No question about it… life can be disappointing, down right heart-breaking. Life’s moments include the trivial irritants like broken appliances and the crushing blows of death. Some people become joyless, cynical – even hateful – creatures who spread darkness. Others remain amazingly upbeat, made even more tender by the sorrows they endure. Are some of us just born optimists or are there choices we make to live with joy?
Ray Stedman, now with the Lord, taught the Word in a down to earth manner and influenced my understanding of the Christian life. One of his books, Authentic Christianity, includes a section on “unquenchable optimism.” Yes, the Spirit-filled Christian, full of faith that rests squarely on the foundation the eternal promises of Christ Jesus, will allow us to live our days hopefully, able to see the bright side. Stedman points us to this text – “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-17, NIV)
“Thanks be to God, who always leads us.”
Could there be greater reason for hope than that? An authentic Christian does not avoid dealing with reality. He sees the pain and suffering that sin and Satan stir up. He does not deny that injustice, disease, hatred, prejudice, greed, sickness, and poverty are real scourges of in the human experience! BUT, he also knows that God reigns. He asks for eyes of faith to see the hand of God at work. He is thankful, in faith, that God can transform even the most painful circumstances and use them to produce a Kingdom result.
Paul and Silas set a girl free from slavery to an evil spirit in Philippi. For their kindness, they were beaten, thrown into stocks in the inner dungeon, and left to groan. But, they sang instead, not silly songs that were meant to distract them from their plight, but hymns of thanksgiving to God that they trusted to work to make His plan known! And, the earth shook, the doors came open, the jailor was converted, becoming one of the founders of the church in that city. (Acts 16) That’s authentic Christianity that knows unquenchable optimism rooted in faith in the Lord.
What circumstance frustrates you today? Is there someone who is resisting the purpose of God and trying to make you miserable? Is your heart crushed by sorrow? Make the choice of an authentic Christian. Have faith in God! Sing a song that strengthens your hope in Him. Give up your need to define how the future must look and let Him lead you to a place unimaginable in human understanding. That is the place from which the authentic Christian gets his unquenchable optimism.
Resist that arrogance of the modern Christian who robs the Word of power by saying, “Well, that’s not my experience so it must not be true!” Let the Scripture shape your experience. God is greater than you or I can possibly imagine. He is present, working, and compassionate. Believe it and receive His grace.
Here is a word from the Word. Paul made the choice to rejoice, even as he was imprisoned, dealing with treachery from other Christian teachers. He declared – “I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:18-27, NIV)
This Monday morning, I choose to look on the bright side, to live with faith and hope, so that I will know JOY UNSPEAKABLE and FULL OF GLORY!
All I once held dear, built my life upon.
All this world reveres and wars to own,
All I once thought gain, I have counted loss;
Spent and worthless now compared to this-
Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You,
There is no greater thing.
You’re my all, You’re the best!
You’re my joy, my righteousness!
And I love You Lord, love You, Lord.
Now my heart’s desire is to know You more,
To be found in You and known as Yours,
To possess by faith what I could not earn;
All surpassing gift of righteousness.
Oh to know the pow’r of Your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings.
To become like You in Your death, my Lord,
So with You to live and never die!
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