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Nazarene Bible College



Practice Philippians 4 Today
Practice Philippians 4 Today

Being an Optimistic in a Pessimistic World

A devotional given at a NBC staff prayer time by President Graves on Philippians 4:4-13…

A great challenge we face today is living optimistically in a pessimistic world. In the brief time I have this day I would rather focus on living optimistically rather than rehearsing the many ways pessimism infiltrates our everyday lives.

I am often amazed and challenged by the attitude displayed by the Apostle Paul. We know his troubles, hardships, and distresses. If anyone had reason to be pessimistic, it was Paul; trouble seemed to follow him wherever he went.

Yet, Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

From prison, Paul wrote these powerful and positive words to the Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

How does he do it? I mean, remain so positive, in such a dire situation. I see some clues emerge in this passage:

  • The Lord is near. - Presence
  • Do not be anxious. - Patience
  • Present your requests to God. - Prayer
  • The peace of God. - Peace

A few more clues evolve in verses 8-9:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

  • Guard your thinking. - Perspective
  • Put into practice what you have learned. – Practice

"Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some."  Charles Dickens

And in verses 10-13, Paul says:

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

  • Learning the secret of contentment. - Promise
  • Paul completes this section saying, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy. Dietrich Bonhoeffer [1]

There is a poignant scene in the movie, The Shack. Mack is in a row boat in the middle of a beautiful lake. He stops paddling the boat and is taking in the beautiful scenery surrounding a serene lake. Suddenly Mack is surrounded by his fears, pain, and anger. He hears the voice of his lost daughter, the water turns black as oil, and the boat begins to rock violently. He is in a panic as the boat seems to be overcome with brokenness. He hears the voice of Jesus, calling out, “Mack, look at me!” Again, and again, Jesus tells Mack not to look at his brokenness – to look at Him. Finally, Mack looks up, his eyes fixed on Jesus, and immediately, the water is stilled, the blackness surrounding the boat turns blue again, and Mack is at peace.

William Ralph Inge wrote: “Christianity is a system of radical optimism.”[2]

In the building of the Panama Canal, Colonel George Washington Goethals had to endure the carping criticism of countless busybodies back home who freely predicted that he would never complete his great task. But the resolute builder pressed steadily forward in his work and said nothing.

“Aren’t you going to answer your critics?” a subordinate inquired.

“In time,” Goethals replied.


The great engineer smiled. “With the canal,” he replied. —Adrian Anderson[3]

Certainly, optimists like Paul have their critics and naysayers, but we learn from the great Apostle “we can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

  • The Lord is near – rely on his presence
  • Do not be anxious – exercise patience
  • Present your requests to God – be a person of prayer
  • The peace of God – rest in his peace
  • Guard your thinking – change your perspectives
  • Put into practice the things you have learned – practice your faith
  • Learn to be content – finding strength in His promises

Dr. Harold B. Graves, President NBC




[3] [Reproduced with permission from s by Paul Lee Tan, Communications, Inc., Dallas, TX, 1998, #2135]

Filed Under: Communicator Published: 07/27/2020

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