What Does it Mean to Overcome the World?

by Mike Ratliff

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:8-12 ESV)

There are some who believe that Romans 7:7-25 was written by the Apostle Paul in reference to before his salvation in that he proclaims his frustration with his inability to keep the law by his own strength. However, the unregenerate are not able to see that only 100% obedience to the law is acceptable to God. In this, they do not have the same grief over their inconsistencies in obedience that a genuine believer has. On the other hand, there are some who teach a false doctrine of perfection for Christians. This doctrine teaches that it is possible for Christians to mature to the point that they no longer sin. This is why I hold that Romans 7:7-25 very clearly teaches us that if we attempt to keep the law through morality or legalism then we will experience that same frustration that Paul did. On the other hand, when we understand that it is not us who have overcome the world, but our Lord, then we will have a very different view of tribulation and peace in this life for Christians. 

We will endure in the fires of tribulation by our Lord’s strength, not ours. I believe Oswald Chambers had this nailed as we can see in the following devotional from My Utmost for His Highest.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)

An average view of the Christian life is that it means deliverance from trouble. It is deliverance in trouble, which is very different. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High…there shall no evil befall thee” – no plague can come nigh the place where you are at one with God.

If you are a child of God, there certainly will be troubles to meet, but Jesus says do not be surprised when they come. “In the world yet shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world, there is nothing for you to fear.” Men who before they were saved would scorn to talk about troubles, often become “fushionless” after being born again because they have a wrong idea of a saint.

God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. Overcome your own timidity and take the step, and God will give you to eat of the tree of life and you will get nourishment. If you spend yourself out physically, you become exhausted; but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength. God never gives strength for to-morrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute. The temptation is to face difficulties from a common-sense standpoint. The saint is hilarious when he is crushed with difficulties because the thing is so ludicrously impossible to anyone but God. – From ‘My Utmost for His Highest’, by Oswald Chambers for August 2.

In John 16:33 our Lord tells us plainly that we should take heart even in the midst of tribulation if we are indeed in Him. A good parallel to this statement is found in 2 Timothy 1:12.

which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:12 ESV)

We should see our struggles with obedience as well as persecution for our faith as “the strain” that God is using to give us the strength to live spiritually in total dependence to the grace of God for our all. As we do this, we will stop seeing our walk down this narrow path of obedience as our earning anything, but as what God is using to grow us unto Christlikeness for His glory. In this, we see clearly that no matter what is going on in this life, we are in Christ and He has overcome the world. We have overcome nothing.

Paul suffered and he was an Apostle. His suffering was not because of sin in his own life, but this is the inevitable part of the life of the Christian because he or she has the same mortal and corruptible body as unbelievers (Romans 6:12; 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54; 2 Corinthians 4:11; 5:4). Receiving Christ does not change this. Our physical bodies do not become exempt from mortality or corruptibility. Our suffering may indeed be due to persecution from the world because we do not conform to its standards. However, Christ will ultimately overcome (John 16:33; Galatians 6:17; 2 Timothy 3:12). As Paul stated and, therefore, we need to emulate him in this, “..which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed…” My brethren, take your sorrow to the throne of grace. Do not “let go and let God,” but seek to obey Him in His strength as you stand firm in the fires of tribulation.

Soli Deo Gloria!

5 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to Overcome the World?

  1. Your article is very interesting and is truthful 99, if not a 100%. What hit me, however, is not the percentage of its truthfulness, but the spirit in which it comes across.

    You see, in the early years of my walk with the Lord, I used to think I was the only right fellow in town, that my church was the only true church, and all the others were going to hell in a hand-basket. After awhile, I learned that one man’s religion is another man’s cult. Yes, doctrine has its place but no single church group has a the total truth. The total truth is Christ.

    On the issue of overcoming the world. Your presentation is one way to look at it, and it is a good way. But an equally good way is that we grow to Christian maturity in Christ (2 Peter 3:18). It is part of our sanctification to leave the baby talk and the baby walk behind (1Cor.13:11).

    Finally, one may say that Jesus died to save us from our sins not in our sins. When you save a drowning man, you remove him some distance from that body of water that is a danger to him. But of course he retains the potential of endangering himself again.

    Not all believers are at the same level of Christian maturity, some are still infants falling and stumbling every now and again, but some have arrived at maturity.

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  2. maturity is the theme that keeps going over and over in my spirit and it was preached in church by our Pastor this past Sunday. I live in total dependence on Jesus. I had just gotten hired 9 weeks ago at walmart and the job was a total answer to prayer. Ever since my husband divorced me I have been up and down with my finances. Finally hired on , getting 40 hours a week I thought THIS area of my life had settled down. THen I got the call….ALL new hire/temporary employess at walmart were getting let go….here it is BEFORE Christmas and we’re gone….80 people lost their jobs. My first reaction was that of being dazed….I heard the manager say something about my work performance was good and there may be a possibility of getting called back but I kept feeling dazed by the fact that my answer to prayer was now lost. But after the phone call…and a bit of stumbling around the house….out of my mouth (and tears) came…The Lord gives and the Lord takes away..blessed be the name of the Lord…the Lord gives and the Lord takes away blessed be the name of the Lord…God is Sovereign…NOTHING catches Him off guard or takes Him by suprise…I found myself saying Lord…I know you love me…I am your little lamb…you are my Boaz..my husband now…please Lord…you see that I want to work..and work unto You…throw some grain in the field for me Lord that I may harvest it…..I also found myself saying..Jesus I know this is an opportunity for you to show yourself again in my life….my mighty God…I trust you…I love you….I lay down my life before you. I had witnessed to those at walmart about the Lord..I had received financial blessing…now it was all gone….would I respond like JOB? YES…..it was amazing to hear those words coming out of my mouth..but they were words of FAITH….THe Lord gives and the Lord take s away ..blessed be the Name of the Lord……satan always wants us to doubt God…get mad at God..resent Him…and ultimately walk away and reject Him….NEVER…..though He SLAY ME……I WILL STLL TRUST IN THE LORD MY GOD FOR HIS PLAN TO BE FULFILLED IN MY LIFE AND IF THAT MEANS NO JOB OR DEATH, SO BE IT.
    So I am on my way to maturity..I have not yet completely attained it…but I’m learning more and more…as I picked up my last paycheck from walmart today the main manager was there and I said if there is any way you can bring me back I would love to return. I really loved working here. He said they were working on that at the moment..they have bottom lines to meet but they want to bring some of the people back. I pray I am one they choose. It’s in the Lord’s hands..And my tithe from that last paycheck is in a CHristmas card going to the man who divorced me. Forgive him Father….he did not know what he was doing….we all need the mercy of the Lord. Amen.

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  3. Amen T.J., you are in the refining fires of our Lord. I both sorrowed with you as I read this and I rejoiced with your response. Your focus is being redirected from the temporal to the eternal and I know that that is very painful. I pray for God to sustain and keep you and provide for all of your needs. I pray for Him to continue to grow you in Christlikeness.

    This reshaping, remolding, refining stuff hurts, but it is our response to it that God uses in our maturing.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  4. Thanks Mike…I am still staying close to Jesus. This world is imploding on many levels and the only way we will keep our sanity is to walk by the Spirit, have our minds renewed and stay in the meat of His Word. God’s promises are the foundation of our lives. Out of the refiner’s fire comes pure gold. May our lives reflect the glory of the Lord . Golden glory..Shekinah glory..may it rest upon our countenance. Amen . Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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