Overcome the World

I was reading this morning in the Gospel of John and ran across these sentences from Jesus:

In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.

I would usually take this sentiment as a given since Jesus defeated sin and death in his crucifixion and resurrection.  What took me by surprise was that Jesus said this in Chapter 16 (verse 33 to be exact).  This is before his betrayal and arrest, let alone the crucifixion and resurrection.  This means that Jesus thought of overcoming the world in much different terms than I did.

Up to this point in the Gospel Jesus has healed lots of people, preached numerous sermons, and angered the religious establishment.  And it is here that Jesus says he has overcome the world.

Perhaps overcoming is more about being in the fight against sin than the final victory.  After all, God only ever asks us to fight against our temptations and sins.  He gives us his power and grace, through the Holy Spirit, to overcome our sins, but we have to be willing to fight.  Sometimes we fail and fall into sin, but if we are truly repentant, there is forgiveness.

Maybe if we focus on the fight more than the victory we will see more victories in our lives.  After all, it is easy to get discouraged when we are not perfect and when we do sin.  We can think of ourselves as somehow deserving of judgment or condemnation, and all the pain that follows from sin (whether it is ours or someone else’s that affects us) and not seek forgiveness.  “After all, ” we may feel, “why would God forgive a failure like me?”

The truth is, though, God knows we will sin.  And heloves us anyway.

Notice when Paul writes his final thoughts to Timothy before he is martyred (2 Timothy 4:7) he says that he has “fought the good fight,” not that he had ceased sinning.

When we fight against sin and temptation in our lives, and we ask God for help in not succumbing to those temptations, we will begin to experience more victory.

We will begin, like Christ, to overcome the world through the fight.

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