Optimism!

Vol. 3, No. 27 – July 1, 2018

And not only this, but we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Adversity is hard to endure, and more troubling, it is harder to understand. This is even when God is in control (and He always is!). Yet, it is difficult for humanity to trust God when we only go to God in emergencies.

Why would God allow a tragic auto accident or a crucial job loss? How could God permit cancer in a loved one or the death of a child? Is God really in charge over nations, nature, and in the detailed lives of individuals?

Yes, says Jerry Bridges (Trusting God even when Life Hurts).

Is this realistic? Paul’s word for “the hurts of life” is the Greek, thlipis. It is “the pressure” (as in squeezing grapes to get the juice) of ordeals, sorrow, heartaches, and trials. Everything from minor annoyances to major disasters.

Now, if I had been writing verse 3, it might be something different: I bellyache and whine when things go wrong knowing that the pressures of life disturb me and when I am agitated, I might lose my “cool” and I am not worth hanging around. And, then God asks me if I want cheese with that wine.

Paul, bless him, is always so straightforward. He rejoices in his problems. How could he do that?

Paul knew the crucible of tough times was a chain of events. The foundation he is laying for a bold strategy, is for us to experience transformation; from our suffering into benefit.

Pressures produce perseverance and fortitude (“guts” in the non-academic world). The temptation is for us is to quit, to throw in the towel, to move on to something else. God wants our lives to be steady in faithfulness and trust. Steadiness comes from the process of experiences in life, so that we do not run out and bail out. Koreans have a saying: We are like nails. The harder you hit us, the deeper you drive us.

This is not passively enduring, but actively overcoming.

Perseverance produces “ripeness” of character. Dokime is the word; stability in the midst of one’s fiery furnace ordeal. We are to be as the metal passed through the fire. God is in the process of shaping our lives, and often He allows us to go through fiery trials in order to be shaped into usable tools for His ministry.

We really need to go through it in order to serve in it; experiences matter. So does optimism!

Coming through the circles and journeys of life, God develops us with approved reliability, producing confident expectations — if we permit God to do His work of grace in our lives. The biblical word is “hope.” None of us “like” crises; however, we can like the opportunities they provide.

The process that Paul rejoiced in: melting, mellowing, molding, and finally maturing is in keeping with not being ashamed of God’s love, grace, and mercy (5:5). The trial morphs into a triumph, the dross into fine gold, the water into wine, the dirge into a doxology, the sigh into a song, and the test in a testimony is all for His glory and our benefit.

The question in the passage is: are you living under pressure? Do you know the realistic truth of how to live in the midst of difficult situations?

Questions posed in the Scriptures are intentional — to evoke a response. Jesus, Himself, asked over 300 questions (every question intentional to evoke a response). This gleaned from a recent message from our faithful pastor who is always examining the Word of God.

We will never be the Christian or Christian Leader God intends without facing the trials of life under our faithfulness to Almighty God. We will never be the Christian God intends without responding to His questions. We will never be the Christian in the world that God expects without the optimism God brings to our life journey as we experience His love, grace, and mercy.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10; Philippians 4:13

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