I think a lot of times we hear the word, “overcome,” and we think of someday. Of eventually, when we’re going to fight that great, big, important battle (you know, argue that atheist professor, or graduate from college after many long nights, or run a marathon, or win that competition, or publish a book…). Of the big things.
Sometimes we think of right now. Maybe you’re fighting a major battle at the moment (and maybe nobody knows, because when they ask how you’re doing you always just say, “good”), and you’re crying out to God every moment for strength.
But a lot of times we’re just sort of plodding along; doing our school, washing the dishes, trying to finish our to-do list; trying to love our family or friends (even when they drive us out of our minds). To be honest, I don’t even feel qualified to write about this, because I haven’t experienced too many of those major battles. For me, it’s always the little things.
In 1 John 5, the apostle tells us that we can overcome the world.
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” (1 John 5:4)
But what does he mean? In this chapter, you have to understand what John means by the world. Throughout the whole book he’s been talking about the distinctions between Christians and the world. You have those who walk in the Light and those who walk in darkness; those who know God, and those who don’t. The children of God, and the children of the devil.
In the end what it comes down to is those who love, and those who hate.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)
We love one another, because God’s very nature is love. If we’re indeed His children, won’t we love like He does? Not perfectly, to be sure; but we will love one another.
But the world doesn’t. The world is that system that rejects God. It hates, and so it walks in darkness, in death. (1 John 3:13-14). The world is pitted against the children of God. We represent two diametrically opposing forces, and we are always at war.
“Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
That’s what the world is. That’s what we’re fighting against – the lust of the flesh; the lust of the eyes; the boastful pride of life (that “impious and empty presumption which trusts in the stability of earthly things.”).
That’s what we have to overcome. When your brother barges into your room for the fourth time, and you just want to tear him to pieces with your words… when you should be studying, but let’s just watch this one video first… when you pause and think, “I can do this. I will do this,” and you begin to imagine you can do it all yourself, without God – That’s when you have to overcome the world.
We can’t do it ourselves, we know that by now. What John says is that we don’t have to. What is it that overcomes the world?
Whatever is born of God.
Only through God’s power can we overcome. It’s by faith (and that’s a gift from Him, too).
It’s His strength that allows us to speak words of kindness and grace to that supremely annoying individual. It’s His grace that gives us the ability to shut off the computer. It’s His power that lets us rest in Him, in the knowledge that only in Him is true security.
It’s through Him that we overcome the world every day -in our home, with our friends, late at night on the computer. It’s through knowing Him – really knowing Him – studying His word, memorizing, meditating on it. Letting the Scripture be in you, so you can turn to His perfect word in those moments. Praying to Him, crying out for strength when you know you can’t do it on your own.
This is how we overcome.