Realistic Optimism & Our Vain Existence


Paul poses a conditional statement. It is an “if-then” clause and comes with only two options:

1 Corinthians 15:14     And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

  1. If Christ has not been raised and is dead, then the Christian’s preaching and faith is empty, and they are so foolish.
  2. If Christ has been raised and is alive, then the Christian’s preaching and faith is valuable, and non-Christians are so foolish.

Paul knows the answer — he is personally connected to the Risen Lord.

  • Women at the tomb saw him.
  • Peter and all the Apostles saw him.
  • Five-hundred witnesses saw him.
  • Paul saw him.
  • Anti-Christs fervently guarded the corpse but had no body to produce.
  • The promised Holy Spirit of Christ had fallen with miracles and signs.
  • The church was rapidly expanding in quantity and quality despite fierce opposition.
  • Theology now made sense; there was a cohesive logic understood through Christ.
  • Spiritual communion was increasingly enjoyed as he learned to rest in the Gospel.
  • Transformation was happening.
  • Spiritual fruit was being realized as the Spirit moved in, through, and with him.
  • Supernatural, subjective contentment was his companion.
  • Christian community was experienced as he became acquainted with the family.
  • Purpose and significance was his.

In Paul’s eyes, everything before Christ was vain. That which formerly seemed so valuable, now it seems like rubbish.

In Paul’s eyes, everything but Christ is vain. He puts no trust in himself. He is only weak; it is his Christ who is strong.

In Paul’s eyes, everything done that day for Christ is not vain. He has real significance while he lives, and this is how he encourages his worshiping friends to think and live:

1 Corinthians 15:58      Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 

Friends, this is a great day.

Christ has perfectly reconciled us to the Father. We are justified. We do not have to make amends or earn our God’s pleasure.

Christ has perfectly sanctified us. By edict of God, we have been set apart by the Creator to be used for his sacred purposes. This is something he did; this is not of our own doing.

Christ has perfectly filled us with his Holy Spirit. We are the sacred space of the Deity; we are his temple. We are his holy place, and he is not going anywhere. We need no “second blessing.” We only need to walk in what we’ve got.

Christ is perfectly governing his universe. He is King of the Nations, Lord of the Flies, and God of the Virus. He has foreordained our DNA, the places we are to live, and the number of our days. In doing so, he is the one who gives, and he takes away. Christ makes rich, and he makes poor. Feast and famine flows from his wise will. Our Lord quarantines some in homes, some in hospitals, and some in prisons. He makes some sick; he makes some well; and he kills others. Sometimes he allows the wicked to temporarily prosper. Sometimes he grants an over-abundance of the world’s fun and toys to the wicked he has redeemed. He’s got the whole world in his hands, and he is never surprised or reactive. Everything is working out according to the plan of him who is Sovereign.

Therefore, how do we get to face today? We get to live with realistic optimism. Because Christ lives, and because Christ has educated us, we get to be informed, steadfast, and immovable. And because our lives are united with Christ, none of our labor is in vain. That which the Spirit does for us, through us, and with us … it matters. Today, nothing is by happenstance. Nothing is menial. Today, there is no distinction between the secular and the sacred in the life of the believer — all is sacred, because all is worship.

So, whether we …

  • Labor in the home, car, field, factory, hospital, or office
  • Converse with people in person (staying 6 feet away), or by phone or computer
  • Study chemicals, machines, manuals, scripture, or lesson plans
  • Watch the birds, weather, neighbors, news, or movies
  • Read the Bible, newspapers, blogs, or books
  • Make profit, make bread, or make love
  • Maintain health or contract the virus
  • Eat, drink, or whatever we do …

Let’s do it all for the glory of God. For, “for us to live is Christ.” Today, we get some more hours to worship. We get another day to enjoy God, encourage our Christian brothers and sisters, all while engaging our world. Today is a valuable day. There’s nothing vain about it. Use it well, be real, and stay optimistic!







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