by Todd Strandberg
One of the most enduring qualities of mankind is its God-given ability to remain optimistic in the face of the direst situations. Optimism is a good attribute in someone who is trying to survive a tragedy or overcome a formidable setback; however, optimism can be a huge liability for someone who is facing up to his sin nature.
The Bible is extremely pessimistic about man's spiritual health. "There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Rom. 3:10-12).
Optimism borders on foolishness for those who think they can qualify as Christians by just affirming their allegiance to the principles of Christianity. The only valid way I know to verify whether you're indeed a disciple of Christ is to determine whether you read the Holy Bible and follow Jesus' teachings.
The power of the human will just doesn't cut it. A man can jump off a building with great optimism that he'll be able to fly like a bird, but that doesn't mean he's going to sprout wings and achieve flight.
The average person on the street has a very rosy assessment of his current spiritual condition. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who sincerely believes he is destined for eternal damnation. Some people, in a halfway-joking manner, will say, "I'm probably going to roast in Hell." That these people can speak so nonchalantly about such a dire destiny, I think, just highlights the danger of natural optimism.
Prisoners Of Our Own Beliefs
One thing I've learned by hosting Rapture Ready all these years is that we are very much prisoners of our own beliefs. When talking to people whose beliefs are in gross error, we often find it nearly impossible to convince them that they are wrong. I cannot recall ever having persuaded someone who believed in a post or mid-trib rapture view to switch over to my pre-trib rapture view.
I find this to be such a chilling reality that I'm always questioning my own stance on Scripture. There's no way I can say, "I'm right and everyone else is wrong." Every day, I receive e-mail messages from people who believe they have truth locked up in a bottle.
I eagerly read every message I receive from people who try to correct my theology. I have found that having an open mind about everything is not as taxing as one might think. I've noticed, in my case, that eventually you reach the point at which you receive the same message over and over. Most people fail to realize that this is not the first time I've heard their particular version of biblical reality.
"The word rapture is not in the Bible." Oh, I wish I had a nickel for every time I've received that little stinker. It always greatly annoys me when people send me challenges to my end-time views that I've already answered. I should be receiving rebuttals and not basic questions. I don't think the main problem is laziness; I think that they don't look through my web site to see if I've addressed their question because they already know they're right. The only reason they e-mail me is because they want me to agree with them. How will my agreement or disagreement validate them? They should be confident enough about their position that they don't need my approval. If they aren't, they had better keep researching!
Again, the problem is that most people have too much optimism in their own intellectual abilities. Truth can only be achieved when we bring our understanding in line with the Bible. Far too many people try to bend and reshape Scripture to fit their own special belief system. And pride keeps people from having teachable hearts when the Holy Spirit reveals truths different from those they have believed in the past.
Optimism has been defined as a doctrine that states that this is the best possible world. This humanistic concept directly contradicts what the Bible tells us.
God's Word says this world is totally corrupt, and will someday be destroyed: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea" (Rev. 21:1).
Humanists assert man is basically good at his core. They blame his environment as the source of his problems. This is partly why liberal judges are always so willing to give criminals second, third, and fourth chances at reform.
Humanism continually strives to create a better world without God as the central authority. The “love” gospel may sound nice, but it's a poor substitute for the loving guidance we get from the Bible. The “love generation” of the ‘60's turned out to be a disaster because it had no foundation of truth.
When you optimistically allow people to "just think for themselves" or "do their own thing," you end up destroying all concepts of moral absolutes. With no central law, who's to say Adolf Hitler's view of the world was wrong? If you read his writings, Hitler's main objective was to reform the world into a Utopian society.
Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain learned one of the hardest lessons of history when in 1938 he foolishly trusted that Hitler would honor the now-infamous Munich peace agreement. There was no humanity in Hitler's nature; his heart was evil to the core and he acted accordingly.
Realism is a mindset that focuses on things that best fit reality. It strives to filter out that which is impractical. A realist's outlook is derived chiefly from his own experiences and observations.
A healthy dose of realism can help protect us from making foolish decisions, especially when we're presented with choices that initially look very appealing.
I'm sure most of you folks have glanced at one of those TV infomercials that promises an easy way to gain instant wealth. A hopeless optimist would buy into this plan; however, a realist would know it's highly unlikely someone would be offering such a lucrative moneymaking secret to the public for just a nominal fee.
When it comes to realistically assessing your relationship with Jesus Christ, it's not an easy task. Our flesh says everything is A-OK, and the crowd of people around us seems perfectly satisfied with its current spiritual state.
The Lord gives a very sobering description of the number of people who will make Heaven their home. Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
To use eternal realism, you need to listen to the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit and the Bible. If we just use that little thing called judgment, even the most hardened sinner has the ability to realize his lifestyle is out of sync with God's perfect will.
God's Will Vs. Positive Thinking
One of the most common teachings in the Church today, is the idea that if you wish or pray for something hard enough, eventually it will materialize. The Bible does promise general blessings for those who trust in God, but by no means does it guarantee anything specific:
"Now listen to me, you that say, today or tomorrow we will travel to a certain city, where we will stay a year and go into business and make a lot of money. You don't even know what your life tomorrow will be! You are like a puff of smoke, which appears for a moment and then disappears. What you should say is this: If the Lord is willing, we will live and do that or this"
Everything we hope to accomplish in this life has to harmonize with God's perfect will. I've seen numerous people struggle in endless frustration, trying to accomplish tasks that were clearly out of their reach. The fact that all of these people were working to advance the Kingdom of God only added to their frustration.
When God's will collides with man's misplaced optimism, doctrinal error is often the result. On several occasions in the early 1800's, followers of the Miller Movement looked for Jesus to return. The Bible says we will not know the time of His return, but William Miller and his followers thought otherwise. A direct byproduct of what is now called the Great Disappointment was the rise of two cultic organizations.
Optimism In Christ
If you haven't already placed your trust in Jesus Christ,
I invite you to make that commitment now. If Jesus is coming tomorrow,
you need to be ready today. The hardest part is taking that first step.
I'm sure many of you have seen the following three paragraphs before, at least written in a similar manner. They may read like wedding vows; but as in a marriage, the words are easy and the commitment is the hard part. But the Holy Spirit will help with the commitment. His conviction in your life and the strength He provides will give you what you need.
Without You there is no reason for optimism. I believe You are the Son of God, that You died for our sins and that You were buried, and on the third day rose from the dead to sit at the right hand of God the Father, as it is written in the Bible. I am truly sorry for all the things I have done that hurt You.
Forgive me, Oh Lord, for all my sins. Come into my heart; take charge of my life. Make me the way You want me to be. Open my heart and mind, so I may hear Your Word and do Your will.
With Your ever-present help, I renounce all my sinful practices of the past. Cleanse my heart, Oh Lord! I proclaim You now as my Lord and Savior. Fill me
with Your Holy Spirit. From this day forward I have a new hope to trust in,
one that will never perish.
Thank You, Jesus!