Most people including Christians have an area in life they struggle to keep under control and/or want desperately to overcome. These range from mild issues which are simply distractions to severe ones that consume much of our time and thought life. As Christians these struggles can keep us from living a holy, sanctified life in Christ because we can spend so much time and effort striving to “overcome” whatever “it” is, we do not experience the freedom of living in Christ for which He paid a great price. Very often the problem lies in the fact we only think of overcoming in terms of “never having to deal with the issue again”. In other words we believe overcoming only happens if there is permanent removal of the problem. With this mindset we get confused and then feel defeated if we repeatedly battle the same thing believing we have failed to overcome.
This mentality of overcoming came into clear focus recently when two people were sharing their struggles, one in regard to tobacco addiction and one in regard to a problem with anger. Both would like to be “set free” and overcome their tendency to “fall back” to those areas which have become hindrances for them to live freely in Christ. Neither struggle is a daily battle for these two people but show up when life gets stressful or when something negative happens which thrusts them back into the throes of bad habits. They long for the day when the struggle is gone, for the day of overcoming. However, the truth is they are already in their day and just don’t realize it! Both of these people have been struggling and overcoming in their battles for decades while living in Christ. But they needed to come to terms with the possibility that tobacco and anger are tribulations in their lives which they will need to overcome repeatedly, perhaps their entire lives.
Even most people who struggle with alcoholism testify it is a daily battle to say “no” to drinking. If a choice were given they would probably prefer never to desire another drink of alcohol but that is usually not the case. There is no doubt we would like every struggle to end with its disappearance so that we no longer need to battle our flesh, fight the urges, or stand against the carnal desires. To have God completely remove the “thing” that we have felt imprisoned by is indeed an incredible gift. I have known people addicted to tobacco or marijuana being completely set free even to the point of nausea at the thought of smoking again. Though this describes one result of overcoming, more often God helps us in our weakness and gives opportunity to overcome through discipline, steadfastness, and reliance on His Word of Truth in Jesus Christ. This means of overcoming is just as rewarding, just as meaningful, and just as effective, though it requires us to do more than ask God for help. We must believe Him, trust Him, and follow Him!
The truth is that in all these scenarios, overcoming can become a way of life! Overcoming is the process of winning despite obstacles or to be successful in spite of obstacles. And friends, Scripture depicts our world is full of obstacles. If we get stuck thinking the only way to overcome is to be rid of the obstacles or to have no reaction to the obstacles we face, then we are not open to the victories we can experience through continual overcoming. The key is to stay focused on the “now” rather than on the “happily ever after” scenario. Overcoming in the light of God’s Word reveals a daily dependence on Jesus. He is the only way to overcome!
1 John 4:4 “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
1 John 5:4-5 “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
Romans 8:37 “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loves us.”
Revelation 12:11 “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb (that be Jesus) and by the word of their testimony and they did not love their lives to the death.”
We will “always” face trials and tribulation in this world. Jesus says in John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Friends, this is so simple yet we make overcoming so hard and complicated. I hear Christians proclaim every day their “failure” to overcome. People try and control their desires, press in with God, attempt to get breakthrough, pray, and study His Word. All great things, even biblical things! But apart from truly being “in” Jesus where we may have peace they are simply things we “do”. The “things” Jesus spoke to them and speaks to us today are words of truth and life. His spoken word causes us to be “in” Him where we may have peace. To put it as simply as possible –
We must “know” what He speaks to us in order to live in His peace! We know what He speaks by knowing His Word! Then we must live in that knowledge!
In John 16 we see “these things” Jesus spoke to them. He spoke of living in the assurance that our heavenly Father loves, cares, and meets with us. The disciples were desperate to understand how they could “go on” without Jesus after He told them He would be going away. He assured them it was good and necessary for Him to go away because He would send a Helper, the Spirit of Truth who would guide them into all truth. These are words for us today as well! We often spend our time focused on words of fact and death rather than truth and life. But when we focus on “those things” Jesus spoke of, we have peace in the midst of a world which offers tribulation.
Today we live with the Spirit of Truth guiding us into all truth to stand against those things which seem to overcome us that we might overcome them time after time. We should not waste our time hoping for the struggle to end or for the “things” to be removed from us believing that is the only way to overcome.
Look what Jesus prays to His Father in John 17:14-17 “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
We are to follow our Helper who guides us into all truth and then sanctifies us by His truth. What is truth? His word is truth. “These things” He speaks is truth! This is not a one-time thing but a continual process in life! We have the privilege of being sanctified, different, being peculiar, set apart, holy and blameless. We do not live in the sanctification provided if we are not in His Word and in Jesus! We have a God who makes all things new. Jesus said we are not of this world and though we are in the world He does not ask His Father to take us out of the world. Living in this world means we will struggle with tribulations, addictions, things that have potential to steal our attention and devotion away from Jesus and His Word. “But” Jesus asks His Father to keep us from the evil one NOT keep the evil one from us. In fact the Word says our adversary prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
Our heavenly Father “keeps us” through the leadership and guidance of Holy Spirit. He does not “keep us” as prisoners. We are free to live in Christ and follow the Spirit of Truth. We are assured safety and the ability to overcome each day even though the evil one continually pursues. We should not be surprised by the tribulations we face or by our need to overcome them continually. In fact, we are to be of good cheer! If we are honest we would need to admit most of the time we are not even close to being of good cheer as we face tribulation in life. Instead we are “tired” of pressing in with the Lord with seemingly no results. We are “weary” because we think we are not experiencing “breakthrough” in Christ. We are “exhausted” because overcoming does not happen the way we expect. These exemplify a life outside of Christ! BUT, be of good cheer, He has overcome the world. In Him we overcome the world.
Let us get our focus off the big finale of “overcoming” and celebrate the victory of overcoming each day in Jesus who has overcome the world. The reward is the same whether we overcome by never having to deal with an issue again, or if we overcome time after time after time by standing in Jesus. Get in Jesus! Stay in Jesus! Be of good cheer! Be sanctified! Know the truth! Know His Word! Live in the Truth! And beloved people of God – Be encouraged as you overcome today in Jesus!