In the first 4 installments of this series we looked at 4 Stages of Identity as I see them. For this last part of the series, I would like to go over some of the strategy to Overcome whatever the chains/wounds are or have been in your life.
The Four Stages of Identity
How to Overcome
So maybe you are sitting there now looking at your spiritual bandages or the bars of your cell as a POW and you are wondering how all of this stuff about becoming an Overcomer works. Maybe you are thinking that all sounds great, but I have tried it before again and again, everything just gets worse. I have spent plenty of time in the spiritual POW camp. Even after being set free from the POW encampment of alcoholism, I spent more time wandering around as one of the Walking Wounded. The spiritual life is a battleground, make no mistake, but thankfully God sends the help we need, when we need and it, and are ready to ask for it.
In my case, He sent an Overcomer; a man who had walked through the same POW camp of addiction that I was in. He knew the weight of the chains and the hollow sound of dead religion that leads to despair. Then he showed his scars, he spoke of the pain involved in healing, and the better life that comes afterwards. He shared even the ugly parts of his story, and then showed me that I had had the key out of the POW camp the whole time. He introduced me to other Overcomers, and then took up position next to me walking with and guarding my blindside while healing began.
So what are the ways to walk out of the POW camp, to be found back in action instead of MIA, and how do you go from Walking Wounded to healing to overcoming? The first step I believe is an honest evaluation of what is going on in your spiritual life. Here you need to confess any sin that you are aware of and tell God that you are ready to begin the work of spiritual cleansing and ask Him to search your heart.
Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Then it is time to get some reinforcements. This is the first difficult decision, this is where you have to decide to put pride aside and be willing to admit that going it alone isn’t working.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
You need to get a brother/sister in Christ involved, preferably one that has experience overcoming whatever your issue may be. If you do not know someone that has faced the same thing, then pick someone that you know has overcome something. Remember, all the links of the chain that Satan uses to try to destroy us might have different names, but they are still part of the same chain. The Biblical spiritual principles will stay the same no matter which version of the adversary you are facing.
You need to dig into the Word. I know that this may feel difficult, but it is where the answers and hope are. This might not be the best time to start digging into Old Testament prophecy, but the important thing is spending time with God. The Psalms are one of the best places to go when dealing with healing. It seems like every time I turn to the Psalms there is one there that speaks directly to where I am at the time. After getting sober, the range of emotions experienced was huge. In my case I felt so much guilt and shame that I felt unqualified to even dare to pray, believing that God had no interest in anything I had to say to Him.
I followed the suggestion given to me by an Overcomer to dig into the Psalms. Psalm 6 is one of the “Penitential” Psalms and became one that I turned to multiple times a day when the enemy would start a fresh assault.
Psalm 6:8-9 “Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.”
I memorized verse 9, and it became one of the verses God used to bring healing to my self-inflicted wounds.
To overcome you need to be willing to make hard choices and stick to them; choices such as being thankful even when you don’t feel like it. The Bible places a lot of emphasis on being thankful. Psalm 107 has been featured through this discussion and the phrase “let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love” appears 5 times in this one Psalm alone. A thankful heart reorganizes your priorities and view on life, and by being thankful you are consciously acknowledging that God is on the throne and in the moment of offering thanks, you know without doubt that you are in His will for that moment.
Romans 1:21 “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Romans 1:28-31 “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”
We see in Romans that the opposite of Thankful is Prison. So give thanks to God even when it hurts, this is one of the big steps on the path to Overcoming.
Revelation 12:10-11 “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”
The next two big steps in Overcoming are found here in Revelation, “by the blood of the Lamb” and “by the word of their testimony.”
The Overcomer understands what the blood of the Lamb means. It means that the sin in their life required a blood atonement for they had fallen short of God’s righteous standard. It means that they could in no way pay for their own sin to God’s satisfaction. When Jesus came and suffered, bled, and died as our substitute, He did so with no sin of His own to atone for. When a person accepts Jesus as Savior and Lord of their life, their whole Identity changes. It changes from an enemy of God, prisoner of sin, to being an adopted Son of God. God declares all who believe in Jesus to be co-heirs with Christ. We looked earlier at Identity as the “the distinguishing character or personality of an individual.” Now let’s look at the other definition of Identity we mentioned in Part 1: “sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing.”
Sameness, co-heirs, a new creation. These are all ways of trying to put into words what has happened for the Christian. Jesus is their new Identity. Not that they are Jesus, but that they are in Jesus. Their sin has been wiped out and removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103), and in its place God has put the righteousness of Jesus. Our new identity is “sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing.” In this case the objective reality is what God said about Jesus, for this is the sameness His blood moves us into.
Matthew 3:16-17 “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”
Of course you will notice that immediately following this was the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. All of which were basically an attack on the Identity of Jesus. Satan was in essence saying, “So you are the Son of God. Prove it!” Jesus responded with what scripture says in every case, thus providing a practical example of the value in knowing what God says about you. You don’t need to prove it, just believe what the Word says.
The other big step mention in Revelation is “by the word of their testimony”. Testimony is the account of what God has done. It is frequently used in legal settings (ex. “The testimony of the witness was harmful to the prosecution’s case.”) but also is frequently used to describe religious or spiritual changes. Our testimony is powerful because it points to the glory of God. It points to the cross, the ultimate depiction of God’s righteousness meeting God’s love. Remember in my story, it was the testimony of an Overcomer that helped show me the way out of the POW camp. That is what the memorial stones in the Old Testament were all about. It was to tell others, to tell the next generation all the wonderful things that God has done.
Part of the power in this telling of what God has done, is that by doing so, we take one of the weapons of the enemy away from him. Satan loves to use guilt and shame from our past and our failings to repeatedly bludgeon us. This leaves a wound open. However, if we through the power of Christ have let God’s healing and transformation into our lives; when we share our testimony we strip the enemy of some of his threats. We will no longer care if people find out what we were, because we can point to God and declare the wonderful things He has done! No longer in the dark night can Satan whisper, “They will find out you were an alcoholic and then…” or “They will find out that you did…” or “They will think … about you if they knew”. You will no longer care because that is no longer your identity.
One final thing that the sharing of our testimony does, is strengthen those in need. When you share your testimony you are lifting your shield of faith and holding it like a shield wall over the wounded, staggering, struggling Christian. Or if you are talking with someone who is still a prisoner apart from Jesus, your shield of faith can help give the prisoner hope and hope can bring willingness to change, the change in that case being a change from a prisoner to a child of God.
So if you want to Overcome, do the hard things, be thankful, believe God, draw near to Him, then share your testimony.
I will recommend here that if you want to dig into the journey of Overcoming more, that you check out Brennan Manning’s book “The Ragamuffin Gospel”. His books have all helped me on my journey, and this is a great one of his to start on.