Summary: This sermon contrasts biblical optimism with worldly optimism. Foundations for Christian optimism are explored.
My purpose this morning is to stir up holy optimism. There is a strange contradictions going on in the world. Unbelievers who have the most horrible future in store are filled with a vain optimism; and Christians who have every reason to be the most optimistic people on earth are often depressed. Things are not going to work out for the person who rejects Christ. For people who reject the grace of God and continue in ungodliness there is no hope.
Paul contrasted the condition of Christians at Ephesus before and after their conversion. “...that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:12-13). Before Christ came into their lives they were (1) without hope (2) without God (3) in the world. Do you believe that kind of contrast exits between those who have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and those who have not? Prov 10:28 says, “The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing” (NIV). That verse acknowledges hope in the wicked but those hopes are vain—they ultimately “come to nothing.” Look with me at a couple of other scriptures that address this contrast. Eccl 8:12-13 “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.” Isa. 3:10-11 “Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them, For they shall eat the fruit of their doings. 11 Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, For the reward of his hands shall be given him.” A sinner may seem to do well for awhile—but ultimately it will not be a good ending. I’m here to say to God’s people, “It shall be well with you.”
There is a kind of superficial optimism preached in America that is not biblical. It’s more like the world’s vain optimism than what the Bible teaches. Its values are similar to those of the world. Its promises are more about temporal things of this world than eternal riches. That message is very appealing to carnal Christians. When I’m more interested in material gain and personal comfort than eternal relationship with God, I’m carnal. When I get more excited about an increase in salary or a new car than I do the presence of God, I’m carnal. I would like to see us go deeper than some of the “Christian” optimism we see on television. I want to talk about something more lasting than mere positive thinking. Today I want to talk about “Biblical Optimism.” What does an optimism rooted and grounded in the word of God look like?
I. Biblical Optimism knows God’s attitude toward His people.
Jerm. 29:11 is my favorite Bible verse. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” That’s something I have to remember every day of my life. I’ve got to know that God is for me and not against me. I’ve got to know that in spite of all my floundering, He loves me and will not reject me. Imagine the horror of a God who just doesn’t like you. Some people think God is sitting in heaven just looking for an excuse to zap them. If you’re like me, you’ve already given Him plenty of excuses. Instead of zapping you, He has lovingly and patiently carried you in His arms. What is God’s attitude toward you, dear Christian? “... thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
In Romans 5 Paul reasons with believers about this. Verses 8-11, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Think about that. When you were God’s enemy—unconcerned about pleasing Him—doing whatever you wanted to in rebellion against Him—how did God respond to you? He loved you so much, He gave His Son for your salvation. Jesus loved you so much He suffered the pain, misery, and rejection you deserved so that you could be reconciled to the Father. Here is Paul’s reasoning. If God did all of that for you when you were His enemy, how much more will He do for you now that your His child. Foundational to our walk with God is this understanding of His attitude toward His kids.