33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
What does it mean to you to know that Christ said “I have overcome the world”?
To me it means that nothing can take away my hope, and nothing can take away my peace. It means that although my circumstances change constantly, nothing can ever separate me from Him. As much as I would like to think my sin and evil nature distances me from God, it is a horrible illusion, and I must constantly remind myself that He is as close to me as He was from the very foundation of the world.
It has never been about my relationship to Him, but rather His relationship to me! It has always been about Him reaching me. As I am writing this now, I realize that holding on to and understanding what I just said is so difficult. Sometimes, I focus so much on my own faults and failures that I start to turn my focus from Him. Once I turn from Him, it seems like I am separating myself from His glory, but I have to realize that it is only turning. I am not moving away from Him, but I am only turning! He is as close to me as He was before, but since my eyes are off of Him, I start to notice the evil around me a lot more. Then, that evil entices me and causes me to think that I am away from God.
3 Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Return to Me,” declares the Lord of hosts, “that I may return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 1:3
I need to tell myself to just turn back! I am not far from Him. Turn and He will be there waiting.
A couple weeks ago, we had the opportunity to do an outreach at a festival in Houston. We prepared bags filled with tracks, pamphlets, and the Gospel of John to hand out, and while we were handing these bags out to anyone and everyone, we occasionally came across people that wanted to talk to us a little bit more about what they believe in and who we believe in. We were all challenged by the varied beliefs and perspectives of the passerby’s, and we hope the Lord spoke through us and challenged them as well. One guy in particular came by the booth several times with his friends, and I had the opportunity to talk with him. He told me that he didn’t believe in anything, but if someone could convince him to believe in something, he was ready to listen.
I was so excited to get to talk to him about who I believe in, and I knew right off the bat that it wasn’t my duty to try and convince him or prove anything! I knew that the Lord has already proven Himself for eternity, and it was my job to only be a vessel of His truth. So I began talking to this guy about who Jesus Christ is. As I was trying to describe my faith to him, the idea that every religion is trying to “get to god” arose. This idea led us both to the question what it means to “get to god”, which eventually led us to understand that getting to god was simply having a relationship with an almighty, holy being.
As the conversation commenced, it quickly culminated in the perfect opportunity to express to him that all religions attempt to get to god, but my faith is firm because God, Himself, came towards me. The series of questions and revelations led him to recognize the plight of having a relationship with God. I could see in his eyes that he understood exactly what everyone in this world wanted. I could see that he maybe wanted the same thing, and it felt like he knew that having this relationship with God was a deep desire in the heart of all mankind.
We continued to talk until our exchange led to a simple question that, to me, had a wonderful answer. Eventually, he acknowledged that plight and the desire of all mankind was true, and he asked me in all sincerity “So, how do you get to God?”. I was floored! His eyes and mind and heart seemed to be wide open to receive the gospel, and I had never seen God working in an unbeliever so clearly before. The Spirit within me stirred up to reveal to him that “Brother, you do not have to get to God…He already came down to you! He stripped Himself of all glory and power in order to be the Way that everyone is so desperately searching for.” But guess what happened! His friends jumped into the conversation and the opportunity was lost.
I remember looking at him for a moment while his friends talked to me about all their beliefs. I vividly remember the look on his face as if silently exclaiming that “The conversation was not over!”, but neither of us said anything! After that experience, I felt bad that I could not finish the conversation with him, and I felt even worse that I didn’t have any way of following up with him because I didn’t ask for his contact info. All I had was a first name that I wrote down in order to pray for him.
The funny thing is that it took me weeks to realize I was ignoring the very truth that the Lord stirred up in me as I talked to that guy. It didn’t matter that I was unable to finish the conversation with him because the Lord, Himself, is pursuing that guy. The Lord is chasing him just as He chased me! The Lord is so close to him, and when he realizes it, he is going to be blown away by the immense Love and Power and Grace that is Jesus Christ.
It doesn’t matter how far I think that I am from the Lord because I know that I only have to turn around and refocus to be filled with His glory again. The world tells me that I could never be loved by God, but “take courage” because He has overcome the world.
10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10