Word of the Week: Optimism

In his book, The Winner’s Edge. Denis Waitley tells about the 1972 Australian swimmer, Shane Gould who early in her career came to the United States for a meet.

When asked by a reporter how she thought she would do, the 14-year-old replied. “I have a feeling there will be a world record today.” She went on to set two world records in the one-hundred and two-hundred meter freestyle events.

The reporter later asked how she thought she would fare in the more grueling, four-hundred-meter event, Shane replied with a smile, “I get stronger every race, and besides my parents said they’d take me to Disneyland if I win, and we’re leaving tomorrow!” She went to Disneyland with three world records.

At 16 Gould held five world records and became one of the greatest swimmers of all time, winning three gold medals in the 1972 Olympics.

Waitley observed that “Winners seem to be lucky because their positive self-expectancy enables them to be better prepared for their opportunities.”

Optimism is defined as “a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.” The second definition in Dictionary.com is “the belief that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world.”

Although the Bible doesn’t use the word optimism, the idea concept of the positive power of faith is found throughout Scripture.

David, the “man after God’s own heart,” approached Goliath with an optimistic attitude. He told the giant that he would not only defeat him but cut off his head (1 Sam. 17:40-44). Pretty optimistic considering David only had a slingshot and 5 stones. But Goliath was felled. And David decapitated him with his own sword.

The 3 Hebrews in Babylonian captivity defied King Nebuchadnezzar’s order to bow before his image and risked his wrath by being thrown into the burning fiery furnace. They confidently asserted, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us” (Dan. 3:17). And He did! They emerged from the furnace unscathed.

This attitude of optimism is expressed in various ways. David wrote, “For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth” (Ps 71:5).

The prophet Nahum put it this way, “The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him” (1:7).

The optimism of Micah is expressed in these words, “But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me” (7:7).

Regardless of the impending persecution, First century Christians were encouraged to remain optimistic. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Heb 13:5-6)

My friend and preaching colleague, Gary Henry, was right when he wrote, “An optimistic outlook is a result of having confidence that good is ultimately going to triumph over evil.” While I may not understand all the symbolism of Revelation, one message is quite clear. The devil will be defeated. His cohorts will be punished. God’s cause will be victorious. And the saints will reign in victory.

Gary further observes that optimism “is an attitude that imparts patience in the midst of difficult circumstances, and also patience with less-than-perfect people.”

Optimism is not a Pollyanna approach to life. Nor is it foolish, foolhardy or naive. Bad things do happen to good people. We live in a fallen world. And the Christians are not exempt from the attendant consequences of sin. Either their own or the sins of others.

But optimism rooted in the Sovereignty of the Almighty God changes one’s perspective on life. Optimism produces patience. Breathes hope. Strengthens faith. Reduces fear. Offers forgiveness. Spurs action. Eradicates worry. Inspires courage. And enlarges love.
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Remember optimism is a choice. But so is pessimism. Whatever choice you make will ultimately make you. Choose wisely.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

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