During my vision sabbatical, I have read through all of the New Testament. I felt I needed to get a feel for the deep themes, passion, and movement of Jesus and the early church. I was surprised what I found! The following are the three themes that characterize the New Testament:
Life is about Conflict
Christian or not, life is very hard. Life is malevolent and full of pain. Suffering is a big theme of the New Testament. There are clearly demonic forces in the world, set up to take you out; life is about conflict.
Happiness is never the goal in the Bible; happiness is never the goal of the Jesus disciple. Jesus never promises we will be happy. He does promise an “abundant life,” but never happiness as the world defines it. For the Jesus disciple, happiness is too low a goal. It never works out for very long. Most people in American Christianity see happiness as the goal of their lives.
Happiness is never the goal, but it can be the outcome. It is the outcome when we begin to change the target from happiness to adventure. Adventure by definition means risk and danger. And that leads into the next theme.
Being Brave to Overcome is the Adventure
Life is not primarily about our own happiness, but rather, life is about adventure. Being brave to face obstacles is the adventure. Life is about adventure and taking on what you fear the most. Being brave is taking on our fears, taking on challenges, and not backing down to evil, malevolent, demonic forces.
Life is conflict; and the adventure is facing problems, obstacles, and demonic forces with the power of God’s Spirit working within us. True joy comes through becoming an overcomer. In Revelation 2-3, Jesus gives us His Word to the seven churches. Jesus never compliments the complacent, the happy, the satisfied, but rather challenges them to overcome.
Brave people, overcoming people, are the happiest people in the world! Notice the progression. Happiness in never the goal, but being brave to prevail in the power of the Holy Spirit is the adventure. Life is an adventure of overcoming.
Jesus is Building a Church that Contends for the Kingdom of God on Earth
Jesus says, “I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) When Jesus is the Senior Pastor, He builds His Church. When Jesus builds His Church, the gates of Satan cannot prevail. This is ripe with conflict and courage. This is the purpose of the Church that Jesus builds. It may not be comfortable; and at times, it’s not even peaceful, but it is the way Jesus set things up.
Throughout history, the true Church has had to contend against evil in all forms. Whether it was child sacrifice in the first century, Islam in the Middle Ages, slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries, missions to the remotest parts of the earth in the 19th and 20th centuries, civil rights, abortion, or the very freedom to worship today, Jesus is building an overcoming Church!
What has God put before you to overcome? Issues in your personal life, marriage, singleness, getting involved in education or politics? Whatever it is, you have within you everything you need to step up, step out, and overcome what God has put before you.
Learning to Overcome,