A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find another day here.
Wednesday June 10, 2020
1 John 5:4-5
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
The opening line from Andrew Peterson’s hauntingly beautiful song “Is He Worthy?” asks the rhetorical question, “Do you feel the world is broken?” with a chorus of voices echoing back the chilling liturgical response “We do.” Written as a reminder to Christians that this world is not and cannot be all that we long for it to be, this song, really just this line, has been sort of on an endless repeat loop in my head for the last several months. Lately, the weight of the brokenness of the world has been weighing on me like a heavy elephant sitting on my chest. Every new day seems to reinforce, in depressingly novel ways, the fact that I am a fallen creature living in a fallen world. In this time I have been forced to confront my own personal inadequacies as a father, a husband, a Christian leader, a neighbor, and a friend, as well as witness seemingly all of creation descend to new levels of chaos, frustration, and despair. Yet, when we read the Bible, and we consider the history of the people of God, we can find comfort in recalling that, in a very real sense, this is the way things have always been. In fact, we could even argue that the things we are experiencing now, those feelings of anger and anxiety and anguish, could actually be viewed as gifts from God to help awaken us from our slumber and open our eyes to the realities of this world.
The first century church audience that received John’s letter needed no such reminders of the fractured state of the world. Afforded no political protection or any sort of equal status under the law, early Christians encountered opposition and persecution no matter where they turned. Among other difficulties, they dealt with pressures to participate in pagan cult worship, rejection from family and friends, threats against their homes and businesses, and even false accusations of attempting to overthrow the empire. To many of the first followers of Jesus, and still to many throughout the world today, becoming a Christian was incredibly costly. To profess the name of Jesus meant literally abandoning the only way of life they had ever known, and in many cases it cost them their lives. To these believers, and still to us, the promise of this passage is like an oasis in the midst of a barren desert.
The hope of this promise is not just for naive ancient people long ago in a land far away. Forty years ago, on January 5, 1980, in a sleepy village in northeastern Ohio, a man and his young son went out into the woods to go hunting. In a most horrific and unimaginable accident, the boy shot and killed the father he so dearly loved. John Inman did not live to see his 40th birthday and he left behind a grieving wife along with a son and daughter who would be forced to navigate the world without their husband and father. But John was not just a husband and father, he was a devout and firm believer in Jesus. He and his wife kept a list of family and friends who did not yet know Jesus and they prayed for them regularly. At John’s funeral, the preacher boldly proclaimed the gospel of Jesus and many of the people on John’s list, those he had spent years praying for, including his own parents and his very best friends, came to faith. Forever engraved on his headstone are the words, “Victory in Jesus.” That grieving widow, my wife’s grandmother, often shares that even though she misses her husband fiercely every single day, that even in the midst of her unspeakable pain and sorrow, God was working for good; the victory belongs to Jesus.
Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. To be a Christian is to be an overcomer. Christians have been guaranteed victory over this world because of, not in spite of, their faith in Jesus. Now, you may be asking, how can this be? Didn’t we just establish that Christians, from the very beginning, have experienced pain and persecution? Absolutely, and the truth is that no one has suffered more pain or experienced as thoroughly humiliating a defeat as the object of that faith, Jesus, did on the cross. At the cross He encountered ultimate injustice. A truly innocent man, such as has never before been nor ever will be again, succumbed to an excruciating and gratuitous death. And yet, in this apparent defeat, with His dying breath, He proclaimed and secured the ultimate victory not only for Himself, but on behalf of all who would call upon His name.
The Bible tells us that victory over the world is not accomplished through anything other than faith in Jesus Christ. Who is it that overcomes the world? Not the one who trusts in profits or power or politics. The one who overcomes is the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Because He rose again, because death could not hold Him, we can know with certainty that His sacrifice is sufficient to cover our sins, and He can work even the most hopeless situation for His glory.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we thank You that You are victorious over life and death and all that there is. Forgive us for the times we succumb to our fears and forget who You are and what You have done for us. Show us the futility of placing our faith in anything other than You. Allow us to be Your messengers of hope to our world that so desperately needs it. We ask this in Your victorious name. Amen.