Summary: This message describes what Christ and the author of 1 John means when they talk of Christians having the power to overcome the World.
1 John 5: 1-10
Overcoming The World
I have heard there are only three kinds of people in the world. There are the “I wills”, the “I won’ts,” and the “I can’ts.” The “I will do it” people accomplish and overcome every obstacle in their way; the “I won’t do it” folks oppose everything and make everything an obstacle; and the “I can’t do it” crowd fail and overcome very little in life.
The will do it kind of people are the ones that are credited with the greatest achievements of humankind, because they were willing to do what needed to be done. Some of them were even smart enough to know that what they desired to accomplish could be accomplished. It is said the rest were too dumb to know they couldn’t do it, and they did it anyway.
Charles F. Kettering, a noted scientist and inventor, believed the easiest way to overcome any obstacle is to ignore completely the possibility of failure.
One time, as he was developing this philosophy for life, he told a crowd at Denison University, in Granville, Ohio how he had once given a tough assignment to a young research worker at the General Motors laboratory.
Just to see how the young man would react to a difficult problem given to him, Mr. Kettering told the young researcher that he couldn’t examine any previously written notes or writings on the subject. If the young man had, then he would have seen all the previous statistics and experiments claimed the problem before him was impossible to solve. These notes and writings written by expert researchers were filled with comments and results that the assignment was impossible. The young research worker didn’t know this, of course, so he went to work believing that he could succeed.
He did succeed, too. He didn’t know it couldn’t be done—so he did it. It’s amazing what you can overcome if you don’t know it can’t be overcome.
I believe that John the writer of our scripture passage today has in mind these three groups of people. He pens out a litmus test for as Christians to see if we are the “I Will Do It’s”, “The I won’t Do It’s”, or the, “I Can’t Do It’s”.
John begins by telling us the ones who overcome the world are the ones that Love God and love God’s children by obeying God’s commands. He tells us the “overcomers,” which is what every Christian should be, are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and are the born again of God.
Why is it so important for us to be “overcomers” of the world? Jesus tells us in chapters two and three of Revelation in the letters to the churches. Jesus says, “To the one who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. The one who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. To the one who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. To the one who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— I will also give them the morning star. The one who overcomes will be dressed in white. I will never blot out their name from the book of life, but will acknowledge their name before my Father and His angels. The one who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them 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 God; and I will also write on them my new name. To the one 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.”
First, as we begin, I think it’s important for us to understand how Christ and John defines overcoming in these passages. The New Testament translates this word from the Greek in many ways. The Greek word nikao means to overcome, to be victorious, to conquer, to prevail, to win your case, and to hold to one’s cause. What is it exactly are we to overcome and maintain our cause against?
John tells us. It’s the world, because there are things about the world that stand in direct opposition to the will and plan of God for our lives and the lives fo others. Just as important John tells us “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”