Jesus said in this world, you will have trouble. Yet no one has ever been more hopeful about your life. Pastor Charles Edward Jefferson shows why.

Good News! The Optimism of Jesus


“If you insist on defining an optimist as a man who plays only with sunbeams, who hears nothing but harmonies, who is slightly concerned with the world’s agonies and tragedies because of his fancy that no matter what . . . everything is certain to come out all right, then Jesus was not an optimist. There is a sentimental optimism which is irrational and immoral. . . . It shuts its eyes to all hideous facts and stops its ears to all horrible sounds, and insists that in spite of appearances all is well with the world. This sort of optimism faces the future with a confidence born not of courage but of moral indolence.”

“Jesus of Nazareth was not a man who could shut his eyes to the sorrow and the heartbreak of the world. Never were eyes wider open than his. He saw everything. . . . He saw suffering in its every form. . . . Underneath the tragedy of suffering he saw the blacker tragedy of sin. Down underneath the surface of the world’s life he saw the cancer which was eating up its strength and its hope and its joy. He recognized as none other the tremendous power of evil. He saw with open eyes the roads which lead to death.”

“But he remains nevertheless undaunted. He never loses heart. He sees all, and he hears all, but he never gives up hope. He faces facts as they are, and he predicts grander facts which are to be. He sees both sides — the bright side and the dark side — and having seen both sides his face has light on it. He sings and he also sobs. His singing is sometimes broken by his sobbing, but he is never overwhelmed, he never surrenders, his head is always up, and his unfailing exhortation is, ‘Be of good cheer!’”

The Gospel Is Glorious News

“What a sad and depressing book the New Testament ought to be considering the dismal story it has to tell! It gives us the life of one who was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. It portrays his sufferings through the cruel, disappointing years to his horrible death upon the cross. It narrates his awful predictions of coming woe and loss and ruin. It tells us that the leading cities of Galilee are rushing to destruction, and that even Jerusalem, glorious with the triumphs of a thousand years, is irretrievably doomed and that not one stone of all its stately edifices shall be left standing on another.”

“And yet not withstanding this heartbreaking story, the New Testament does not depress us or leave a shadow on the heart. It is a jubilant, exhilarating book, and the words which linger longest in the ear are, ‘Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ The New Testament is a gospel, a bit of glorious news, because at the center of it there lives and works the world’s greatest optimist.”

“This is the man who can inspire our confidence and give us hope. We need a man with open eye and open ear and open heart, a man who sees things as they are and knows the thickness of the belt of night. We cannot follow a leader crying, ‘Peace,’ when we know that there is no peace; nor can we trust a teacher who asserts that all is well, when his assertion is contradicted daily by the experience of the world. Give us a man who feels the fury of the storm, yet is certain of the calm to follow. Give us a man who can measure accurately the dimensions of the night, and who also sees the dawning of a glorious morning.”

The Secret Is Faith in Our Father

“Let us try to find the secret of Jesus’ optimism. The secret is written large across the pages of the Gospel. It was a secret too good to keep — he gave it to everybody who had ears to hear. It was an abiding confidence in God.”

“We are sure of Him — sometimes. Our faith is clouded and it is intermittent. It floods and ebbs like the tide. Jesus never doubted. His vision was unclouded. His trust was absolute. To him God was an ever-present Father. This was his new name for God. The prophets and poets of Israel had only seldom ventured to think of God as father. . . . With Jesus, God was always Father. This is the name he carried on his lips when a boy of twelve, it was on his lips when he passed from this world into the other. He placed it on the lips of every man who followed him. It constantly amazed him that men had so little faith in God. ‘Have faith in God!’ This was the exhortation with which he braced the hearts of those who wished to live his life and do his work.”

The Result Is Hope for Everyone

“Along with unswerving trust in God there went an unshakable confidence in man. . . . He saw the possibilities and capacities of the human heart. He saw men’s littlenesses, frailties, vices, sins, but underneath all these he saw a soul created in God’s image.”

“When has a man had greater reason to abandon faith in men than this optimist of Galilee? . . . His entire career was a tragedy. He was suspected, misrepresented, hated. He was surrounded by liars wherever he went. No matter what he said his words were twisted, no matter what he did his motives were impugned. Such treatment is apt to sour the heart of anyone long subjected to it. Jesus was mistreated all the way. The inhuman wretches who tortured him in the courtyard of Pontius Pilate were doing only what men had done to him from the beginning. His life was one long-drawn crucifixion. Men were always jamming thorns into his brow, jabbing spears into his side, driving spikes through his hands and feet.”

“But he never gave up faith in human nature. When he saw that men were determined to take his life he said, ‘If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me!’ No matter what cruel and devilish things human nature might be guilty of, there was after all down deep in the heart that which would respond to forgiveness and love. The enemies of Jesus were the meanest, most unprincipled, diabolical set of human hounds which ever tracked an innocent man to death; but they never broke down his confidence in the divinity of the human heart. . . . No matter what individual men may do, man is to be trusted still. When he comes to his true self, he will say, ‘I will arise and go to my Father!’”

The Way Is Infinite Love

“Cynics might come to Jesus and learn from him to expect large things from human nature everywhere. He sees the shallowness, the paltriness, the frailty of the heart; but he also sees its capacities, its possibilities, the mustard-seed germs of virtues and graces which the Spirit of God can unfold. We measure men too much by their powers, and not enough by their capacities, by what they are today and not by what they may become later on. It was because the eyes of Jesus swept the future that he could stand around the wreckage of a race in ruins and say, ‘Be of good cheer!’”

“This indomitable Optimist has confidence in you. . . . You see your weakness, sordidness, vileness; he sees deeper,
 He sees your capacity of God. He knows what you can do when you have come to yourself. He sees deeper also into God. You have no adequate conception of the patience or the mercy of the Infinite Father. He has. You do not know what Infinite Love can accomplish. He does. Because of your transgressions you have lost faith in yourself. He has not. Because you have failed a thousand times you say there is no use trying anymore. He says, ‘Try again!’ If you give yourself to him, he will make of you an optimist!”

Excerpts from The Character of Jesus by Charles Edward Jefferson (Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., 1908) provided by