I have a dear friend by the name of Chuck, who I have known for many years. Chuck and I met during our junior year in college and, although our paths have led us to different parts of the world at times, we have always maintained contact over the years and see one another whenever we get a chance.
Back in November of last year, I had the opportunity to visit with my old friend when he came back to this part of the country to teach a week-long workshop for local church administrators. A long-time believer, Chuck takes his faith quite seriously – in fact – perhaps too seriously. Raised in a strict, legalistic denomination, Chuck carried quite a bit of unnecessary, negative baggage into his adult life and, as a result, has had a difficult time coming to accept the fact that God might indeed want him to enjoy life. Over the years, I have discovered that my friend Chuck is not alone.
More than a few Christians go through their days as if dark clouds were hanging over their heads and exhibiting a countenance that indicated they began each day being baptized in vinegar. I recall that on one memorable occasion Chuck’s wife Jill bluntly stated that if her husband ever smiled, he would probably sprain his jaw.
Both scripture and common sense screams that this is not what God intended for his children. The Christian life was meant to be a joyous affair instead of an ordeal to be endured. Granted, life will always have its difficulties, but even when we face trials, I believe that God desires that we do so with as much optimism and hope as possible.
Personally, I have come to believe that one of the fundamental keys to a life of Christian optimism is to have positive expectations based on scripture and the integrity of God.
Think about it. In Romans Paul tells us that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God. In and of itself, that promise should keep us in a positive frame of mind, even during times of difficulty and trial. In case you are not familiar with this passage, or if you have forgotten it, let’s take a look at what Paul says in Romans 8: 38-39
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NLT)
If we trust God and believe what scripture tells us, then we have every right to be completely optimistic about the present and the future. This is not a false, “pie in the sky” optimism nor is it a Pollyanna style denial of reality. No, this biblical optimism is based entirely on scripture and God’s character. God is a being of integrity and further, he cannot lie. Our optimism is based on the firm foundation of God’s promises and his character.
The enjoyment of life flows from trusting God and, through that trust, to have positive expectations in life. We have every right to believe deep in our hearts that God truly desires our happiness because he is the Father of Lights and we are Children of the Light. Indeed, scripture affirms that God wishes that we “prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2)
This has nothing to do with what has come to be known as the “prosperity gospel.” Here I think John is speaking of the fact that God desires our happiness and enjoyment of life and that we prosper in life. Yes, this can mean financial wealth, but it can also mean emotional and spiritual wealth. We have every right to expect the best because God wants the best for his children.
John mentions here the fact that our soul prospers. What is he talking about? In brief, as humans we are tripartite beings, meaning that we have three aspects to our being. Just as God exists as a Trinity, in a real sense, so do we. Our three-part make up consists of body, soul, and spirit. The soul consists of our mind, our emotions, and our will. God’s original intention was that our spirit be in the driver’s seat and in direct communication with God. Based on this divine connection, our spirit governed our soul and our bodies. Due to the Fall, this arrangement was distorted and, because of our spiritual death, it became necessary that the soul take up the command of our lives. The results of this, of course, are quite negative and adverse to God’s intentions.
When we accepted Christ into our hearts, ideally the original order of things was restored, at least on a spiritual level. When we live from our spirit (walk according to the Spirit, not the flesh), our soul does indeed prosper and we can enjoy life and expect the best.
It is not enough to hope for the best. You must learn to give all that you can give and then, with an affirmative attitude, expect the best. Paul consistently teaches that we have within each of us the potential to have the Mind of Christ, a part of ourselves that has unlimited potential and is eternally optimistic. When you are operating from your Christ Mind, know deep in your heart you cannot fail. As you learn to go deep within yourself and tap into the boundless resources that reside there, firmly know that your success is guaranteed. Be specific in your expectations, but be open that things may not be exactly as you planned – they may be better.
You will encounter these ideas in many schools of positive living. Although the words may vary, the principles remain constant:
Believe in yourself and your abilities.
Have positive and consistent confidence in yourself.
Demand the best from yourself.
Expect the best for yourself.
The central point is that positive expectancy is intimately connected with positive thinking. If you expect to improve, if you have positive faith and a positive desire, coupled with a firm plan and an enthusiastic attitude, then you will make every effort to improve. As we have seen, if you put forth the effort you will improve. So it is right and reasonable to expect improvement. Do not entertain, even for a moment, the thought of defeat or failure.
Please understand that positive expectancy flows from two primary sources: faith in God and confidence in your abilities. God, our Divine Source, is not only a God of benevolence, but also a God of provision. Have faith in and operate on the belief that God has already equipped you with every blessing in the spiritual realm. The New Testament affirms this reality and, if you persist in your pursuit of spiritual excellence, so will your experience. So have faith in who and what God is and what has been provided for you. Also, continually strive to deepen the level of confidence you have in yourself. God does not want his children walking around thinking they are sinful worms that deserve nothing more than a bleak existence. Historically, some segments of the church have promoted this dismal assessment of the human condition. Some churches still do. Viewing humanity in this manner is not only erroneous, it ignores who and what we are when we are “in Christ.”
Keep your mind focused on the affirmative reality that you will improve. Make every effort to improve, and then expect the best result. If you do this you will foster success in all that you do. Again, I refer you to the wise words of Christian Larson:
“Do your best under every circumstance, and believe that every circumstance will give its best to you. Live for the realization of more life and for more efficient use of everything that proceeds from life. Desire eternally what you want; and act always as if every expectation were coming true.”
By expecting the best result you will become more efficient and more productive. You will have the constant realization that every effort you put forth will bring you that much closer to your goal. You will not waste your valuable “mind-power” on thoughts of defeat and failure, but instead, will focus your mental energy on that which you want to achieve. As a result, your sense of fulfillment in life will continue to increase. Larson continues:
“Think only of what you desire, and expect only what you desire….Make it a point to have definite results in mind at all times. Permit no thinking to be aimless. Every aimless thought is time and energy wasted, while every thought that is inspired with a definite aim will help to realize that aim. The whole power of your mind will work with you in realizing what you have in view.”
What profound truths are contained in Larson’s words! “Every aimless thought is time and energy wasted”. So give your thoughts aim and purpose. Think positive thoughts connected with your life goals and life mission. By doing so you are using the power of your mind to assist you in accomplishing great things.
Having positive expectations based on scriptural promises, leads to a realistic and practical optimism that impacts all aspects of life. Further, this practical optimism allows us to better enjoy life, even at times when things may not be going as we might desire. We know that God wants our best, he wants us to prosper and enjoy life, and that nothing can possibly separate us from his love. How can we justify anything less than positive expectations? To expect less or to expect the worst is an insult to God in that we do not trust his promises or his character.
I remember saying these things to Chuck across a plate of pasta last November and, at least for a few moments, he did crack a genuine smile. I forgot to ask Jill if his jaw was sore the following day.
(c) L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved