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What the Bible says about Optimism
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Ecclesiastes 2:24

Here, the book of Ecclesiastes takes an encouraging turn. Solomon begins to lose his sense of hopelessness, and we see the first positive reference to God in the book. In chapter 1, God appeared but not in a very good sense. The positive turn continues throughout the book.

Solomon does not completely stop writing despairing things. However, they are despairing thoughts on individual, specific areas of life, not his overall conclusion. In this verse, there is a positive conclusion.

Before this, he says that all of his labor was nothing but frustration, but now he sings a different tune. So far, he has painted a dismal picture of life, but now a change begins as he has presented the worse part of his treatise.

God intends that we receive enjoyment, fulfillment, good education—positive things—from the work that we do. Solomon rightly concludes that this is from the hand of God. Certainly, God intends that we receive good things, but remember, Solomon makes his judgments based upon things that are "under the sun," that is, apart from God.

He is beginning to argue that life begins to flesh out, have meaning, fulfillment, the right kind of pleasure, and balance when a person is connected to God. In other words, what Solomon did earlier—all of the works he entered into, his seeking after pleasure, his observations of the natural cycles of the earth, his search for wisdom—are described from the perspective of a person disconnected from God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)

Mark 2:3-5

Christ deals first with the spiritual problem—the forgiveness of sins—and then the physical problem—the physical affliction. Most people want it the other way around, putting greater emphasis on healing the physical ailment than fixing the spiritual problem. Solomon gives us the answer to which is more important: "The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?" (Proverbs 18:14). From God's perfect perspective, spiritual needs are always more critical than physical ones (Mark 8:36), so in this miracle, forgiveness precedes healing.

Jesus tells the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." Seeing his friends' faith, Jesus' first words to the paralytic offer simple encouragement: "Be of good cheer." His comforting support refers directly to the forgiveness of the sufferer's sins. The paralytic, troubled by sin that had caused or was causing his suffering, now had reason for optimism. Having our sins forgiven always brings a deep relief and joy, even if the physical affliction is not healed. David's psalm on the joy of forgiveness speaks of this satisfying comfort: "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Psalm 32:1-2).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Paralytic (Part One)

1 Timothy 6:6-8

When we are thankful, it means that we have been impressed with a sense of kindness that has been expressed toward us, and we desire to acknowledge it. Essentially, it indicates that we are grateful. Thankfulness is the actual expression of our gratitude and acknowledgement of the kindness done to us. Thankfulness is also a state of mind, an attitude. It is a content and positive perspective, which does not focus on what one does not have, but rather values what one does have, no matter how basic.

Paul continues this thought in the following verses, explaining that greediness creates a great many problems, ultimately bringing upon us discontent and unhappiness. This is just the opposite of the thankfulness that real contentment generates.

Reading these verses on greed and considering the greedy state of man's mind, a popular bumper sticker from several years ago comes to mind: "He who dies with the most things . . . wins." Of course, it did not take long for those whose thinking ran counter to this to reply with their own that read, "He who dies with the most things . . . is dead." This is true; the pursuit of material gain to the exclusion of all else ends in death.

Being thankful is part of being content. Unfortunately, many people feel that being content means that they have to give up on their dreams and goals. It does not. Like thankfulness, contentment is a state of mind. God wants us to be content with and thankful for what we have been given. That does not mean that we cannot want better and work to make our situations better, but it does mean that we should not approach our proper desire for more with a greedy, covetous attitude.

Nor can we compare what others have and what we may not have from an attitude that we deserve the same or even better. Maybe we do deserve it, but right now God has chosen not to give it to us, and we must be content with that and thankful for what we have been given.

How thankful and content we are can be seen in the illustration of water in a glass. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Our answer depends on and reveals our state of mind.

Staff
Daily Thanksgiving

1 Peter 1:3

The strength of our hope rises or falls on how dependable we perceive our expectation to be. The reasons we believe our expectation to be dependable are thus decisive to whether we will be motivated.

Ours is a living hope because Jesus Christ and the Father are alive. They exert sovereign control, and They cannot lie. Because our hope is revealed, grounded, sustained, and directed by God, we can know that all things work together for good for those who are the called and love God (Romans 8:28). Our hope, then, should not be ephemeral wishes or dreams based on wishy-washy sentimentality, but the solid realities of God and His Word. Our hope flows from an inexhaustible Source, and therefore no trial should ever quench our optimism for future good. Hope is our response to His work in us expressed in trust, patience, endurance, and eagerness to continue.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope


 




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