Signs and Wonders of a Different Kind
There's a verse in Revelation that gets quoted a lot in certain Christian circles. It goes like this:
"They overcame him [the devil, who is called, "the accuser of the brethren" here] by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony..."
I've heard it quoted often and it's generally used as a victory/battle cry kind of a thing. That's great. It's even true.
What really struck me a few years ago, however, was the second half of that particular verse, that usually is omitted, which adds:
"...and they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."
Upon further reading I realized that the "overcomers" were dead, y'all. Wait a minute. The ones who overcame were killed. So, how did they overcome then? It really caused me to stop and think about my definition of what it means to overcome difficulties.
Many times we say someone overcame a situation when they came out victorious, according to our definition of victory. A person is wrongly accused of something and found innocent. Another person gets a cancer diagnosis and is either miraculously healed or cured through medicine. Nadal comes back from a serious injury to win the US Open. That is a big deal. All these people did, indeed, overcome.
But there's an overcoming of a different kind, and it's the kind Scripture is teaching us about here, and the kind it teaches us about most often, I believe. Jesus guaranteed us that we would have trouble in this world, but He said, "Fear not, for I have overcome the world."
He has already overcome the world by living a sinless life, laying that life down sacrificially and then picking it back up, making a spectacle of the accuser of the brethren. That's why Revelation says they overcame by the blood of the lamb. That was His part of the equation.
He does His part, but we still have our part to do. There are things under our control and for those we are responsible. Our part is to maintain our testimony that God is good, that we trust Him, that we love Him, that we belong to Him, to the point of death if necessary. Our part is to never give up and never turn our backs on the One who didn't turn His back on us.
I'm telling you it is a sign and a wonder when a follower of Christ stands firm under tribulation and trouble. When Chinese believers risk death to meet together because they have fallen so in love with God. When a former Muslim is tortured and burned and will not disown Jesus. That is overcoming.
Those are the more obvious examples, but I'd take it even further. I think that any time we continue to choose to persevere we overcome. Again, Jesus has done His part, but we must do ours.
Miraculous healings and divine interventions are signs and wonders. But I believe there are signs and wonders (so to speak) of a different kind, as well.
It is a sign and a wonder when a wife stays with a husband who has been unfaithful. Or when a couple keeps plowing through a difficult* marriage, because both sets of people believe God is trustworthy to meet all their needs. They are overcoming.
It is a sign and a wonder when a parent loses a child and still worships the Lord. It doesn't mean they don't ask questions and grieve, but the one that keeps saying, "nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day," is overcoming.
It is a sign and a wonder when you find yourself in confusing circumstances -when you've obeyed God and things are genuinely hard - and you keep following, obeying and trusting.
It is a sign and a wonder when a woman gets a cancer diagnosis that's not optimistic, and she never loses her faith. When she lifts her weak, feeble, hands in worship in a hospital bed, with tubes coming out from everywhere, she is holding fast to her testimony that God is good. And she makes a spectacle of the enemy of her soul who tries to bring discouragement and feelings of abandonment. She is overcoming cancer.
When we choose to press on, to never give up, to never turn our backs on God, who didn't turn His back on us, we are overcomers. Whatever that looks like. We all have things to overcome and situations along the way that challenge our faith and endurance.
But we must endure, we must never give up. The day will come that it will all seem like light and momentary suffering, as Paul said, though now it may seem like endless misery. Just know that He sees and He honors those who continue to trust Him and who accept that His ways are good.
Believer in Christ, it is in you to be an overcomer. You win.
*Notice I didn't say abusive, but, rather, difficult. Just to clarify.