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.

 

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Faith is Where the Heart Is! (Part 2)

Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!” (Luke 8:25 NLT)

In the midst of the storm we saw Jesus responding in a manner that was totally opposite to the manner in which His disciples responded. In fact, one could say that Jesus’ response was unbelievable or impossible by human standards. How could God expect human beings to be at peace in the presence of strong winds and raging seas when we know the destruction that they can cause? Yet that is exactly what God expects of His children. Jesus expected His disciples to respond to the storm in the same way He responded. Jesus even seemed surprised that His disciples were so fearful. Was Jesus unreasonable? The answer is no.

Jesus was not the only man Who responded with faith in the midst of fear. The Bible records that one day the Army of Israel faced the Army of the Philistines. However, on this particular day, a nine foot, 9 inches man came out of the camp of the Philistines and challenged Israel to a duel. This man was not only a giant but he was a champion. This giant had plenty of experience with fighting and winning battles. This was Israel’s response to that challenge:

When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken. (1 Samuel 17:11 NLT)

The camp of the Israelites was filled with fear. Then a boy entered the camp. This was boy heard the words of the giant. This boy saw the stature of the giant. This boy saw the armor and weapon of the giant but this boy responded to what he heard and saw in a manner that was totally different to the King of Israel and his army:

“Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”…“I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. 

I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” (1 Samuel 17:32-37 NLT)

David was in the same camp as King Saul and his army. David saw and heard the same giant that they saw and heard but David did not respond in fear. David’s heart was in a place called faith. David was in a place where those who trust in God live.

The Apostle Paul was in a ship in the midst of a furious storm. There were about 276 men in that ship. The storm was so fierce that they had to throw things out of the ship to lighten it. The storm battered the ship and the sky was filled with darkness. The men saw and heard everything that was happening because of the storm and they gave up hope.

Paul had a totally different response:

Finally, Paul called the crew together and said…take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.” (Acts 27:22-26 NLT)

Paul was in the same ship with those men. He experienced the same things that those men experienced. Paul was no experienced sailor but he had an experience with God in the midst of the storm. This experience caused Paul’s heart to enter into the place of faith while the others remained in the place of fear.

Jesus was in the place of faith when he was on that boat in the storm. Jesus wants His disciples to live in that same place no matter what happens. Jesus wants us to live in the place of faith. Jesus wants our hearts to be rooted and grounded in the ever-abiding presence of God and the exceeding abundant ability of God. We may be human beings but through the grace of God we can enter into that confident place of faith. We can do that because:

FAITH IS WHERE THE HEART IS!

 

 

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

Day 28: God Will Give You Grace to Endure

Believers in Jesus Christ are not hidden from the challenges and obstacles of this world. As long as we are living in this world we will face challenges and obstacles. We may face sickness and disease. We may face financial difficulties. We may face problems in our families. In fact, the Apostle Paul reminded the Church at Corinth that:

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)

Believers in Jesus Christ may experience the same things non-believers experience because we live in the same world. However, it is not the will of God for us to fall under the pressure of the challenges and obstacles of this world. It is God’s will for us to keep standing. It is God’s will for us to overcome every challenge and obstacle. God is so serious about this that He looks at every specific challenge and obstacle we face in our lives and formulates a specific plan of escape so we can endure.

  • Joseph was sold as a slave into Potiphar’s house but God blessed Joseph can caused Potiphar to “put [Joseph] in charge of his entire household and everything he owned” (Genesis 39:4 NLT)
  • Joseph was wrongfully accused of rape and placed in prison but God gave Joseph favour and the keeper of the prison “put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison” (Genesis 39:21-22 NLT).
  • Jesus was wrongfully convicted, sentenced to death, beaten and forced to carry His cross to Calvary but God caused the soldiers to force another man (Simon of Cyrene) to carry the cross. (Mark 15:21)

Can you see it?

  1. Even though Joseph experienced betrayal by his brothers, the life of a slave and a prisoner, Joseph was able to endure until he got to the Palace. God gave Joseph the grace to endure and in the end Joseph was able to save his family and Egypt from seven years of famine.
  2. Even though Jesus was betrayed by his own disciple (Judas), was wrongfully convicted, beaten and forced to carry a heavy cross, Jesus was able to endure until He got to Calvary. God gave Jesus the grace to endure and in the end Jesus was able to save the entire world from a lifetime of sin.

God gave Jesus the grace to endure. In other words, God ensured that Jesus had enough energy to make it to Calvary. God will do the same for us. God will not allow the challenges and obstacles we face to overcome us. God will give us grace to endure them and overcome them.