A Gospel of Relentless Hope
I’ve written quite a bit in my devotional books* about how the Bible steers us away from negative thinking—how almost every stern prophecy is lined with promises, for example, or how many psalms begin in crisis but end with promise and celebration. They are virtual case studies in shifting from pessimism to hope.
I’ve also written about Paul’s radical insistence on seeing the bright side in every situation. My favorite examples are in the first chapter of Philippians, where he has three tempting opportunities to get discouraged and instead celebrates his adversity.
As a prisoner, he could easily have wondered what went wrong in his life, gotten discouraged that God seemed to have put him on the shelf, or lamented the injustice of the system. Instead, he was practically giddy over the opportunities he had to share the gospel with guards and palace personnel.
While other preachers were using Paul’s message for self-promotion, he could have blasted their distorted gospel or attacked their self-focused methods (as many are far too fond of doing today). Instead, he was actually happy that the name of Jesus was getting out there.
And in realizing that his imprisonment could actually end in death, he could have lamented missed opportunities and the end of a ministry. Instead, he thought, If I live, I bear more fruit; if I die, I get to be with Jesus. Not sure which is better, but either way, I win!
If today’s church really wants to recover the vibrancy of the early church, this is vital. Christians will need to get used to radical hope and positive thought patterns. We will need to speak the language of hope in every situation.