I believe being a Christian means being a Grace Focused Optimist.
A Grace Focused Optimist is a Christian living with The Christian Attitude, “Through Jesus, my life is a grace G.O.O.D.”
The acronym G.O.O.D. means that through Jesus my life is a God orchestrated opportunity to develop Christlike character.
God makes this happens as I handle life with the disposition of optimism that whatever enters my life is his will for me. Even the hard things.
Handling life this way results in doxology: increasingly loving, lauding, and leaning on God, as well as living for, and being loyal to, him.
But though this label “Grace Focused Optimism” is mine, the ideas that make up this truth have come from a number of books. Nine books have been especially influential in helping me become a Grace Focused Optimist. As I share the books I’ve found helpful, please remember that my comments on each book, unless in quotation marks, come from me not its author. If you find something askew in the way it’s stated, the fault is mine not the author being referenced.
First and foremost, the book that helped me become a Grace Focused Optimist (and more than any other keeps me one) is the Bible. The God of the Bible is the author of Grace Focused Optimism. The Jesus of the Bible is the insurer of that which Grace Focused Optimism is all about. And the Holy Spirit of the Bible is the One whom the Father through the Son uses to make Grace Focused Optimists. The message of the Bible from start to finish is the message of Grace Focused Optimism: God has a people whose lives he makes grace G.O.O.D.s through the Lord Jesus Christ. Read the Bible as a Grace Focused Optimist and your heart will burn within you like the Emmaus Road travelers’ did as Jesus opened the Scriptures to them. The Bible is The Grace Focused Optimism Book.
True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer
Relatively unknown in many of today’s Christian circles, Schaeffer was arguably the most famous Christian of the 1960’s – 1980’s. And True Spirituality is his best known-book. Its theme is “the meaning of the finished work of Christ for our present lives.” This book awakened in my heart the realization that grace is not only for eternal life but everyday living. (Schaeffer’s Letters, edited by Lane Dennis, were equally useful in my early thinking.)
Romans: The Final Perseverance of the Saints by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones –
Lloyd-Jones is the consensus pick as the greatest preacher of the latter half of the Twentieth Century. This book—his exposition of Romans 8:17-39— showed me that grace is God’s plan of exalting himself by humbling himself through Jesus to exalt a people by making them perfectly and permanently like Jesus; and, consequently, perfectly and permanently happy. This helped me see that promotion of Christ-like character is the “good” that God is always up to in a Christian’s life. Out of this came the heart of Grace Focused Optimism, namely, “Through Jesus, my life is a grace G.O.O.D.”
Knowing God by J.I. Packer
This book is Dr Packer’s Magnum Opus. The entire book is a mother lode of grace gold. But I found Chapter 19, Sons of God, especially enriching. There, Packer quotes Karl Barth’s wise words, “’Father’ is the Christian name for God.” I learned from this that God makes a big deal of being my Father and wants me to make a big deal of being his child. Indeed, my core identity as a grace person—indeed, what makes me a grace person—is the fact that I am God’s adopted child. The God Who is always dealing with me is always dealing with me as a loving Father.
The companion study guide is also recommended.
Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
Seligman is a psychologist and most definitely not a Christian. But this book taught me the importance of optimism as a core attitude toward life, the significance of my self-talk (what Seligman calls “explanatory style”), and the fact I could change my life by changing my self-talk. The book caused a Copernican revolution in my thinking by helping me see the importance of my thinking and, consequently, the necessity of thinking as a Christian. How was I as a Christian to think? As a Grace Focused Optimist!
Power Evangelism for the Powerless by C. John Miller
Miller is the originator of the soul-encouraging idea that we must “preach the Gospel to ourselves every day.” This book overwhelmed me with the enormity of God’s love for me in Jesus. It gave me a sense of the truth that no matter where I am in my story, God will give me grace so I can give him glory. (Miller’s Letters to Servant Leaders is also a helpful book, especially for preachers.)
Future Grace by John Piper
It was this book that helped me understand that the promises of God are, in essence, God’s advertisements of the good he delights in giving us through grace. So, they’re portable grace—grace readily available to be used as needed. This helped me understand that faith is using a promise to meet a need.
There is a companion study guide which is also recommended.
God’s Lavish Grace by Terry Virgo
I conclude with a book that did not help me become a Grace Focused Optimist but puts the heart of Grace Focused Optimism more clearly than any book I’ve read. The heart of Grace Focused Optimism is the fact that through Jesus we remain acceptable to God even when we do unacceptable things. God’s Lavish Grace is a remarkable explanation of what makes the good news GOOD NEWS.
A History of Providence by Alexander Carson
Grace Focused Optimists need to be “good finders.” We need to learn how to search for the good God is up to in all his dealings with us. Carson mentors us in this holy art in this book. Its chapters are brief, easy to read, and can even be read devotionally. Best of all, they’re full of truths that fuel optimism about God. Highly recommended.
Each of these books is a literary Philip. Like that man in the book of Acts, they “preach Christ.”
Meaning they preach grace.
Meaning they can help you become, and live as, a Grace Focused Optimist.