Friday, 31 October 2014

Overcome, conquer, prevail

"This is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith"
   (1 John 5:4)

The forgotten province. That is what people call the place where I live. I look around and I do see many struggle against poverty, unemployment and non-existent sanitation. I see potholed byways, littered roadsides, interspersed by bony livestock. I see many sights that pierce my heart. But I also see so much beauty. So many smiles. Open faces and a warm steady heartbeat that has its own unhurried pace. Proud Nguni cows with wide horns and speckled hides, skittish African dogs with remnants of some exotic breed from another land. Quizzical white goats with their beady eyes and indifferent manner. Children, many children... Hugging the roadside, waving and grinning at the world racing past. So alive and full of that amazing will to survive. Sloping valleys and hills with mud-huts painted in crazy colours. Vegetable gardens, green patches of sustenance. A surprising absence of animosity, which I had grown so accustomed to in the place where I used to live. Neglected, most certainly, but not forgotten. Here, more than ever, I see the blueprint and glory of God our Creator everywhere I go. Often shadowed by the present darkness, but never overshadowed. He has not forgotten us. Not here nor anywhere else. With Him we overcome.

Part of our bible study recently was an excerpt from a book called "Broken for a Purpose" by Gisela Yohannan. It spoke to me so clearly, that I thought to quote the bulk of it, rather than to try to improve on it with my own conclusions.

Realise this: Jesus expects us to overcome the world! 1 John 5:4 says: "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world".

"He literally expects us to overcome everything that approaches us on this earth, the devil, opposition, attitudes, anger, persecution, poverty, people - simply everything there is".

Because it sounds too all-inclusive and impossible, we cannot make this truth our own. We limit our Almighty God to what we can understand or perceive, where He "can do infinitely more than we can ever ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20).

"Suppress or Overcome. - Suppression is the greatest enemy of overcoming, because at a glance, it seems the same or very similar. When we suppress a problem, we swallow the symptoms and resolve the situation intelligently. We deal with it logically or explain it away. But deep down it is still there and growing, because the final victory has not been won. The battle has been arrested, but only for a while. It has been dealt with through retreat, not through victory."

The Greek translation of the word "overcome" is to conquer, prevail. The verb implies a battle - to carry off the victory..."

Overcoming is always preceded by a battle, a fight - in which we have prevailed and the end result is victory. It does not mean the situation has changed in our favour. The real victory is in your heart, not in the circumstance at all.

I am thus able to respond to the situation with love. I do not feel the pressure and the downward pull as I did before. My heart does not receive or store the negative input anymore. When I search my heart, there is no conflict. I feel at peace, my joy is undisturbed, my response is love - I am able to bless those who cause me hurt. In other words, I have overcome!"

It is not only expected of us, it is also possible. But how? 1 John 5:4 "This is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith."

This does not mean that we should try to move mountains with our faith alone. Or to claim things, command things, speak things into existence and expect spectacular results. Scripture helps us to put "faith" in the right perspective: "And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:5)

It is not blindly having faith in my faith. It is having my faith fully concentrated and centered on Jesus, the Son of God, for whom nothing is impossible"

Revelations 12:11 reads "And they overcame him (the devil, the world, everything) because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony and they did not love their life even to death." This gives us a clear picture of those who overcome. But what do each of these statements mean with regard to overcoming?

"... because of the blood of the Lamb: Only through the death of Jesus on the cross and His shed blood can we be redeemed from the kingdom of darkness to become children of God. With this blood, sin was washed away and can no longer rule over us. Death and the devil were defeated for all eternity. The blood of Jesus not only broke every chain the devil used to hold us captive, but it is also powerful enough to give us victory in all the battles ahead of us.

... because of the word of their testimony: This means their public proclamation of putting their faith completely in Jesus and His shed blood, accepting His victory as theirs. Our testimony of salvation, also, is our story of throwing ourselves completely on Jesus by faith. This results in experiencing the power of His blood washing us totally clean. Our faith will not do anything for us and will not at all enable us to overcome anything if we don't trust Jesus with the same totality as we did at our salvation, believing in Him to bring about the overcoming. Our faith standing alone will only amount to suppressing the problem but not overcoming it. It has to be our faith in Jesus, with total emphasis on Jesus as the Son of God who is able to do all things.

...they did not love their life even to death: This is the most important part of overcoming. This doesn't just mean that these believers were Christians with a martyr mind-set. It simply means that their death was the price of overcoming. They had no reservations about the method God would use to help them overcome, and they had no hidden agenda to tell Him how to work. They did not necessarily expect an easy solution. They were totally willing and content with His way and His will, as well as with the end result... death.

Humility of heart was the martyr's way to accept overcoming - God's way. It shows us what is at the root of overcoming and victory.

"Jesus overcame the devil by dying on the cross. He continually taught that "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). We find the same principle in these martyrs that Revelations 12:11 refers to. The secret of overcoming is through dying, to die to the right of recognition, honour, position, respect etc. If I have died to these things, they can't bother me any longer; they can't put pressure on me, or make me react resentfully. The reason it is so hard for us to overcome, is because we fight this death. Somehow we want to be loved, respected, recognised, understood and treated right. What really hinders us from being willing not to love our life "even to death" is our hidden pride. Even a flicker of the old life (pride) is enough to keep us from "dying" and thus from overcoming the world..."

I believe that this includes fear and apprehension regarding death itself. If we cling to life, our physical bodies and physical well-being; we have not overcome. If we live in fear of physical suffering, growing old or feeble, we have not overcome. We can also no longer ignore the fact that Christians have been, are and will (until Jesus' return) be persecuted, even unto death. Jesus surrendered everything, but ultimately gave up his right to live, to be God Divine. Him who gave us life, will not take it from us without the cover of His sheltering love. Stephen, the first martyr, sang praises and his face was lit by a wondrous light, while cruel stones and rocks were hurled at him, drawing the life from of his physical body, blow by blow. But his spirit was soaring, already reaching for the life beyond. He had overcome.

Jesus endured the suffering and scorned the shame of the cross for the joy that was set before Him. He overcame death, overcame the world and is seated at the right hand of God Almighty. Would I not, at the indescribable recognition of what He did, surrender my pride, my life, my all, for the joy of being one with Him? It seems a small price to pay, considering an eternity in His glorious presence.

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