Overcoming is one of the most vital keys to salvation. Only those who overcome are promised eternal life, membership in the Family of God and rulership over the nations on this earth. This promise is graphically emphasized in Revelation 21:7: "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son." It is also mentioned at least seven other times in the book of Revelation (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26-28, 3:5, 12, 21). Because overcoming is so important to our eternal destiny, We need to thoroughly understand what it is.
What is overcoming?
Most of us as God's people have understood overcoming to mean the process of rooting out sinful habits and conduct from our lives. We have thought of it as forsaking and conquering such lawbreaking practices as swearing, lying, cheating, drunkenness, smoking and other sins. These habits became acutely apparent to us when we began to learn God's truth and realized that they must be dealt with and overcome. The battle is often intense and requires much prayer and diligence.
This is certainly one aspect of overcoming. However, there is yet another dimension equally as important to overcoming. What is it? Read on. Jesus Christ, the pioneer of our salvation, said, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). We know that we must follow in His footsteps to qualify for eternal life (I Peter 2:21). Exactly how did Jesus overcome? How are we to imitate Him? During His 33 1/2 years on earth, Jesus Christ never sinned once! While living in human flesh, our Savior led a perfect life. He had no bad or sinful habits to master. What, then, did Jesus overcome? During His human life, Jesus was tempted in all points as we are (Hebrews 4:15). The world and its lures constantly tried, tested and tempted Him in much the same way as we are tried today. Satan particularly was active and persistent in trying to overthrow Jesus. Remember how the devil tried every trick at his disposal to tempt Jesus to sin after Jesus' 40-day fast in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11)? Yet, Jesus never succumbed to commit a single sin. As Hebrews 4:15 says, "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." Not once did He allow the conception and entry of sin, which often starts with just one wrong thought (James 1:14-15). To Jesus, overcoming was a day-by-day, hour-by-hour and even minute-by-minute process. He had to reject every wrong thought and each temptation as it came into His mind. He had to always be on guard against and prepared to counteract Satan's subtle and treacherous devices. Yet, it was only through God's power in Him and His continuous contact with His Father in heaven that Jesus was able to do this (John 5:30).
How we can overcome
Today, each one of us is also in a continual spiritual warfare: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). This world in which we live can be a caldron of temptation. The atmosphere around us is literally surcharged and electrified with the evil influence of Satan the devil. We as Christians are assailed and attacked at every turn. Additionally, the carnal pull to sin still drives and influences our mortal minds and poses a constant threat to our daily walk with God: "For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 0 wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:22-24). Overcoming, then, has to do with engaging in battle against sin, temptation and wrong attitudes that continually thrust themselves into our lives. It may at times mean an all-out war against Satan and his fiery darts. "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life," said Paul (I Timothy 6:12). "Resist the devil and he will flee from you," stated James (James 4:7). In this context, overcoming involves enduring to the bitter end — until victory is won. "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (II Timothy 2:3). We may find ourselves in hand-to-hand combat with our spiritual enemies several times a day. Imagine how many fiery darts — impure thoughts, lusts, wrong attitudes — Satan hurls at us daily. This is why we are commanded to bring "every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians 10:5). What we must realize is that overcoming means dealing with the cause of sin instead of the effect. With this in mind, overcoming should have a far greater meaning to our day-to-day spiritual lives. It is much more than just rooting out old habits or lingering problems. It also means putting to death any uprisings of lusts or sinful attitudes that may appear at any moment.
We need God's help
Just like Jesus Christ when He walked on this earth, we of and by ourselves are powerless. However, we can draw on the same invisible help, power and strength that Jesus had available. And just like Jesus Christ, we can gain the victory. Therefore, the first step in continuous and successful overcoming is a close, daily contact with God. We need to learn how to walk and talk with our heavenly Father at all times, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer" (Romans 12:12). "Pray without ceasing," wrote Paul (I Thessalonians 5:17). In addition, we must diligently study and drink in of God's Word. "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15, Authorized Version). We must also follow the lead of God's Holy Spirit. Romans 8:14 reveals, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." We need to learn to recognize when the Holy Spirit is being grieved or quenched, and strive to keep it from happening (Ephesians 4:30, I Thessalonians 5:19). And when we slip and fall prey to sin, we must repent instantly — turn from and reject the thought or temptation that led to the sin — to prevent our relationship with the Creator from being weakened or severed. Let's allow nothing to come between us and our heavenly Father!
We as Christians are soldiers in a lifelong battle against human nature, the world and fallen spirit beings. Like warriors, we must be disciplined and uncompromising, and never let down or take it easy.
The next step to hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute overcoming, so vital in winning this Christian struggle, is vigilance.
We need to constantly watch out for Satan's clever and subtle devices. Satan, after all, is like a stealthy, ferocious lion: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8). Satan's goal is to prevent our eternal life in God's Family. Today the devil is more angry than ever before, knowing he has but a short time left: " Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time" (Revelation 12:12). Satan will try to wear out God's people if he can. We must be on guard against all forms of wrong and destructive thinking — emotions such as negativism, discouragement, envy, resentment and jealousy. We must not succumb to Satan's broadcasting and temptations. Ephesians 4:27 tells us not to "give place to the devil." We also have to be on guard against the tremendous number of negative influences of today's society, never compromising with God's truth or the way of life He has revealed. We should be aware of our worst enemy — self — and not allow any potentially sinful thoughts to take root. God commands us to crucify the flesh and its lustful desires (Luke 9:23, Romans 8:13). We are to flee from tempting situations and ask God for help in resisting potential sin. We as Christians are soldiers in a lifelong battle against human nature, the world and fallen spirit beings. Therefore, it's incumbent on us never to let down and take it easy. Like warriors, we must be highly disciplined and uncompromising. Only when we master each temptation as it comes are we successful overcomers. Let us be diligent and be able to say with the apostle Paul: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally; there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day." The crown of righteousness, after all, will not be given to Paul only, "but also to all who have loved His appearing" (II Timothy 4:7-8) — us included!