who will allow themselves to become absorbed in this well-known thirteenth chapter will begin to see the Heart of God revealed in human experience. What inspiration! It is unlikely that any other treatment of this subject has so powerfully touched the lives of as many generations as this one, which no doubt sprang from Paul's personal relationship with Christ Himself.
Optimists should rejoice to read such encouraging statements concerning the Love of our all-powerful God! In fact, His Love is our primary source of optimism! They will find much comfort in the fact that the Love of God in us "believes all things, and hopes all things," but it is likely that wishful thinkers will cower from the adjacent statements that His Love in us also "suffers long, bearing all things and enduring all things."
You see, Biblical, Christ-centered optimism is costly. It requires a price that many of our modern self-centered people are not willing to pay. They prefer a "new age" brand of faith that requires nothing of them. But the followers of the Lord of the Universe know their power springs from the laying down of their lives for others in His Name.
It appears easier and more appealing for some to make shallow confessions and affirmations that everything will work out all right. At times, this could be merely cowardice clothed in presumption and wishful thinking. But Biblical optimism is active, and is always accompanied by the appropriate actions. These are given by the direction of God Himself!
In the life of Jesus, our supreme example, we see a wonderful combination of faith, courage, and positive action. His optimism was based on His love, willingness and ability to do whatever was necessary to bring about that positive result.
During the time of my writing this, an associate is working with me on a decorating project. We are confident that this job will be completed and that we will be rewarded for our efforts. The needed skills, resources, energy, time and willingness to do the work are available. But the main reason for my optimism is that WE ARE HERE NOW, doing the work! Likewise, the love of Christ is present as an active, positive, working force that is committed to the welfare of His loved ones.
Let us observe the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the most positive man that ever lived! Where did He get His limitless source of energy and determination? From the Heart of His Father, of course! Here is the one and only source of unconditional Love and power from which all of us must draw! It was from this Source that He obtained the positive ability to heal, save, and deliver those who were oppressed.
Observe the striking contrast with todays popular teachings! The optimism of Jesus did not forego the cross which He was born to bear, but it actually saw Him through to the glorious triumph which was also His destiny! For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, and rose again for our deliverance! Likewise all sons of God know that our suffering in accordance to His will can only secure our victory in Him! No amount of positive thinking will help us to avoid these distasteful aspects of His plan for us. Neither should we desire such! Our optimism is based on the riches of His glory and grace -- not on our present outward circumstances! He alone is our past, present and future victory! Our faith, hope, and confidence towards a final and joyful outcome can only be based upon our relationship with Him, and that pure relationship is our present sustenance!
While some continue to trust in the sinfulness and faithlessness of humans, it would be wiser to place our confidence in an all-knowing, all-powerful and ALL-LOVING GOD! Is this not the more courageous view? Would it not be actually easier to pronounce defeat and death over the creation of God when all outward evidence seems to support this unhappy ending?
Who among us will join the ranks of the FAITHFUL, those who pray for and tenaciously live in the expectation of the kingdom of God? Who will draw from the Heart of the Saviour Himself, a courageous optimism, one in which they freely and unselfishly participate? Who will forsake the path of least resistance and look towards the upward call of God in Christ Jesus?
In the same breath I must warn those who smugly proclaim "peace and safety," while they continue in their own personal goals and desires. Woe unto you, says the Lord! Sudden destruction awaits you, for you hunger not for His Reign in the earth! This is not faith in Christ nor Biblical optimism. It is fleshly minds endeavoring to convince themselves of the lie of all the ages. Beware! This thinking may appear to bear fruit for a season, but not the resurrection life of Christ. True victory in Him must always be preceded by the work of His Cross in us. Our positive confessions in Christ can never compromise Godly principles. And His love will never deny the importance of honesty, integrity and eternal or experiential truth.
Out of the optimistic heart and mind of God, Christ, and His people, the seeds of a new heaven and new earth are presently being sown. As Jesus believed in the Kingdom of God unto his death at the hands of the Romans, so also is He bringing forth souls who believe and trust in His almighty, unfailing purpose. Their belief is more than merely a mental assent. It is a confidence for which they too are willing to die. While some may find a glorious martyr's triumph, others will experience the slow and daily working of the Cross in their lives. They too are sustained by an inner joy that only knowing both His eternal purpose and gracious Person can provide.
While living in His Joy, and the daily awareness of His Presence, they give themselves to seeing His reign of righteousness, peace and joy in their lives and in the world around them. Their hearts are in perfect agreement with His mission to proclaim good news to the poor; to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, setting at liberty them that are bruised, and preaching the acceptable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-19)
As members of His Body in particular, we contribute to these
positive goals by simply
functioning in the purpose for which He has created us! How mysterious, how wise and
yet how simplistic is His great plan! Thus we continue to grow in the grace and
knowledge of Jesus Christ, the magnificent Lord of the universe, to obtain an optimism
and confidence in Him for which we will never be ashamed!
Let us gain courage and hope from the words of the prophet Isaiah: "Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Luke 3:5-6). Out of our intimate relationships with Him, we are learning of His faithfulness that will not fail us, and of His kingdom which cannot be moved.