WHAT IS AN OVERCOMER?
Rev. 2:1 – 3:22
Sermon Objective: In Christ we have been given all the tools we need to remain steadfast until the end.
I have read it to you before but it bears repeating and is certainly germane. Listen closely and allow it to stir within you.
"I'm a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I'm a disciple of His and I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I'm done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, or first, or tops, or recognized, or praised, or rewarded. I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by Holy Spirit power.
My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear.
I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won't give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ.
I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own, He'll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear!"
Nikao; which means to overcome, conquer, prevail, or gain the victory, is used fourteen times in the Revelation. Ten of those are related to the Church. The others have different uses; for example, in 13:7 the beast has a temporary victory, and in 17:14 Jesus Himself conquers the beast.
It is, at its core a very positive word.
It is a wonderful word.
In fact, many lives, nations, book, and movies have center on being the “overcomer.” It’s the stuff of good drama and great songs!
Although you know it is meant to be positive, it has an obvious dark side doesn’t it? There must be a real threat of danger and defeat for there to be the victory which is inherent in the word … “Overcome.”
It is one of those bittersweet words.
It is a powerful word in this book – and in our lives. It deserves some attention.
If we are not careful we will miss its importance. That would be unfortunate because it is rich with meaning and application. Not just for the first and second century church but for the people of God in every generation.
The idea of overcoming is an undercurrent throughout the book; it is always present … in every battle and in every scene. One could easily make a case for interpreting the entire book with this rubric … maybe by asking the questions,
• WHEN THE DUST SETTLES, WHO WILL PROVE TO BE THE CONQUEROR (OVERCOMER)?
• AND WHO WILL BE IDENTIFIED WITH THAT OVERCOMER?
Being classified as an “overcomer” is certainly ambitious and noble … even holy. But knowing what it means, and how it is used, and the cost involved, is important if we are to correctly apply it. And, as I said, make no mistake about it … the Spirit did not only expect the church of the first and second century to identify with the word … he means for those of us in every generation who follow Jesus to do so as well.
Let’s read the ten places in the book where it applies to the Church.
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.
To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.
He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name.
He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
What does it really mean? Does “overcoming” mean for the Christian the same thing it means in the world’s songs and literature? Does it mean “to survive” or “out perform one’s opponent?” Oh certainly not … It MUST mean something more! It must be something other than merely surviving the cataclysmic event one is facing.
Indeed it does; and the Revelation’s drama gives us a clear understanding of how God classifies one who is an “Overcomer”.
May I suggest to you four elements that go into God’s definition of an overcomer? As you will see, they overlap in their nuance but each also has its own particular place.
An Overcomer is:
REDEEMED BY JESUS
There is a dangerous fallacy that suggests that all roads lead to Heaven or even that, in then end, everyone will make it. But God’s Word is very clear that some are citizens of this earth and some are citizens of His Kingdom. The Scriptures are rather clear that to be a citizen of His Kingdom requires a “transfer” … a “rebirth” … and that ONLY comes from the atoning work of Jesus.
The Revelation clearly differentiates between “the inhabitants of the earth” (c.f. 6:10) and those who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:15).
It is described in the Scriptures by many names but the root of “transfer” is that we have been reclaimed – redeemed.
It is evidence that he “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (1:5).
IN A FEW MINUTES WE WILL RECEIVE COMMUNION TOGETHER. COMMUNION IS A REMINDER FOR GOD’S PEOPLE OF JESUS’ DEATH AND OF HIS POWER TO SAVE. HE BROKE IS BODY AND SPILLED HIS BLOOD FOR YOUR ATONEMENT.
It is not enough to “hope” you are saved. And being good never suffices; we all have sinned. The Bible says you can “know” that you have passed from death into life. The Bible teaches that salvation brings a radical conversion … no guesswork is needed.
I would implore you before we go any further to make certain that you are a child of God. That you know you have passed from death into life. If you are not certain of this you can be. Today is the day of salvation (2 cor. 6:2) and if the Revelation teaches us anything it teaches us that dismissing or ignoring God’s call is dangerous and leads to judgment.
Acknowledging your need for salvation and casting yourself on God’s mercy by the work of Christ is the saving moment that qualifies you to become … an overcomer.
• Is Redeemed by Jesus
RESOLUTE TOWARDS JESUS
The Revelation was written to help the church take a longer look … to help us realize that what is immediately before us is not the whole story or the end of the story. By taking the “long look” we are empowered to remain bold, pure, and faithful because we know the glory that the end holds.
In the winter of 1877 General Washington and the Continental army experienced its biggest test. It wasn’t a war that brought the test. It was Valley Forge. It did however, prove to be the turning point for the revolution. The Continental army was desperately against the ropes — bloody, beaten, battle-weary — and ready to quit. General Washington even conceded, "If the army does not get help soon, in all likelihood it will disband."
We know what happened here. Early into the six-month encampment, there was hunger, disease, and despair. Raw weather stung and numbed the soldiers. Empty stomachs were common. The winter promised only more desperation and starvation. Some couldn't take the cold, hunger, and uncertainty any longer. There were dozens of desertions. Disease debilitated. Death descended in droves.
BUT MANY – MOST – REMAINED LOYAL! By springtime an energized and organized army was shaped and ready for action.
What made the difference? General Washington took the long look. He never forgot the final goal and purpose and he never let his troops forget it either. It was his refusal to be swayed by the immediate hardships that kept him motivated and that, in return, energized the army and purchased America’s freedom.
Revelation 11:7 says, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
An overcomer is not a religious church-goer that withers away when the pressures of life or the Enemy comes. Sadly, there are many who will wither when the pressure is on. But none need do so because Christ Himself will be our strength and guide. He has gone before us through the valley of the shadow of death.
Therefore, loyalty is paramount.
Allegiances must be clear.
As it says Rev. 17:14, “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
IN A FEW MINUTES WE WILL RECEIVE COMMUNION TOGETHER. COMMUNION IS A TESTIMONY OF CHRISTIANS TO THE WORLD THAT THEY ARE TO BE IDENTIFIED WITH CHRIST. IT IS A DECLARATION OF RESOLUTION – FAITHFULNESS.
• Is Redeemed by Jesus
• Is Resolute Towards Jesus
RELIES ON JESUS
Revelation 3:5 says, “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.”
No one overcomes in their own strength. They only do so by leaning on the ULTIMATE OVERCOMER – Jesus Himself (Rev. 3:21; 17:14).
At the very core of being an overcomer is necessity to look to Jesus for courage, wisdom and strength regardless of the test and trial one faces. The overcomer knows that Jesus has gone before us … and goes with us!
Rev. 3:21 says. “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.”
This does not mean we do not experience doubts, fear, tests, and temptations, or even death. It does mean that we have discovered the victory (that comes by leaning on Jesus) as these real threats come our way.
IN A FEW MINUTES WE WILL RECEIVE COMMUNION TOGETHER. COMMUNION IS A PRAYER FOR CHRISTIANS – IT IS COMMUNICATION WITH OUR HEAVENLY FATHER ACKNOWLEDGING OUR DEPENDENCE AND RENEWING OUR RELIANCE ON HIM … BECAUSE IT IS ONLY THROUGH CHRIST THAT WE ARE WORTHY OR EMPOWERED TO VICTORY.
• Is Redeemed by Jesus
• Is Resolute Towards Jesus
• Relies on Jesus
REIGNS WITH JESUS
This is my favorite one. Revelation 21:7 says, “He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”
There is a hymn in our Hymnal titled “When We See Christ” that I hum sometimes when I am by myself or when I am feeling particularly “taxed” for my faith. I love the refrain. It says “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus! Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ. One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase. So bravely run the race till we see Christ.”
IN A FEW MINUTES WE WILL RECEIVE COMMUNION TOGETHER. COMMUNION IS AN IDEAL TIME FOR THE CHRISTIAN TO CELEBRATE THEIR DESTINY. IN CHRIST WE HAVE AN ETERNAL FUTURE!
That makes it worth:
Making certain our sins are forgiven through Jesus’ blood
Determining to follow Jesus faithfully and not give up when the tests come
Leaning on Him continually for wisdom, courage, and guidance
I want to be identified by God as an overcomer. Don’t you?
Being an overcomer is more than being a survivor. It means you have counted the cost and followed the Lamb. There are certain to be tests; they may not be as “beastly” as those in the Revelation but they are no less real. Whether the tests comes from work, home, finances, or some other arena you can be certain that you will be tested again and again. It is essential, therefore, that the issue be settled long in advance of the next test.
He who has an ear,
Let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
This sermon is provided by Dr. Kenneth Pell
Potsdam Church of the Nazarene
Potsdam, New York