Paul tells us that we do not have to be overcome by evil. Notice also that Paul isn’t telling us to learn to tolerate evil. He doesn’t say, “Hang in there till Jesus comes.” What does Paul say? He says “overcome evil”! We can be the victors and not the victims. We can live the overcomer’s life! And then Paul tells us, as Jesus did, how to overcome evil; he says “overcome evil with good.”
The Writer of Hebrews bluntly tells us Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Jesus is our example, He is the one who breaks the mold and shows us that we can live the overcomer’s life, even if we are just flesh and blood. Jesus gave us many examples of overcoming, but today I want to highlight three important areas where Jesus shows us that through faith in Him, we can be overcomers: We can overcome temptation, we can overcome unforgiveness, and we can overcome fear
The promises of God to overcomers are so extraordinary and powerful that I decided to explore the topic of “living the life of an overcomer,” which will be the title for this series of sermons. This should be a very exciting journey and you need to invite your friends and family to be with you in church over the next eight weeks. If you have people in your life that always seem to be defeated, depressed, or discouraged, let them know that the preacher at you church is sharing a series of messages that will provide truth from God’s Word that will help them experience a profound turnaround in their life. Yes, they can be transformed by grace, into an overcomer to the glory of God.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t preach or teach much on the topic of giving. The reason I don’t is because I have heard so much foolishness from so many preachers on this topic that I’ve just shied away from it. I don’t want to be associated with people who appear to be marketing God’s blessings. They talk a lot about “seed faith,” but the soil they want to plant that seed in is often their own bank account. They call it their “ministry,” but too often their “ministry” is their own salary, house, clothes and cars.
It seems the concept of “personal sacrifice” is foreign to so many in our Western culture. In our materialistic world, the focus is on self, about getting all I can, canning all I get, sitting on the can, and selling the rest. Following the sacrifices of World War II, our nation has fostered generation after generation that has no idea what it means to sacrifice for someone else, or for a belief or ideal that is worthy of our very best. Why is the concept of sacrifice to foreign to so many? It is because a sacrifice cost something.
I tend to believe the best in people, and I want to believe we are all being faithful in tithes and doing our very best in offerings. And I know what it feels like to do my best, and then have someone come along and tell me, “That’s not good enough.” That discourages a person, and makes it hard keep doing our best when we are made to feel like our best is never good enough. However, if we are faithful, God knows, and He always blesses the faithful. As the old song said, “There’s gonna be a payday, someday for all who have been true.”
In 35 years of marriage, I’ve learned that there is a very real difference between cheerful giving and giving grudgingly. I cannot count the number of times my wife has asked me to do something—like take out the trash, walk the dogs, or pick up my socks—and the way I reacted was important to her. It isn’t just that I agree to do what she asks, but it is also “how” I agree to do it, that is important to her. There have been times when I was tired or in the middle of watching a football game and she’d ask me to do something. But if responded in a way was curt, lacking in charity or cheerfulness, she’d say, “You know what? Never mind, I’ll do it myself!” When I jumped up (out of guilt) and insisted that I’ll do it, she would say, “Forget it. If you don’t want to help, I’ll just do myself.”
In 30 years of ministry, I have observed three kinds of people in the church. First, there are the “good-time Christians,” the people who only serve God in the good times. As long as everything is going well and there are no storms to rock their boat, they are cheerful Christians coming to church with a song and smile. But let anything bad happened to them and it knocks the victory right out of them. They get mad at God, start singing the blues, and are right back into their former sinful life crying in their beer and blaming God for all their problems. This is because they were living with the illusion that if they went to church, gave their tithes, and had enough faith, then nothing bad would ever happen to them, but life has a way of straightening out bad theology. Jesus said, the sun rises on the evil and the good, and it rains on the just and the unjust (Mt. 5:45).
Have you ever stopped for a moment and thought about all the stupid stuff you did when you were younger, and thought, “Wow! If it had not been for the Lord on my side, where would I be?” I am grateful for every day that I wake up in the land of the living. Some of you may not have done the kind of stupid stuff I did, but I should have been dead at least a dozen times, and yet God chose to protect me from myself and extend my life so that He could save me, He could raise me, and He could use me to serve Him in His kingdom. Every day I wake up, I’m still amazed by His rich mercy and amazing grace. The alcohol that didn’t kill me, the fall from the women’s dorm in college that didn’t end my life. The man with the gun in my face that didn’t shoot me. The car crashes that never happened, the water that didn’t drown me, my momma who didn’t beat me to death, my wife who hasn’t killed me in my sleep. Praise God for grace! This is what Paul highlights in our passage today.
When I was a child visiting my cousins at our grandmother’s house, if any of us were in a room together and we turned out the lights, my grandmother’s super-senses were alerted and she immediately came to the room to see what we were up to. In her words, “Nothing good can be going on, if the lights are off.” For example, one night some of my cousins and I caught a mason jar full of fireflies (or as we called them, lightnin-bugs), and we had the ingenious idea to close the door to the living-room, turn off the lights, and set the lightnin-bugs loose in the house. It was going to be a magical display of lights the likes of which would make Times Square in New York City green with envy. Our plan worked to perfection, until granny burst through the door into her living-room and found it filled with the frantically flashing lights of dozens of terrified fireflies.