They overcame him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony. (Rev. 12:11)
The Bible is clear that we are to be overcomers. But what does that mean? What does being an overcomer look like in our daily lives? According to scripture, there appear to be three major categories that we need to overcome: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
About 15 years after I became a believer, and even after I had developed a good handle on my spiritual identity, I stopped short when reading John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I read this verse over and over again. I knew that God was speaking to me, but I wrestled with what He was trying to say. Finally, I admitted, “I do not know what this means, Lord. Please show me.”
For four months, there was silence, but I continued to press in to understand. Finally, the understanding came. It did not come to me through words, but through pictures in my mind—pictures of Jesus overcoming everything in the fleshly realm: overcoming people’s lack of faith in Him; overcoming the pain and shame of going to the cross; overcoming the lack of love in the world; overcoming the independent spirit in the world by constant fellowship with His heavenly Father. With this sudden burst of insight, I proclaimed, “I believe! I believe you are the overcomer of the world!” Jesus immediately replied, “Now that you believe, you are an overcomer of the world.”
Overcoming the World
My conclusion is that to be an overcomer of the world, you must believe John 16:33. Jesus overcame the world. Therefore, if we are to emulate Jesus, we are to overcome the world, too. This has proven difficult for many believers, but I am convinced that this is because most simply don’t understand what it means to be overcomers—or even that we are supposed to be overcomers. Either this, or we are too busy having fellowship with the world to bother overcoming it.
So the first step in overcoming is renouncing and repenting of our love of the world. Just consider what God has to say about the love of the world: Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15–17)
We have a tendency to love the world. But just as the scriptures are clear that we cannot love both God and money, we cannot love both the world and God. As believers in Jesus, we must learn to overcome the world, not embrace it. You may not think you love the world, but let’s consider these few examples: Do you share the gospel with your neighbors? If not, why not? Are you afraid of what they might think? If so, then you love the approval of the world more than the things of God. Is there program on television that has content you know that God disapproves of, but you watch it anyway? If so, then you love the things of the world more than honoring your heavenly Father. Do you work late, trying to achieve financial security, even though you know that your relationship with your wife and children is suffering? If so, then you love the security of the world more than you love the security provided by the great I AM.
Heart -Check Your Desires
Overcoming the world starts with realizing our own fears and desires. The Psalmist wrote: “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart”
(Psalm 37:4). And in Matthew 6:18–33, Jesus talks about the natural fears that people have about meeting their material needs, but says that God knows that we have need of these things, so we should “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [food, shelter, and clothing] will be given to you as well.” There is an important principle in both of these verses. Seek first the kingdom of God, then your daily needs will be met. Delight in the Lord, then He will give you the desire of your heart. It all starts with doing His will first, ahead of your own.