I preached this morning at First Reformed Church in South Holland, Illinois. My text was Philippians 1:1-11. I tried to show how Paul’s expression of prayer and thanks for the church at Philippi was deeply grounded in his theology of hope, which itself is profoundly connected to how he understands the day of Christ. I argued that American evangelicalism has little or no perspective on this because: (1) We have a theology about the day of Christ that focuses on issues like the the rapture question, the millennium, and the "last days" as in guessing how close we really are to the end and, (2) Our arguments about various explanations regarding the "end times" has little or nothing to do with true Christian living and vital prayer, much less with really giving thanks.
Paul frames his whole prayer for the church in Philippi around his hope about the end. He is, as I argued this morning, a "biblical optimist." This is not some kind of emotional optimism here, rooted in human personality. No this is rather an optimism rooted in the nature of Christ’s victory and his plan for finishing up his global purpose before he returns. He is the victor and thus we should live in that victory in true hope. Paul reasons that the church that lives in this hope has power to endure suffering and to be faithful.
Hal Lindsey once wrote a book titled, Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. I think we could use a book titled, Satan is Defeated and Bound and the Church Will Win the Final Victory on Planet Earth. I am truly weary of pessimism in the church, regardless of the source. My faith is anchored in Christ alone and he will see the travail of his soul and be satisfied. The knowledge of him will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Think about that this week and see how it affects your prayer and thankfulness. I can’t see how you can follow Scripture and not be filled with great hope.