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Faith Is Not Optimistic

Istock_000001237877xsmall Faith Is Not Optimistic

It sounds a little strange at first but faith is not optimistic. By optimistic I mean, "Seeing the glass as half full." Faith is not optimistic because faith doesn’t look at the glass. The sense in which I am using optimistic is that of seeing the silver lining in every cloud. Faith ignores the cloud.

This is actually one of the first things I ever learned about faith: Good news can attack your faith just as well as bad news. Why? Because attending to good news takes your mind off of the Word of God just as easily as attending to bad news does. Your faith cannot be based on news of any kind. Your faith needs to transcend all kinds of news, good and bad.

Imagine you go to the doctor and he gives you a pretty bad report, cancer, for example. Your first reaction is to fear but you do your best to resist that and you begin to study the word trying to get yourself into faith so you can receive healing from God. You spend enough time in the Bible and you begin to replace the Doctors news with God's news in your thinking and gradually the fear is driven out and replaced with faith.

But now comes the trying of your faith, the test of your faith, another appointment with the doctor. If the doctor gives you bad news fear will try and rise up again. If you’re a baby christian your first reaction might be to panic and to conclude, “I guess this stuff doesn’t work.” or “I guess I don’t have what it takes to walk by faith.” But if your faith is more mature you realize that this is just the fight part of the fight of faith.  You steel yourself, you thank the Doctor and make an effort to be like Abraham and “consider not” the doctor’s report.  You resist the thoughts of fear which are trying to flood your mind. You replace the thoughts of fear with the word of God that you have been storing up in your heart. You continue studying, meditating, hearing, reading the word  of God about healing so that your faith can stay strong and you can resist fear. If you continue fighting you eventually win.

But what if the Doctor has good news for you? “It looks like the tumor is smaller.” or even “It looks like the cancer has disappeared.” If you’re a baby christian your first reaction will be the same for the good news as it was for the bad.  You’ll take your eyes off the Word of God and put them squarely on the word of the Doctor. The fear will leave not because it was driven out by the unchanging word of God but because it was replaced by the always subject to change word of the Doctor.  The baby christian lets his guard down and positions himself to be completely destroyed by any negative change in the Doctors report.

Faith is not moved by good news or bad it’s moved by what God’s word says. Faith doesn’t make decisions based on the latest news from the battle front. Faith makes decisions based on what God says about the battle.

What brought this up again was a story related by Jim Collins in his book Good To Great, a study of, “Why Some Companies Make the Leap (i.e. to greatness) … and Other’s Don’t.” In the book he sets forth what he calls the Stockdale Paradox. As Collins describes it The Stockdale Paradox is the ability of the management team to respond to the business environment “… with a powerful psychological duality. On the one hand, they stoically accepted the brutal facts of reality. On the other hand, they maintained an unwavering faith in the endgame, and a commitment to prevail as a great company despite the brutal facts.”

The paradox is named after Admiral Jim Stockdale.  Most of us remember him as Ross Perot’s vice presidential running mate but more significantly he was, “… the highest ranking Military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner of war camp during the … Vietnam War.”

I’m going to have to finish this later. Got to go.

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