The Christian Faith is marinated in optimism because the Bible is hopeful from cover the cover. The biblical worldview is based on creation-fall-redemption. The catastrophe of sin is bookended by a hope-drenched creation and the restored and enhanced creation known as redemption. God created a lush, splendorous world of hope and joy and optimism. Right after man sinned in submitting to satanic rebellion, God promised a Redeemer who would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). God later destroyed the depraved antediluvian world, but started over with Noah. Later, God called out Abram and launched a nation, promising him a great seed and land. The Jews tragically departed from their loving Lord and his law, but he sent his own Son to them, and to die for the sins of the world. In his death, our Lord beat down the “principalities and powers,” the satanic forces arrayed against God (Col. 2:13–15). In his resurrection he ascended to his heavenly throne from which he is progressively beating down the forces of evil by the power of the gospel (Ac. 2:29–36; 1 Cor. 15:20–26). The book of Revelation is a dramatic vision of the triumph of the Lamb over all his enemies. You cannot understand the Bible unless you understand its hopeful, optimistic message.
Unfortunately many Christians today seem to have missed the optimistic arc of the Bible’s message.[i] They either believe we are living in “the last days” and can expect nothing but increasing apostasy. Or else they embrace conspiracy theories that see sinister, secret forces everywhere preventing the gospel from succeeding. For still others the daily challenges of rearing children in a depraved culture, trying to stay current on bills, coping with broken family relations and friendships, and coming to terms with illness and death nearly overwhelm them. Since this pessimism is irreconcilable with the promises of the Bible, it can only mean that they (we) are living in unbelief. To trust and act on the promises of the word is to live in consistent optimism.
God promises victory in our individual lives. In Romans 6 and 8 Paul makes clear that by union with the crucified and risen Christ we are freed from the power of sin. Paul’s agonizing cry in Romans 7 over the power of indwelling sin is sometimes wrongly interpreted to refute the message of hopeful victory. He is not describing normative Christian living but rather anomalous Christian living. The standard Christian life is one of victory over sin, though never perfectly in this life. We can and should live in persistent victory over the power of sin. Take hope — you are not destined to enslavement to covetousness or lust or porn or anxiety or alcohol or drugs. There is no sin you must commit. The Holy Spirit has freed us for consistent victory.
God promises victory in our family. The family is under unremitting attack today, and Christians often abandon hope for an intact, joyous, multigenerational Christian family. But God’s promises are clear (Ps. 128; Pr. 11:21), and despite great failures in a marriage and children spiritually adrift, those promises hold secure to those who claim them in simple faith. If your marriage is faltering and your children failing, remind God of his promises — and redouble your commitment to obedience, expecting an entire family devoted to him.
God promises victory to the church. The most obvious one is in Matthew 16:17–19: the gates of hell won’t prevail against the church. The Bible does not predict that the church will fail in its task to disciple the nations. The lamentable state of the church in the U.S. today is no predictor of its future. Pray and expect God to raise up great men and women of faith who will declare the gospel of Jesus Christ in power, edify the saints, and call the world to account for its sins: “The power is available, but the church seems in large measure to believe that the power does not exist, or she lacks the will to observe the necessary laws.”[ii]
Finally, God promises victory in our culture. Even Christians optimistic about victory in the individual life and family and church often draw the line here. But the culture-victory promises are just as prominent as the others. The knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). The end of all things will not come until the presently reigning Christ subdues all his enemies (1 Cor. 15:23–25). The victory comes not after the Second Advent, but before. It is a victory of the present age.
“It was no surprise that France folded like an unpegged tent in a windstorm when the Germans invaded.”
Christians today are conditioned for defeat. For 100 years they’ve been told that they cannot expect consistent victory over sin. That Christian families cannot expect to turn out better than non-Christian families. That the church will grow progressively weaker over time. That the world is destined to rush toward depravity before the Second Coming. And that Christians can do nothing to impede defeat on all earthly fronts. This view is poppycock, rank unbelief. In the 1930’s France’s intellectuals and schools and famous writers, the horrors of World War I fresh in their minds, churned out pacifism. France became a hotbed of defeatism.[iii] Winston Churchill wrote: “France, though armed to the teeth, is pacifist to the core.”[iv] It was no surprise that France folded like an unpegged tent in a windstorm when the Germans invaded.
Christians “are armed to the teeth [but] pacifist to the core.” Our King owns everything, but an alien, Satan, has subversively commandeered part of his domain, the earth, and set up a rival kingdom. We are the King’s citizen-army, commissioned to expel the usurper. That’s what the great commission is: The marching orders of the church. Satan is a squatter. He and his minions sneaked onto God’s property and erected little shantytowns and bought some BB guns and claim to be taking over. What a pitiful lot they are! We, conversely, enjoy the irrepressible promises of God’s word, the relentless power of the Spirit, and the authority of the risen Lord behind us. Let us march boldly in faith and hope and optimism, expecting nothing less than unconditional victory.