This month we are starting a new series on Sunday mornings entitled ‘Overcoming’. As followers of Jesus we are called to be overcomers in many different areas of life, and Jesus has made all of this possible for us. Sin, death, sickness, shame, hopelessness, and despair are all defeated. Jesus has won the victory!
The promises contained in the bible are powerful and flow from the life-giving love of God, poured out for all us. Yet, if all the promises in the bible were instantaneously fulfilled, we’d not need to be overcomers… we’d already have overcome… everything. Anything that stood in our way, hindered our relationship with God, or affected us in a negative way would no longer have any effect on us, and we know from the bible as well as from our experiences day to day that this is not the case.
Jesus says at one point: “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Elsewhere we read that this extends to us who are “given the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Yet at the same time as reading of the victorious life we live in Jesus, the bible also vividly describes another aspect of the life of faith too.
Through God’s word, recorded in the bible, we also learn what it means to persevere through trials, stand firm against temptation and attack, as well as learning how to cast all our anxiety on Jesus – because he cares for us. It may be obvious, but sometimes we forget that this encouragement only makes sense if we are facing anxiety in the first place! Not only that, but in the same sentance as telling his disciples that he had overcome the world, Jesus also said “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33)
When troubles come they can hit us hard, and as followers of Jesus we are not exempt from troubles. In fact, it seems from reading the stories of the early followers of Jesus that being true to their faith increased their troubles rather than diminishing them.
So what are we to make of this apparent tension? On the one hand we are children of God, seated in heavenly places, and rejoicing with him, yet on the other hand we are to persevere, pass through challenges and trials, griefs and pain.
The answer is that we are to combine these two realities into one, and live aware of both the pain of life and the victory we have in Jesus. To do otherwise is to deny the reality either of the evidence of the world around us, or the truth of God’s word. To ignore either would lead to something other than the life God has called us to live.
The authors of the bible never ignore the experiences of their own lives or those around them. They faced many challenges, yet did so with faith, boldness and ongoing trust in God in the midst of each of these challenges, knowing that Jesus had overcome the world. The bible heroes were not people who walked through life unscathed or unhindered by the temptations that the rest of us face. Far from it! Instead, the characters in the bible who followed God did so with grit, determination and a living and vibrant faith which at times was tested and tried.
This is not to say that we don’t have breakthroughs – we do, and we should pray expecting God’s breakthrough again and again. Yet we are aware of Jesus’ own words about the troubles that come, so we should also not be taken by surprise when they do. In all of them we are not overcome, instead we are overcoming. God is at work in us day by day, adding to his work and completing it. If God can persist, maintaining his work in our lives through thick and thin, we can too, with his strength sustaining us.
– We are not defeated, far from it. Jesus has won the victory! (John 16:33)
– Death hurts, but has lost its sting. (1 Corinthians 15:55)
– We grieve, but not like those who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
– Sickness comes our way too, and in the midst of it we pray for God’s healing and trust
in him and for his healing. (James 5:16)
– We face opposition, but are sustained by hope. (Romans 5:5)
Jesus has overcome the world, sin, sickness and death, they are now defeated foes.
When Jesus returns to reign and rule they will be banished forever. Until then we live as those who have inherited God’s promises, and with our eyes fixed on what lies before us. We live as overcomers in God’s strength, and with our confidence firmly in him. We do not trust in our own ability, but in that of him who sustains all things through the power of his word! (Hebrews 1:3)