Monday, March 07, 2005

The relentless optimist

I read through Hebrews recently and was amazed by the relentless optimism of the "heroes of faith" in chapter 11. Granted, the word "relentless" doesn't usually have a positive connotation. But what word better explains the persistent faith of people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and the others listed in that chapter? And what is faith if it is not optimism about the goodness of God and his promises?

The faith of these heroes was such that it never dimmed through the trials and difficulties life threw their way. Sometimes the problems they faced were of their own making, like Abraham telling his wife to lie about who she was. Other times, their problems were from those around them who were not quite as optimistic about things, such as when Moses was confronted by his fellow Israelites who didn't really trust his leadership.

But the faithful were relentless in looking to the bright side, focusing their thoughts and actions, not on the possibility of failure and retreat, but on the greater promises God had in store for them. When challenges and rough spots arose, their humanity caused them to misstep at times, but they always fell back into line with relentless consistency.

It was said of Abraham that he saw in the distance a better city, a more enduring one, without ever reaching it in this life. What was Abraham's faith, if not relentless optimism?

    Hebrews 11:8-12 - By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. ... These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them.... (NKJV)
Abraham embraced the promise of God to the very end, never even receiving it in this life. He remained, I am convinced, eminently positive until the end, knowing that this life is merely a blip on the radar screen of eternity. He knew God would not let him down, and he acted with confidence accordingly.

Therefore what?

    Hebrews 11:16 - ...Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (NKJV)
That's a pretty nice consequence of our relentless faith, that insatiably positive zeal for God that should be overflowing from our lives. God is not ashamed to be called our God when we live that way. It just so happens that this overflowing enthusiasm is infectious, making it one of the most effective tools of an encourager:
    2 Corinthians 9:2 - For I know your eagerness to help...and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. (NKJV)

    Hebrews 10:24 - And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works. (NKJV)

Amen to that!

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