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The Gospel of the Holy Spirit

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  1. Day 1 - The Gospel of the Holy Spirit: The Age of the Spirit
  2. Day 2 - When Revival Becomes Awakening: The Age of the Spirit
  3. Day 3 - The Secret Way of Holy Spirit–Filled Fasting
  4. Day 4 - Jesus’ Essential Message in Seventeen Words
  5. Day 5 - When I Fight Authority
  6. Day 6 - Bringing the Holy Spirit Home
  7. Day 7 - The Most Important Word in the New Testament
  8. Day 8 - The Difference between Witnessing and Being a Witness
  9. Day 9 - When the Holy Spirit Makes a Hot Mess
  10. Day 10 - Why There Is No Such Thing as Secular
  11. Day 11 - What Makes Fasting Christian?
  12. Day 12 - Ready for the New Wine? Get Rid of the Old Wineskin
  13. Day 13 - The Critical Difference between Being Responsible for Others and Responsive to Them
  14. Day 14 - If You Had a Holy Spirit Gauge, What Would It Read?
  15. Day 15 - The Missing Link in Our Disciple-Making
  16. Day 16 - Three Reasons You Have Probably Not Blasphemed the Holy Spirit
  17. Day 17 - Why Jesus Is the New (Old) Normal
  18. Day 18 - How to Have a High Failure Rate without Failing
  19. Day 19 - Why the Holy Spirit Prefers Curious People
  20. Day 20 - Not for Ourselves but Others: The Great Rule of the Kingdom
  21. Day 21 - A Parable about the Most Humble Power in the World
  22. Day 22 - Who Needs the Weather Channel When You’ve Got Jesus?
  23. Day 23 - On Becoming the Kind of People Who Don’t Give up on People
  24. Day 24 - Do You Believe in Demons?
  25. Day 25 - The Problem of Reducing People to Their Problems
  26. Day 26 - A Word for Women (and Men) That Can Change Everything
  27. Day 27 - Up, Girl!
  28. Day 28 - The Kind of Places Where Miracles Don’t Happen
  29. Day 29 - It Takes Two to Bring the Kingdom
  30. Day 30 - The End of Christian America
  31. Day 31 - Why Marriage Is Not about Marriage and What It Is About
  32. Day 32 - The Holy Spirit and Setting Boundaries
  33. Day 33 - Awakening to the Miracle That Never Stops
  34. Day 34 - The Disciples’ Dilemma: When Knowledge Gets in the Way of Knowing
  35. Day 35 - Do We Really Recognize Jesus?
  36. Day 36 - When the Holy Spirit Does Something Not in the Bulletin
  37. Day 37 - The Problem with the Rules . . . or the Possibilities
  38. Day 38 - Getting to the Heart of the Matter
  39. Day 39 - The Desperate Need We Have to Be in Need
  40. Day 40 - The Difference between Extravagant Embrace and Radical Inclusiveness
  41. Day 41 - On the Everyday Ministry of Eating
  42. Day 42 - On the Difference between Faith and Risk Management
  43. Day 43 - Why Miracles Will Never Be Enough
  44. Day 44 - The Concerns of God
  45. Day 45 - The Problem with Lowest Common Denominator Discipleship
  46. Day 46 - Seeing behind the Curtain vs. Beholding through the Veil
  47. Day 47 - What to Do in the Face of a Discipleship Fail
  48. Day 48 - The Problem with Lazy Faith and the Way beyond It
  49. Day 49 - Why We Aren’t the Champions
  50. Day 50 - How Sin Continues to Win and How to Beat It
  51. Day 51 - On the Reason for Marriage and the Difficulty of Divorce
  52. Day 52 - The Big Problem of the Powerful
  53. Day 53 - Getting the “A” and Failing the Course
  54. Day 54 - How Jesus Kicks Our Value System to the Curb
  55. Day 55 - How Jesus Wants Us to Respond to Hard Things
  56. Day 56 - Why Blindness Is the Real Problem
  57. Day 57 - Living in Light of the Larger Story
  58. Day 58 - On Splitting Hell Wide Open with a Baptismal Certificate in Your Hands
  59. Day 59 - The Difference between the Power of Prayer and the Power of God
  60. Day 60 - On the Power of Telling an Alternative Story
  61. Day 61 - Why You Really Don’t Own Anything
  62. Day 62 - Why God and Politics Can’t Be Separated
  63. Day 63 - Take the Long View
  64. Day 64 - The Two Ways of Keeping the Law and Why It Matters Most
  65. Day 65 - Moving from Information to Conversation
  66. Day 66 - When Two Cents Is Worth More than a Million Dollars
  67. Day 67 - When It’s Time to Build Something More than Buildings
  68. Day 68 - On the Day It All Hits the Fan and the Day after That
  69. Day 69 - Why We Must Leave behind Left Behind
  70. Day 70 - When the Sky Starts Falling
  71. Day 71 - Why Does the Word of God Endure Forever?
  72. Day 72 - Why Being Ready for the End Means Being Joyfully Alive in the Present
  73. Day 73 - The Three Kinds of People You Meet on the Way to the Cross
  74. Day 74 - The Big Problem with Being More Dedicated to God
  75. Day 75 - The Key to Perceiving Revelation
  76. Day 76 - Getting in Touch with Our Inner Judas
  77. Day 77 - Why I Never Understood the Lord’s Supper Until . . .
  78. Day 78 - On the Difference between Faith and Optimism
  79. Day 79 - Why There’s No Place for “If” in Prayer
  80. Day 80 - The Lord Helps Those Who Help Themselves . . . Sort Of
  81. Day 81 - The Wound That Never Heals
  82. Day 82 - The Reason behind Most Discipleship Failures
  83. Day 83 - How Faith Is like a “Get out of Jail Free” Card, and How It’s Not
  84. Day 84 - The Journey of Peter and the Journey of Us
  85. Day 85 - Why Are You So Defensive?
  86. Day 86 - Why It’s All Your Fault
  87. Day 87 - Why You Should Not Be Ashamed of Yourself
  88. Day 88 - The Glorious Imposition of the Cross
  89. Day 89 - The Mind of Christ Is the Cross
  90. Day 90 - When You Find Yourself in the Deepest Darkness
  91. Day 91 - Why We Say “Thank God It’s Friday”
  92. Day 92 - Tired of Following Jesus in Secret?
  93. Day 93 - Why Faith Has to Die
  94. Day 94 - Without the Resurrection, We’ve Got Nothing
  95. Day 95 - What Faith Is and What It Is Not
  96. Day 96 - The Wisdom behind a Good, Old-Fashioned Trust Fall
  97. Day 97 - How the Gospels Disciple Us in the Gospel
Lesson 78 of 97
In Progress

Day 78 – On the Difference between Faith and Optimism

Mark 14:27–31 NRSV

And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,

‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’

But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same.

Consider This

Positive thinking is overrated. It anchors itself in self-­confidence. It makes bold declarations and promises as though projecting the outcome will make it so. Positive thinking or optimism is powerful because it roots itself so deeply in the pride form of the human psyche. Let me be clear, though. Positive thinking is not all bad, it’s just ­overrated. The critical distinction we must constantly make is the difference between positive thinking and faith.

Positive thinking ties our faith to some preconceived and hoped for outcome. Faith, on the other hand, does not seek a particular outcome, but rather anchors all hope in God alone and the surety of his promises.

I want you to notice how this dynamic distinction between faith and optimism work out in today’s text. Jesus makes two simple declarations: 1. “You will all become deserters.” 2. “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Go back and scan the text again. Note how #1 gets all the action and #2 doesn’t even get honorable mention in the conversation. Each and every one of the disciples confused positive thinking for faith, and, as a result, in the face of Jesus’ challenge, they doubled down on their self-confidence and completely missed his promise. Jesus gives them the promise of an ultimate future. They put their confidence in themselves and their own projected outcome. How did they completely miss what he said? My theory: they could not accept the truth he told them about themselves. He told them they would not be able to endure what was about to happen; that their frailty would lead to their failure. He essentially told them their loyalty would not last because it was built on the lie they told themselves’that they could do it—rather than on the truth of the resurrection promise.

Permit me what may be a pastoral digression and yet I hope a faithful application.

What about us? So you have cancer or debilitating depression or a crumbling marriage or an impending bankruptcy or a wayward son or daughter. Let go of your hopeful projection of a certain outcome. Accept, no, embrace the brokenness of your situation and your powerlessness to hold it all together. Release your self-confidence so that faith can arise in the God and Father of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ. The greatest gift in the darkness of our struggles will be our dying to the false god of our particular expectations we have for resolution and releasing our struggle to the God who is raised from the dead who goes ahead of us.

A powerful faith story from the life of Abraham seems apropos. En route to do the unthinkable’to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, as a burnt offering in response to the calling of God we get this exchange:

On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. (Gen. 22:4–8)

Did you see Abraham’s faith? He did not know how, but he knew God.

Now observe how the writer of Hebrews sums this up:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. (Heb. 11:17–19)

Real faith clings to Jesus alone and surrenders to his resolution which always involves resurrection, sooner or later.

I want to suggest a way of faith in the face of the most difficult places in life—both yours and of those you love. Pray something like this—over and over: “Resurrection, Jesus. I don’t know how, but I pray resurrection, Jesus.”

The Prayer

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

The Questions

  • What if our faith is actually only an optimistic clinging to our hope in a particular outcome we have in mind? What if real faith can only arise in the wake of the death of our optimism and positive thinking?
  • How do you relate to the distinction between optimism and faith?