Optimism is sold as the answer to dealing with life. There is much to said for being positive, for looking for the best. Who doesn’t love that song from Little Orphan Annie – “The sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun.” People like that are a gift to the rest of us! But, there are limits to the ability of optimism to carry us through hard times. When Bev was diagnosed with cancer, we needed more than a positive outlook. When she died, no amount of optimism could change the reality of beginning a new life alone. At the end of optimism, I found faith.
Optimism is built around the potential of human will. “I can do this. I will overcome.” It’s admirable! But, faith is better. Faith trusts in a purposeful God. At first glance, faith seems to resemble optimism. In fact, they are very different. Optimism depends on a change of circumstance that I work hard to produce. Faith knows that there is an Unseen Hand that is “working in all things to accomplish something for the good of those who love Him!” (Romans 8:28)
Many Christian confuse optimism with faith, making bold assertions about what God will do in their situation. Christians must never think that if they say enough positive things, or if they force themselves to ‘believe’ what they say with conviction, that they can obligate God to do what they want. They are sadly mistaken, headed for a collision with reality.
Faith understands that “God is God, I am not.”
Perhaps it seems that I do not believe in the power of prayer. Ah, I do! But prayer that is simply an expression of a positive mind, is not the same as prayer that seeks God and rests in His purpose. God invites us to ask with confidence and to relinquish control of life to Him. Genuine faith always involves large quantities of humility, remembering that God sees what we can’t even begin to imagine.
Consider this …
Did Job suffer as he did because he did not pray with faith? No! He suffered according to the will of God for purposes that he did not know and could not grasp, and yet that faithful man did not turn on the Lord. Yes, he questioned. Yes, he even challenged God to explain Himself, but he quickly became humble and confessed that God was Lord of all saying, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15, NKJV)
Did Paul go through hard times because he lacked faith? To suggest that is absurd. He reminds us that the sufferings he endured actually served to bring him to greater dependence on God! “It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead!” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9, The Message)
Peter tells us “those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:19, NIV)
Build great faith!
Get to know God – in prayer, through meditation, from the pages of the Scripture, in worship. Go beyond having a god (small ‘g’ intended!) that you keep around like a good luck charm, a deity you bring out to ward off ‘bad luck.’ That’s the stuff of religion, the empty tradition of human based ‘worship.’ Give your life to Him. Learn to be delighted by the truth that you are His; to be used by Him, to serve His purposes. Faith allows us to go from good to great in His service. Faith lets us abandon our plans and demands to discover the adventure of being part of what God is doing. There, in His will, is supreme joy that supersedes our situations.
Our word from the Word invites us to know the heart of faith: a totally God-focused, surrendered, trusting life. As you read these inspired words, ask the Spirit to breathe faith in your soul.
“I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.
Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NLT)
(a Casting Crowns song that strengthens my faith)
Hold it all together ev’rybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when you’re on your knees
And answers seem so far away
You’re not alone
Stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart
It’s falling into place
I’m on the throne stop holding on and just be held
Just be held just be held
If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will
And not a tear is wasted
In time you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands
Lift your hands lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me find your rest
In the arms of a God who won’t let go
Just be held
Just be held
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