More Than Conquerors :: Conquering Despair

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“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:35, 37-39

Below are six things that can lead us to feel hopeless and overcome by circumstances. Make a mental checklist of the things below you have experienced in your life.

  1. Traumatic Event
  2. Strained Relatoinship
  3. Serious Health Problems
  4. Crushing Disappointment
  5. Unchangeable Circumstance
  6. Painful Loss

Some people will face these things and be tanked by them and others are able to rise again. These perseverant, resilient people are still standing no matter what has happened.

Resilience and perseverance are a set of skills that can be learned. That means that we can all learn perseverance. When we live with perseverance, we bounce back and aren’t buried by life and by loss. We not only survive, but thrive. We live a hope-infused life, not a hopeless life.

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  Romans 5:3

This process is within the reach of every one of us to develop perseverance, character and hope.

The most hope-infused people are not those who haven’t been through anything. The most hope-infused people are those who have suffered and let this process work in their life.

Here are three things to consider about perseverance, resilience and endurance.

1. Life is harder than we ever expected.

We somehow have it in our heads that life is supposed to be easy or comfortable. That it’s supposed to be stress-free and pain-free. Then when the wheels fall off the bus in our life, we are shocked. From that shocked place, we become angry and from that angry place, we end up with confusion and disillusionment as though life was supposed to be easy and life was supposed to be relatively painless. When life isn’t easy, we don’t know what to do.

Jesus says: “In this world, you will have trouble.”  John 16:33

He doesn’t say some people are going to have some hard times. You are going to have problems. Sometimes people find life so hard, so overwhelming and so debilitating that they end up taking their lives.

Almost a million people in the next year will take their own life around the world, 44,000 people in the United States. It’s the number two cause of death for people between 10 and 34 years old in the United States. People who die by taking their own lives, are not wanting to die. Most of the time it’s just because things have gotten so hard that they can’t see a way out. They can’t see any other way for the pain to stop. 

The Bible is so real about this too. Job, this man who lost his family, his home, his crops, his livelihood, was covered with boils on his body from head to toe in terrible pain. He talks about being at that place of just not wanting to live.

“My days have passed; my plans have failed; my hope is gone. But my friends say night is daylight; they say that light is near, but I know I remain in darkness. My only hope is the world of the dead, where I will lie down to sleep in the dark.”  Job 17:11-13 GNT

That’s a man in despair. The first way to rebuild hope in your life, is to accept that life is harder than you ever thought it was going to be. Start setting more realistic expectations for your life.

2. God gives us resources to cope with life.

God is so good to us that he gives us resources to be able to cope with the fact that life is harder than we thought it was going to be.

He gives a Savior because that is what we need more than anything else.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 NIV

Take heart, be encouraged. You don’t have to overcome the world, carry the weight of the world or solve every problem. You can’t, but someone can. Someone has carried the weight of the world, his name is Jesus.

God has also given to us a new mind to cope with life. A mind that aligns with His. We can begin to think like God. Over time, we develop and transform.

“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death, but letting the spirit control your mind leads to life in peace.”  Romans 8:6 NLT

Before we accept Jesus as our Savior, our minds are a scary place. The Bible says that the longer we are in a relationship with Jesus Christ, the more he can transform our minds.

The third thing that God has given to help us cope with the difficulties of life is God’s Word. He’s given us the Bible as a roadmap to navigate life’s troubles.

“By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.”  Psalm 119:105 MSG

Sometimes the path in front of us looks so dark. The Bible is a light to our path and we can see where we’re supposed to go. When you read, study, memorize, meditate on the Bible, over time, you are transformed.

3. We get to choose our responses in life.

From the list of 6 things above, you probably didn’t have a lot of control over some of those things. You do get to choose your response though. It’s freeing to know you are not held captive to a disease, disappointment, disillusionment, depression or even death.

You are not held captive by what has happened to you. Take a look at some of the choices that can give you hope again. These choices will help you build perseverance, character and hope.

  • Choose to expand your connections

When hope starts to fade and we start going through those really hard moments, there’s a natural tendency in all of us to withdraw. The moment we want to isolate or disengage, from family, friends, small group and church, hope is fading. We must choose, in those moments, to press in to community, to relationships, to those people who are there for you, who love you and care about you.

“A friend is always a friend and relatives are born to share our troubles.”  Proverbs 17:17 CEV

  • Choose to believe that, in Christ, you are capable of handling anything

Last week’s post was about how you are in Christ, and you can take off the label of unqualified or weak and put on the label “capable.”

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13

  • Choose to avoid expecting the worst.

When you take a simple event in your life and go to the worst possible outcome. When you’ve already written the scenario, you’ve already written the bad scene in your head.

“Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer.”  Psalm 94:19 TLB

  • Choose to protect your heart.

“Above all else, guard your heart. For everything you do flows from it.”  Proverbs 4:23

Persevering people have come to understand that waves of hard times can eventually warp your perspective. They have learned how to take care of themselves in the middle of the hard times. People with perseverance are careful about their inner life.

“Do not give the devil a foothold.”   Ephesians 4:27

When the devil establishes a foothold in your life, he doesn’t try to take over your whole life, he starts by getting one little area of your life at a time. The more you depend on Jesus the more you know what it means to really live.

The way Satan gets a foothold in our life is through any negative emotion. Jealousy, envy, fear, resentment, lust, anger or boredom can all be a foothold. When you mix several of these heart conditions together they’re very potent. When you’re tired, frustrated, hurt and lonely, that combination is setting you up for a fall.

  • Choose to discover a truth about yourself.

In the middle of this mess you’re experiencing, it’s likely that there are some things about yourself that are hidden. Things that would be really important for you to learn.

One of the benefits of trouble, is that it exposes where we’re weaker than we thought we were. It exposes the holes and the gaps in our faith. 

Is there a part of the way you deal with conflict, is there something about the way that you relate to other people you need to work on? Trouble has the way of helping us if we will seek self-discovery. We can choose to learn and get better from it.

“We can also learn from insults and hard knocks.”  Lamentations 3:30

  • Choose to practice gratitude

If you’re going to be someone who turns suffering into hope, you need to practice gratitude. Not necessarily thankful for the wound itself, but when we think about Jesus and we think about what He did for us on the cross we know without His suffering we wouldn’t have salvation.

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”  Colossians 2:7 NLT

  • Decide today that nothing can destroy you.

You can make a decision that you will not let anything destroy you. No matter what comes your way, you don’t have to let them destroy you.

This problem, this pain, this agony is not going to win. If you are going to be a person of perseverance and character, rebuilding hope again, you too will have to make even if it’s a feeble declaration, a declaration that says, “No matter what comes, God will get me through it and in Christ I will not let it destroy me.”

“I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the Lord has done.”  Psalm 118:17 NLT


“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:35, 37-39 NIV

Satan’s ultimate goal is to separate us from God. You have a relationship with God, you trust Him, you believe in Him, but then there trouble comes that causes you to take a step back from God. If that is your response to trouble or pain and it stays your response, then the enemy has won. 

God’s Word says that you are a conqueror when you say, “Yes this hurts, yes this has taken me down time and again, but I will not be separated from the love of God that I have through Jesus Christ.” That makes you a conqueror.

But Paul says, “We are MORE than conquerors”

To become MORE than a conqueror is to take the very thing that was meant to destroy you and separate you from God and make it serve you. 

The hard times that we go through are meant to make us more like Christ. Hold on. Yes you can, through the power of Jesus Christ.

You can still stand.

You’re still here.

You will not die.

You will live to tell what the Lord has done.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts, questions or conclusions about the message on 1 Peter 2:9-10, Conquering Labels?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Read Romans 8 

In Romans 8, Paul lists several things that threaten to separate us from the love of God. The good news is that in Christ, we can be more than conquerors over those things.

Life is harder than we ever expected, but we can build resilience and find hope again when we rely on God’s resources and realize we have a choice in how we respond to life. Scripture tells us that in this world we will have trouble. but nothing can separate us from the love of God. By expanding our connections, believing we are capable through Christ rather than expecting the worst, protecting your heart and practicing gratitude, resilience is within our reach. Whether we experience traumatic events, strained relationships, serious health problems, crushing disappointments, unchangeable circumstances or painful losses, we can not only survive but also learn to thrive through Christ, who gives us strength and hope as we are transformed into his image.

Application

  1. Ice Breaker: Name things in life that often warm the heart or bring a smile to one’s face even when life gets tough.
  2. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly and is a skill to be developed. Why would this ability be important in this world and in what ways can it be established?
  3. What are some disadvantages of being isolated during a difficult time, instead of sharing your problems with someone else?
  4. Share how you became resilient and found hope during a time when suffering shook your confidence in Christ, and you didn’t felt like following God anymore.
  5. Psalm 119:105 tells us God’s word is like throwing “a beam of light on my dark path.” Share a time when a Bible verse gave you wisdom, hope, or insight to a dark problem in your life.
  6. How could deciding that nothing can destroy you change the outcome of an overwhelming circumstance?
  7. How could focusing on the promise of heaven change our daily perspective?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you encourage with hope as a result of this message? What scars do you carry that could give someone life and hope?

Pray: Father, you hear the cry of our hearts whenever we suffer and your heart hurts when we hurt. When life is hard, help us to keep our eyes on you. Holy Spirit, in every difficulty we face, teach us how to be resilient and find hope by relying on your resources. Lord, help us find power in our choices to respond to whatever life challenges we face. Above all, strengthen us when Satan attempts to destroy our faith and assault our confidence in you. Today, we say “no” to doubt and despair. Each day, we choose to conquer evil by declaring we will not let suffering cause us to turn away from you. Thank you, Jesus our Savior, that each scar in our life blends in with the scars you bore for us, and how our sufferings cause us to be transformed into the beauty of your image.

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