The Training of the Overcomer
II. Being faithful is doing your best
Today, many brothers and sisters frequently feel that to be an overcomer and enter into the Kingdom is extremely difficult. It is because the Scriptures say: “Not every one who says to me ‘Lord, lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21) They fear that they will not be able to have this enjoyment. God has always wanted us to regard ourselves with esteem but Satan always wants us to belittle ourselves! On one occasion, I preached on the subject of the Kingdom. Afterwards, several elderly sisters talked to my wife and they said, “Oh, Mrs. Lin, pastor preached such a good sermon. But how can we become overcomers and reign with Christ? We often thought that if Jesus wants us to street sweepers in heaven, we would be very content ... “ I asked my wife to tell these sisters, “God does not want you to sweep the streets because there is no rubbish or dust in heaven. Even if they were there, the angels would do a better job. He wants you to sit on the throne!” (Rev. 3:21) We are God’s children and God wants us to reign with Him. That is why God saved us. So, believing in Jesus and be saved is a type of process means, a kind of procedure and it is not a goal. But so many people today treat it as a goal. It is tragic! When we register to go to school, it is a kind of procedure. If someone assumes that registration is the same as graduation, then he is mistaken! May God help us not to belittle ourselves, cheat ourselves and fall into our own trap!”
A. Need of the kingdom.
Then, why did the Lord save us? Please listen to what the Lord said, “A certain nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself and then return. And he called ten of his slaves and gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back’” (Luke 19:12-13) Our Lord is a nobleman. Why did he go to a distant country? He went to receive a kingdom. (Refer to Dan. 7:13-14) He promised that He would return. We don’t know when will He return. But He will definitely return. He must return because He is faithful. He summoned His ten servants and gave them ten minas. He also told them, “You fellows go and have a cup coffee, watch some movies and enjoy yourselves. When I return, you will all be fat and sassy.” Did He say that? No, He didn’t. He said, “Go do business until I return.” God saved us. And that is the same as giving us capital. What is the purpose of giving us capital? Is He greedy and wants us to make a lot of money for Him? No. He wants us to do business and through that, train our goodness and faithfulness. In the gospel of Matthew, 25:28, He said, “Therefore, take away the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents.” He gave the servant’s capital to the other servant. The Master did not want money. He gave capital to the servants in order that through the capital, they can do business to train them. Those servants do not have any money and if it was not for the generosity of the master, they could not even do business! This is also why the Lord saved us, why He gave us a new heart and a new spirit. This is why He not only wanted us to resurrect with Him together but also sit together with Him in heaven. (Eph. 2:6) Why is it that He wants us not only to be His children, and also to have authority to be the children of God? He gave us capital with in order that we train ourselves. Here is a very important truth. Readers please pay attention! When we serve God in church, have we ever thought about why He wanted us to serve? Is it for the extension of His work? Certainly it is. God wants His work to develop. But the most important thing is not the work but we. He uses work to train us so that we can be a worthy vessel. In the future, work is not needed in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom needs you and me- kingdom personnel -overcomers. Thank the Lord!
B. Character training.
A grand and splendid sanctuary has no part in the Kingdom. Church organization, activities, and plans also have no place in the kingdom. What the kingdom needs is we! So, we need to have wisdom. Do not for the sake of work forget to train ourselves. Matthew 7:21 clearly tells us that the Lords said, “Not every one who says to me ‘Lord, lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven.” But someone said to Him, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your name and in Your name cast out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?” Jesus will clearly tell them, “I never knew you, depart from Me you who practice lawlessness.” The word ‘know’ is seen in the New Testament two hundred twenty-three times. It is translated into nineteen different Chinese terms. The phrase here ‘I never knew you’ should have the meaning: ‘I never approve of you’. Yes, you preached and cast out demons. For the sake of the poor lost souls and also for My Own name’s sake, I allowed you to cast out demons. I allowed you to preach so that the unbelievers can believe. But you thought all these were due to your own knowledge, abilities, and piety. You are proud and think you are really something. You use piety as the way to gain fame and fortune. You have thrown the Lord who gives grace into the wild blue yonder! You are lawless. I do not approve of your work! You ‘lawless ones’, depart from Me! Here it clearly tells us that their work is very good but they did not know that work is intended to train their spiritual character! They work is very good but they have no character. The Kingdom of the Lord has no use for them! Then, how should we train our character? Please see Matthew 25:21. The master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Your were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.” Here it tells us what the master required. Two very simple things: ‘good and faithful’. The Lord gave capital to the servants to do business with no other purpose than to train them to become good and faithful people. The two ‘must have’ for overcomers are briefly mentioned below for the mutual encouragement with the readers.
1. Must be faithful.
‘Faithful’ can be said to be the first lesson that overcomes receive in their training. God saved us not only to forgive us our sins but also in trusting Him, in the things that we depend on the laws of Moses that can never satisfy God, we are able, on our own to initiate or in other words very willingly ourselves do them. This is what the Scriptures said: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1) The term ‘condemnation’ has the meaning of being ‘restrained’. Thank God, for those who believe in Him, they all can freely accomplish what God demands. They are no longer ‘restrained’ by sin. It is because that we are not only the children of God but we also have ‘authority’ to enjoy the freedom of God’s children. (John 1:12; 8:36) Praise the Lord! The word ‘faithful’ is seen in the New Testament sixty-six times. The Pastoral Epistles (First & Second Timothy and Titus) contains seventeen of them. So, one can see how important it is to be ‘faithful’ in serving in the church! In the Old Testament, the reason Moses can have God ‘speak mouth to mouth’ with him (Num. 12:8) and also behold the form of the Lord are due to ‘his faithfulness in all My household’. (Num. 12:7) The reason Samuel can be the founder of Israel and hold three offices as priest, prophet and king (even though Saul was made king later on, he is still the king’s king) is due to his faithfulness. (I Sam. 2:35) The reason Paul can be the apostle to the Gentiles in the New Testament, sent by God and declared the name of the Lord to Gentiles, kings and Jews were all because the Lord Jesus Christ considered him to be faithful. (I Tim. 1:12) Praise the Lord!
In the four gospels, the Lord did linked up together ‘faithful’ with ‘good’. (Refer to Matt. 25:21,23 and Luke 19:17) Bible interpreters often refer ‘good’ to a person’s character and ‘faithful’ to one’s work. Actually, it is a figure of speech used in the Scriptures. It is known as two for one- Hendiadys. What it means is that, ‘good’ and ‘faithful’ are two words that express one idea. Because the word ‘good’ in Greek has the meaning of ‘best’, it explains the meaning of ‘faithful’. When the Lord was preaching at Martha’s home, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to listen to Him. Martha was very busy and since her sister didn’t help, she complained to Jesus! Jesus defended Mary by saying, “Mary has chosen the good (best) part.” (Luke 10:42) This is the same word ‘good’. No wonder once when a young ruler called Jesus “Good (Best) Teacher”, Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good (best)? No one is good (best) except God alone.” (Luke 18:19) It is true. Other than God, no one is the best! So, when the word ‘best’ is used to explain or to emphasize the word ‘faithful’, then being ‘faithful’ is doing our ‘best’. When we have exhausted our best efforts to accomplish everything, then it is faithful. Therefore, being faithful is exert our best –Do your best. This is the Lord’s requirement.
Thank God for His grace. What He requires from us is not the impossible. Rather, it is something that everyone can accomplish through faith. If we have ‘five talents’ of heavenly abilities (gift), we should do our best to make another five talents. If we have only ‘two talents’ of abilities, we should do our best to make another two talents. God will be just as satisfied! Honestly, the Lord does not want ‘five talents’ or ‘two talents’. Rather, He wants ‘you and me’ who have done their best! Even for the slave who has ‘one talent’, if he could have just made a little to show his faithfulness, (refer to verse 27) the master would not have scolded him in anger. It is unfortunate that the slave was so lazy to the point of hopelessness. He was not willing to do anything to fulfill his responsibility and became the wicked slave! All in all, the Lord wants us to do our best in everything today. This is a method of training. It is also a way of testing. Not only we serve God we are to do our best. But in all our duties and responsibilities, we must have the endurance to carry out to the bitter end! As a Christian, unless we did not promise, if we did, then we must have the spirit that it is as good as gold. Because this is what God wants us to train ourselves in. I am a wife, and then I am to do my best in loving my husband, children and family. (Titus 2:4-5) I as a husband should also be like this. I will be the best husband and even be willing to give my life for my wife. (Eph. 5:25) I am studying in school and I want to make a decision that I will thoroughly exhaust every aspect of the material I am leaning. I m working for a company and I will do my best to make it successful. I wash dishes and vacuum today, then I will wash and vacuum so that the dishes are clean and the floor is dust free. This is not just for hygienic reasons but also for training in faithfulness! Mr. Hwang Min-Dao came to know the Lord early in his life. (At that time, his family was not believers yet) Certainly, when he was home, he had to help clean house. Every time he wipes the chairs, he would not only wipe the chair back, but he would also turn the chair upside down and even wipe the bottom of the chair legs! We never do this because we think that the bottom of the legs is on the floor and no one would see it. So, it is okay to leave it dirty! Mr. Hwang, however, did not think like this. He feels that his responsibility is to wipe the chairs, then it is the whole chair. Whether you can see it or not, it does not matter. Mr. Carnegie, the steel magnate, was asked in his latter years as to the secret of his success. He said there is no secret. But when he was young, he made up his mind that when he does anything, it must be done best. He started as an apprentice in a textile factory and he was the best apprentice. Soon, people felt that that for such a talented young man to be an apprentice, it would be a waste. So, he was introduced to be a postman. The first time he delivered mail, he had a goal: never allow the possibility of losing a single letter! This was his secret to success. It is also the demand from the Lord to the overcomers. Brothers and sisters, we are to reign with Christ. May God help us so that we could do our best in training our ‘faithfulness’. May God enlighten us so that we know that to be faithful is not an impossible demand! As long as we are willing to assume the rise and fall of the Kingdom of Heaven as our own responsibility and be willing to lay our lives on the line, very naturally, we will become ‘faithful’ to the Lord. If you want to do this, please note and learn the following three things we need to be ‘faithful’ to.
a. Faithful to God’s Word.
Whoever is unfaithful to God’s word is for sure unfaithful to God and unfaithful to the church. They will not be able to have God’s presence! When God promised that He would be with Joshua and cause his way to prosper and have success, He also told him the conditions required. It is first of all: “The book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” (Josh. 1:8) We all know that a person’s behavior, action, living, et cetra all originate from the heart. It is just as the Scriptures say, “For from the heart flow the spring of life.” (Prov. 4:23) If we reflect on God’s word over and over again in our heart, it will have an effect in our lives. If we meditate God’s word in a carefully and consistently, it will be lived out in our lives naturally. At the same time, before we meditate upon God’s word, our faith in His word must be firm and doubtless with absolute trust. Otherwise, the meditation will be of no effect! Unfortunately, the current situation is just as the Scriptures tell us: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrines; but wanting to have their ears tickled ... and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” (II Tim. 4:3-4) To be an overcomer in these last days, we should not only guard securely God’s word, the wonderful truth and the faith and love granted to us Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit (II Tim 1:13-14), but more so, we ought to “fight the good fight of faith.” (I Tim 6:12) Or in other words, “Contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3) This word ‘contend’ has the same root as ‘strive’ (Luke 13:24), ‘fighting’ (John 18:36) and ‘compete’ (I Cor. 9:25) in the original. But ‘contend’ has a prefix which gives emphasis. So, the meaning should be ‘to fight at all cost’. In the end times, the overcomer should guard securely the word of the Lord and fight at all cost for the truth. Then he will not be ashamedly called a faithful person of the Kingdom.
b. Faithful to God’s Family.
God’s family is the church of the living God. (I Tim. 3:15) God purchased it with His own blood. (Acts 20:28) Truth is its pillar and support. (I Tim 3:15: ‘pillar’ and ‘support’ are not two separate things but a grammatical usage of ‘two for one’. It refers to the pillar shaped support.) So God’s truth should be the standard for all worship, service, administration and behavior. Unfortunately, in the end times is just like the Laodecia church. Everything is according to human standards. The name ‘Laodecia’ is a combination of two Greek words. The first part is ‘λαοσ’ which in the original means ‘people’. The second part is ‘δικαιω’ means ‘habit’, ‘custom’, ‘rights’, ‘disposition’, ‘demand’ et cetra. So, Laodecia simply means ‘democracy’. In these latter days, it is the time when everything is ‘democratic’. The church, however, cannot be democratic! Since it cannot be democratic, should it be autocratic? Certainly not! The church is to be theocratic where God is the Lord. It is not the pastor, the elder or the deacon who lords over the church. So, the overcomer must be “faithful to Him who appointed him” (Heb. 3:2) and “be on guard for oneself and for all the flock.” (Acts 20:28) Only then can we receive the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32) As for those who are unfaithful to the church, not only they have denied their Lord; they have also caused great loss to the church and the name of the Lord! In today’s church, it is true that there are quite a few brothers and sisters who are unfaithful to the church. They do not regard the church as their personal responsibility. Consequently, it is a main reason for the serious problems at church. On the other hand, there are also those chosen brothers and sisters who are willing to take the church as their own home. Some of them even desire the church to be even better than their home! Those churches would certainly prosper and bear fruit. Some would bear thirty, sixty and a hundred fold fruit.
c. Faithful in very little thing.
When the Lord spoke on the two parables of the ‘Unrighteous Steward’ and ‘Master giving minas to the slaves’; He said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.” (Luke 16:10) He said again, “You have been faithful in a very little thing, be in authority over ten cities.” (Luke 19:17) Therefore, the Lord especially emphasize faithfulness ‘in very little thing’ (Matt. 25:21) and ‘few things’. People have a common problem. We are greedy over a lot of things and ignore very little things. People also like to take short cuts. We are faithful in big things and could not care less on little things. There was a company that advertised a single opening and the personnel director was interviewing the candidates. Most of the candidates were well dressed and were in line for the oral interview. In the end, a rather commonly dressed young man got the job. The reason being that in the middle of the alley way where the candidates were in line, there was a small piece of brick in the way. Most of the people in line saw it but just ignored it. Some even kicked it. But this young man leaned over, picked it up and put it on the side of the alley. The personnel director saw it and he was chosen for the job. A person’s character is usually not seen in big things but in small things. When it is big, it is easy to pretend. Over little things, one’s nature acts out. If one cannot take care of a single room, how can he rule a kingdom? So, overcomers should be those who are faithful over big things and also just as faithful over little things. Overcomers should also know about human weaknesses. Never ‘ignore good things because it is little!’ The reason being that the Lord said, “whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.” (Matt. 10:42) Also, never ‘do bad things because it is little!’ The reason being that the Scriptures says, “Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor.” (Eccl. 10:1) May we think through and consider this.
2. Must be sensible.
Just being faithful but not sensible can possibly be foolish faithfulness. It many instances, such faithfulness is insufficient to do even remedial work! It is inadequate to complete the work but more than adequate to mess it up several times. “The foolishness of man subverts his ways.” (Prov. 19:3a) In fact, the demise of Israel can also be traced to this. (Hosea 4:6) Therefore, in order to be an overcomer, he needs to be faithful as well as sensible. The word ‘sensible’ in the New Testament is originally an adjective. It was used in the New Testament a total of fourteen times. It is translated as ‘wise’ on five occasions, ‘shrewd’ twice, ‘sensible’ twice and ‘prudent’ five times. These different translations tell us that the overcomer should be a wise person and knows how to build his house upon the rock. So when the rain descended, the flood came and the wind blew and burst against that house, it did not fall. (Refer to Matt. 7:24-25) Even though he is as innocent as a dove, he should be as shrewd as a serpent (Matt. 10:16) in order not to be taken advantage of. He must have objective observation power to know the time and capacity of others in their spiritual journey. Then he can give them the proper amount of spiritual food at the proper time. (Matt. 24:45) Even more, he should be like the prudent virgin waiting for the arrival of the groom. He has not only the lamp but also knows to prepare take extra oil with him. Then when the groom arrives, he would be shut out (Matt. 25:10) – be left behind at rapture! (Matt. 24:40-41) But all this wisdom and sensibility have to be in Christ. Also, he must not to be wise in his own estimation. (I Cor. 4:10 & Rom. 12:16) Here, some might say, “ What am I going to do, I have no wisdom or sensibility!” Please hear what the Scriptures say: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) The Arabs have this following proverb:
“Not sensible and unwilling to learn
is a foolish man, stay far away from him.
Not sensible but willing to learn
is a simple man, need to teach him.
Sensible but unwilling to learn
is a sleeping man, need to wake him up.
Sensible and willing to learn
is a wise man, need to follow him!”
May overcomers can all be stewards who are faithful and also sensible. May they also be leaders that all would love to follow! May the Lord also enlighten the eyes of our heart so that we may know what is the hope of His calling. (Eph.1:18) Moreover, may we not waste and throw our lives away by ourselves. While we are in the Kingdom of preparation, we strive to train ourselves to be a faithful and sensible overcomer. Then, in the Kingdom of realization, we would not disappoint Him!
Brother and sisters, in this urgent moment when Kingdom personnel are in such demand, where are you? Are you in God’s will? Do you realize your own position? Are you willing to accomplish at any cost what the Lord has entrusted to you? Pray that we can become ‘good and faithful and sensible’ overcomers!