Let's Live As Overcomers!
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2 Corinthians 11:16-32:

I say again, let no one think me a fool. If otherwise, at least receive me as a fool, that I also may boast a little. What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord, but as it were, foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many boast according to the flesh, I also will boast. For you put up with fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise! For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face. To our shame, I say that we were too weak for that! But in whatever anyone is bold--I speak foolishly-- I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ?--I speak as a fool--I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness-- besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to apprehend me; but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands

Romans 8:28-39:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

NEW YORK - Jolted, jilted, hammered in a car crash and robbed, Lawrence Hanratty was named Friday as the unluckiest man in New York.

Nearly electrocuted in a construction site accident in 1984 that put him in a coma for weeks, Hanratty lost the lawyers fighting for his disability claim - one was disbarred, two died - and his wife ran off with her lawyer.

Hanratty, who has spent years fighting heart and liver disease, had his car wrecked in a crash last year. When police left the scene of the accident, he was held up and robbed.

"I say to myself, 'how much more am I going to be tested in life to see how much I can endure?'" Hanratty told the New York Daily News in a description of more than 10 years of agony that runs under the Page One headline: "Think You Got it Bad? Meet…Luckless Larry."

As if he hasn't tolerated enough hardship, 38-year-old Hanratty of Mt. Vernon, NY, said an insurance company now wants to cut off his workers' compensation benefits and his land lord has threatened to kick him out of his apartment.

Depressed and suffering from agoraphobia, a fear of open spaces, Hanratty uses a canister of oxygen and takes 42 pills a day for his heart and liver ailments. But with help from neighbors and a New York state assemblyman, he's not giving up yet.

"There's always hope," he said. ["Luck Rivals Worst of Sick Jokes: 'There's Hope,' New Yorker Says," Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1995, A28. Copyright Reuters Limited 1995.]

As you and I face each day of our lives what are some of the trials that we may be called upon to endure, bear and over come?

Through the power of God's Holy Spirit in our lives we're able to overcome a multitude of difficulties and tests that we may have never imagined would come our way. This's the promise of His message of hope.

Let's take a look at some of the things we need to know, or that'll aid us in living life as overcomers.

Overcomers Place Their Hope In God.

In the face of adversity an over coming lifestyle is dependent on hope in God and trust. Trust that what we find ourselves dealing with will be used of God to better us, strengthen our faith and make us stronger in Him.

God's given us much to hope for. We can look forward to the time that all of His special promises are brought to fruition. Our futures are something, which remain unseen until they become our past. Hope is the thing, which will help us to look forward to those times knowing that God will use them for our better good.

Hope is instilled in us by such promises as "I will never leave you nor forsake you." God's word clearly states, "in all things God works for the good of those who love him."

We're not put on the earth as pawns in a cosmic game of chest. Somewhere I remember seeing a picture, image, or film in which these huge giant beings were sitting around a gigantic table. On the table's a chest board, on the board various types of people from different walks of life. These giant beings, the gods, moved the people around the board in a real life game of chess. Of course not everyone can be on the winning side.

This's what's wrong with religious philosophies such as reincarnation. You don't have a hope that's based in the love of a caring creator. You're more or less gambling that this time you'll have played cosmic poker well enough to actually move forward. How much better to place our hope in a creator God who promises, "I'm going to prepare a place for you," or who promises, "this day you'll be with me in paradise." In the midst of trial and struggle, in the midst of waiting for life to work out, in the midst of having to make hard decisions and in the midst of difficulties in our relationship, we can place our hope in the faithful God who works for the good of those who love him.

Let's take hope in the fact that God works for what's best in our lives.

Overcomers Commit to Building Quality Lives.

In July of 1967, a seventeen-year-old girl dove into Chesapeake Bay. In the blink of an eye her life changed, this dive, the last one of her young life, ended with a broken neck which left her a quadriplegic, and confined her to a wheelchair.

In December of 1967 she wrote, or recorded these words; "Once again, I desperately wanted to kill myself. Here I was, trapped in this canvas cocoon. I couldn't move anything except my head. Physically, I was little more than a corpse. I had no hope of ever walking again. I could never lead a normal life and marry Dick. In fact, he might even be walking out of my life forever, I concluded. I'd absolutely no idea of how I could find purpose or meaning in just existing day after day - waking, eating, watching TV, sleeping.

Why on earth should a person be forced to live out such a dreary existence? How I prayed for some accident or miracle to kill me. The mental and spiritual anguish was as unbearable as the physical torture.

But once again, there was no way for me to commit suicide. This frustration was also unbearable. I was despondent, but I was also angry because of my helplessness. How I wished for strength and control enough in my fingers to do something, anything, to end my life."

These are the words of a hopeless young lady with all quality of life ripped from her in an instant. What's there to do with such desperation and hurt? How do you convince someone that they can lead a better life, when they feel they have no life at all?

Family and friends worked hard with this young lady to help her through the depression, heartache and hopelessness. Her faith in God brought her a deep sense of His working in her heart, mind and life. A few years later in the introduction to her second book she wrote these words: "As I sit on our porch balcony overlooking the surrounding hills of our horse farm and take in all the smells and sounds of this pretty summer day, it's hard to believe I ever had thoughts like that. In fact, I almost can't remember what feeling that way was like. Oh, I'm still paralyzed - still can't walk, still need to be bathed and dressed. But I'm no longer depressed. And to be honest, I can even say that I'm actually glad for the things which have happened to me…heartfelt gratitude I have for this life in a wheelchair could only have come from God and His Word."

Joni Erikson Tada, the author of these words, is a well-known Christian artist, speaker, teacher and author. She's changed countless lives as a servant of God. She's a premier overcomer. She lives a quality of life and walk that is far beyond anything she may have attained before the accident.

God didn't cause her accident, pain or depression but God worked through it to show Joni that she could be His disciple no matter what the struggles. When trial, struggle, heartache, injury and illness come the true overcomer allows God to bring a quality of life that's beyond the physical, beyond the surface, beyond human and is nothing less than miraculous.

Overcomers Are Faithful Servants Regardless of Cost.

When Christ is allowed to truly lead in an overcomers life a significant amount of the fear that resides in hardship and adversity melts away. Is it always easy for a Christian to take their hands off of a difficult issue and place it into the hands of God? No!

Once something's placed in God's hands is it always easily forgotten and left there until the time it's solved and resolved? No!

There's a cost to being a Christ-like overcomer. It costs us something to allow Christ to have total control of our lives. He may call us to give up doing something that we once really enjoyed. He may ask us to give up something that's a treasure to us among our belongings. He may ask us to befriend someone that we'd really rather not be seen with. He may call us to a place that we never imagined going to or even said we'd never go to.

These are all things and attitudes that have to be in place in everyday life when things are going well. When we experience our ability to trust God in all things when life's going relatively smoothly then it becomes more natural to trust God in the heavier moments of life.

The cost comes in when we realize that our Christian walk's not a guarantee that we'll never, ever be faced with the need to overcome hardship. A Christian can still be affected by the sins of another and suffer as a result; like in the event that a drunk driver hits an unsuspecting person's car."

We may suffer not because of sin but poor judgment as in driving when we're too tired and having a wreck. The cost of overcoming is found in the fact that the Christian believer lives under a higher calling than anyone else and hardship is to be faced with Christ at our right hand, not avoided at all.

Then in spite of the cost consider how deep faith would really grow in the absence of the things that stretch our faith. I had the privilege of being raised by a deeply committed Christian lady. She ran our Sunday School and worked hard when for whatever the reason, funds were not made available for materials. She was involved in the life of the church, in cooking for large meals such as funerals. She shared one on one with a number of people through those years. There was one problem.

No matter how hard she prayed or what she tried she could not beat an addiction to smoking. She tried everything under the sun. She got into the scriptures more and more. She prayed more and more. Her son nagged her to quit more and more. Then one day after praying about it my mother shoved a full carton of cigarettes into the middle of the table and never touched them again. Six months later my dad finally asked if it was ok to throw them out. God had freed her from that addiction.

To this day my mother believes that the struggle was a training camp that taught her how to encourage and help others who couldn't stop smoking or that were discouraged by other problems. She overcame and started to teach people how to overcome.

The cost was counted and she paid it, just like Christ paid the price to win her soul back from hell in the first place. The cost for salvation has already been paid but the cost of being a Christian and an overcomer is exacted by a world ruled by sin.

The assignment we've been given as the Church/Family of God, is to do what it takes to bring the light of Christ to a world ruled by sin. When that world and its ruler decide to strike back we may receive some battle scars. Then, like Paul, we must remind ourselves that we can "learn to be content in all things."

Overcomers Commit to Prayer Even In Adversity.

Paul recites a multitude of difficulties that he experienced as a follower of Christ. Floggings, imprisonment, being beaten, chased out of town, being stoned to death by crowds throwing rocks, and shipwreck. However, his reaction was worship and prayer. In prison He and Silas sang praises to God.

Prayer's the key to being an overcomer. Without enlisting the aid of God's Holy Spirit in the midst of trial, we'll be weak, lacking in power and the will to fight.

In His deepest hour of need Jesus modeled the resource of prayer for us. In daily life, when He began to feel drained He went apart with His disciples to find quiet and to pray.

An Overcomer learns to take time to pray and learns to pray for as much time as it takes. Prayer revitalizes us for the battle. Prayer helps us talk things through with God. Prayer allows God that time and quiet He needs to be heard by us.

Prayer is the mark of an overcomer.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, let's learn to look at adversity, trial, trouble and pain as Paul did in our scriptures. He boasted of his weaknesses. Most of us would consider this strange because most boasting's done over the great things we've done, over great talent, or ability. Paul boasted in the things that went wrong for they're the things which pointed to the reality and proof that Christ was truly walking with Paul.

Too many people today find it too easy to give up in the face of adversity. Many of us when confronted by problems far less horrendous than those of the people we mentioned, are ready to throw in the towel.

Like these people, we need to learn to be overcomers. Even if our issues vary greatly from theirs, we must concentrate on overcoming. Let's do the things we need to do today to establish a firm foundation for overcoming problems in the name and to the glory of Christ.

Please...let's not remain alone in suffering and pain!



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