Jul
23

4 Reasons For Optimism In Today’s World

And why NOW is the time to do something awesome

  • Justin Zoradi
4 Reasons For Optimism In Today’s World

Borrowed in parts from Fareed Zakaria’s 2012 Harvard Commencement Address


There is a lot of bad news out there. If you turn on the TV, the stories on the news describe grim economic times, a world at war, the breakdown of society, and a pending zombie apocalypse.

This type of news messes with our belief systems. More than anything it makes us afraid. Unless bomb shelters count, scared people don’t create much. They don’t create because they are pre-occupied with protecting what is closest to them. This is basic human nature.

On the contrary, people who do create are the ones filled with hope. They see the world for what it could be.

What many people don’t realize is that we live in a world with more opportunity, hope, and potential than ever before.


For some reason, we often allow the overwhelmingly good news to be fiercely overshadowed by a potent but small percentage of bad news.


4 Reasons For Profound Optimism In Today’s World
(And why NOW is the time to do something awesome)
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4. Our World Is Profoundly At Peace

The world we live in is at peace — profoundly at peace. Author Steven Pinker says that we are living in the most peaceful times in human history. The richest countries of the world are not in militaristic geopolitical competition with one another. This is a historical rarity. You would have to go back hundreds of years to find a similar period of time.

With a 24-hour news cycle you can watch a bomb going off in Afghanistan or hear of a terror plot in Times Square and think we live in dangerous times. But here is the truth:

The number of people who have died as a result of war, civil war, and, yes, terrorism, is down 50% this decade from the 1990s. It is down 75% from the preceding five decades, the decades of the Cold War, and it is, of course, down 99% from the decade before that, which is World War II.


3. Economies Are Flourishing – Despite The Recent Downturn

I know, times have been tough. But think long term here. In 1980, the number of countries that were growing at 4% a year — robust growth — was around 60. By 2007, it had doubled. Even now, after the financial crisis, that number is more than 80.

Even in the current period of slow growth, the global economy as a whole will grow 10% to 20% faster this decade than it did a decade ago, and 60% faster than it did two decades ago. Seven of the ten fastest growing economies are in Africa alone. This is nothing short of incredible.


2. The Remarkable Reduction in Global Poverty

The United Nations estimates that poverty has been reduced more in the past 50 years than in the previous 500 years. And much of that reduction has taken place in the last 20 years. Life expectancy across the world has risen dramatically. We gain five hours of life expectancy every day — without even exercising! A third of all the babies born in the developed world this year will live to be 100.


1. The Power of Education & the Role of Women

The number of global college graduates has risen fourfold in the last 40 years for men and sevenfold for women. The empowerment of women, whether in a village in Africa or a boardroom in America, is good for the world. We can look forward to a world enriched and ennobled by women’s voices.


So what does all this mean?

It means that more than ever, these are the times for you to make a significant difference in the world.


If you live in the global north and have a college degree, you are effectively a member of the most powerful people group the world has every known.

This isn’t a time to be scared. This is a time to be bold - a time to do work that matters. A time to leverage this unique point in human history that you are privileged to be a part of.

Now, I don’t believe in the myth of progress – that just by existing, over time, human beings will eventually figure out how to solve problems and save the world. I believe, as Dr King says,

“Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of people willing to be co-workers with God.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.


I believe that for centuries, God has been putting these pieces together. Despite the downturn in traditional church attendance,

I believe hundreds of millions of human beings have become co-workers with God to solve the greatest challenges of our time.


In His genius and benevolence, God uses weak-kneed, distracted, and anxious humans to achieve remarkable things in their daily lives.

God believes in this world and wants to invite you into His redemption of it. This invitation is an opportunity to impact the lives of others, change the world, and have your own heart and mind transformed as well.

Despite the darkness in our world...

Within every tiny glimmer of hope is the hand of God clasped in partnership with the hands of human beings. (<-- Tweet that)


How exciting that we get to participate in this.


As Gary Haugen notes,

“The almighty God of the universe is prepared to use us, his people, to seek justice, to rescue the oppressed, to defend the orphan and to plead for the widow. How? By using the gifts, resources, relationships, expertise, and power that he has given us. Because the reason he has granted us these things is not merely for our joy (though great joy they rightly bring) but so that we might serve those who lack them.”


Despite the bad news you see on TV, good is winning in the world. And you have a chance to be a part of the team. The team of light and the team of hope.

-JZ


Will you do something for me?

In the comments below, how does this news make you feel? Do you believe it? If not, why? What’s your role in all of this?


FAQ's

More questions? Check out a few FAQ’s I thought you might ask

1. All the stuff about things getting better globally are great. But what does it mean for America?

According to Fareed Zakaria, “For America and for most places, peace and broader prosperity — “the rise of the rest” — means more opportunities. The United States of America still has the largest and most dynamic economy in the world, that dominates the age of technology, that hosts hundreds of the world’s greatest companies, that houses its largest, deepest capital markets, and that has almost all of the world’s greatest universities. This country has its problems, but I would rather have America’s problems than most any other place in the world.”


2. In the Bible, Jesus says, ‘the poor will always be with us.” What about that?

Great question. This is a common verse given by many Christians when asked about issues of poverty.

But let’s look at the context of that verse. In both Matthew 26:11 and Mark 14:7, we hear the story of Mary Magdalene pouring a $40,000 bottle of perfume on the feet of Jesus. Judas Iscariot (the keeper of the purse) is incensed, saying, “We could sell that perfume and give the money to the poor!” To which Jesus responds, “The poor will always be with you, but you will not always have me.”

In this verse, Jesus is talking to Judas, telling him his time on earth is short. He’s not making a statement about global economics or laying a theological framework for how Christians should treat the poor.

For more on this, watch the video by the Christian Advocacy Organization LIVE 58 called The Poor Will NOT Always Be With Us


3. Do you believe that God partners with people who don’t believe in him?

This is a very good question and one I’ve asked dozens of people to get their feedback. For me, theologically, I tend to think so. If anything for the basic reason that I believe God can do anything he wants. I believe God works in stealth, on purpose, tying things together, using anyone he chooses too. Wouldn’t suggesting that he only works through Christians limit the power of God?

The Bible is full of people who don’t believe in God but are used in special ways to either become believers or fulfill some portion of God’s work. For that reason alone, I’m inclined to say yes.


4. Are things really getting better in Africa?

Yes. Most definitely yes. It’s incredible really.

For visual types, check out Bono’s most recent Ted Talk. The Good News on Poverty (Yes, there's good news)

The Economist Article – Africa Rising: The Hopeful Continent


Sources:

2012 Harvard Commencement Address - Fareed Zakaria
The Good News On Poverty (Yes, there's good news) - Bono (TED Talk)
Africa Rising: The Hopeful Continent- The Economist
Good News About Injustice - Gary Haugen
God Has A Dream - Desmond Tutu
Surprised By Hope - NT Wright

Photo Credit
Loadpaper.com




Comments (21)

  • josh o'berski

    josh o'berski

    24 July 2013 at 12:49 |
    awesome post. there is terror and darkness in the world, but there is so much good in it as well, and the good is going to win. i'm for it.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      24 July 2013 at 23:56 |
      Amen brother. Good is going to win. Thanks for reading!
  • John Kennedy

    John Kennedy

    24 July 2013 at 12:50 |
    I couldn't agree with your optimism more. Well said and written. Keep up the good work of encouraging us to stay balanced with a God-centric view of our world. jfk
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      25 July 2013 at 00:01 |
      Thanks John, appreciate your kind words. Will do! Thanks for reading.
  • Steven Sexauer

    Steven Sexauer

    24 July 2013 at 12:54 |
    Great article Justin. "God believes in this world and wants to invite you into His redemption of it." When we accept the invitation then we find hope and true peace.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      25 July 2013 at 18:35 |
      Thanks for reading Steven! Appreciate it.
  • Tim

    Tim

    24 July 2013 at 13:27 |
    I'm not quite as optimistic, but I'm hopeful that more and more people will stand up and tackle the problems in the world head on. Cheers!
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      25 July 2013 at 18:47 |
      Thanks for reading Tim! I am hopeful about that as well.
  • Rick Steigman

    Rick Steigman

    24 July 2013 at 13:51 |
    Thanks for the facts you have provided here. All you have said contributes to what I've believed for some time now.
    When people talk of how tough thing are I attempt to have them imagine living in the woods during the "dark ages". Most peoples historical perspective reaches back a year or two and forward to their next vacation. Too bad.
    Visionaries such as the "Founding Fathers" are rare and if they are not given exposure to the masses through media and education-we lose. I intend to pass on your post. Thank you for all the positive thinking and writing!
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      25 July 2013 at 23:02 |
      Thanks so much for reading Rick. Yes, many people's perspective is often in the 1-3 yr range. Thanks for reading and sharing!
  • Melanie Glass

    Melanie Glass

    24 July 2013 at 15:44 |
    Hey Justin,
    So I am not the most up to speed on current events, etc. but I feel in the loop enough to get the general sense that, as you said, most people believe things are getting worse. (My mom does at least. Avid news watcher.) And the way that, as a believer, it has always been justified to me was, "Well, that just means Jesus is coming back soon." Wars and rumors of wars, and all that. So my only semi contradictory thought I had while reading this was, "Wait...if things are getting BETTER, does that mean Jesus isn't coming back in the next 60 years like it seems all Christians think he's going to??" Which, I guess as naive as it sounds, would actually dramatically change my worldview if I adopted that perspective. Means we have more time to partner with God. Means I can relax a little from the "We're screwed" frame of mind.
    Anywho, I know you're no end times theologian, but I am curious to know your thoughts!
    Thanks!
    Mel
    • Chris Cameron

      Chris Cameron

      24 July 2013 at 16:15 |
      Melanie, there are lots of "end times" views. One that fits with Justin's thought is this: In the Lord's Prayer, we are directed to pray for God's "kingdom to come, on Earth, as it is in Heaven." Is there war, poverty, injustice in heaven? No. Is there on earth? Yes. So part of OUR job on earth is to pray for - and act - in a way that reduces war, poverty, injustice, etc. This concept now gives us GREAT PURPOSE in our lives on earth - partnership with God in bringing Heaven-like conditions to earth! That sounds MUCH better than watching it all go to hell and waiting for Jesus to come back and "rescue" us.
      • Justin Zoradi

        Justin Zoradi

        26 July 2013 at 18:12 |
        Melanie,

        I would pretty much second everything Chris said here. He explained it quite well.

        I think it's worth a conversation that you and I can have face to face. But it hinges on the question of what do you think Heaven is and where is it? Personally, I don't believe that Heaven is way 'out there' and that we are just 'passing through'. This is typical 'earth is not my home' theology.

        In fact, I believe that heaven is here on earth. In small bits now, but in full force in due time. And I also believe that we have a role to play in partnership with God to bring about his Kingdom on earth. So, things getting better is a good sign in my opinion. Let's talk more.
  • Bradley Peters

    Bradley Peters

    24 July 2013 at 18:50 |
    One of the best articles I've read in a while, Justin. Great use of quotes, really awakening!
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      27 July 2013 at 00:09 |
      Thanks for reading Bradley! Really appreciate your kind words.
  • Dave Zoradi

    Dave Zoradi

    24 July 2013 at 19:35 |
    Justin,

    I really enjoyed this and reflecting on it. I would not consider myself as someone who is afraid (even though I do listen to talk radio). Yet, I can understand why some people are.

    It is when we look inward and become focused on ourselves that gives fear the ability to grip our hearts and minds. We become unable to see the global work and movement of the Lord, thus losing hope that He is in fact still working. When selfishness runs rampant in the human heart it leads to obsession with personal security, which in turn leads to the disillusionment of hope and the birth of a pessimistic world-view.

    Once that takes place, it is easy to become afraid of anything that you do not know or understand. People of a different race, religion, political and social views become something to feared; thus easier to be written off or even to the extent of de-humanizing them.

    Looking beyond ourselves to see that God really did send Jesus to die for the sins of every human race, ethnicity, religion, and world-view helps us to see that God is in the business of saving all humanity...not just me. An aspect of God's saving grace is to provide hope and sometimes that means bringing peace, fighting poverty, and educating those who have been overlooked in the past.

    What you have written here helps me fight the good fight against my own selfishness. It reminds me of the big picture. It forces me to see that God has been at work in the last 60 years and that even today His kingdom is still advancing. It makes me realize that I am just playing a small role in this particular 'Act' of His grand and global production. It does not matter whether this is the final Act before the curtain falls or whether we are just before the intermission; hope still abounds. The fact that I have been given a role to begin with makes me want to play it to the best that I can.

    Thank you for writing and continually helping me make the most of the role God has given me to play...to do work that matters.
  • Joseph Lalonde

    Joseph Lalonde

    25 July 2013 at 02:04 |
    I believe the information posted in this post. The news tries to terrify us because, honestly, that's what sells. Looking around though, you can see things have and are improving beyond what the news has reported.
  • Cynde joy

    Cynde joy

    25 July 2013 at 04:20 |
    Nice perspective and a productive attitude. I believe God wants our faith to be full of his joy which will fill our hearts with hope (optimism). He will prevail against destruction and death. After all He is God. I don't have to watch the news to find hurts and sorrow. Nor do I have to look far to find the joyful miracles of God. I prefer to pray and help and sing phrases of God's victories. Thanks for the encouragement to take action from or perspectives to our behaviors
  • Gustavo Karakey

    Gustavo Karakey

    29 July 2013 at 17:45 |
    Justin:

    Just came on your site after reading your little e-book "Doing Work That Matters." I liked it so much I sent it to all of my subscribers.

    Keep up the inspiring work.

    Gustavo
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      29 July 2013 at 17:56 |
      Thank you Gustavo! I'm honored to hear this news. Really appreciate it. Thanks so much for reading and sharing.
  • carol smithback

    carol smithback

    02 August 2013 at 00:36 |
    Hi Justin,
    How did I feel? VERY Encouraged! Thank you!!!

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