What does it mean to overcome the world?

With love from Prague

“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” -1 John 5:5

 What does it mean to overcome the world? Do I need to?

Yes… because “the world” is full of trials, and hardships, and pain. Nothing is as easy as we want it to be. In every aspect of life, there are burdens/barriers that prevent us from enjoying carefree what our heart desires. With every blessing, comes more responsibility, more potential to lose…

Does this frustrate you?

I know that there have been times that the hardships of life have made me feel anxious, angry, and frustrated. In these moments, we are trying to overcome the world in our own power.

If you accept Jesus as Lord and agree that He died for your sins and is the Savior of the world, this does not mean life gets easier. It actually tends to mean that life gets harder, more complicated, more complex. You see with new eyes needs you never noticed before – or simply didn’t care about before or didn’t realize there is something you could do about the homeless man on the corner, your friend’s struggle, or your own sin… and in fact, God may have wanted you to do something about it all along. But instead of believing that Jesus is the Son of God and what is impossible to man is possible with God… maybe we’ve gotten fixated on our

Circumstances.

Babies.

One of the greatest blessings in the world. My friends have lots of them – I love them. But, these blessings come with a cost. They cost time, energy, emotions, diaper changes, interpreting baby speak, worry, love, and a lot of your life.

Trials…

So if adorable bundles of joy, the miracle of creation, can’t come into our life without a cost – what are we supposed to do? How do we handle the trials in life…like the ones that are excruciatingly painful or simply annoying?

For example, sending out a letter seems to be way more complex than it needs to be. Each month, I send an update letter out about my ministry. I love doing this, but there is always some sort of hiccup… and I end up spending two hours at FedEx on something that should have, in theory, taken 10 minutes. There’s always a typo I missed, a printer who’s ink is weird, the paper ran out, my labels got just a little off and now the names are skewed, or I forgot to upload a file I needed. You name it – the joy of writing about my ministry is always tied to some sort of trial. It’s a small one, but frustrating for that exact reason. It’s not life or death, it’s just annoying.

Loneliness.

One of the greatest desires in life is companionship- and one of the most painful circumstances is loneliness.

Jessica Olien of Slate.com writes, “Loneliness has doubled: 40 percent of adults in two recent surveys said they were lonely, up from 20 percent in the 1980s.”

When it comes to teens, according to a survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “U.S. students rank among the highest for those who are not feeling happy,” and “About one of five U.S. girls often feels lonely.”

But what about our ability to stay connected to others 24/7 via social media? Doesn’t that help?

Olien states, “All of our Internet interactions aren’t helping and may be making loneliness worse. A recent study of Facebook users found that the amount of time you spend on the social network is inversely related to how happy you feel throughout the day.”

The consequences of loneliness are severe. According to the New York Times,  “Over the last decade, the United States has become a less violent country in every way save one. As Americans commit fewer and fewer crimes against other people’s lives and property, they have become more likely to inflict fatal violence on themselves.”

The NY Times goes on to say, “As the University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox pointed out recently, there’s a strong link between suicide and weakened social ties: people — and especially men — become more likely to kill themselves ‘when they get disconnected from society’s core institutions (e.g., marriage, religion) or when their economic prospects take a dive (e.g., unemployment).’”

So what’s the answer? What do we do when our circumstances – whether big, small, frustrating, or even things that are good – seem to be weighing on us?

Jesus says, “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.” –John 16:33

I don’t mean to oversimplify complex issues, but maybe it is as simple as letting go of our life to save it, as simple as faith rather than fear. In this life we will definitely have trouble. But, God wants to use each circumstance for His glory and an opportunity to become more like Him.

Saint Basil said, “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

Start small: Are you stuck in the slowest line at the grocery store? Pray. Pray for the clerk and the other people in line. Strike up a small conversation with someone next to you. Are you stuck in traffic? Pray. Pray for those you said you would pray for…but maybe forget to sometimes. Don’t waste the time and space God has given you. Are you lonely? Talk to God. Ask God who else may be feeling lonely too- and then take action. Reach out to them. Let God use you.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” –Philippians 4:8

In my experience, it is when I am focused on my circumstances that I am frustrated, lonely, bitter, hopeless and full of despair. The mountain in front of me seems big, and I have lost sight of Jesus… maybe I’ve taken steps back from Him without even realizing it… and from the distance I’ve allowed to come between us, He seems small.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” –James 4:8

The good news: We’re never too far and because of His incredible grace, He will rejoice when we admit that we are wrong for trying to live life in our own strength when we were created for a relationship with Him.

“In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” -1 John 5:3-5