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Sunday, May 24, 2015 am                                Perfection Index

 

GOING ON TO PERFECTION (17)
Spiritual Growth 4
Optimism – 2

 

As we continue our study of perfection with an emphasis on spiritual growth this month, today we continue to examine how as Christians we need an optimistic mindset. 

As I begin I want to emphasize something I said last week – I am not preaching the optimism that is the positive preaching movement. Nor am I preaching a health/wealth attitude that tells you to declare to God to give you whatever you want and He will do it.  Those who hear me regularly know that.    We CANNOT ignore our sins, either individually or as the Lord’s church and be pleasing to Him and jeopardizing our souls.  Some may encourage you to disregard your weaknesses and sinful failures and say they don’t matter.  Much of the denominational world teaches that your sin doesn’t matter (at least it is a consequence of their doctrines) and that will condemn a soul because one will refuse to repent.  Emphasizing the positive aspects of the gospel to the neglect of immorality and ungodliness is a false gospel.  BUT so is emphasizing the negative to the neglect of the positive!

However, while the above is true, there is a need for us to optimistically believe we can do what God wants us to do.  I am simply trying to get us to develop a mindset with which we will reach forward to our fullest potential as Christians.  We need to believe that we can be successful (according to God’s standards).

Last week we defined the word as, “a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.”[1]   As Christians we OUGHT to be looking for the best in a situation (and in others) rather than being cynical and assuming someone has sinister motives in what they do or say. 

The Bible does not use the word “optimism” and that causes some to question it, because it has been abused religiously as described above, as well as having an over-inflated understanding within our society.  I have no problem with using the term when we properly define it as we have done.  As we noted last week, there are many passages (Matt. 7:7-8, Luke 9:1-10, Phil. 4:8, 1 Cor. 13:7, 1 Cor. 10:13, Phil. 4:13, 2 Cor. 12:10, etc.) and examples of the optimistic attitude in the Bible (Joshua and Caleb, David and Goliath, Elijah vs. the prophets of Baal, even Jesus Himself proclaiming the resurrection, etc.).  We will use these to define what we mean by the word.   Today we will continue to notice Biblical optimism by noting some words in the Bible that are associated with optimism.  We also want to notice some things we need to do to develop a proper mindset. 

 I.                    Biblical words and thoughts associated with optimism

a.        As with both passages and examples, there are numerous words that involve an optimistic attitude.

b.       Confidence – the idea of confidence is to have certainty in a matter.  It is often associated with boldness, especially in our speech.  Such comes out with an optimistic attitude.

Acts 28:30-31, “Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

Romans 15:14, Gal. 5:10, “I am confident concerning you…”  Paul believed in these brethren, that they could and would respond properly.  Heb. 6:9 we are confident of better things concerning you


2 Cor. 5:6-8, “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
Eph. 3:12 “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

Heb. 3:6, “but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.

1 John 3:21 – if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God

c.        Assurance – a word that indicates complete confidence and certainty. 
Heb. 6:11, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,
Heb. 10:22, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Heb. 11:13, “assured of them…”
1 Thess. 1:5, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.

d.       Faith – the very idea of faith is trusting God. With confidence and assurance, we believe God can accomplish what He has promised.  Our faith is at the foundation of our optimism. 
 Heb. 11:1 –NAS95.   (cf. Heb. 3:14 – confidence)   When we are called upon to put our trust in Him, it is because we believe that He can do that which He has promised. 
Consider the example of Abraham – Heb. 11:17-19 when Abraham offered Isaac his faith shows a positive belief in God. 
Matt. 17:20 – the faith of a mustard seed   According to your faith let it be – Jesus healing. 
James 1:6-8 – our prayers must be accompanied with faith – we believe God answers us!
Considering this, genuine faith is optimistic. As we go through this life, we put our trust in Him that He can and WILL do as He has promised toward us.   Romans 8: 31-39 is just one of many passages that demonstrates this faith in Him and the optimism it produces in us.
Even as we face trials and tribulations, we believe that God is in control and in the end we will be rewarded positively (cf. Matt. 25:21, 23).

e.       Hope – means to look forward to something with confidence; expectation for a good (positive) outcome.  The Bible regularly speaks of hope.  It is an optimistic mindset that keeps us going.  It keeps us from giving up.
Heb. 11:1, Faith is the substance of things hoped for
Our love is to believe all things and hopes all things (1 Cor. 13:7).
Heb. 6:11, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,
Romans 5:3-5, we glory in tribulations because it produces perseverance, character and hope.
1 John 3:3, hope motivates us to purify ourselves following His example. 

f.         Providence – Even the idea of providence implies optimism.  Providence is God working within the boundaries of natural means (in contrast with miracles being God working outside the boundaries of nature). 
For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” (Philemon 15–16)   Notice how Paul sees a “positive” reason for Onesimus finding him.  This may or may not be the reason behind the events that unfolded, but Paul gives God the glory.  Consider that in light of what optimism is.  In all that we do, we give Him the glory (1 Peter 4:11)    
Rom. 8:28 – all things work together for good according to His purpose.  This is the proper mindset toward God

g.        Again, we see numerous passages that illustrate how we need to have an optimistic disposition.  It is within this context that we develop such – nothing more and nothing less.

 II.                  Some suggestions on maintaining the proper Christian mindset.

a.        Therefore, since we are to have this mindset, what can we do to develop an optimistic attitude?  Here are some things to consider.  Many are reminders of what we have already addressed.

b.       Make up your mind – as usual this is where it begins.  Being positive (or negative) is a choice!
Decide that you are going to give the benefit of the doubt.  You are not going to give up. 
You are going to look for good in a situation.  

c.        Realize how blessed you are – it is always good for us to examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5).  As we consider all that God has done for us - forgiveness, His guidance and presence through His word, the blessing of prayer, God’s family, etc.  Count your blessings! – it can give us the disposition we need to continue our journey.

d.       Accept who you are.  Be yourself!  You are made in God’s image with your own set of abilities. This is what Paul was emphasizing in 1 Cor. 12:12-27 as he described the church as a body.  Whatever your part is, be content there and make the best of that!

e.       Believe you can

                                                   i.      A healthy self-esteem – another challenging word.  Confidence, but with humility!

                                                  ii.      Renewing your mind – renew the way you think - Romans 12:1-2

f.         Avoid negative  situations when you can -

                                                   i.      Sometimes you have a choice!  Choose wisely!

                                                  ii.      Don’t be overly critical of yourself – again, I’m not advocating mental blindness – ignoring sins you need to address. 

                                                iii.      Don’t take the news so seriously – it’s mostly negative.  This world is in moral trouble.  The outside media emphasizes how bad it really is.  BUT, no matter what happens, God is still in control!!!  

g.       Do what you can do!  Affect your environment for good

                                                   i.      Self-control - avoid and overcome sin in your life.  Satan will use your weaknesses and knowledge of your sins against you.    If you find yourself continually giving yourself over to sin, it WILL affect your mindset negatively. 

                                                  ii.      Resolve to not be a criticizer – determine to build up those up around you with encouraging words.

                                                iii.      Be humble – it is a pleasant disposition that attracts the right kind of people.

                                                iv.      Help others and be an encouragement to them when you can.

                                                  v.      These are all actions that make your environment a better place and they help you to promote a proper mindset about yourself.   You know you are doing what you can!  Like Paul who in Acts 23:1 told the council at Jerusalem, “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day…”

h.       Associate with those who will build you up. 
IF we are the brethren we ought to be, we will be building each other up – Eph. 4:16.  Choose your brethren over the world. 

i.         Think on THESE things – Phil. 4:8 - let them be that which influences your mind and the way you think.  Live with confidence, hope, assurance, and faith. 

j.         Make the best of your situation – like Paul said in Phil 4:10-13 be content where you are at.  We can control how we think and how we deal with a situation.  In prison for the cause of Christ – you can either sing or sulk.  Choose wisely.

k.        Set realistic expectations for yourself – we need goals!  But they need to be attainable. Yield not to temptation…each victory will help you some other to win…

l.         Reach forward

                                                   i.      Colossians 3:1-2 – set your mind on things above; Phil. 3:14

                                                  ii.      Don’t dwell on the past.  It does you no good.

                                                iii.      Don’t let setbacks defeat you

                                                iv.      Keep your eye on the prize – Matt. 6:21 – where your treasure is

 

Yes, optimism is overemphasized by many today and abused by others, but it definitely has its place in the life of a Christian.  As with everything, let us be wise as we develop a mindset that will help us grow spiritually to our fullest potential.   Think about it!



[1] "optimism." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 16 May. 2015. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/optimism>.