I have yet to read it, but the premise is provoking.
Iain Murray’s A Puritan Hope documents the Puritan hope of worldwide gospel transformation under the umbrella eschatology (last things) of post-millennialism. The reason I find it provoking is because a brother from my local church keeps bringing it up: one’s theology can affect how much you believe God for. I just read a book in which the author makes a passing remark about optimism. In this quote I think is reflected this reality of our theology dictating what you believe God for.
People often ask me, “Are you hopeful?” And the answer is yes, I am hopeful. I am not optimistic. Christians have no right to be optimistic, but at the same time we have no right not to be hopeful. Optimism is a belief that things are finally going to end up happy. Hope, on the other hand, means that we know the Lord God of all creation, who sits in the heavens and rules over all the peoples of the earth. We know His grace. We know His mercy. We know His holiness, His character, and His love. Above all, we know His son, and thus we live in hope.
The sum of his statement is that God is worth hoping in because he is good, but things are not going to end well and we have no warrant to expect good things. Here we have a lesson.
While the apocalyptic literature of Scripture does seem pretty dismal in its outlook, but there is also much ground for hope (as a ‘redwood’-like group of biblical Christians – the Puritans – seemed to believe).
5 Grounds to be Optimistic
1. Glory everywhere: Habakkuk 2:14
For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
This passage comes in the midst of God’s announcement of judgment on the nations to Habakkuk. It almost is a bit of a tease verse. It’s positted between accounts of judgment. We should expect an age of universal Christian knowledge.
2. Everyone nation hears: Matthew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
The Greek here is ‘ethnos’ (ἔθνεσιν) which Strong’s defines as ‘the nations (as distinct from Israel).’ This is usually understood as all the people groups, rather than political nation states by interpreters. There is an immediate connection between the end, and the nations hearing. That’s not happened yet. We have a right to expect the nations to hear and for this following promise to be fulfilled:
3. Every nation believes: Revelation 3:9-10
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
Notice “every nation” in verse 9. We have a right to believe God for every nation will to one day be gathered with the church of all ages to worship God our Father and the Lamb.
4. Correlation between faith and God’s actions in the Gospels
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.Mark 11:24
And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.Matthew 21:22
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.John 14:13
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.John 15:7
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.John 15:16
…whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you…John 16:23
See also James 1:5-6, James 1:17, 1 John 3:22, and 1 John 5:14. Ultimately when we don’t expect a happy ending to this age, it’s not because we “have no right” it’s because we don’t believe God and his faithfulness to his promises.
In Luke 18 we have this frightening statement by Jesus: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (v. 8). I encourage you to look at the context. Immediately preceding this verse is the parable of the persistent widow.
Brothers and sisters, don’t you want to be the kind of person Jesus can say “well done good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21). Is the word, as it’s usually understood, restricted to doing your duty? Strong’s Greek Concordance also gives the definition of a person who is “believing” and “of believing the faith God imparts.” Do you just want to be faithful a little? How about you pray and believe God for much! Believe him for the world. Pray for worldwide revival!
Brothers and sisters, we have an infinite God! A God who commands us to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). What does that even mean!? On earth as it is in heaven? What could it mean but the above promises: the knowledge of God’s glory everywhere, the nations hearing the good news of the Lamb’s sacrifice, the nations believing upon the gospel, God’s promise to honor him for what we believe him for and our desire to be spent (not merely in activity) by faith! Lastly, do you think that if you just believe God wants to damn the world and so you’re just going to build your barns, share the gospel here and there that you’ve been faithful? Don’t be satisfied with what you have. You have the God of all power and glory’s ear. Pray him into action and don’t stop until the world belongs to him in every sense of the word and that foe the devil is chained for all time.
Let’s believe God. Amen.