GOD IS A REALISTIC OPTIMIST
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: 2 "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Great Sea [a] on the west. 5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Pressing on Toward the Goal
12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
27"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
God sought an unwavering commitment from Joshua as he was about to lead the people of Israel into the unknown territory of the Promised Land. Although we have now set our feet into another new year, its future days are still not known to us. What kind of attitudes and forethought color our own commitment to God and how we will face whatever looms ahead for us?
A SELF-REFLECTION EXERCISE AND PERSONAL ILLUSTRATION
Let these following questions help you get a picture of yourself as you ponder your personal answer to each for a moment: (If presented orally, it may be helpful to slowly repeat these to give people a chance to think them through...)
Do you recognize yourself in general to most largely be a pessimist, an optimist or a realist? Do you tend to be more negative, positive or have a balanced outlook on life, in other words?
Do you honestly trust the most in fate, yourself, God, somebody else or nothing at all?
By the end of this year do you expect you will be disappointed with yourself and all that happened, greatly pleased and feeling blessed no matter what happened, or somewhere in between? (How do you feel about the past year?)
Did you make any New Year's resolutions this last time around? And if so, were they just half-hearted notions you've maybe already abandoned or real resolve that you perhaps even wrote down and have been carrying out?
Do you expect in the months ahead that you'll accomplish little, but that will be better than nothing? That you'll do even better than the high tasks you've set for yourself? Or that you'll fall down on the job, but keep working to get back up?
Although over twenty-some years together has certainly produced some change and growth, my wife and I noticed early in our marriage how her general optimism and my own general pessimism were always banging into each other. She would say let's do such and such, and I'd say it wouldn't work. She'd say let's take a trip to some place or other, and I'd say the car was too undependable. She'd say let's try this or that, and I'd say we couldn't because of thus and so and besides it looked like rain! - Well again, the years together really have helped us see more of the other's point of view. We've also learned that, although we can't do just anything willy-nilly, we can at least level-headedly plan to do some exciting things.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE THREE PERSONALITY TYPES
What does the PESSIMIST do? - He tends to look back and recount all the disasters that have happened, to complain about all the present burdens, pains and frustrations, and have reservations about laying down specific future goals because of that quote about "the best laid plans of mice and men..."
The OPTIMIST can tend towards the other extreme, refusing to look at the past at all, almost, and reasoning that the higher one's goals are, the better one's performance will be. Such people are apt to be taken for their gullibility, though, by always looking only for the good in things and other people.
The REALIST is just more realistic! He or she will look back, but for the set purpose of learning from both mistakes and successes. He will look forward, but is more likely to set attainable goals so as not to become too discouraged later on. And his present is arranged around what is, seeking to right what needs to be, while graciously accepting what cannot be changed.
ADJUSTING OUR ATTITUDES TO GOD'S OWN KIND OF REALISTIC OPTIMISM
(GOD'S OWN ATTITUDE)
All this has been leading to the assertion that GOD is a REALISTIC OPTIMIST! His plan for all maturing Christians as He continues working to conform us to the image of Christ is that we might see and do things HIS way more and more!
True, God seems perhaps too optimistic in the sense that His demands to love more perfectly seem outlandishly out of our grasp (see Luke 6), but He's realistic in the sense that His Holy Spirit gives the grace and power to move towards that perfection. He's optimistic in the sense that He's preparing Heavenly mansions and a real home in Glory for His children, but realistic about the sin in our lives that relentlessly works to keep us separated from Him. He's optimistic about our righteousness in the blood of Jesus our Savior, but realistic about our own unrighteousness and therefore for our continual need to be receptive to Calvary's Cross. He is optimistic about His own unlimited ability to be at work in those who hear His voice, yet realistic about our limitations, and therefore supplying our every real need -- such as forgiveness for our past misdeeds and mis sed opportunities, and such as His continuing sustaining power throughout each future day granted to us.
Now let us be realistic! - Sometimes we show less consideration for those dearest and most important to us than people might show to some park bench dwelling heroin addict. Some maybe allow themselves to be consumed by vices. Some have been physically abusive of others. Some have been thieves and liars. Some have habitually foul mouths, perhaps. Some have squandered great gifts from God. -- The person who claims innocence about such things is not being realistic or truthful. (cf., 1 John 1:8)
Let's be realistic, though! - God's Spirit does create truly penitent hearts, and the blood of Jesus as God's "Sacrificial Lamb" truly cleanses us of all guilt. It does erase the guilt of both disobedient children and perhaps overbearing parents. It can remove the guilt-feelings of parents who wonder what they've done wrong to end up with a reckless and rebellious teen. Christ's blood alone really washes away the guilt of the spouse who did fail to say "I love you" often enough. The power of His blood even removed the guilt of the low-class thief on the Cross next to Him. -- So the person who claims innocence only through faith in the blood of God's "LAMB" is being realistic, evidencing that he has no personal innocence to boast about. The person who lays hold of God's forgiveness granted through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a Realist and is new and whole at this very moment! (2 Corinthians 5:17 & Romans 8:1)
Now let's be optimistic! - St. Paul gave his personal example by saying that it's "not that I have already attained (resurrection from death) or am already perfect; but I press-on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me HIS own... - One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead; I press-on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be thus-minded..(and) let us hold true to what we HAVE attained."
Let's be optimistic! - We can reach the unbelievably high goals listed in Luke 6 -- loving even our enemies, doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us and praying for those who would exploit us. We can acknowledge that it is better to suffer abuse or be deprived of something than to return evil for evil and endanger our own souls. We can ask for wisdom to apply love rightly, so that we don't encourage others to take unfair advantage of us and yet are still concerned for their welfare first. -- We can reach these and other goals by "the wonder-working power in the Precious Blood of the Lamb"! When we fall and fail, we can ever claim HIS forgiveness, innocence and perfection. It's our right as God's redeemed children! The atonement of Calvary's Cross and the empty tomb give us that right! & nbsp;
Let's be optimistic! - We can plan moment by moment to "be merciful even as our Heavenly Father is merciful" because He IS our merciful Father, who has already guaranteed our future with Him in Heaven by His Son's resurrection!
Once again, let's be optimistic! - God's word to Joshua as he entered Canaan is also for us as we set our sights on the rest of this year and all our future days:--> "Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." -- GOD is a REALISTIC OPTIMIST! By faith in Him and in HIS strength let's resolve to BE more like Him!