When I think of the word “overcomer,” I often think of Mandisa’s inspiring song that came out a few years ago. I think of overcoming giant hurdles like injustice or insurmountable sickness. I think that’s why I’ve never really thought of myself as an overcomer.
But I liked the perspective Chip Ingram shared on this word in his Revelation series. He said there’s stuff that will come into your life to try to separate you from God. But at the end of each letter in Revelation 2-3, there’s a promise to those that overcome. In this context, an overcomer is a genuine believer that trusts Christ, so when they enter difficulty, they don’t bail out and defect from the faith.
How can we prevent bailing on our faith? It helps to understand the anatomy of spiritual defeat. Chip laid out that it includes:
- A mindset that, “It’s not fair.”
- Thinking that God owes you in difficult circumstances.
- Holding a perspective that obedience isn’t worth the effort.
- Believing financial pain and social disruption aren’t worth it.
- Having no reason for hope.
He also said that spiritual defeat often starts with little areas of disobedience, followed by sliding further and further away from obedience to God.
How do we overcome this spiritual defeat? A lot comes down to our view of heaven–it will change how we live on earth.
Chip continued by showing that Paul shares the anatomy of spiritual victory in 2 Corinthians:
In this passage, Paul has an eternal perspective in mind as he describes his troubles as “light” and “momentary.”
In this section, Paul describes some of the incredibly difficult things he experienced physically and emotionally. The troubles he previously described as “light” and “momentary” included being beaten almost to the point of death multiple times, spending extended time in prison, being stoned, being shipwrecked, fleeing cities, and more. And he writes about them as if they’re just difficult circumstances–not hopeless ones.
Paul goes on to share that he views all this hardship as temporary trouble because he’s weighing it in light of eternity. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 he switches to the third person and shares that he actually heard heaven. Even with just hearing it, this view of heaven changed how he lived his life.
How to Overcome
So what do we do when things get really hard? Chip shares a prescription with four steps:
- Expect difficulty; it’s normal. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.
- Jesus said he’s overcome them. We experience his overcoming them through our faith. His victory is our victory.
- Focus on rewards rather than what we’re missing out on. Throughout the Bible we’re told there will be rewards in heaven based on our faithfulness and stewardship here. In Revelation 2-3, God pointed out what the churches were doing right and promised rewards for overcoming. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul wrote about the rewards as well.
- Count the cost of disobedience. There won’t be tears in the New Heaven and New Earth, but we will each be rewarded based on choices we made here. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Paul talks about a fire testing the quality of our work on earth. This fire will test our motives: What did you do for the kingdom and why? Were you for God or for people? Judgment day isn’t about getting into heaven; our salvation is already secure. Judgment is about being rewarded for what you did or didn’t do with what God gave you.
Why is it so important to understand this view of an overcomer? Because in Revelation, chapters 2-3 tell us what to do to overcome and chapters 4-5 describe heaven so we can follow through and overcome. They help give us that heavenly perspective.
How do we remain faithful to Jesus when our world falls apart?
- We look who’s on the throne (Revelation 4).
- We look at who holds the scroll (Revelation 5).
- We remember that perfect justice will come. It may not be fair in this world, but it will be made right in the end.
There’s a lot of symbolism in this chapter–I found Chip’s explanations really helpful:
- There are 24 victors wearing crowns. These are victors’ crowns (as opposed to royal crowns), symbolizing they overcame and finished well. It’s not clear who the 24 victors are, but it is clear they’re redeemed, rewarded saints.
- There are 7 lamps of the Spirit. Jesus said the Spirit’s job is to illuminate; it reveals the person and presence of Christ.
- There are 4 living creatures. It’s obvious they’re supernatural beings, stewards and guardians of God’s holiness. It’s a picture of everything created giving praise and honor to God:
- The Lion: king of beasts.
- The Ox: highest of domestic animals.
- Mankind: chief of creation.
- The Eagle: highest of birds.
- In ancient texts, the phrase “holy, holy, holy” means the best:
- Holy meant good.
- Holy, holy meant better.
- Holy, holy, holy meant best.
Why is chapter 4 here? Chip explained it’s included to show us our suffering now is worth it! You are a priest in a kingdom to serve your God.
Whatever you’re called to suffer, it’s worth it. It’s so hard to grasp this in our comfort-driven culture. We have so much, and the lure of stuff around us makes it difficult for us. We need to humble ourselves and realize these things can’t deliver, even if in the moment it feels like it does. We need to come to Jesus with humble, broken, contrite hearts.
In this chapter, the scroll controls the world’s destiny. The question is, who is worthy? Only Jesus is. He’s given three titles in this chapter:
- Lion of Judah: the rightful king (heir to the throne).
- Root of David: the judge (a reference to Isaiah 11:1-5, judge will judge justly).
- Lamb who was slain: the redeemer (He paid the price out of love).
You Can Overcome!
My troubles are nowhere near what Paul faced. And like most people, I find it easy to slip into the spiritual defeat perspective. But like Chip explained, I think it’s helpful for us to keep the goal (heaven) in mind so that we can overcome the troubles that do cross our paths at work, home, church, and anywhere else we end up. With our minds set on that goal, it helps us see challenges as temporary, and helps us not blow them out of proportion.
Becoming a parent has taught me so much more about God’s view of us. The same way we can see the bigger picture than our young child can, God’s heavenly perspective can help prevent us from blowing our troubles out of proportion. They may be big and overwhelming, but God is bigger and this isn’t our home. It won’t always be this way.