Summary: What does it really mean to be a survivor? In our world today we talk about all kinds of survivors.... abuse, cancer and the list goes on. It’s a great thing to be a survivor but-I want to do more than just survive, I want to overcome.
Survivor or Overcomer?
1st John 5:1-6
Perhaps you’ve heard of the TV series called survivor. This program has aired 510 episodes and is now in its 34th season. When I read that this week my first thought was, that’s pretty remarkable because I’ve never seen a single episode. I don’t know about you but I do know somebody’s watching the show. In fact 50 million people watch it. But in case you’re like me it’s about a group of people who volunteer to be marooned on an island---the island is apparently a really tough place to survive and the last person who is voted off the island wins $1 million.
What does it really mean to be a survivor? In our world today we talk about all kinds of survivors... Survivors of abuse, cancer survivors-and the list goes on. It’s a great thing to be a survivor but let me tell you something-I want to do more than just survive. The Bible actually never uses the word survivor but it uses a word I like much more— overcomer. And the word in the Greek is NIKAO. In case that word looks familiar to you it is where we get our word Nike. It means to overpower, to win, to be victorious; to get the victory. And all of that is much better than surviving.
What John does here is that he shows us exactly how to get the victory, how to overcome and he does so by answering several questions. The first question is this… what is it we must overcome? 1st John 2:15-16. What John is telling us here is that the world is our enemy. Now be careful here and realize what the world is. We’re not talking about people of course, were not talking about the planet Earth---it’s not our enemy---in fact the Bible teaches us to take care of it. What John is talking about here fall into three areas:
(1) The lust of the flesh.
(2) The lust of the eyes.
(3) The pride of life. So let’s look briefly at each one.
(1) The lust of the flesh refers to passion. We are all passionate about something but John warns us because this is an area where all of us have to be careful. We tend to think immediately that John is referring to a desire that is sexual in nature. I’m not saying that it is not-I just want us to understand that is not the only reference here. What John is telling us is this... When you become passionate about something in life, be sure it lines up with God’s purposes for your life. Those are the things we should be passionate about. The lust of the flesh refers to passion.
(2) The lust of the eyes refers to possession. When we see things and we immediately think, I have to have that. I have to have that now. I can’t wait another day. And the lust of the eyes can be very dangerous to your bank account. Especially if you have a credit card in your hand when you see this particular thing. Jesus reminds us not to lay up, set aside treasures for yourself but we sure do it. Jesus said to focus on things that will last-for eternity. The lust of the flesh refers to passion. The lust of the eyes refers to possession.
(3) The pride of life refers to position. Our position in life. This is who comes first and guess what-it is almost always us who comes first. At Christmas we often describe joy as being Jesus first, Others second. Yourself last. Then we sit down and write out our Christmas list. Our want list comes first because we usually put ourselves first. John would tell us to rethink our position in life, don’t be so full of pride so full of yourselves….. Step down a notch or two and lift Jesus up a notch or two. Jesus said to be of good cheer because he has already overcome the world. The good news is we too can be overcomers. What is it we must overcome? The world.
The second question is this how can we become Overcomers? Let me remind you that in this life we will face powerful opposition. We will face powerful spiritual warfare. We will face tribulation. Jesus promised it. This is what Helen Keller said, the marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were not limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half as wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.” The truth is that it is the difficulties in life that give us the opportunity to experience and understand what victory really means.
Fortunately John says we have three resources—all three are necessary if we want to be over comers. First, he tells us it requires a new birth. Verse four. We must be born of God, as Jesus told Nicodemus as John reminds us here, we must be born again. Born of water. Physical birth. Born of blood. Spiritual birth. There is not a single lost person who can say that they live a victorious life today because they lack this ingredient. John is not saying that just knowing Christ will automatically fill your life with joy but he is saying it is the starting point. Without him our lives are running on empty.