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!