The heart of Jesus' power is the ability to overcome.
He lived a sinless life, and therefore overcame the Devil.
He obeyed to the point of crucifixion, and therefore overcame death.
In His ministry, He even rendered the power of the natural elements like wind and water, the laws of gravity and physics, heedless.
He overcame, and therefore the power of the Holy Spirit within us is an overcoming power. The Holy Spirit lives to glorify Jesus, and make us more like Him. Scripture teaches us that if we have given our hearts to Jesus, that same spirit that overcame sin and death is within us:
"The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you." - Romans 8:11
As I prayed this week, God laid it on my heart that we so often overlook, waste, and fail to grasp the full potential to overcome. I am convinced there are so many points in our days and weeks that God looks at us and says, "Why are you down? Despondent? Complaining? Paralyzed? Overwhelmed? I already gave you the power to overcome that!"
The Spirit in you and through you overcomes all circumstances. That roadblock, that disappointment, that failure, that bad day at work--God has already given you the power to surmount and master all these things.
We tend to think our failure or success in overcoming is primarily about whether the obstacle is moved. When in reality, the ability to overcome is almost 100% internal. Jesus did not make the cross move--but He mastered it through his single-hearted will to obey anyway. The secret of overcoming is not external, if we can pray hard enough for something to be changed or moved.
Instead, overcoming is our heart's refusal to be changed or moved from our faith in God, our obedience to His plan, our love for and worship of Him, in the face of obstacles.
When we are little, our exposure to germs builds up a healthy immunity to sickness and disease. Our immune system needs exposure to seemingly harmful or dangerous germs to actually build up a tolerance to them. That is exactly what overcoming in the Kingdom of God is like. Living without bad days, negative circumstances, or trials is actually crippling us in the long run. Our faith needs to build up a healthy tolerance to obstacles through exposure to them. We build up our spiritual "immune system" by learning not to panic at the first sign of trouble, by learning to maintain our faith, peace, and worship in the midst of it all. After awhile, the things which once sent us into a tailspin we can simply "shake off." We've built up spiritual immunity.
You may know all this intellectually, so let me paint a picture to show you what overcoming looks like.
Towards the end of Acts, the apostle Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and sent to Rome to be tried--which was all a part of his plan. He knew that if he was put on trial in Jerusalem and given into the hands of the religious leaders there, the very ones who had killed Jesus and then accused him, he was a dead man. Testifying about Jesus before the religious leaders in the seat of the Roman Empire was a far better opportunity to live and share the Gospel.
Paul was sure that making the journey to Rome was God's plan for him. Yet, on that journey, he hit obstacle after obstacle. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. First, this was not a glamorous cruise--he was being escorted as a prisoner on a boat ride across a dangerous body of water. Soon enough, their ship was blown off course. For days they wandered at sea. They didn't eat for two weeks. Then, when they finally saw land, they crashed and shipwrecked for months. Upon reaching land, a venemous snake even bit Paul's hand!
Yet we see the overcoming spirit of Jesus makes Paul miraculously resilient to these terrible circumstances. Nothing shakes him from his assurance in God. And this overcoming Spirit works so powerfully within him that it overflows to encourage and bless others at every step in the journey.
When they ran off course and were lost, Paul shared an encouraging dream and said: "So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me." (Acts 27:25).
When the sailors hadn't eaten for 14 days, afraid of running out of food, Paul boldly instructed them to eat, giving thanks to God and declaring "Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head," (Acts 27:36). In response, "They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves."
When they finally shipwrecked, Paul didn't panic--he calmly urged the Centurion to keep the sailors from fleeing in escape boats, which would doom everyone else on the ship.
Finally, when they were gathering wood on the island of Malta, where they wrecked, Paul was bit by a venemous snake. The natives of the island expected him to panic and die. Yet it says, "But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects." Imagine if you went outside today and were bitten by a snake--how panicked would you be? Yet Paul simply "shook it off!"
The point is this: Paul was a practiced overcomer. To Paul, the presence of obstacles didn't invalidate that it was God's plan. He knew and actually expected trials to come, and he was prepared spiritually to keep his peace and trust in God when they came. Getting bitten by a snake would freak most of us out. But by the time Paul got to that island, he was such a practiced overcomer he was simply able to shake it off. He had built up a healthy immunity to obstacles so that one more didn't phase him. What would seem like a cause of harm to anyone else seemed small to him.
My prayer for us today is that we could be a people who more and more are able to "shake off" the negatives in our lives. My prayer is that we would be people who are so fixed in the love of God and faith in His son that we see trials as opportunities to grow in the overcoming power of Jesus. That when we have a bad day, we would turn on worship music and praise God, and encourage others anyway. That we would see our God allows trials so that He may be glorified in the overcoming. Sometimes He's glorified when the mountain moves, and sometimes He's glorified when we obey in faith anyway. Either way, we are growing stronger in the overcoming Spirit of Jesus that is our responsibility to steward.