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"To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Rev 3:21 KJV).
In the 1960’s, the song "We Shall Overcome" emerged as a very powerful anthem of the Civil Rights Movement and was particularly associated with the peaceful boycotts, sit-in’s and marches organised under the charismatic and inspirational leadership of Dr Martin Luther-King, Jr.
The confident hope that victory will eventually come, is beaten out in the well know refrain: “deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday.”
When an oppressed people find themselves compelled to stand in the face of prejudice, discrimination and persecution, the goal of realising true justice and equality can often appear nothing more than an allusive dream, as the same injustices continue to re-emerge generation after generation.
When Jesus told his apostles: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves…” (Matt 10:16), how did the great shepherd ever expect his chosen lambs to ever stand against the wolverine hordes into whose fiercely guarded territories he was directing them? Were they, like the romancer Don Quixote, merely to “dream the impossible dream” and prepare to “fight the unbeatable foe”? Were they to proceed in their own strength and seek to overcome all adversity by their own dubious efforts?
Surprisingly, after speaking of the persecution and tribulation which his disciples must inevitably face, Jesus adds the following assurances. “I have told you these things,” he says, “that you may have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
This last statement from Jesus provides the basis for our confidence, as we strive to live peaceable lives in an increasingly rebellious, hostile and merciless world. We rejoice not only in a victory won, by our Saviour and Lord, but in a victory shared, as we participate in that victory through our faith in the Son of God. It is through our faith in Christ that we assist in the overthrow of evil, the pulling down of every stronghold (2 Cor 10:4). In this way, we are overcomers with Him, as the apostle John explains: “and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith?” (1 John 5:4-5 NKJV).
It is by faith that Jesus’ victory becomes our victory too and, when that faith is given expression through witness, then the heart breaks into song: “we shall overcame, we shall overcome…” and we have overcome, not just “someday” but even now: for by the blood of the Lamb is the accuser cast down and by the word of our testimony is the prince of this world routed (John 12:31; Revelation 12:10-11).
by Richard Dempsey
Cambridgeshire, England - firstname.lastname@example.org
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