The Biblical Basis for Christian Optimism (IV)

What people think about their future always affects their attitudes today. This is logical. If I believe that tomorrow my life will be filled with insurmountable problems, that there is no real hope for me and my family, that anything I do will not make any difference, I will be paralysed, and quite possibly depressed. But if I think that God is with me, and I’m confident that He has a faithful plan to fulfil in my life, I’ll be more likely to face the inevitable problems of life with confidence and hope.

The people who have inherited the promises of God historically, have always had problems, because wherever there are people, there are problems.

But what do we do about them? The Bible answers this question:

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

The Christian faith has always been a matter of believing in what we cannot see. Unbelief always cynically says, “Well, I’ll believe it when I see it,” but this must never be our attitude towards God and His works.

Job was one who faced the trials of life at the hand of God. He knew there was a purpose in them, and that they were not incidental factors of life, without significance. He acknowledged that

He performs what is appointed for me, and many such decrees are with Him (Job 23:14).

And in the midst of his trials, he was optimistic. He said,

He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10).

Israel in Isaiah’s day had certainly been in spiritual decline and under God’s judgement, and Judah had followed its poor example in its idolatry. But despite all this, Hezekiah had become king of Judah, and he

…Trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him, for he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses (II Kings 18:5-6).

But now Hezekiah was in crisis. Sennacherib king of Assyria had come up against Jerusalem with a large army, and his military commander Rabshakeh had poured scorn and abuse on Hezekiah and his God, reciting to Hezekiah the victories he’s won, and predicting that if the men of Jerusalem resisted him, they would soon be eating their own dung and drinking their own urine (II Kings 18:27).

And when King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth and entered the house of the Lord (II Kings 19:1).

He prayed, saying,

Now, O Lord our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdom of the earth may know that You alone, O Lord, are God (II Kings 19:19).

Later, the prophet Isaiah sent a message to him. He was brimming with confidence as he related to Hezekiah that God had a plan, way beyond Sennacherib:

Then this shall be the sign for you: you shall eat this year what grows of itself, in the second year what springs from the same, and in the third year sow, reap, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downwards and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the Lord will perform this (II Kings 19:29-31).

And the outcome?

Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead (II Kings 20:35).

Hezekiah had a trial, but put his trust in God to save him, and was delivered.

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus walked with two problem dominated and disappointed disciples, who related to their unidentified travelling companion the events of late in Jerusalem. Their companion was not impressed by their attitude. He rebuked them, saying,

O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory? (Luke 24:25-26)

Conclusion:

Problems are normal for people. They are challenging, maybe threatening and possibly painful. But they are also essential for our spiritual growth, so we should expect and even welcome them. And in the midst of them, we must remember what the scripture says:

Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed (Ro.10:11).

And,

…He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil.1:6).

Are you ready for some problems, now?

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