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BE OPTIMISTIC
by Dale D. Meredith
December 24, 2017
University Baptist Church
Getzville, NY 14068



Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Good News Bible, The Bible in Today’s English Version, copyright ©1976 by American Bible Society. Used by permission.

OLD TESTAMENT READING: 1 Kings 19:3-5

3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life; he took his servant and went to Beersheba in Judah.

Leaving the servant there, 4 Elijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. “It’s too much, Lord,” he prayed. “Take away my life; I might as well be dead!”

5 He lay down under the tree and fell asleep.


NEW TESTAMENT READING: Philippians 4:8-9

8 In conclusion, my brothers, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. 9 Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you.

INTRODUCTION: The first thing we notice about our readings this morning is that they describe men in similar situations and with completely different attitudes. Elijah ministered for God about 880-850 BC. Paul ministered for God about 40-68 AD. Both men were on a first name basis with God. They both preached God’s message to the people. They both performed miracles. They both obeyed God. They were probably about the same age. They both were in similar situations. Elijah was running for his life because Queen Jezebel had threatened to kill him for obeying God. Paul was in prison waiting to learn if he would be executed for obeying God. But they certainly had different attitudes. Elijah thought it was hopeless to go on. He was the only one obeying God. He just might as well die. Paul was hopeful. There were still many things in life that were good and deserved praise. He further thought that the God who gives peace would be with him and those who continued to obey God. Which would you rather have visited?

Let us be honest this morning. We have all experienced both attitudes. Maybe we have even had both attitudes this week. Sometimes we just want to give up and quit. However, after an attitude adjustment time with God, even Elijah decided to continue. He went back and was obedient to God for years after his meltdown in the wilderness. There is always hope. Let us look for a few minutes at how Paul remained optimistic.

PAUL WAS OPTIMISTIC: In 2 Corinthians 11:24-29, Paul listed some of the troubles he had experienced: “24 Five times I was given the thirty-nine lashes by the Jews; 25 three times I was whipped by the Romans; and once I was stoned. I have been in three shipwrecks, and once I spent twenty-four hours in the water. 26 In my many travels I have been in danger from floods and from robbers, in danger from fellow Jews and from Gentiles; there have been dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilds, dangers on the high seas, and dangers from false friends. 27 There has been work and toil; often I have gone without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty; I have often been without enough food, shelter, or clothing. 28 And not to mention other things, every day I am under the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 When someone is weak, then I feel weak too; when someone is led into sin, I am filled with distress.” And in chapter 12 verses 7 through 10 he describes how he had prayed that God remove a painful physical ailment but instead God gave him grace to endure the ailment.

When we compare this with what Paul said in Philippians 4:8-9 we see that Paul made the effort to not think about the troubles and bad experiences. Instead he would think about “those things that are good and that deserve praise.” This is an act of discipline. He had to put it into practice. Instead of focusing on the negative, he focused on the positive.

When he focused on the positive, he would turn trials into opportunities. He was in prison, so he used it as an opportunity to share the gospel with the guards (Philippians 1:13). He used pain to help him depend upon God for strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). He could face challenges because he knew God was with him, friends supported him, and prayed for him (Philippians 1:19; 4:10, 14, 16).

You, too, can develop this discipline. Begin today and work on a list of things that you have that are positive and you are thankful for. List them on a piece of paper. Then each day write sometime about each that you are thankful for that day. You can add to the list as time passes. Be specific even about what might seem minor or trivial. Review and write each day this week. Then next week check to see if your attitude is becoming more positive. Continue this practice week after week. It takes effort and practice to develop and train a positive attitude. Paul said, “I have learned” to be content, whatever the situation or condition (Philippians 4:12). You can learn also.

Example:
Positive           Why I am thankful
Health            I am able to work 
Job
Family
Home

Paul’s optimism also grew out of his faith. He knew God was with him (Acts 16:6-10). He knew God worked in the world (Acts 14:15-17; 16:25-28). He especially had experienced the resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-10, 20). If God can raise Jesus from death, any situation has hope, including death.

Your faith can grow when you to see how God works in your life. At the end of every day take ten minutes to identify and write down three things that went well that day. Then identify and write down why they went well. You will begin to see where and how God is working in your life. You can begin to base your optimism on your faith in God as you see how he works and that he does not change. He will continue to work in your life. Paul experienced that and you can too. Don’t forget to pray at the beginning of the day for the events you expect to encounter that day. Then at the end of the day thank God for the events that went well.

Example:
What went well        Why it went well
Meeting for JEC        God was leading as we planned teaching and training for pastors

MARY WAS OPTIMISTIC: Luke 1:46-55

46     Mary said,
         "My heart praises the Lord; 
47         my soul is glad because of God my Savior,
48         for he has remembered me his lowly servant!
        From now on all people will call me happy, 
49         because of the great things the Mighty God has done for me.
        His name is holy;
50         from one generation to another 
             he shows mercy to those who honor him.
51     He has stretched out his mighty arm 
             and scattered the proud with all their plans.
52     He has brought down mighty kings from their thrones, 
             and lifted up the lowly.
53     He has filled the hungry with good things, 
             and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54     He has kept the promise he made to our ancestors, 
             and has come to the help of his servant Israel.
55     He has remembered to show mercy to Abraham 
             and to all his descendants forever!"

Mary was in a similar situation as Elijah and Paul. She was obeying God as explained by the angel Gabriel. She was unmarried and pregnant. The penalty for such a condition was to be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Yet, she was praising God.

She remembered what God had promised her by the angel Gabriel. She remembered what God had done for Israel in the past. She filled her mind with “those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.” She had hope that God would show mercy to Abraham’s descendants forever through this baby that would result from her obedience.

You should "fill your mind with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. You should 9 Put into practice what you learned and received from” the Bible and from your spiritual leaders. “And the God who gives us peace will be with you."  Remember when you are obedient to say and do what God asks, He will use you to help others see God’s presence and accept and honor him. That is our purpose in life. There is hope. There is reason to be optimistic.

GOD IS OPTIMISTIC: A brief look at Luke 2 and Matthew1 and 2 will show how optimistic God is. Emperor Augustus ordered a census. Israel was under Roman rule. Joseph had to be willing to ignore the Jewish law to take the pregnant Mary as his life. Mary was required to travel some 60 miles on donkey in the last week of her pregnancy to a strange town for registration under a foreign government. This would result in crowds in Bethlehem with limited hotel space and thus the stable would be the hospital delivery room. God was optimistic that would all work out.

The birth of the baby attracted attention of shepherds and foreign scholars who studied the stars who converged on the little town to worship the unusual baby. This attracted the attention of the jealous ruler of Israel. He tried to kill the baby by killing all male babies in and near Bethlehem. Thus, Joseph, Mary and the baby had to travel by donkey to Egypt for safety. They remained in this strange country until the wicked ruler died. Then they returned to Nazareth, Joseph’s and Mary’s hometown. God was optimistic that would all work out.

The baby survived and grew to be an adult. He demonstrated by his teaching and miracles that he was the “I AM” of the Old Testament. He was God on earth as a man. He then was crucified on a Roman cross and raised to life on the third day. He then ascended to his home in heaven.

God was optimistic that because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus people would accept Jesus as their Savior and follow Him as their King. God is further optimistic that the followers allow Him to work through them to tell people of all nations and they would also accept and follow Jesus.

God is optimistic that you and I will accept this death of Jesus on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins. That you and I will have our sins forgiven and be guided by the Holy Spirit to worship God and tell others that they too can be accepted and guided by God. God is optimistic that this will continue and multitudes from all nations will become followers.  

God expects you and I to follow him and help others become followers. Won’t you join me now in this growing multitude who accept Jesus as Savior and follow Him as King.