Summary: A look at the repetition of "overcome" in the letters to the seven churches.
A FRUSTRATION: If I’m trying to do God’s will, why am I running into so many problems?
- Ever felt like giving up? Ever gotten tired? Ever wondered if it’s all worth it? Ever wondered why your attempts at faithfulness to Christ so often create more problems in your life and not less?
A TIRING REALITY: The walk of faith is an uphill climb.
- The key word: “Overcome.”
- Obstacles are mandatory.
- Following Jesus is the best way, but not the easiest way.
- If you’re walk of faith is really easy, you’re probably out of God’s will (and heading downhill). It’s always easier to walk downhill.
- I’m not saying that this is something we should be glad about, but it is something we need to come to grips with.
- Cf. marriage and bailing at the first sign of problems.
- Many people think that it’s God’s job to make their lives easier.
WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE THAT WAY EVEN IF I’M TRYING TO BE OBEDIENT? Three big reasons are (a) we live in a sinful world, (b) we face Satanic opposition, and (c) we need refining.
(A) We live in a sinful world.
- In Matthew 13:22 talks about the riches and worry that draw people away from God.
- Evil things are not from God. We live in a sinful world and that colors so much of what happens.
- Bad things happen sometimes to everyone just because we live in a fallen world. Cancer happens to Christians and non-Christians. Miscarriages happen to Christians and non-Christians. Lousy bosses happen to Christians and non-Christians.
- We’d like it if God exempted us from all that, but He doesn’t.
(B) We face Satanic opposition.
- 1 Peter 5:8.
- Satan will often ignore you if you’re ignoring God. But if you get serious about your faith, then that’s when the opposition begins.
- We don’t like to think about this world being a world at war. We’d rather have it be a playground than a battleground.
- But this is the enemy’s territory. Satan’s throne is not in hell – it’s on the earth.
- He opposed Jesus – we should expect no less.
(C) We need refining.
- Sometimes God allows problems in because it works to chip off the sharp edges of our lives.
- The time when you grow the most spiritually in any given area is when you’re tempted to the opposite.
- If you need to work on patience, God may allow you to be in some situations where things aren’t happening very quickly at work.
- If you need to work on materialism, God may take away part of your income.
- If you need to work on prayer, God may allow some uncertainty in your life that pushes you to pray more often.
- God’s goal in our lives is to make us into people who are like Jesus. We’re not there yet, so it’s going to take some work.
WHY DOES HE REPEAT THIS SO MANY TIMES? It’s worth the repetition to ensure we don’t (a) get discouraged in thinking we must be off-track, (b) get angry believing that God has abandoned us, or (c) get overwhelmed and decide to quit.
- This must be important judging from the constant repetition that is here.
(A) Get discouraged in thinking we must be off-track.
- When we run into problems, we can think that we’ve wandered off of God’s will.
- This is especially true when we’ve got the idea in our heads that God’s job in part is to make our lives easier. It’s actually not His job. Sure, He brings us blessings, but His ultimate goal is to make us into people who are like Christ.
- Discouragement can be a killer, though, so He repeats again and again the need to overcome so that discouragement won’t do us in.
(B) Get angry believing that God has abandoned us
- Hebrews 13:5.
- A step beyond that discouragement that we just talked about is when you feel like you’ve been forsaken by God.
- This can happen when we believe that God has promised to do something for us and then that doesn’t happen.
- Someone believes that God is going to heal his wife, only to watch cancer take her life.
- Someone believes that God is going to save his business from bankruptcy, only to watch it go under.
- Of course, God didn’t make those promises, since we know that God doesn’t break His promises. But often we’ve put words in God’s mouth and we get angry when those promises aren’t fulfilled.