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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Secrets of the Overcoming Life: Knowing God (Part 1)

There are many secrets to living an overcoming life. One of those secrets is ‘knowing God’. Let me explain. A problem is not really a problem if you know someone who can fix it. A broken pipe in your home is frustrating but if you know a competent, reliable, trustworthy plumber, your frustrations will eventually disappear. The Bible is full of men and women who were afflicted and plagued with problems. Some were fearful because of their problems. Some were confused because of their problems. However, their fear and confusion eventually disappeared. They eventually disappeared because these men and women knew Someone Who could fix the source of their fear and confusion:

THEY KNEW GOD

King Jehoshaphat had a great problem. A large army was marching towards Jerusalem and they were coming to steal, kill and destroy. The armies of Moab, Ammon and others were coming to fight against Jerusalem. It seemed as though all hell had broken loose against Jehoshaphat. When Jehoshaphat heard the troubling news he was afraid but the Bible records something amazing. In the midst of his fear, Jehoshaphat:

“…set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (2 Chronicles 20:3 ESV)

Jehoshaphat knew God. Knowing God does not mean knowing that God exists. Knowing God means knowing:

  1. The Identity of God (Who God is: His character, His attributes…)
  2. The Ability of God (What God can do: His power, His authority…)
  3. The Word of God (What God has said: His promises, His covenants…)

Jehoshaphat’s knowledge of God is seen in his prayer to God in 2 Chronicles 20:5-9 :

Jehoshaphat stood before the community of Judah and Jerusalem in front of the new courtyard at the Temple of the LORD. He prayed, “O LORD, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven.  (The Identity of God)

You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people Israel arrived? (The Ability of God)

And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? Your people settled here and built this Temple to honor your name. They said, ‘Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war,plague, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’ (The Word of God) 

Jehoshaphat knew God’s identity, His ability and His Word. He knew that God was all-powerful. He knew the promises God made to Abraham concerning the Promised Land. He knew that God promised to answer any prayer for help that was made in the Temple or towards the Temple that Solomon had built. Therefore, Jehoshaphat prayed and God heard him and helped him and all Judah.

God delivered Judah from that large army. God won a great victory for Judah because their king knew God. Jehoshaphat overcame fear because he knew God. Those who believe in Jesus Christ can be victorious even though there is a large problem coming to steal, kill and destroy. Jehoshaphat knew the problem. He knew the problem was big. He knew the problem was too big for him and his army to handle. But Jehoshaphat knew the problem was not too big for His God to handle.

Are you facing a problem that is too big for you to handle? No problem. There is no problem which is too big for God. Remember the Identity of God, the Ability of God and the Word of God. Learn Who God is. Learn what God can do. Learn what God has said. You will overcome!

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10 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 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.