* This is the first entry in what will be a series of articles discussing the reasons why Christians have every reason to be optimistic about life and how this optimism is among our most powerful witnessing tools when encountering the world outside the church walls. We will take a detailed look at how Scripture reveals our new identity in Christ; and how that identity, partnered with the nature of God, the work of Jesus, and the reality of the Holy Spirit, ideally results in a “holistic optimism,” which animates every aspect of the Christ-followers life.
As Christians, we have every reason to be optimistic about life in general and our futures in particular. I am not speaking here just about our promised future rewards in heaven; I am talking about the positive promises we have been given about our lives here in this world. All too often the focus of sermons, books, articles and other means of Christian communication emphasize eternal life and what one can expect when this world is left behind. Although this focus is important and certainly a reason for optimism, it is only a part of the gospel picture presented in Scripture.
God not only intends for us to be happy in heaven, he resolutely has provided for our joy and fulfillment, our optimism if you will, while still living here on earth. Granted, due to the fallen nature of the world, our own habitual ways of thinking, and last but not least, the activity of the enemy, life will have its share of problems. Christian optimism does not discount these negative factors, but it does not dwell on them. God has promised that he who is in us is greater than he who is in this world. If we take that promise to heart, it means that we can overcome anything the enemy or the world might throw our way. As a result, we can be positive about the future and rightfully claim that we are “more than conquerors” when it comes to dealing with the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that life might hurl our way.
Here at LifeBrook Ministries we firmly believe that Christians are called to live a life of radical optimism that is holistic in nature and based on our new identity “in Christ.” A close look at Scripture consistently reveals that God, through the work of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension, has provided us everything we need to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). Further, it is revealed that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
Just these two passages are reason enough for our radical optimism, yet, as we shall see in this series of articles, that the Bible is jam-packed with promises such as these. Can we be anything but optimistic? No, not if we accept God at his word. Even more positive is the fact that every area of the Christian life is impacted by God’s promises and provisions: our physical being; our marriages and relationships; our work; our social life; our finances; our emotional health – it goes on and on. God’s blessings are connected with our new identity in Christ and are far-reaching, touching our lives in a loving, vital, holistic manner.
Unfortunately, many of us who consider ourselves followers of Jesus Christ, empowered for a fulfilling life by the indwelling Holy Spirit, often approach life with a negative outlook rather than the radical optimism we are called to exhibit. This state of affairs is highly unfortunate for several reasons. First, it prevents many of us from truly grasping and taking possession of our new identity “in Christ.” Scripture reveals that when we accept Christ and put him in the pilots’ seat of our lives, we are “new creations,” capable of living at a level far above what we have grown accustomed to.
Further, a significant number of Christians seem to chronically wallow in such a dark pit of despair we become incapable of seeing the positive manifestations the Holy Spirit may be placing before us on a daily basis. As a result, we often fail to recognize and accept God’s blessings, both great and small. This failure to enjoy God’s generous love for us creates an even deeper state of despair and pessimism and we wind up caught in a whirlpool of negativity that continues to spiral us downward.
If this goes on for long, we often become paralyzed by our pessimism and worse still, end up affecting those around us. Our negativity can become like an infectious virus, causing others to avoid contact with us and increasing our sense of aloneness and isolation. This dismal situation is further compounded by the fact that connecting with others, especially those of a more positive mindset, is often a large part of the solution to our problems.
Please keep in mind that I am not speaking here about those people, Christian and otherwise, who are suffering from clinical depression, which often has a significant biochemical component in its etiology. I am in no way suggesting that those who are dealing with this particular type of depression can solve their difficulties simply by adopting a mindset of Christian optimism. Quite often the solution to this sort of endogenous involves medication and professional counseling. I have found, however, when used in conjunction with professional help, Christian optimism can go a long way toward turning around chronic malaise and negative patterns of thinking.
In order to begin looking at the specific reasons why Christians should have a positive, optimistic outlook on life, we need to answer one vital question. I suggest that rather than answering this question quickly, or answering in a way you think you are expected to as a Christ-follower, you instead spend a bit of time praying about, reflecting on, and formulating your answer. Your answer to this question will determine the direction you proceed in from here on out. The question is straightforward:
Do you believe what the Bible says is true?
Please, don’t try to complicate this too much. There is no need to go into any detailed self-analysis about your views on whether or not the Bible is the inerrant Word of God or whether or not you consider the Bible at least authoritative in the life of a Christian. Just determine if you, in fact, believe what the Bible says is true. As stated earlier, how you respond to this question will determine what your next step will be.
If you answered that you do not believe the Bible to be trustworthy in terms of what it says, before proceeding farther in terms of attempting to develop a more optimistic framework in your outlook on life, you need to spend time discerning what source of information you deem to be trustworthy. Where is it that you, indeed, can find the truth as it pertains to your life in general and how you go about living in particular?
If you answered that you consider what the Bible says is true, before going any deeper, spend time praying that the Holy Spirit will unlock the scriptures that we will be studying for you. Don’t be shy in doing this. Be bold, asking God for discernment and wisdom. According to Scripture, God enjoys answering prayers for wisdom. Just take a look at James 1:5 or recall how God answered Solomon’s prayers.
In the next article, we will discuss a few of the realities associated with our new identity in Christ and what this actually means as we go about our daily rounds. Until then, may I suggest the following brief exercise?
As soon as you wake up each morning, slowly repeat the following “prayer of optimism”; repeat it again around lunch time and once more before retiring in the evening:
I take possession of the reality that in Christ, I am a new creation and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I approach life with boldness and confidence, knowing that I am more than a conqueror. There shall, indeed, be showers of blessing for me. (Amen)
© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved