Faith that overcomes – 1 John 5:4-5

The truest kind of faith thrives in situations where it looks like it is losing.  The Christian martyrs of old, and for that matter, of the present day, die passively.  They may anger and irritate their attackers, but they clearly do not oppress them.  They are and look like victims.  One might imagine they were defeated souls who were finally giving up, and in a way that is true.  There is a sense in which faith is a form of surrender, not to the bully, but to Christ.  It is evidenced by taking up our cross and following him.

The Apostle John wrote the following after all of his fellow apostles had already met untimely deaths at the hands of their persecutors.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Faith lives while imprisoned, exiled and sometimes put to death.  If we think an overcoming faith needs to look victorious on the outside we get it wrong.  It doesn’t have to look like anything in particular.  Paul knew this when he said, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7).  Faith may be inspiring, but it is not intimidating.  

The important thing about faith is that it just keeps going no matter what happens to it.  Consider that the words faith, faithful and faithfulness are all related in the languages of the Bible as they are English.  At times, in fact, the word translated in the Bible as “faith” needs to be translated as “faithfulness.”  For example, in Romans 3:3, “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?”

So a wavering, sometimes uncertain faith can still be real.  The faith of the underdog may be more authentic than the faith of the perpetual champion.  The champion is certainly more tempted to trust completely in himself and his abilities.  The faith that is baffled by circumstances, but nonetheless rises to meet its next challenge, may be the greatest faith of all.  G. K. Chesterton summed it up nicely.

Faith is always at a disadvantage; it is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all its conquerors.*

 

* Chesterton, G. K.. The G. K. Chesterton Collection [50 Books] . Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle Edition, location 87385

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