Three Ways to Overcome Evil
Three Ways to Overcome Evil
In the last speech he ever made, on 31 March 1968, Martin Luther King repeated the phrase ‘we shall overcome’ over and over again. He was echoing the words of folksinger, Joan Baez, who in 1963 led a crowd of 300,000 people in singing ‘We shall overcome’. The song speaks of overcoming and of discovering hope and a future amid adversity.
Throughout this year, as we have studied the entire Bible, we have seen that we should not expect an easy life. The Bible is true to real life. Life involves many struggles, trials, tests, temptations, difficulties and battles. Yet, in Christ you can be an overcomer.
God’s love overcomes everythingPsalm 145:8–13a
Love is the most powerful force in the world. We overcome through love. This was the message of Martin Luther King who said, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.’
God is the source of love. He is ‘compassionate’, ‘rich in love’ (v.8). ‘He has compassion on all he has made’ (v.9). It is God’s love that overcomes evil.
In all your relationships – especially when you encounter great difficulties – imitate God. Be ‘gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love’ (v.8).
God’s love is not a weak or feeble love. It is backed up by his power and might. God’s people will ‘tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may know of your mighty acts…’ (vv.11–12). This is something you can rely on ‘through all generations’, for God’s kingdom is ‘an everlasting kingdom’ (v.13).
As he declares God’s love and power together, it is no wonder that David turns to praise: ‘All you have made will praise you, O Lord; your saints will extol you’ (v.10).
Lord, thank you that, although the battles in this life may be great, we will overcome and enjoy the glorious splendour of your kingdom forever.
Jesus overcomes the devilRevelation 12:1–13:1a
Do you sometimes feel guilty, even after you’ve confessed your sin and asked for forgiveness? Do you sometimes feel bad about yourself for no apparent reason? Do you ever experience a vague, nebulous feeling of condemnation?
This is one of the ways in which the devil operates. He is ‘the accuser’ (12:10). The Hebrew word for Satan means ‘accuser’ or ‘slanderer’. He accuses God before people. God gets the blame for everything. God, he says, is not to be trusted.
He also accuses Christians before God. He denies the power of the death of Jesus. He condemns you and makes you feel guilty – not necessarily for any particular sin, but with a general and vague feeling of guilt. In contrast, when the Holy Spirit convinces us of our sin he is always specific.
This passage tells us how the devil can be overcome. The book of Revelation opens up what is happening behind the events of history and reveals what is ahead. Over and over again, John recapitulates the story from the first coming of Christ to his second coming. Each time there is conflict and persecution, but ultimately there is victory and celebration.
There are three main protagonists in chapter 12:
Jesus is the ‘Son who will shepherd all nations’ (v.5a, MSG). He is ‘placed safely before God on his Throne’ (v.5b, MSG).
The devil is described as the ‘red dragon’ (v.3). His identity is revealed in verse 9: ‘The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray’ (v.9). He is the accuser (v.10).
Perhaps the most obvious interpretation is that the woman is Mary, the mother of Jesus. Other suggestions are that she is personified wisdom, the heavenly Jerusalem, personified Israel, or the church. Given the nature of apocalyptic writing and its many layers of interpretation, she may represent all of these.
The woman is ‘clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head’ (v.1b). ‘She was giving birth to a Child’ (v.2, MSG). After her child was snatched up to God and to his throne, the woman ‘fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days [that is, three-and-a-half years]’ (v.6).
Later on, we read that the serpent tries to sweep the woman away: ‘But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth’ (v.16).
What is clear in this passage is that, in the end, Jesus overcomes the devil and his allies. Behind the scenes of human history are great, intelligent forces of good and evil: ‘And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back’ (v.7).
In the end, good overcomes evil: ‘But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down… to the earth, and his angels with him’ (vv.8–9). He attempts to lead ‘the whole world astray’ (v.9).
Right now, you are at war with the demonic forces of evil. But victory is secure: ‘They overcame him’ (v.11a). ‘They’ are the church – the people of God – who are in Christ. ‘Him’ is Satan, the devil, the accuser, the serpent, who will ultimately be destroyed. You overcome him in three ways:
Trust in the blood
The cross of Jesus – ‘the blood of the lamb’ (v.11a) – is the supreme victory over the devil. You can be sure of your standing before God. ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). You do not need to wake up feeling guilty, or go to bed feeling guilty. As Corrie ten Boom pointed out, ‘The blood of Christ is like tears in the eyes, it washes away the specks of dirt.’
Tell your story
They overcame ‘by the word of their testimony’ (Revelation 12:11b). Your testimony is the most powerful way of overcoming opposition to faith. It is hard to argue with your story. No one can deny your personal experience.
Take risks for Jesus
‘They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death’ (v.11c).
‘They weren't in love with themselves;
they were willing to die for Christ’ (v.11c, MSG).
You can be absolutely sure of your future. Therefore, you can take the risk of betting your life on Jesus, safe in his arms.
Lord, thank you that, the moment we side with Jesus, we are on the winning side. Help me overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of my testimony and by being willing to risk my life for you.
The people of God overcome oppositionEzra 6:1–7:10
Mark Twain once said, ‘The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work!’ Vision without work is just hallucination. The church will not be rebuilt without God’s hand (7:6). But equally it will not be rebuilt without hard work, commitment and application.
Although work on the temple was held up because of opposition, eventually King Darius ‘issued an order’ (6:1). They found the original decree of King Cyrus ordering that the temple be rebuilt (vv.1–3). Darius then reissued the order that construction should continue on the house of God and that no one should interfere (vv.6–12).
The temple was completed (vv.14–15) in 515 BC. This was a cause of enormous celebration and joy (v.16). ‘They celebrated with joy... because the Lord had filled them with joy’ (v.22).
There was then a long period of silence between the end of chapter 6 and the beginning of chapter 7 (possibly 458 BC). Ezra is introduced as the one who, above all others, was responsible for the establishment of the law for the religious and social life of the community of the people of God after they returned from many years of exile in Babylon.
Ezra was a teacher and ‘the hand of the Lord his God was on him’ (7:6). ‘Ezra had committed himself to studying the Revelation of God, to living it, and to teaching Israel to live its truths and ways’ (v.10, MSG). Study of God’s words without action is worthless.
Ezra’s example gives a wonderful model to follow. Immerse yourself in God’s word, committing time and effort to studying it. Realise that, on its own, this is not enough. Allow God’s word to shape and change your life as well; put it into action and teach others to do the same.
Lord, thank you that you give me ultimate victory over all obstacles and opposition, and you fill me with great joy. Help me to study the revelation of God, to live it out and to teach others to live its truths and ways.
‘The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.’
It’s good that the devil was thrown out of heaven, but it’s a pity that he is on earth (... but not for long). And he is defeated.
Verse of the Day
‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate…’ (Psalm 145:8a).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
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