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More than Conquerors
by J. R. Miller, 1912
"In all these things we are more than conquerors—through him who loved us!" Romans 8:37
It is better that we should not sing of sadness. There are sad notes enough already in the world's air. We should sing of cheer, of joy, of hope. This is what Paul did when he said: "We are more than conquerors through him that loved us!" We do not need to be defeated in our battles, to sink under our loads, to be crushed beneath our sorrows. We may be victorious. We all have our struggles. Life is not easy for any of us; or if it is—we are not making much of it. A useful life is never easy. It must be from first to last, in the face of opposition.
Jacob saw life visioned as a ladder, its foot resting in the earth, its top reaching up to heaven, into God's very glory. That meant that man could go up from his earthliness, his sinfulness, into nobleness and holiness of character, gaining at last likeness to God and a home with God. But it meant also that the ascent never could be easy. A ladder bids us to climb, and climbing is always toilsome. It is slow, too, step by step. It never becomes easy, for heaven is ever above us and the climbing cannot cease until we enter the pearly gates.
Paul constantly pictured life as a battle—a warfare. We are soldiers with enemies to fight. The enemies are strong, not flesh and blood—but evil angels, spiritual foes, wicked spirits. They are invisible. They lurk in the darkness. They hide in ambush. Too often they nest in our own hearts! They take forms of good angels, to deceive us. The battle is great—and it never ends until we overcome the last enemy and pass within the gates of blessedness.
Every life has its cares, its duties, its responsibilities. There are sicknesses and sorrows and pains and losses—and a thousand things, which make it hard to live victoriously. It is possible for us, if we are Christians, to overcome in all these struggles and trials.
"In all these things we are more than conquerors." To be more than conquerors is to be triumphant conquerors, not merely getting through the battle or the trouble—but coming out of it with rejoicing, with song and gladness. Some people bear trial and are not overcome by it—but bear it without any glad sense of victory. Others conquer their sorrow, and all through it you hear as it were, the notes of triumph. Paul himself was this sort of conqueror. His life was one unbroken series of struggles. It never became easy for him to live nobly. He gives us glimpses sometimes of his experiences. He was beaten with rods. He was stoned. He was shipwrecked. He was in perils of robbers, in perils in the wilderness, in the sea, among false brethren, in watchings, in fastings, in cold and nakedness. He spent years in prison. Then he had enemies in his own heart—read the seventh of Romans to find what it cost him to live right. But in all these things he was "more than conqueror."
Someone compares Paul's life to one who goes along the street in a dark stormy night, singing sweet songs; or to a whole band of music moving through the rain and darkness, playing marches of victory. That is the way we should all try to live as Christians, not merely enduring our trials and coming through our struggles—but doing so enthusiastically—"more than conquerors." Not only may we be conquerors—but if we are Christians we must be conquerors. We dare not yield. We believe that we should be conquerors in temptation, that we should not sin. We know that the evil in us, and the evil around us—should not be allowed to overcome us. We know that appetites and base passions and bad tempers should not be permitted to rule us. But this is not the only phase of life, in which we meet resistance and opposition, and must be conquerors, if we would live nobly.
This is true in physical life. Health is simply victory over disease and weakness. It is true in mental life. It is never easy to have a trained mind. It can be gotten only through long and patient study and severe discipline. It is so in all experiences in life. We should never yield to discouragement or depression, for there is no reason that we should. In the description of the godly man, in the first Psalm, where he is compared to a tree planted by streams of water, we read: "And whatever he does shall prosper." There is no real failure possible in a true Christian life. There may be seeming failure; indeed oft-times there is. Christ's life failed, as it appeared to men. Paul's life failed. Henry Martyn's life failed. But you know what glorious successes all these lives were in the end.
If we are truly Christians, in Jesus Christ, it is impossible for us to fail. Hence in all adversity, in all loss, in all feebleness of health, in all persecution, injustice, wrong—we have but to remain true to Christ, and we cannot fail. "Whatever he does shall prosper." Hence we should never yield to discouragement. We should be more than conquerors.
The same is true in sorrow. Sorrow comes into every life. We cannot shut it out. But we can be conquerors in it. When the snows melt away in the springtime, I have often seen under them sweet flowers in bloom. The very drifts were like warm blankets to keep them safe. So it is in sorrow. Under the cold snows of sorrow—the flowers of the Christian graces grow unhurt. We can overcome in sorrow; we ought to overcome. This does not mean that we should not shed tears in our sorrows. The love of Christ does not harden the heart—it really makes it more sensitive. The grace of Christ does not save us from suffering in bereavement. Yet we are to be conquerors. Our sorrow must not crush us. We must go through it victoriously, with sweet submission, and joyous confidence.
In the same way must we meet worldly losses and adversities, the failures in our human plans and hopes, the fading of our human joys. "More than conquerors" is the motto which is written upon our crown!
But do not forget the closing words of Paul's statement: "In all these things we are more than conquerors—through him who loved us!" The text would not be true if these last five words were left off. We cannot leave Christ out of life—and in anything be true overcomers. The Roman Emperor saw the symbol of the cross blazing in the sky and over it the legend: "By this shall you conquer!" Before every young soldier of the cross, as he goes out to begin life's battles, shines the same symbol, with the same legend. "By this shall you conquer!" "We are more than conquerors—through him who loved us." It is only through Christ, that any of us can overcome sin or sorrow or trial.
Some of you may be asking, with deep eagerness—in what way Christ helps us in our battles and struggles. How can we overcome through him? One part of the answer is, that he has overcome all things himself. He came in the flesh for us. He was the captain of our salvation. He entered into life for us. He met every enemy that we have ever met. And he was more than conqueror in every struggle. He was tempted in all points like as we are—yet without sin. That is, he conquered all sin.
Then he met poverty, and was victorious in that, living sweetly, patiently, trustingly, in it, without discontent, without envy, without repinings. He worked as a carpenter—but he never chafed at the hardness of the work or the smallness of the pay. Later, he had nowhere to lay his head, even the foxes and the birds being better homed than he—but he never complained. When the people scattered off to their homes in the gathering shadows, leaving him alone, he quietly climbed the mountain and spent the night under the stars in peace. Thus he was more than conqueror in poverty.
So he was victorious in all the wrongs he had to endure. From enemies and from friends, he suffered wrongs. His enemies pursued him with hate and persecution, and at last nailed him on the cross. His own chosen friends did many things to pain and trouble him—one of them at last betraying him for money, another denying him in his darkest hour. Enmity and hate and wrongs cannot hurt us—unless they rouse us to resentment, to anger, to bitter feelings, to acts of revenge. But Jesus was victorious in all his endurance of injury. His love never once failed in any of its sore testings.
He was also conqueror in his struggle with death—the last enemy. It did not seem so at first. Death overcame him on the cross, and bore him captive into its dark prison. But it could not hold him. He burst the bars of death and triumphed over the grave. He came forth a glorious conqueror, out forever from death's power, with all the radiancy of life. Thus Christ is universal conqueror. There is no enemy we shall ever have to meet—that he has not met and vanquished. If we are in his army—he will lead us also to victory. We cannot overcome ourselves—but he will fight the battles for us. We are more than conquerors, but only through him who loved us.
But again—he does not merely fight our battles for us; he helps us to become victorious. "We are more than conquerors, through him." We must not get the impression that Christ merely wraps us up in the folds of his mighty love, and carries us over the hard places in life. When we are in the presence of temptation, he does not with his divine hand smite down the adversary. We must fight the battle—and he will strengthen us. There is a verse which says, "The Lord will bruise Satan shortly," but that is not all of it. "The Lord will bruise Satan—under your feet shortly." You must tread down the enemy beneath your feet—but the Lord will bruise him. We must become the conquerors, through him. He wants to make us strong and therefore he does not do all things for us, and fight all our battles. He sends us out to meet the enemies, the trials, the oppositions—and then he goes with us to help us. He does not take the burdens off us—but he sustains us in bearing them.
What then is our part? It is implicit, unquestioning obedience. Do you remember those cases in the gospels when people were healed, as they obeyed? The man with the withered arm was bidden to stretch it out—an impossible thing, in a human sense; but as he sought to obey—he was enabled to do it. Health came into his shriveled arm. The ten lepers were bidden to go away and show themselves to the priest. "And as they went—they were cleansed." Obedience made them overcomers.
So it is always in the receiving of divine help. We stand in the presence of some opposition, some hindrance, some trial. We say we cannot go through it. But we hear the voice of God commanding, "Go—and lo, I am with you always!" If we quietly and believingly go forward—the difficulties will melt before us; the sea will open and make a path for our feet; the mountain will remove and be cast into the sea; the enemy will flee as we advance. Christ never gives a duty—but he will give also the strength we require to obey.
There is a blessed secret in this very simple teaching. If we do God's will—we are invincible, and shall always be more than conquerors. You stand face to face with a sorrow or a discouragement or some adversity. The problem now, is to overcome in this experience—not to get rid of the experience—but to meet it and pass through it victoriously, so that it shall not hurt you—but that you shall get blessing out of it. Now, how can you do this? Never by resisting and rebelling. You cannot by doing this, repel the trial or evade it. You might as well try to fight a cyclone, and by resisting it, turn it back. Your resisting can only hurt and bruise your own life! But if you sweetly and quietly yield to the trial or the sorrow and bow before it—it will pass over you and you will rise again unhurt.
Such meeting of trial changes the curse in the bitter cup—to blessing. He who overcomes in temptation, gets new strength out of his conquest. He who is patient and submissive in the sick room, gets a blessing out of the pain. He who overcomes in adversity and keeps faith and love bright, has changed its loss into gain. So it is in all things. To be conqueror in the battles and struggles of life—is to climb ever upward toward glory and blessedness.
God so shapes all our life's events and experiences, that in everyone of them there is a blessing for us. We miss it if we resist and rebel, and thus fail of victoriousness. But if we let God's will be done in us, some good will come out of every cup he puts into our hand. So we shall go on, conquering and to conquer, overcoming in all life's sorrows and getting blessing out of them. So we shall go on, victorious over sins and rising into sainthood out of them, as lilies spring up out of black bogs; putting the old nature under our feet more and more as the new nature grows in us into strength and beauty. So we shall go on, triumphing over all the ills of life, over all adversities, until at last, rising out of death, we shall stand before God, without spot or blemish, wearing the image of Christ!
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