The Biblical Basis for Christian Optimism (III)

The future has never been shaped by majorities but rather by dedicated minorities. And free men do not wait for the future; they create it. The difficulties and problems in that venture are to them not a hindrance but a challenge that must be met…Free men do not look to the state for the opportunities and results of freedom.[1]

Optimism is essential for all people. If people don’t believe that their works today have relevance, meaning or purpose, this will destroy their desire to do anything. Why get out of bed? Research documents this fact. Paul pointed out that “…the ploughman ought to plough in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops” (I Cor.9:10).

We have to have a reason for what we do. Today, I’m working, and I hope to get paid for it next week. I don’t go because I love my boss, or the work, or my work companions, though these factors certainly will make it easier. It is the prospect of monetary reward in this work that drives me. I am “ploughing in hope,” and there is nothing wrong with that.

The motivation for other forms of Christian service is similar: not necessarily the prospect of monetary return, but that there is meaning and purpose in an endeavour requiring our labour. This leads us onto something else:

A social movement that wants to significantly change society, must have some core components:  

 

1) It has to believe in the real possibility of positive social change.

2) It has to believe it has the specific tools to bring about that change: a unique doctrine of law. Men need to believe in their ability to understand this world, and by understanding its laws, change its features. They need a detailed program for social change, in other words.

3) There is another feature of a successful program of social reconstruction which is usually present, and which is undeniably powerful: the doctrine of predestination.[2] They have to have good reason to believe that history is on their side.

The Bible provides all these things for Christians. We do believe in the possibility of positive social change, that the scriptures give us a unique doctrine of law, and that God is always powerfully at work accomplishing His plan. God is on our side, regardless of the obstacles or trials we may seem to be facing.

These three things ought to be a source of great encouragement for believers. They were designed to be an encouragement. If God did not have a perfect, all-encompassing plan for humanity, we could be excused for entertaining pessimism. But He has completely provided for His people.

What should we do now?

The Bible says that “He who watches the wind will not sow, and he who looks at the clouds will not reap” (Ecc.11:4).

Samuel Rutherford (1600-1660) once said, “Duties are ours, events are the Lord’s.” We cannot predict exactly what the interaction between our labours and tomorrow will result in, but what we can do, is behave obediently and responsibly, and trust God to bring about results that will honour Him.

The ten spies who entered the promised land, but brought back an unbelieving report, were those who had been the first recipients of the law of God, at Mt Sinai in Exodus 20 and following. They knew about points 1, 2 and 3. Their response? “It can’t be done. It’s too hard.”

Can we afford to wait for the optimum circumstances? Not really. The circumstances of today may not be glowing, but are they this way because of us Christians in our day and before, failing to sow?

God’s message to Jeremiah was that there is hope in the long run for those that are faithful to His message. Eventually there will come a day when truth will win, when the law will reign supreme and contracts will be honored. However, the prophet’s job is not to imagine that all good things will come in his own day. There is no need for the short-term optimist. He is told to look at the long-term, to preach in the short-term, and to go about his normal business.

People need to know that all is not lost forever just because everything seems to be lost today. The prophet’s job is to be honest and realize that the truth needs to be preached for its own justification – whether people listen or not is irrelevant. A messenger must not water down the truth for the sake of mass appeal. God encourages Jeremiah to keep plugging away; shed tears if you must, but most importantly, plan for the future. Never give an inch.

…The Remnant is there and in numbers beyond what most people would imagine. The Remnant will survive. Eventually, the Remnant will become the masses, since truth will win. But until that day, the prophet must do his best to understand reality and present it in the most effective way he knows how. That is Jeremiah’s job. Jeremiah realizes the burden of this thankless task, yet also becomes secure in the fact that it is a critical job to be done.[3]

All of the great men and women of the Bible at some point faced daunting circumstances, which in human terms seemed hopeless. But they did something that theose ten foolish, evil spies were unwilling to do: they believed that God was much bigger than their circumstances, and was able to lead them to triumph regardless. And they were right!

So, the Christian response ought to be one of optimism, concerning the faithfulness and the promises of God towards His people, and His great desire to use them in this world He created.

Are you optimistic about the promises of God?

If you are, what are you doing about it?

 

 

[1] Rousas Rushdoony, “The Messianic Character of American Education,” 1995, p.332.

[2] Gary North, “Unconditional Surrender,” 1995, p.361-2.

[3] Gary North (www.garynorth.com), “Job’s Job,” April 14th, 2018

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