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Overcoming the World

December 19th, 2013

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

Almost any exegesis of John 16 is inadequate. The depth of the words is eternal, so there is no possibility of getting to the bottom, of digging out all of the truth that is there. All of eternity will not be long enough and every page of every book in the world would not be large enough to express their fullest meaning.

But He ends this passage, of John 14-16 the same way He began it, by encouraging us to not be afraid, to take heart. The Greek word here, tharseo, means to be of good cheer, bold, unafraid. All the things that happen when we are overwhelmed by fear – worried, fixated on the threat, paralyzed in action, panicky, insecure – these are not be our experience in life. Rather we are in Him to rise above them, to be confident, at peace, bold in our thoughts and actions because of Him. Since these two similar thoughts bracket the teachings of John 14-16 we should understand that this is their intended purpose in our lives.

His peace we have in the midst of the world’s tribulation. Earlier the Greek word thlipsis or “tribulation” was used for a woman’s birth pains (John 16:21), and Christ taught that the more problems we have on earth the closer we are to His return (Matthew 24:8). We may say the same about our individual lives – that the more problems we have the more we should be assured of our eternal home with Him.

We can see in this a foreshadowing of our own death. The day will come to each of us when our body will give up its fight, and some will have have a quick, sudden death, and others will have a gradual slow decline. But as physical problems mount, as pain just to get through the day increases, our peace should also increase, knowing that Christ has overcome the world.

The word “overcome” speaks of prevailing in battle, or winning a case in court, or besting an opponent on a playing field. The testimony of Scripture is that Christ shall win over everything and everyone that opposes Him – death, sin, demons, the devil. And that in Him we also are more than conquerors through His love (Rom 8:37) – we shall overcome with Him, “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son” (Rev 21:7).

These words are intended to make you and me bold in our lives – not timid and cowed by our fear, but confident, with a profound inner peace, assured that our inheritance will never be taken away from us. Regardless of what happens “out there” in the world, we have a miraculous thing that is happening “in here” in our hearts. Be at peace, be confident, be bold, be joyful, be assured. Christ has already overcome the world and He now waits in heaven only so that more will believe in Him (2 Peter 3:9).

John 14-17 , ,