The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
By nature, some of us tend to focus on the hole instead of the doughnut. We might be labeled pessimists instead of optimists. But Scripture says: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ.”1 This means that Jesus’ people must appreciate God and His gifts and call each other’s attention to God’s goodness right here under our noses, especially in troubling times.2
J. I. Packer said that optimism without the Lord hopes for the best without any guarantee of its arriving. It is whistling in the dark. But Christian hope, by contrast, is faith looking ahead to God fulfilling His promises. Our Christian burial service speaks of the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Humanistic optimism (without God) is a wish without justification. Christian hope is a certainty, guaranteed by the Lord Himself. Humanistic optimism cannot be sure whether good things will ever actually come. Based on God’s own promises, Christian hope expresses knowledge that every day of our life, and every moment beyond it, the best is yet to come.
Here are some “Reasons for Christ-based Optimism” from Scripture. Some of my comments build on the teaching of Dr. Tony Evans.
God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) Made Us and Knows Us
Scriptures: You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!…You watched me as I was being formed in the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. (Psalm 139:13-16)
Comments: We are not here by chance, beloved. No matter what the circumstances of our conception and birth, we are not a mistake. God makes no mistakes. He created human beings in His own image and likeness to be His stewards over the rest of His creation.3 This is the basis for the value, esteem, and dignity of every single human being ever born. This is the reason we must treat all other people with respect, especially those who are weary, worn, and sad.
God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) Takes Cares of Us
Scriptures: Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell….God does not forget a single sparrow. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered….So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom….Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need (food, clothing, shelter, etc.). So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Luke 12:4-7,32; Matt 6:33-34)
Comments: The believer’s fear of God involves a mix of awe, reverence, adoration, honor, worship, confidence, thankfulness, love, and fear of grieving the Lord. We are to respect God as our Creator, King, Judge, and Savior. Jesus’ followers must not have a “servile fear” (fear of being damned). But we are to have “filial fear” of God, fear of offending Him who loves and cares for us generously and who we love back.4 The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, the helpless and suffering, but He frustrates the plans of the wicked.
God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) Loves Us and Sent Christ to Redeem Us
Scriptures: This is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life….If God is for us, who can ever be successful against us? Since God did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?…Nothing can ever separate God’s people from God’s love. Death or life cannot. Angels or demons cannot. Our fears for today or our worries about tomorrow cannot. Not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love….Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (John 3:16; Rom 8:31-32, 38-39)
Comments: John 3:16 may be the best known and best loved verse in the Bible. It reminds us that God’s love is not merely sentimental. It moved Him to take action, to send His Son to be the atoning sacrifice (propitiation) for our sins. Christ died the death we deserve to give us everlasting life that we do not deserve. That’s why Christ’s gospel is good news! Only those who trust the Lord Jesus as our sin-bearer, substitute, and Savior receive eternal life instead of eternal punishment. Whatever goes wrong, Christ’s followers are reconciled to God forever and will never be condemned.
One hymn says:
“Man of Sorrows,” what a name for the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah! what a Savior!5
We sometimes say that while there’s life there’s hope. Scripture puts it the other way. While there’s hope in God, through Jesus Christ, there is real life with a capital “L.” Without hope in the Lord, Packer writes, life is mere existence, uninteresting, ungratifying, bleak, drab, and repellent, a burden, and a pain.6
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may overflow with hope by the Holy Spirit’s power.7
To be continued. You can read True Optimism in Christ
Notes (various translations): 1 1 Thess 5:16-18. 2 Adapted from a statement by Hope Harley. 3 Gen 1:27-28. 4 Adapted from Robert B. Strimple; 1 Pet 1:17; 1 John 4:18, Eph 4:30. 5 Hymn by Phillip Bliss. 6 Never Beyond Hope, p. 9-10. 7 Romans 15:13.