Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Christian Opportunism

 "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

This quote by Winston Churchill, while spoken in a secular context, provides Christian believers with an invitation and perhaps a challenge to consider how we view the world.  In today's rushed, stressed, and competitive world, it is all too easy to become overwhelmed with the tasks of daily living and to become crushed by events beyond those daily tasks.  This is a world where even those born with optimistic personalities struggle.  But if we move beyond secular thought and innate personalities, we find that Christ has something amazing to say to us about our world view.

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33.

These words of Christ, spoken just before He was arrested and crucified and quoted by the Apostle John, offer His disciples--then and now--a worldview for those who have a faith relationship with Him.  Jesus does not mince words.  As fallen people in this fallen world, we will encounter tribulation.  It can be and often is exhausting and excruciating.  But.  Jesus is beyond the fallen world even as He resides in us via the Holy Spirit.  He is not the eternal optimist; rather, He is the eternal Redeemer, who, as a manifestation of who He is, uses every difficulty as an opportunity for His good work of redemption and blessing.

The Gospels illuminate Jesus as opportunist throughout His ministry.  Wherever He goes, He encounters difficulty, misery, and suffering: The ill, the blind, the lame, the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the dying, and even the dead.  And each encounter becomes an opportunity to reveal and extend the grace of God thought he work of the Holy Spirit who had descended upon Him at His baptism.  Jesus never denies or minimizes the suffering or blames the sufferer.  Nor does He ignore it.  Instead, Jesus takes each unique encounter as an opportunity to display God's gracious and merciful heart. 

As we follow Christ as our Model as well as our Lord and Savior, we would do well to remember that the same Holy Spirit who indwelt Christ now abides in us.  As difficult as it is to fathom, we have the power of Christ who has overcome the world by His death and resurrection.  We can indeed take courage and view struggles--our own and of others--as opportunities for God's good work in us and through us.

These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.  John 15:11.

The world is full of tribulation.  But Jesus has overcome the world!  And while the culmination of His victory will not be complete until the end of time, Jesus is offering us both peace and joy in the here and now.  It is a wonderfully complete package: As we depend upon the indwelling Holy Spirit for the wisdom and power to exercise our faith relationship with Christ, we are better able to look for His work in and through us as we walk through this difficult world; the Holy Spirit then grows the fruit of peace and joy in our hearts; and we are encouraged to continue our dependence.  This is true as we deal with our own struggles and as we encounter those whom the Lord puts in our path.  The peace and joy that come from Christ as we negotiate both small inconveniences and more daunting tribulations are gifts from the Lord that we would do well to not take lightly.