Secrets of the Overcoming Life: Knowing Where Your Hope Lies (Part 1)

There is one thing that adversity, trouble, problems, negative circumstances and bad news do to us as human beings:

They cause us to lose hope

News of high levels of unemployment can cause us to lose hope of finding a job. Losing a job in the midst of a recession can cause us to lose hope of being able to take care of ourselves or our family. A bad report from the doctor can cause us to lose hope of having a long, healthy life. However, the Bible reminds us that we can overcome adversity, trouble, problems, negative circumstances and bad news if we know where our hope lies. If we know that the source of our hope is not in this world but in the Word of God then we can overcome adversity. If we know that the source of our hope is not in what men and women have said about tomorrow but in what God has said about tomorrow then we can overcome bad news. If we know that the source of our hope is not in the stability of our physical environment but in the stability of our spiritual environment then we can overcome trouble and problems.

Abram’s wife Sarai was barren. She could not have children. There was no in vitro fertilization available to help Abram and Sarai. All hope on earth that they could have children was gone. It did not help that they were old. However, one day Abram heard the voice of God and God told him something amazing:

“Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. (Genesis 12:1-2 NLT)

There was only one way for God to make Abram into a “great nation”. Abram needed a son. After Abram heard the Word of God and obeyed God spoke to him again:

Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” (Genesis 12:7 NLT)

A descendant is the biological offspring of someone. Abram and Sarai’s circumstances told them that they could not have children but God told Abram that his biological offspring would possess the land of Canaan.

Sometime after God spoke to Abram and Abram questioned God about not having any descendants. Abram looked at his situation and said that one of his servants will be his heir. However, God told Abram:

“No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” Then the LORD took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” (Genesis 15:4-5 NLT)

Abram and his wife were old and Sarai was barren. Now God was saying that not only will Abram have a son of his own but he will have so many descendants that they could not be counted. Abram’s response to the Word of God is a secret to living an overcoming life:

…Abram believed the LORD… (Genesis 15:6 NLT)

Abram believed the Word of God. Abram believed that what God said would actually happen. Abram’s hope of having a son of his own and having many descendants rested in the Word of God and not in his earthly circumstances. There is hope within the Word of God. Your entire world may be falling apart but if God says that you are on solid ground then you have the hope that you will overcome.

The Psalmist David said:

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 NLT)

The Psalmist knew that God said that he would never leave him. Therefore, even in the “darkest valley” or the “valley of the shadow of death” he would not be afraid. Why? Because his hope was not in the path that he was walking on. His hope was in the Word of God.  Some of us walk through paths of adversity and trouble that seem to be never ending but the Bible reminds us that all hope is not lost. If God says that there is light at the end of the darkest tunnel there is hope. And if there is hope then you must keep walking until you see the light.

Always remember:

Our hope does not lie in the circumstances we face. Our hope lies in what God has said about our circumstances. Our hope lies in the promises that God has given to us through His Son Jesus Christ. When we know where our hope lies (in the Word of God) then we can boldly move forward knowing that we will overcome.

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The First Overcomer!

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT)

Is there anyone who would not like to be first in a race at the Olympics? Imagine a grueling marathon with many runners from many different countries. A marathon is not easy. You need determination and endurance to run a marathon. The person who crosses the finish line first is the winner. The person who crosses the finish line first is the ‘first overcomer’. Others who have crossed the line after are also overcomers but there will always be the ‘first overcomer’. The first overcomer is the one who was able to run through the rough terrain or brave the harsh weather conditions and still come out on top.

The Christian life is a race. In fact it is a spiritual marathon. Life on this earth is the race course. It is a race in which we can grow while running. But we must run correctly.  We must run with the correct attitude. We must run with the correct fuel in our bodies. During the Christian race our endurance can grow. During the Christian race our faith can grow. During the Christian race our patience can grow. During the Christian race our love can grow. The Christian race is one in which the weak can become strong and the poor can become rich.

The Christian race is not designed to destroy us or discourage us. The Christian race is our place of victory. The race is our place of overcoming. How? Because we are following the First Overcomer. The First Overcomer is the leader of the pack. The First Overcomer knows the terrain. He knows the route. He finished the race before us. He won the race and wants us to win also. The First Overcomer obtained the prize and wants us to obtain the prize also. Even though He finished the race He has not left us alone. He joins us in the race. He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort us during the race. He has Angels ready to minister to us during the race. He commissioned Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers to equip, strengthen and encourage us to complete the race.

Jesus is the First Overcomer. He overcame Satan. He overcame death. He overcame the world. He is now seated at the right hand of God, His Father, interceding for us. Jesus wants all of His disciples to overcome. God’s plan was for Jesus to overcome. It is God’s plan for us to overcome also. Jesus told His disciples that they would have “trials and sorrows” in this world. That sounds like bad news but immediately after saying that Jesus told them to “take heart”. The King James Translation says “be of good cheer”. This seems paradoxical but really it isn’t.

Jesus did not tell them to “take heart” because of the trials and sorrows. He told them to “take heart” because “I have overcome the world”. All believers in Jesus Christ should “take heart” not because of the storms and temptations they are facing. They should “take heart” because they serve and are following the First Overcomer. Jesus Christ has “overcome the world”!

When we follow the First Overcomer we will overcome. When we learn from the First Overcomer we will be victorious. When we keep our eyes on the First Overcomer nothing will be able to prevent us from obtaining the prize.

 

The key to Understanding the Parable of the Mustard Tree

Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19 NLT)

The key that we will use to unlock understanding of this parable is:

The Bible is One Book

This means we must ask this question:

Is there something which was recorded in another part of the Bible that can help us understand this parable?

When we examine the Book of Daniel we see a similar parable. This parable was revealed through a dream God gave to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Here is the first part of the dream:

“‘While I was lying in my bed, this is what I dreamed. I saw a large tree in the middle of the earth. The tree grew very tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for all the world to see. It had fresh green leaves, and it was loaded with fruit for all to eat. Wild animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches. All the world was fed from this tree. (Daniel 4:10-12 NLT)

Here is Daniel’s interpretation:

That tree, Your Majesty, is you. For you have grown strong and great; your greatness reaches up to heaven, and your rule to the ends of the earth. (Daniel 4:22 NLT)

Nebuchadnezzar saw birds nesting in the branches of that tree. Daniel said that meant that Nebuchadnezzar’s rule reached “to the ends of the earth”. In other words, Nebuchadnezzar’s power and authority had spread so far throughout the entire world that everyone in the world had to live under his power and authority.

Jesus referred to birds making nests in the branches of the mustard tree. When we use Daniel’s interpretation to interpret Jesus’ parable we discover that:

The Kingdom of God will become so great and spread so far that it will rule the entire earth and every living person will have to live under its authority.

This interpretation is confirmed by several scriptures:

For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.'” (Romans 14:11 NLT)

By Myself I have sworn; truth has gone out from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow before Me, every tongue will confess allegiance. (Isaiah 45:23 NLT)

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15 NLT)

The Kingdom of Babylon had become so powerful that all nations and tongues had to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar and serve him. Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of God will become so great that all nations and tongues will have to bow down and serve God. When we view the Bible as One Book we start to see connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Prayer Point:

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see the connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

 

Biblical Understanding Key #1: The Bible is One Book

The first key to understanding the Bible is accepting that the Bible is one Book. The Bible is one Book divided into two main sections:

  1. The Old Testament
  2. The New Testament

Many people hear the word ‘new’ and automatically reject the ‘old’. However, Jesus never rejected the Old Testament. The Apostles never rejected the Old Testament. In fact, the writings of the Old Testament were the only writings they used. Jesus referred to the writings of the Old Testament when He preached and taught:

For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. (Matthew 12:40 NLT)

“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ (Matthew 19:4 NLT)

Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. (Luke 17:32-33 NLT)

The Apostles referred to the writings of the Old Testament when they preached and taught:

These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel: (Acts 2:15-16 NLT)

And God did not spare the ancient world—except for Noah and the seven others in his family. Noah warned the world of God’s righteous judgment. So God protected Noah when he destroyed the world of ungodly people with a vast flood. (2 Peter 2:5 NLT)

Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin.  As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. (Romans 3:9-11 NLT)

The Old Testament contains information which can help us understand the New Testament. The New Testament contains information which can help us understand the Old Testament. When we sit down to study any Book of the Bible we must keep in mind that the Bible is one Book. It is one Book inspired by One God. I will discuss this in more detail in the next post God willing.

For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. (Ephesians 4:4-6 NLT)

Day 30: The Secret to Living an Overcoming Life

The secret to living an overcoming life is found throughout the entire Bible. Enoch learned this secret. Noah learned this secret. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob learned this secret. David learned this secret. All of the great men and women of the Bible learnt to do this one thing:

FOLLOW GOD

  • After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years, and he had other sons and daughters. (Genesis 5:22 NLT)
  • This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. (Genesis 6:9 NLT)
  • When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. (Genesis 17:1 NIV)
  • But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’ (Acts 3:22 NLT)

Jesus knew this secret and He practiced it on earth:

So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. (John 5:19 NLT)

The first instruction Jesus gave when He called His disciples was:

FOLLOW ME

The disciples of Jesus Christ walked in close fellowship with Jesus. They followed Jesus and:

They received the power and authority to do what Jesus did. (Matthew 10:1)

They received a commission to teach what Jesus taught. (Matthew 28:19-20)

They received the same Spirit that Jesus had. (John 20:22)

The disciples of Jesus Christ had these experiences because they followed Jesus wholeheartedly. They wanted to go where Jesus went. They wanted to do what Jesus did. They wanted to be Who Jesus is. Following Jesus allowed the disciples to overcome sin, doubt, weakness and fear. Following Jesus allowed them to endure persecution, imprisonment, and other bad experiences. Following Jesus will allow us to do the same in every area of our lives. When we follow Jesus we will receive the power and authority to live an overcoming life.

The Overcoming Life is within the reach of every believer in Jesus Christ. The Overcoming Life is within the reach of every person who hears the good news about Jesus Christ. God has revealed the secret to us:

FOLLOW HIM

Day 29: God’s Grace is an Inexhaustible Resource

We cannot live on this earth without the necessary resources. We need water to drink and wash. We need land to plant fruits and vegetables and to build houses. We need sunlight for warmth and vitamin D. We need money to buy or obtain the benefit of other resources. There are resources which can be found in nature and are easily replaced by nature.  These resources are renewable. This means that there is an inexhaustible supply of these resources. Our Heavenly Father, in His divine wisdom provided these inexhaustible resources for us so life on earth can be sustained. Do you know that He has also provided inexhaustible resources for believers in Jesus Christ?

Christianity is a new life. It is a new way of living. Jesus revealed to Nicodemus that “unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 NLT). The Apostle Paul revealed to the Church at Corinth that:

…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

In the same way God has provided natural resources to sustain our life on earth, God has provided spiritual resources to sustain our life in Christ. One of these spiritual resources is grace. It is through the grace of God that we receive this new life in Christ and it is through the grace of God that we receive the strength and motivation to live this new life in Christ. One man who knows the power of God’s grace is the Apostle Paul. Before he was the Apostle Paul this is what he did:

  1. Paul (also known as Saul) “agreed completely with the killing of Stephen” (Acts 8:1 NLT)
  2. Paul uttered “threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers” (Acts 9:1 NLT)
  3. Paul “blasphemed the name of Christ” and “persecuted his people” (1 Timothy 1:13 NLT)

Paul did those evil things but one day he had an extraordinary experience with the grace of God. He met Jesus and received a new life. Paul knew he did not deserve to be called an Apostle but this did not prevent him from living a fruitful life in Christ. Paul overcame the knowledge of his past sins through grace (God’s inexhaustible resource):

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:9-10 KJV)

Sometimes we carry guilt from our past sins. Sometimes we remember our past sins and start to believe we are not good enough to work for God in a particular capacity. In these moments we must remember God’s inexhaustible resource. The grace of God allowed us to receive forgiveness for our past sins. The grace of God allows us to work for God. The grace of God allows us to live for God. There is only one thing left for us to do:

Live in God’s Grace