The Victorious Christian Life

A Lesson Series for the Earnest Christian

© 2002 by Thomas W. Finley, 2013 Revised Edition

Lesson Sixteen: Characteristics of the Overcomer - Fully Following the Lord

In this lesson we are going to cover a final characteristic of the victorious Christian. We will look at some New Testament overcomers who had “an ear to hear,” as well as some Old Testament overcomers who fully followed the Lord. Both of these examples point to the same characteristic – a desire to know the Lord’s will fully and to follow it. Of course, we may see some overlap in this topic and the characteristics of seeking the Lord and willingness to suffer. Yet, I believe it will be profitable to look at the importance of fully following the Lord.

In Revelation chapters two and three, we see a call by the Lord Jesus to believers in the seven assemblies to overcome (to be “victorious”). A careful reading of these chapters reveals that the overcomers are those who “have an ear to hear” what the Spirit is speaking to them through the letters given to John by the Lord Jesus. Here is an example: “’He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God’” (Rev. 2:7). Note that here we see a reward promised to the overcomer. The promises to the overcomers in these seven churches have nothing to do with eternal salvation, but have everything to do with future reward. The believer’s rewards are decided at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

I believe we can see the following elements in having “an ear to hear”: 1) a desire to hear the Lord speak; 2) A desire to learn exactly what the Lord’s directions are in the speaking; 3) A willingness to fully obey what the Lord requires.

In five of the seven churches (Rev. 2, 3) the Lord was calling for the believers to have some change in their way. The Lord had no correction for the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia. To the church in Smyrna, the call was to be faithful during an upcoming test of imprisonment. The church in Philadelphia had already been tried and approved. The saints there only needed to hold fast to their attainment in order to receive the reward.

Here are some instructive passages pertaining to the matter of having an ear to hear:

“And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer’” (Ex. 15:26).

“Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear” (2 Chron. 24:19, KJV).

“The heart of the prudent seeketh knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge” (Pr. 18:15, KJV).

“To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear, behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it” (Jer. 6:10, KJV).

“But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward” (Jer. 7:24, KJV).

The last two passages were spoken about God’s people (Israel). Overall, we see that God’s people can have a desire to hear, learn and obey, or to not hear, not learn, and not obey.

A foundational principle of living the victorious Christian life is, of course, obeying the will of God. Yet, doing the will of God must be based upon knowing the will of God. The overcomer must have a heart to seek out and know the will of God (“the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge” – Pr. 18:15b, KJV). Here are some important verses that highlight this concept:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

“...but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light...trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:8-10).

“So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).

Knowing God’s will is not automatic for believers. Our mind needs to be renewed, and we need spiritual insight in order to know God’s will (see 1 Cor. 2:14-16 and Col. 1:9-10). So, what is required on our part is a real seeking after the knowledge of His will.

It is my sad observation that today this attitude of seeking to know God’s will, in order to obey it, is missing in most Christians in America. Most believers in the church in America seem satisfied with following the crowd in their church and just doing what they do. They also usually just accept whatever the preacher says. It seems to be the exceptional believer who earnestly seeks out God’s will for some area of his life, let alone all areas.

God, however, longs for us learn from Him and His word. He wants us to follow Him in so many things. He is trying to speak to us, especially from His word. He is also trying to speak to us by His genuine servants who minister His pure word (2 Cor. 2:17; 4:1-2). He desires for us to learn how to handle our finances, our lifestyle, our family relationships, our worship, our church practice, our service to Him, etc. Since most believers in America do not seem to be seeking to know God’s will, however, they will not hear Him.

It also takes a seeking heart for the believer to discern if what a supposed teacher of God’s word is teaching is actually true. The Bible warns us of false prophets (Matt. 7:15), false apostles (Rev. 2:2), and false teachers (2 Pet. 2:1). The Scripture even warns that there will be a time when popular teachers are the very ones who will turn believers away from the truth (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

The words of every person speaking for God deserve scrutiny, to sort out the good from the bad (1 Thess. 5:20-22). Some of those speaking for God may have part truth and part error. If a believer is not in the Bible himself, desperately seeking to learn from God, he may surely miss God’s genuine speaking. He will not have an ear to hear what the Spirit is speaking. There are many voices in the church today. Some are speaking tradition, some false teaching, and some just plain religion, without the reality of the Spirit of God. Yet, what we need is an ear for what the Spirit is speaking. For this, we must have a heart to learn God’s will and to do His will. Of course, to “do His will” always involves a cost – something of self-denial.

Now let us turn to perhaps the clearest example of overcomers in the Old Testament – Joshua and Caleb. These two men clearly had an “ear to hear.” They desired to know God’s will and to fully follow it. They were undaunted by the demands presented for following God. They were willing to pay a price to obey God.

A significant part of their story is recorded in Numbers chapter thirteen. The children of Israel were on the border of Canaan, the land which God had already promised to give to them (Num. 13:2). The children of Israel wanted to first spy out the land before attempting to conquer it, so they suggested that a party first be sent into it (Deut. 1:22). So Moses sent twelve leaders from the twelve tribes, who discovered that the land flowed with milk and honey and had abundant fruit.

The land, however, also contained giants, and ten of the leaders declared that the giants would prevent them from conquering the promised land. These ten, along with those who listened to them, did not have an ear to hear the Lord. Note what Scripture says about this incident: “Then they despised the pleasant land. They did not believe in His word, but grumbled in their tents. They did not listen to the voice of the LORD. Therefore He swore to them that He would cast them down in the wilderness” (Ps. 106:24-26).

Caleb and Joshua, however, declared that the Israelites were well able to take the land, for God would bring them in (Num. 14:6-9). However, the people were persuaded by the fearful report of the ten leaders, and they were ready to kill Joshua and Caleb.

The result of this incident was that God denied the promised land to all of the adult men who left Egypt, except for Joshua and Caleb. The people failed because they did not believe God’s word and did not trust God to bring them into the land, and because they were unwilling to obey the Lord by going forward. They did not want to face the giants.

“Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs, which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it. But My servant Caleb, because he had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it” (Num. 14:22-24).

“None of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob; for they did not follow Me fully, except Caleb, the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have followed Me fully.” (Num. 32:12)

From these passages in the Old and New Testament we see that overcomers are those who really desire hear God’s voice, learn His will and fully follow Him. In five of the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three we see a situation where the believers were partially following the Lord. The Spirit was calling for these believers to give up some practice, belief or attitude that had already invaded the assembly, and to press onward in God’s way.

In His speaking to all seven of these churches, what Jesus was asking the believers to do was to hear the Spirit’s speaking and then fully follow Him faithfully. Of course, this does not mean that there will not be failures along the way for those who will eventually be positively rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Even those in five of the seven churches had some serious shortcomings. It is not that the overcomer never has a failure. Rather, it is that the overcomer is one who is seeking to hear and respond to God’s voice. He is willing to repent and change his way. Those who would seek to hear and respond in obedience to God’s voice are the overcomers, those who will receive the promised reward.

How many believers today are really seeking to fully follow the Lord? It seems to me that there are many wrong heart attitudes, sinful doings, worldly ways, unscriptural practices and beliefs in churches today. Yet, most believers and leaders are often complacent about these shortcomings. They seem satisfied with only partially following the Lord.

Just as those ancient Hebrews did not want to face those giants in battle, most believers today are unwilling to pay the price required for following the Lord fully. So, they do not have “an ear to hear.” That would require suffering. The cost to fully follow Christ could include changing one’s lifestyle, giving up some worldly ways, giving up one’s ministry and salary, leaving a denomination or a church, or risk having one’s family turn against him. Our Lord warned us about the cost of discipleship, and counseled us to count the cost (Lk. 14:25-29). Once again we are reminded of our need to be willing to suffer.

May we pray?

“Oh, Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me. By Your grace I would be an overcomer. I want to be willing to follow You and Your will fully. Lord, bring me into Your light. Show me where I am not following You. I want to hear Your voice and follow You. Show me my heart attitudes, my worldly loves and ways, my habits and my doings that are not according to You. Show me the church traditions, beliefs and practices that are not according to Your truth. I pray that the eyes of my heart would be enlightened by Your revelation of my true situation. By Your grace, Lord, I will seek to know Your will. I will search out Your Scriptures to learn the truth. By Your grace, Lord Jesus, I am willing to follow You, no matter what the cost. If others reject me or misunderstand me, I will still be faithful to You. May Your will be done in my life. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.”

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)