In our journey concerning overcoming, we’ve traveled a difficult path which may seem overwhelming. We began with changing the perspective from overcoming in the worldly sense of conquest to overcoming our internal struggles with sin. Along the way, we examined the three receptors of temptation seen in the temptation of Adam and Eve, Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and 1 John 2:16. And we looked at overcoming regret, guilt, and shame. But there is one more stop on our journey, one which changes how we strive to overcome.
Just by way of reminder. Our key verse for this journey is found in John’s first letter. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:3–5, NASB95) Today notice John’s emphasis on our faith is the victory that has overcome the world. Not a faith that might someday overcome, but a faith that has already overcome the world.
I was reminded a few nights ago about a basic Christian truth. Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4–5, NASB95) Overcoming faith is not measured by any external standard other than our connectedness with and in Jesus.
So often we focuse on the outcomes. We examine and measure our successes and failures, our prosperity or lack of it, the peace we have or the turmoil we live with, and the size of our influence. Maybe some have grown past those more worldly measures and look instead at our fruit. Whether we define fruit as the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) or the number of lives we’ve touched in Jesus’ name or the consistency of our reading, praying, giving, and going. Those last things are confirmational but not necessarily causational. Meaning, they are the outcome, the fruit, of our connectedness to the vine of Jesus but not the source.
That last may sound odd to you. So often we look at our doing instead of our being. We’re not followers of Jesus because we read the Bible, pray, give, and go. Those are some of the things we do because we are followers of Jesus. Our faith is in the person of Jesus, the goodness of the Father, and the work of the Holy Spirit – not the process. Idol worshipers do things to get things. Christians receive God’s love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, relationship and then do things as a worshipful response. Our being in Christ drives what we do.
Overcoming by faith means growing our roots deeper and deeper into Jesus. When we grow roots then the fruit will emerge. It is the natural course of growing things. Growing faith means increasingly trusting in God. We may stumble and fall but He is always faithful. As we grow we learn the language of the Spirit and we become sensitive to His promptings. I don’t mean a specific set of letters, words, and sounds, but a discernment of when God is whispering to us. In short, fruit happens.
The mountain we may face is daunting. The sin habit we struggle with may seem impossible to overcome. The struggles and challenges of life may seem to block the light of God’s love. Our feet may seem stuck in the mud of our shame, guilt, and regret. Our task is not to become expert mountain climbers but something far different.
The psalmist David wrote, “I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:1–3, NASB95) The only action by David was to wait, God did everything else.
We may likewise be in a slippery dark valley which seems impossible to overcome. With every step, we slide further backward. Remember what John said, “this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” The way out is in Christ and Christ alone. The victory is already completed in Him. The question is whether we’ll trust Jesus with everything or continue to slip and slide in the mud.