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Through the years, I have pastored thousands who have been called to God’s Way. All struggled against the pulls of the flesh and the temptations of Satan and his world. Some overcame. Others did not.
So many seem trapped, unable to overcome—to grow in areas of weakness, fault and sin. Instead of overcoming and defeating their problems, most are overcome and defeated by their problems. This need not be! You can overcome. This Personal reveals how.
Jesus Christ said, “Enter you in at the strait [difficult] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad [easy] is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). Most seek the easy, “broad” path.
Overcoming is hard—difficult—and a lifelong struggle. But it is possible. In fact, true Christians must overcome!
This world is drifting along, completely unaware of God’s great purpose for man, which is to build character in this life. He is preparing a team who has qualified to help restore His government to Earth.
The Bible is filled with accounts of God’s greatest servants battling sin. In every case, they had to learn difficult, painful lessons. Examined collectively, Moses, Noah, David, Samuel, Peter, Paul and others are seen to have fought every problem known to man.
They struggled against sins, weaknesses, faults, attitudes and temptations of the flesh. David fought sins and wrong attitudes and overcame them. Moses lacked faith and confidence, and had a temper he had to overcome. Yet he will hold high office in God’s Kingdom. Both Job and Elijah fought discouragement and depression, to the point of wanting to die. But these men endured—they overcame. They slew their problems, rather than being slain by them!
These men were actively trained by God, and had to overcome the temptations of Satan and his world, and the pulls of the flesh. A true Christian overcomes his problems, weaknesses, sins and wrong attitudes, rather than the other way around!
Jesus said, “He that overcomes, and keeps My works unto the end, to him [no one else] will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev. 2:26-27), and added, “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne” (3:21).
When God re-establishes His government over all nations of Earth, Christians will receive real power to rule. But first they must overcome.
Christians follow—they copy—Christ (I Pet. 2:21). What is the pattern He established for them?
Referencing His own struggle to remain free of sin and perfect in character, Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation [so very true!]: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Christ had overcome both the world and its god—Satan (II Cor. 4:4) and qualified to rule. Just as He qualified to replace Satan, so must all Christians!
Such enormous power to rule could never be given to people who are unprepared—who have not qualified to properly use it. God will not hand great authority to people who might rebel and revert to Satan’s ways. God’s servants must use this life to build His very character, so necessary for those holding offices of authority.
Understand! You have been yielding to the flesh and Satan’s way your entire life. You have probably become very good at both. Believe me, as you strive to overcome and resist the pulls at work within you, you will find that wrong patterns of conduct are “second nature” to you—more than you know! Left unchecked, human nature consists of vanity, jealousy, lust, greed, envy, resentment, hatred, anger, pride, rebellion, foolishness, deceit and hostility toward God. This is what you have been practicing—possibly for decades.
Overcoming will not be easy or happen overnight. It is a lifelong struggle against well-established attitudes and a former way of life the Christian has now rejected and turned from. The one who is walking God’s path is striving to curb and withhold himself wherever God’s Word instructs. He strives to exercise himself in all matters where God says to do so. When God gives instruction to do something, he strives to do it! When God instructs not to do something, he strives not to do it!
Learning this takes a lifetime. But remember: building character is why you were born. Your job is to put off the fleshly pulls of human nature, and to put on the character of God and Christ (Col. 3:8-13). Though not easy, the reward is great.
God looks on intent. It is your overall desire and motivation that is important to Him. He wants to know if, after you sin, you are sorry for it and are determined to do better. He understands the temptations that beset us even better than we do. He watches to see if we will be sober and vigilant as we root sin from our lives. Will we carelessly fall back into old patterns? Will we try to overcome on human strength alone?
A Christian has God’s Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 shows it enters at repentance and baptism. It is this Spirit in a converted mind that empowers one with the strength to change what human steam alone cannot. Notice: “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of POWER, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Tim. 1:7).
The Greek word for power is dunamis. It means “miraculous power” or “force.” At conversion, a Christian is given real power! This power establishes the righteousness of God within one’s character. One must draw upon the strength from God’s Spirit to successfully overcome. This strength is unlimited and sufficient to defeat any sin, problem or attitude—no matter how large and daunting such may appear!
But make no mistake. Christians do not build their own righteousness. This does not impress God. He sees it as so many “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). The apostle Paul wrote of his Christian hope to “be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:9).
Exactly what role does faith play? It does play a role, but how? Ephesians states, “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that [the faith] not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (2:8-9). The faith of Christ in us is a gift. And salvation comes as a gift, by grace—through faith! But even the faith must be a gift. Otherwise, it would be a work generated by human effort. My booklet What Is Real Faith? (rcg.org/wirf) carefully explains this subject.
It is the very faith of Christ that works in a Christian. But grasp this. It does assist in performing works in all those with God’s Spirit. They expect God’s help.
Virtually all theologians, religionists and churchmen stop reading after Ephesians 2:8-9 and ignore the crucial verse 10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Quite literally, Jesus Christ lives His life in the Christian. Without His help, one will get nowhere—fast!
Jesus said to bring “forth much fruit,” and then, “…without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Human power only helps a person overcome in physical areas. Spiritual problems cannot be conquered through physical effort. Christ is the Vine and Christians are the branches (John 15:5)—branches must be connected to the Vine. This happens through God’s Spirit working in your mind.
Paul wrote, “…be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10). Jesus also said, “…with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). With God’s Spirit actively working and growing in you, this can also be true of you!
Remember! Deep conversion does not occur overnight. Paul wrote that some were “babes [babies] in Christ” (I Cor. 3:1). He described how they required spiritual “milk,” instead of “meat” (vs. 2). The brand new Christian is much like an infant. By analogy, he first learns to roll over, then crawl, before walking (and, at first, in an unsteady, toddling fashion). Only later does he finally learn to run (spiritually).
Paul compares conversion to running a race (I Cor. 9:24). At some point, the runner must develop speed because Paul says, “run, that you may obtain [win].” Such is the Christian way. Slow, steady growth, through daily practice, produces progress in the life of the person copying Christ. The new Christian sincerely strives, from the heart, to be different—to turn around and go the other way, the Way of God, for the rest of his life! Be ready to apply yourself—to push to grow and overcome. Do not expect it to be easy, like falling off a log. Grow in knowledge as well (II Pet. 3:18).
Jesus taught His disciples to understand the pulls of human nature at work within them. Notice: “…that which comes out of the man, that defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:20-22).
These same attitudes, pulls of the flesh, and wrong patterns of conduct also work within you and me. They leave us fertile for temptation by Satan. Therefore, many kinds of temptations will be thrown at you all through life. You must successfully resist them. They will often come when you least expect them. The devil will try to strike where you are weakest—most vulnerable—least prepared. You must be on guard—ready! Do not assume you are stronger or more prepared than you are. Consider: “Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:12).
Now notice how temptation can turn into sin: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death” (Jms. 1:14-15). Put out wrong thoughts. Do not ease up or assume victory before they are gone!
The apostle Peter added, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8). And James instructed, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (4:7). Peter further instructed, “Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (I Pet. 5:9).
This verse offers encouragement: You are not alone in your struggle to overcome sin. All human beings face the same problems. Understand! “For all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23) and “sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4). God promises, “For sin shall not have dominion over you…” (Rom. 6:14).
Here is how Paul explained forces at work within him: “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I…the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom. 7:15, 19).
This pictures what we all face after conversion. When you feel like this, battle! Resist! Use God’s power within you. Call out to Him for help and always remember that you must: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded” (Jms. 4:8). Fulfilling this verse is not an overnight process. It takes time and much effort.
Seek God through earnest, regular, believing prayer. Commune with Him daily. Pray without ceasing (I Thes. 5:17-18). Study your Bible (Matt. 4:4). Drink it in as God talking to you personally in the same way prayer is you talking personally to Him!
Resisting the temptation of the devil was central to Jesus overcoming sin. Matthew 4 contains the account. The devil repeatedly tempted Christ, and in various ways. Read the account. At the end of several attempts by Satan to break Christ’s will, the account climaxes.
After being offered all kingdoms of the world, Christ rebuked Satan, stating, “Get you hence, Satan” (vs. 10). Jesus told the devil to “get out.” At this point, the temptation ended and the devil departed. Christ had successfully resisted!
Be prepared to tell Satan to get out of your life as often as you have to. Resist him by submitting to God in all things!
Jesus passed a very real test! He overcame the world, His flesh, and the devil in overcoming sin and qualifying to pay for the sins of the world. You can overcome in the same way Christ did.
Applying the following seven basic steps will help you overcome any problem. They represent principles that will work in the process of overcoming no matter the size of your problem or problems.
If you diligently apply them, they will be a formula that will help you to permanently overcome in your life.
(1) Honestly face the problem. Many people will not do this. They hide their eyes from reality. Notice: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). Most willingly deceive themselves about their problems. Look your problems right in the eye and see them for what they are.
(2) Do not get discouraged. It is very easy to get disheartened—discouraged—upon acknowledging your problems. This is natural. Paul wrote of those “troubled on every side, yet not distressed…perplexed, but not in despair” (II Cor. 4:8). You may feel this way facing your problems, but do not get discouraged. Move to the next step.
(3) Set your will. Absolutely determine that you are going to defeat each particular problem and that each will not defeat you! Take a do-or-die approach. It has been said that the hardest battle is the first battle. Set your will to address each sin successfully. Tell yourself you are going to defeat it—you are going to rip it from your character. But again recognize you cannot fight the battle on your own. This leads to step 4.
(4) Form a partnership with God. If you set out to overcome on human strength alone, you will fail. Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Jesus said, “I can of My own self do nothing…” (John 5:30). On another occasion, when speaking to His disciples about those with certain things to overcome, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). Believe Jesus’ words. If He could do nothing on His own, neither can you. Be sure you have formed a partnership with God—that you are not working on your own.
(5) Start right where you are. Admit the problem is whatever size it is. Neither overstate nor understate it. If it is a big problem, admit it! This is part of honestly facing the problem. If you are trying to overcome any pull of the flesh or temptation that has existed for a long time—that has been part of you for many years—admit the size of the problem. It has been said, “The longest journey begins with a single step.” That is true for the Christian. No matter how long it takes, or where you are when you start, begin wherever you find yourself. If you have wasted time before addressing the problem, admit it and “redeem the time” (Eph. 5:16).
(6) Be willing to pay the price. The Bible describes some who grow weary and “faint in the day of adversity” (Prov. 24:10) and that “their strength is small.” Notice: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). Everything of value in life comes at a cost—a price. Sometimes this involves pain, suffering. Pay the price. Even Christ, the Bible says, learned “obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). No one enjoys pain, but sometimes it is inescapable in the overcoming process.
(7) Do not give up before you have succeeded. Solomon wrote, “For a just man falls seven times [the Hebrew actually means many times], and rises up again…” (Prov. 24:16). Do not give up. Never quit! Wrestle, battle and struggle until you have completely overcome whatever obstacle, weakness, sin or problem you are facing!
Follow these points, always employing one step at a time. They have helped many win the war of overcoming!
Jesus also taught that he who endures to the end shall be saved ( Matt. 24:13). A life of growing and overcoming is a constant, daily struggle against fleshly temptation. But Christians are now being judged: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (I Pet. 4:17-18).
Paul knew he was being judged. Let’s read: “…Know you not [of course most do not] that they which run in a RACE run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain [win]. And every man that strives for the mastery [championship or victory] is temperate in all things. Now they [non-Christians] do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we [Christians] an incorruptible. I therefore so RUN, not as uncertainly; so FIGHT I…lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway [failure or loser]” (I Cor. 9:23-27), and “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the RACE that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).
Paul fought mightily against sin. He saw two opposing forces at work within his mind. Notice the intensity he brought to the struggle: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not…I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after 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” (Rom. 7:18, 21-23).
The apostle Paul saw Christianity as “wrestling” (Eph. 6:11-12) against the wiles of the devil and said to, “Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). He knew it takes great effort to win a long race.
Paul represents a classic example of how one of God’s greatest servants fought to overcome sin. At the end, he could say that he had “fought a good fight” and had “finished his course” knowing a “crown” awaited him (II Tim. 4:7-8). But this did not happen without much running, wrestling, pressing, fighting and warring against the human nature he strove to overcome.
He also knew his race was a marathon, not a sprint.
Humans require 15 to 20 years just to reach their full height. This long, physical growth process probably included a number of “growing pains.” No doubt, you fell and skinned your knee or bloodied your nose many times before reaching adulthood. Christianity is no different! Do not become discouraged and quit growing, any more than a child should quit life simply because he may have fallen or skinned a knee. When your child falls, you tell him to get up—this is part of life. Christianity is no different!
Children always want to grow up faster than life’s timetable permits. Though childhood is wonderful, it seems most young people cannot wait for adulthood. Christianity is no different! But full, mature Christian adulthood only comes after a long period of practicing the right way.
Perfection is a goal that carries with it a way of life that governs one’s every thought, action and word. God looks on the heart, the intent of a person who is yielded to Him. As long as he is spiritually growing and overcoming—and led by God’s Spirit—he remains a converted, begotten son of God.
It is only through regular prayer, Bible study, meditation and even fasting (going without food and water for a period) that the Christian can overcome the three foes—self, society and Satan—lying in wait for him every day of his life.
The Restored Church of God, which publishes this magazine, has ministers available to answer any questions you might have regarding the truth of conversion and overcoming. But they will not call on you. You must request it. God does not pressure, persuade, beg, cajole or force anyone to obey Him. He has made all human beings free moral agents. This includes you. The all-knowing, all-wise, loving Creator has given men the choice, and ability, to decide for themselves. He leaves it up to us to act on knowledge given. Thus, we never pressure people into joining us. But you may freely contact us.
Eventually, all peoples will sit before Jesus Christ. Some will have qualified to rule and some will not. Notice: “When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another…and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you [all who have overcome] from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:31-34).
The government of God will soon be restored to Earth. All who prepared themselves will “inherit the kingdom.” Only the overcomers, those who successfully submitted to God and resisted Satan throughout their lives, shall take part in this glorious future: “He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son” (Rev. 21:7).
Will you start down the path to overcome sin and inherit all things?