Have you ever met an eternal optimist? Sometimes their optimism makes you shake your head. It seems they don’t have a clue to the reality going on around them. They have such a positive view of the big picture they miss the details of the hits, hurts and happenings of daily life.
Don’t get me wrong, I am an optimist. But my particular flavor is Dependent Optimism. The Apostle Paul reveals this brand of optimism in his letter to the Philippians. His readers were worried about Paul and rightfully so. He was in prison. He was chained to Roman guards. He is facing sentencing which may very well lead to his execution. Yet Paul puts a positive spin on what is happening, Christ is being proclaimed and people are following Jesus (see Philippians 1:12-26).
Dependent Optimism is a perspective that trusts God to complete the work He has started in and through me. It trusts God’s faithfulness and sovereignty. It acts on the belief that no matter my current circumstances God will work it out for His glory and my good.
Dependent Optimism is at the foundation of a joy filled life. Joy comes with a conditional promise because it depends on God’s faithfulness and sovereignty and on our choice to embrace Him. That is exactly what dependent optimism does.
The basis for Dependent Optimism is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans. He writes, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:26).
Joy is not determined by our circumstances; joy rises up out of our purpose. In my last post, The Secret to a Joy Filled Life, we found Paul’s prayer for the Philippians was to have joy which comes from a love that is exponentially growing in knowledge and wisdom.
Joy is not determined by our circumstances; joy rises up out of our purpose.
The Bible teaches us that the one thing we can control is our thinking (see The 4:8 Principle by Tommy Newberry). It says we are to take captive every thought (see 2 Corinthians 10:5). It also says that life transformation comes through the renewing of our minds (see Romans 12:2). Let me encourage you to think about these ideas in conjunction with the idea that we are called according to His purpose and how fulfilling our purpose can be the foundation of our joy.
I heard Dr. Larry Collins, a renown Christian psychologist, say once that when he is counseling a person who is depressed, one of the first things he does is give them an assignment to serve someone else. Joy is found in our purpose. There is joy in living for something bigger than ourselves.
I read somewhere that we should not just find something worth dying for but that we should find something worth living for! That is what Paul was saying in Philippians 1:20 when he writes, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He went on to say that living meant fruitful labor but dying is far better for himself.
The big idea in today’s post is this: My Calling Trumps My Circumstances!
Back in the nineties, I was serving in a church of about 3,000. I was Sr. Staff of Family Ministries when the senior pastor of 50 years retired. The new pastor came in and called for a reorganization of the staff. I was privileged to be one the reorganization team. One of our primary objectives was to organize our staff to accomplish our vision. When the dust settled, my position was not on the table and none of the open positions were a good match for me. It was decided I would make a transition. When some powerful people found out, I was laid off. All my responsibilities were taken away and I was given a severance package. The bottom line to the story is that I found myself struggling without a context to fulfill my calling.
It wasn’t until I continued to serve others without a job description, that I was able to get my feet back under me and find another ministry position. My calling trumped my circumstances.
My circumstances were in no way comparable to Paul’s, but what I learned is we all have a general calling to make disciples by loving God and loving others. When we are confused or our circumstances corral our specific calling, We can always default back to this general calling.
Let me point out God is so creative, that when He redeemed us He gave us a specific calling. The Bible says, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Our specific calling is what God has prepared in advance for us to do and us for. One of the things that amazes me about God, He is able to fulfill a purpose through me and at the same time be preparing me for what is next. I call this our Progressive Calling. God is always working to do His will through us and preparing us for the challenges and opportunities that are ahead.
God is always working to do His will through us and preparing us for the challenges and opportunities that are ahead.
The chaos of this world chips away at our joy. When sin entered the world, mankind was cast out of God’s presence and into chaos. God sent Jesus to begin the restoration process of this world. His kingdom is not an earthly one. It is a spiritual kingdom. It is a glimpse of what is coming. Our joy is found in being part of this kingdom.
Will Mancini writes in his book, God Dreams, that the Bible is bookended by two utopian stories. The first is the Garden of Eden in Genesis and the second is the New Heaven and the New Earth of Revelation. God is so good that the latter is greater than the first. Our future is greater than what Adam enjoyed in the garden that God declared was “very good.”
What we experience now in the Kingdom of God is a glimpse of what is coming! Dependent Optimism is the foundation of a joy filled life. It chooses to live the life we were created for because we trust God.
Discovering your calling is the first step to enjoying a joy filled life.
What is your calling?
If you are unsure, let me give you three questions to help you discover your calling (shout out to Will Mancini and his book Church Unique for influencing my thinking here):
- Question #1 ~ When you look at the world’s chaos, what screams out to you something has to be done, someone has to do something?
- Question #2 ~ What experiences, skills, and possessions has God given you to prepare you to engage in doing something about the chaos?
- Question #3 ~ How has God empowered you to do things beyond your own ability and what gives you energy to do more when you do it?
After considering these questions write out your calling with a statement that begins:
I glorify God best when I…
I thought it my be helpful if I shared my answers: Q#1 ~I am moved by people who have been hurt and it has made it difficult for them to reunite with God. Q#2 ~ I came to Christ as a college student, I have been hurt by people who love God, I have been a pastor for 30+ years. Q#3 ~ I have the gifts of leadership, grace and teaching. I am energized by discipling young leaders.
I glorify God best when I lead others to reach and disciple people who are estranged from God which results in a new church being started.
An ever increasing Joy is in reach. Depending on God as you live out your specific calling you will have the foundation for a Joy Filled Life!