Summary: We live in a negative world. The Bible is full of positives. In the parable of the Prodigal Son & the Elder Brother, we see both optimism & pessimism.

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“Being Optimistic In A Pessimistic World”

INTRODUCTION: There are many books on POSITIVE THINKING. The book “The Power Of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale was required reading when I was a student at Trinity College. There are all kinds of “helps” out there to help us maintain a “positive attitude”. Some of them can be good, as long as we don’t take a HUMANISTIC approach to the subject.


STORY: A small boy had a positive attitude while out in the yard playing by himself. He said to himself, “I’m the greatest batter in the whole world.” Then he threw the ball into the air, took a swing … and missed. Strike one! He said it again: “I’m the greatest batter in the whole world.” He threw the ball in the air, took a swing … and missed it again. Strike two! He repeated the process for the third time … swung … and missed. Strike three! Unwilling to be defeated of his optimism, he thought a minute and said, “Wow, I’m the greatest PITCHER in the whole world!”

The Apostle Paul was one of the most POSITIVE people who ever lived. YET, he went through some of the worst troubles anyone could ever face. He was beaten, imprisoned, run out of towns, hated, in fear of his life. BUT … what was his ATTITUDE?

2 Cor. 12:10 – “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”


WHY did Paul have such a POSITIVE ATTITUDE? Turn to 2 Cor. 4:7-10, 16-17.

I had a Professor in Bible College who used to write “93% PMA” on the board. This is what he meant: “93% of all success or failure is determined by one’s attitude … 93% Positive Mental Attitude.”

LIFE is full of NEGATIVES … we live in a “No-No” world … very negative … very pessimistic. Just read the newspaper or watch the evening news. Someone once said: “Negatives belong in the darkroom, not in the Christian’s life.”

The BIBLE is full of POSITIVES. Philip. 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

It’s a dark, pessimistic world in which we live. Listen to this verse of Scripture: Matthew 7:7 – “seek, and ye shall find;” If you seek for the WORST in everything … the NEGATIVE … you’ll find it. BUT … if you seek for the BEST in everything … the POSITIVE … you’ll find it.

Optimism & pessimism has a lot to do with how you look at things.

STORY: One day a lady came home with a new dress. Her husband was furious about her new purchase. He said: “You know we can’t afford that, why did you buy it?” She replied, “The Devil made me do it!” He said: “Why didn’t you just tell the Devil, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’” She replied: “I did, and he told me that it looked good from back there, too!”.

If you look at everything with a critical eye, you’ll find plenty to criticize. You’ll find what you’re looking for. BUT … if you look at everything seeking for the good, you’ll find lots to praise God for. ATTITUDE is very important. You can talk yourself into failure, misery, depression & worry. OR … you can talk yourself into trust, love, joy and hope.

REMEMBER: Behind the blackest thundercloud there is a brilliant sun that is always shining.

Are you an OPTIMIST … or a PESSIMIST? One of my character flaws, is that I’m too much of a PESSIMIST … more than I would like to be. I wouldn’t characterize myself as a full-blown PESSIMIST … more of an “OPTIMISTIC PESSIMIST”. OR … maybe a “PESSIMISTIC OPTIMIST”. I‘m still working on being more OPTIMISTIC. You go to school to be an OPTOMETRIST, or an OPHTHALMOLOGIST … but I’m talking about an OPTIMIST.

For my message this morning, I tried to think of a Biblical illustration of OPTIMISM and PESSIMISM. The Lord led me to this Scripture. Turn with me to Luke 15:11-32. You know the story … the story of the Prodigal Son … and his elder brother.

By the way, do you know what the word “prodigal” means? The word isn’t mentioned in the Scriptures … but it’s what this parable has always been called. “prodigal” means ‘wastefully extravagant, a spendthrift’.

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