Tony Evans - A Challenge to Overcome
John is writing to the seven churches of Asia Minor, as you'll see in a moment. Seven is the number of completion, so this is a message to all churches for all time. And he's talking to the whole congregation. He says, "I want you to tell this to the whole congregation". But in each one of those Scriptures I read you, he said, "He who overcomes". Meaning it's possible to be in the church and in the congregation and not be one of the overcomers. But he tells the whole church everybody who has come to Christ has overcome.
The Greek word "overcome", nikao, is a word that means to prevail, to win one's cause, or to be victorious in different and difficult circumstances. So, it has to do with being victorious in the midst of, or over, or in, or through whatever the circumstances are that are illegitimately holding you hostage. So, right now, if you have something that should not be holding you hostage, but that is holding you hostage, then you need to be an overcomer because that's what the word means. But why you tell me, John, that I have overcome, and then John, you come back in Revelation and tell me, well, you need to overcome?
When John says you have overcome, he's dealing with your legal status. Christ has made every believer an overcomer legally, but what you have legally does not mean that's what you're experiencing personally. You have overcome spiritually, legally because you come to Christ, but you may not yet have overcome in terms of it working out in your life, in terms of you experiencing it. In fact, the only reason you need to overcome is there's something to overcome. To overcome means to overrule a sin or a set of circumstances that are illegitimate. It is to overrule them.
So, I want to say to you as we move forward, whatever is illegitimate in your life, sin and/or circumstances, God wants you to overrule and not have it overruling you, particularly on an ongoing basis. And therefore, God wants you to experience overcoming. In fact, I'm going to go a little bit deeper. One of the reasons why God allows some things that he does not approve is to give you the experience of being an overcomer. The Bible makes it clear if you are going to be an overcomer, a prevailer, that the link has to be made between your state and your standing, between your position and your practice, between what's legal and what you experience literal. To understand the key to being an overcomer in whatever needs to be overcome in our lives, you have to, watch this, begin to look at Jesus differently.
Okay, let me say that again. If you really, really, really want to be an overcomer, prevail, you must begin to look at Jesus differently. Before he ever gets to talking about being an overcomer in chapters 2 and 3, he gives us chapter 1. He begins in chapter 1 of the book of Revelation, verse 1, saying, "The revelation of Jesus Christ". He says, "I'm going to disclose Jesus to you". He says in verse 4, "I'm writing to the churches". He takes this look at Jesus in verse 7, "Behold, he is coming with clouds. Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. So it shall be, amen".
Now, watch this. Jesus is talking in verse 8, "I am Alpha and Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty". He tells John in verse 11, "Write a book". John then says in verse 12, "I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me", Jesus speaking to him. "And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands. In the middle of the lampstands, I saw one like a Son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to his feet, girded across his chest with a golden sash. His head and his hair were white like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze when it had been made to glow in a furnace. His voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand, he had seven stars". Verse 17, "When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. And he placed his right hand on me and said, 'Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last, the living one.'"
If you and I are going to be overcomers in practice, not in principle, you're going to have to see the Jesus that John saw. This is not Jesus meek and mild. This is not Jesus in a manger. No, no, no, this is Jesus on fire. He says like the burning of a furnace. He says when he spoke, it was like the rushing of many waters, like oceans and seas just thundering. And he says, "When I saw this Jesus, it knocked the brother off his feet. I fell down like a dead man walking".
See, we got this mamby pamby Jesus, and that's not the overcoming Jesus. Because we really do not understand who Jesus is since his resurrection and ascension. See, when John is writing, Jesus has already died, already rose, and already gone back to heaven. And when he sees this Jesus who's now up in heaven, this Jesus is in charge. This Jesus is controlling the agenda.
Colossians 2:15 says, "I discerned them". So, the reason why the devil can defeat us is because he can deceive us into thinking there are bullets still in the gun. But what Jesus did on the cross, the Scripture says, is he disarmed them. He took away the authority, so now you're beaten by deception that feels like reality, looks like reality, seems like reality. That's why the Scripture says in Romans 8:37, "You are more than conquerors in him who loved us and gave himself for us". That's why John 16:33 says, "In me, you're going to have peace because I have already overcome the world". He speaks in these superlatives because it is your connecting with this risen Christ.
Romans 5:10, after he says God demonstrated his love toward us that while we were sinners, Christ died for us in verse 8, he comes to verse 10 and he says, "And we are saved or delivered by his life". What he wants you to know is when you begin to look at him differently and relate to him as the risen Christ, who is ascended, who's now functioning with fire in his eyes, not soft skin, but hair like wool and a voice like thunder, that's who you're dealing with and that's who you must relate to.
You say, "But my problem is so big, and it's been there so long. My problem is so big, you don't know how long I've been dealing with this addiction. You don't know how long I've been dealing with this circumstance. You don't know how long... my problem is so big". Let me explain something. On the cross, Jesus Christ lifted the sins of the whole world for all men, for all time on Calvary. So, what did you tell me the size of your problem was? You're dealing with somebody who handled the world, and its sin, and its accompanying circumstances. So, it may be bad, but it ain't that bad. But if you're connecting it to the wrong Jesus that is a misconception of the biblical risen Jesus, then you're applying it to somebody that's too weak to handle it. And so, your view, my view of Jesus has got to be adjusted if we're going to experience the victory of this exalted Christ.
Look at chapter 12 of Revelation, verse 11. "And they overcame him". Here's our word. "Because of the blood of the Lamb, because of the word of their testimony. And they did not love their life even when faced with death". Mmm, that one verse will shift how you relate to Jesus. When you shift how you relate to Jesus, he shifts how he relates to you. Because now you're relating to him as he is, not as you want him to be. 'Cause a lot of folk come to church worshiping a Jesus as they want him to be, not as he declares himself to be. So, Jesus says, "Let me 'splain this to you". It says, "They overcame him", referring to Satan in that context. They overruled him, they prevailed against him when three things were in place. These three things can be summed up in one word, their identification with Christ.
Now, follow me closely here. When they properly identified with Christ, they prevailed. Let me say this as I get into this. God places victory in your reach, not in your hand, big difference. What does that mean? It means that they begin by the blood, he says, to understand that the cross 2,000 years ago was relevant right now.
See, for many people, the cross is a historical event. If what Jesus did 2,000 years ago, which is why he left us with communion, you don't make it relevant today, it becomes a 2,000 year old event that you'll benefit from eternity and it'll be useless in time. In other words, the reality of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, which is why he said when he got up from the dead, Matthew 28:19, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth". Translation, "I'm in charge now. I'm in charge now. I haven't come to take sides, I come to take over. I'm in charge now. I call the shots".
So, if he's not calling the shots, you don't get to overcome. He says secondly, they overcame him by the word of their testimony. Ooh, watch this now, stay with me. You will not overcome whatever you're needing to overcome if you are a secret agent Christian. So, let's get that straight, okay? Trying to camouflage it by talking about I believe in God won't cut it, okay? Using God's name won't cut it. God has placed everything in the hand of his Son. At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father. So, the Father is glorified when Jesus is the superstar. Oh, and then he hits us with a zinger. Hits us with a zinger, number three. Because he says, number three, "And they did not love their life even when faced with death". Ooh, they overcame him because of a love relationship that they possess with him that transcended dying.
Now, that's some serious love when it transcends dying, but it's not unusual. Most parents, if they had to, would give their life for their children. Most parents, because of the depth of their love. You have men who would give their lives for their mates because of the depth of their love if it was a choice between the two. So, in the human level, we know what it is to sacrifice the life for love, right? Okay, he says to be an overcomer, 'cause he got fire in his eyes, to see an overcomer - that's why Paul says in Luke 9, he says, "I die daily. Every day when get up in the morning, I say,'I am dead to me, and I'm alive to you'".
You are my life. You're not just a place I go on Sunday. You are my defining definition. You are my life. If any man will be my disciple, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. There is this understanding that I am pursuing a relationship with somebody that I want to fall in love with more than life itself. In other words, this is serious commitment, but you probably got some serious stuff to overcome. So, this is not casual Christianity here. That's why I love what Paul says. Paul says, "For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain".
Now, you don't go looking for death, you don't go wishing death, but he says, "For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain". Paul says, "I don't know whether to stay here or to go home to be with Christ". He said, "I'm betwixt and between. If I stay here, it's to serve Christ. If I die, it's to go be with Christ. And if I suffer", he says, "I reckon that the suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed unto me". So, he's saying, "Basically, I'm in a no lose deal. Living, dying, it's all Christ. So, if I've got to be rejected because of Christ, if I've got to be misunderstood because of Christ, if I've got to be not liked because of Christ, not because of my foolishness, but because of Christ, then that's the way it is".
Once you have now identified with Christ, you have positioned yourself to be an overcomer. You have positioned yourself to see the move of God overrule in the circumstances of life. There must now be a shift in perspective. You must change your look. You must look at Jesus now differently, as the sovereign, on fire Lord who now rules. And you must look at everything else, you know, we all believe in the sun, S-U-N. We believe in the sun, right? Everybody believes in the sun. But I don't know if too many people go around, do this all day, looking at the sun. Just walking, "Yeah, I believe in the sun 'cause I'm looking at the sun all day".
Let me tell you the main reason you believe in the sun, I believe in the sun, we believe in the S-U-N. The main reason we believe in the S-U-N is because of it, we see everything else. We don't go looking at the sun all day, but we look at everything else all day. But because of the sun, you see everything else. Well, what's true in the physical world because of the S-O-N, you're supposed to look at everything else. Everything else is supposed to be because of him shining, whether you see him or not. And therefore brought in line with him.
Now, the main thing I do is the treadmill. My main exercise is the treadmill. I will admit to you I am unmotivated. That's not something like I look forward to doing, okay? Me, myself, and I have to have a meeting in the morning. At 5:30 or 6 o'clock, me, myself, and I, we've got to have a congregational gathering. I am laying there in bed, and I am saying, "Do I want to do this today"? Say, "Yeah, I know what you're talking about". It's a struggle. Am I really going to do this today? We have to have a, we have a meeting 'cause it's not something I want to do. But I do want to get healthier and I do want to lose some weight, so the goal of overcoming the weight affects the getting up to get on the treadmill. But it's still a problem because walking and going nowhere is just a struggle.
So, I drag myself out of bed, walk into the room where the treadmill is. Right in front of the treadmill is a chair. I sit in that chair and try to talk myself to getting up out of that chair to get on that treadmill. The problem is on that treadmill, I sweat. On that treadmill, I'm huffing and puffing. On that treadmill, I'm struggling because I got this goal in mind, but I'm struggling on this treadmill. It's a struggle. So, what I always do to mitigate the struggle of overcoming the treadmill and the fact that I don't want to do it is I turn on the news.
So, right in front of me, I stare at the news. For 45 minutes, it has my undivided attention. That news does not take away the sweat. I don't sweat less 'cause I'm looking at the news. It doesn't take away the breathing, it distracts me. It gives me something else to focus on, and I discover I can go longer when I'm focusing on that than when I'm focusing on this. I got to do this, but I try not to make this my focus. I try to make that my focus 'cause when I make that my focus, it affects how well I do this. If you really want to overcome bad enough, then Jesus says you got to do this. But the way you do this is by focusing on that.
And if you understand that I have already overcome, and you walking through this thing you need to overcome, this sin or circumstance, but you looking at me and you say, "Okay, Jesus, I thank you you already overcome this. You've already overcome my emotions. You've already overcome my circumstance. You've already overcome my pain. You've already overcome my addiction. I just want to thank you that you've already overcome it. I'm sweating and I'm tired, but I'm more than a conqueror in Jesus Christ, who loved me and gave himself for me. And I just want to give you glory 'cause I'm going to focus on the news of heaven during my struggle on earth".
I know the devil's been slamming you. I know circumstances have been beating you. I know sins have been owning you. I know it looks like the evil one is controlling you. But Jesus Christ on the cross has already prescripted that you are a winner. He's already prescripted that by relationship to him, you're a overcomer. He's already prescripted that Satan has no longer any control over you. He's already prescripted that greater is he that's in you than he that's in the world. He's already prescripted that those folk don't control you anymore. He's already prescripted that that circumstance doesn't control you anymore. I know you're being thrown down. I know you're being beaten up. But you can now look at it and declare, "I am an overcomer, and I'm coming back at you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ".
Did you know you are an overcomer? God says you are. Every believer in Jesus Christ is an overcomer because you have become one with the one who has overcome. The issue is learning to act like an overcomer because you've learned to think like an overcomer, and that has affected how you function. The problem is if you don't know who you are, then you won't fulfill the destiny of what the Lord Jesus Christ has given you and me.
Now, in order to be an overcomer, that means you have to have something to overcome. There's going to be a challenge. There's going to be a trial. There's going to be a difficulty. The key is learning what it means to overcome a hindrance to you doing and becoming what God has created you to do and become. That's what God wants from you. That's what God wants from us.
And there's no greater feeling than the feeling and the sense of victory that you get when there was an obstacle in your way, and you were able to override it and not have it override you. It's one thing to be in the circumstance. It's another thing to be under the circumstance. But the best thing of all is to be on top of the circumstance. And that's what overcoming enables you to do.