The book of Revelation contains seven letters that Jesus directed to seven local, first-century churches. Reading these letters forces us to soberly consider what Jesus would say to us and how he would evaluate the churches that we attend.
Each of these seven letters involves a call to “overcome” or to “be victorious” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17; 26; 3:5, 12, 21). This word speaks of the intensity and struggle of a battle or courtroom dispute. Christians are called to exert themselves so as to prevail in the conflict. What does this tell us about the Christian life and the nature of the church’s mission?
First, being a Christian is hard. It assumes opposition and animosity. It involves swimming upstream. It requires agonizing struggle and endurance. Scripture is clear that our salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. But progress in the Christian life will not come naturally or automatically. It will require strenuous effort. It has become customary in our day to make the gospel more palatable to modern sensibilities. But lets not forget we calling people to turn from sin and engage in a countercultural mission to the world. Let’s not be disillusioned when we encounter struggle. This is what we signed up for.
Second, there is an expectation that the followers of Jesus’ can prevail against sin and Satan. Sometimes we find ourselves persistently struggle with sin to the point that we become resigned to it. But Jesus says in no uncertain terms that victory is possible. With the help of God’s Spirit, we are able to prevail. We will not attain perfection in this life. But we should stop being a victim and start being a victor.
Third, there is an assurance that the struggle is worth it. Jesus promises a specific reward for each church that overcomes. These rewards are intended to inspire us to keep going in the midst of the struggle. There is always a temptation to take the easy road. But when we aspire to great endeavors, we will miss out on the great rewards. I could have passed on a arduous hike to the summit of Mt. LeConte last summer. But I would have missed a breath-taking view! Let’s remember what awaits us as we walk the arduous trail of faith.
Photo credit: https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3191883