September 21 – Overcomers! ( post for my Mom)

September 21, 2019 Randy Bushey

~by Randy Bushey

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4,5).

By cultural standards, the apostle John was a very elderly man.

And he knew suffering; a lifetime of anguish.

The early church experienced 3 great waves of persecution. John lived through each one.

The 1st occurred in the years after the Resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. It was initiated by the Jewish leadership and Herod Agrippa. This, in the mid-30s AD, resulted in the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 8:1) and the Apostle James in Acts 12.

The 2nd wave, in the late 50s and into the 60s AD, was the God-hating work of one who became known in the 1st century as The Beast: Emperor Nero. During this era, he was characterized as progressively more unpredictable and compulsive with an increasing bent towards violence, tyranny, and corruption. Nero was personally responsible for the crucifixion of Peter and the beheading of Paul, a Roman citizen.

Other systemic persecution was sporadic, but the 3rd wave during the 80s and 90s AD under Emperor Domitian resulted in the Apostle John being exiled to Patmos, a 6 by 10 mile outcropping of rock in the Aegean Sea. From here, John wrote the Revelation.

And, in that bleak, dreary, lonely existence with insufficient food or shelter, John was sustained in suffering by recognizing the truth of what he had already taught others: that in Christ, he was an overcomer, a world-beater, a spiritual conqueror and champion.

That’s the Gospel.

John taught the early church – Christ-followers suffering in myriad ways – that their status as overcomer was guaranteed; but they first needed to recognize and appropriate that truth to live it out.

The Lord Jesus was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).

Because of His death and their relationship to the Living Christ, these disciples were already victorious.

By God’s reckoning, they were already overcomers.

None of these people would ever have their face memorialized on the cover of TIME Magazine; none would have their deaths mentioned on the website of Christianity Today; neither would there be a global ripple through social media at their passing.

But in the eyes of the Lord, in the sight of the One Who really matters, their suffering – and the attitude they carried through suffering – marked them as profoundly different people: life-conquering Christ-followers.

And when they died, they transitioned into the greatest chapter of their eternal life with heavenly fanfare and otherworldly celebration – into the presence of the Lord as overcomers, world-beaters, spiritual conquerors and champions.

Never to suffer again.

Most of our suffering is not for reasons of persecution of the Christian faith.

But we do suffer; we too are familiar with grief.

And for a variety of reasons: disease and sickness, employment-related struggles or job loss, relationship breakdown with those we love, or enduring poor decisions by those closest to us. And the list goes on.

But we know and affirm that Christ is sovereign over pain and suffering – and death.

When we are in the midst of suffering, we desperately hang on to that truth. At that point, His sovereignty is no longer an abstract theological concept.

It is real. It is life-sustaining. He never wastes pain in the lives of His own.

Theologian R.C. Sproul reminds us, “God displays His providence as much in suffering as in prosperity”.

And we must always look to the best which is ahead: But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20).

Takeaway: every life will experience suffering and grief.

It is not a matter of if, but when.

As a Christ-follower, I’m called to recognize the opportunity and privilege of honouring Christ through that season.

Of knowing with confidence that there is redemptive value in pain.

May we be those people, sustained by our faith, committed to reflecting God’s glory in our suffering.

May it be said of us, that Christ’s glory was clearly reflected in us, even in –particularly in – our pain.

Overcomers. Because He is so worth it.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4,5).