There are a lot of terrible things in this world. If your phone isn’t letting you know about them in news story notifications or you don’t find out when watching TV, a quick Google search or a trip to a news website is all you need to realize the world’s not in a great place right now. As I write this, the homepage for BBC world news has stories telling us the UK and France are fighting over fishing rights, it’s impossible to estimate the death count in Sudan following a coup, global “battles” over climate change continue, and (earlier this week) China forced Amnesty International out of Hong Kong.
When we see stories like this we often feel overwhelmed–overwhelmed by a desire to help, or by the problem being so big it seems impossible to help, or by the sheer number of terrible things. We may think of the verse that tells us to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21), but wonder how we could possibly do enough good to overcome the evils of oppression, wars, persecution, slavery, famine, disease, and more.
Fighting the Evil One
I’ve written before about a little pocket devotional by Chris Tiegreen that I really like. On Day 232, he points out that evil is the result of “a relentless, malicious intelligence,” not simply an “abstract principle” or a “force in this world.” This observation comes straight out of scripture, and it’s accompanied by an interesting implication.
“When the Bible tells us to overcome evil with good, it is not speaking about abstracts. It means we are to overcome the evil one with the Good One.”Tiegreen, p. 199
If we’re trying to overcome this world’s evil simply by doing good things in hope of tipping the scales so good outweighs bad, then it’s no wonder we feel overwhelmed and burned out. We’d be trying to fight an enemy that’s out of our league without armor or backup. In order to be part of overcoming evil with good, we need to understand that overcoming doesn’t happen on our own. It means combatting an evil one with the power and support of the Good One.
You Have Overcome
When John writes to believers, he encourages them by saying, “you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:13-14, WEB). This is made possible by us staying in close relationship with Jesus, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world” by faith “that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:4-5). This same Jesus told His followers, “In the world you have trouble; but cheer up! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, WEB). He has already proved He can overcome the evil in this world.
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.1 John 4:4, WEB
With God on our side, no power in the universe can stand against us (Rom. 8:31-39). That fact ought to humble us while also giving us confidence. Without God we have no hope of overcoming, but so long as we stay with Him there’s no risk of us failing. All that “extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (2 Cor. 4:6-10, NET). The only possible outcome in the battle between good and evil is that, ultimately, the Good One will overcome the evil one. When the Father and Jesus dwell in us and we’re staying faithful to them, we can be overcomers as well. As Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13, WEB).
Continue Overcoming with God
Paul reminds us several times that we’re part of a battle between good and evil. It’s not a battle we can–or should–try to fight alone. To do so would be foolish, especially when God is eager to fight alongside us and equip us for battle.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand.Ephesians 6:12-13, NET
The evil forces at work in this world are powerful and can seem overwhelming, but only when compared to us human beings on our own. God’s power totally eclipses anything the evil one can do and He is already giving us victory through Jesus (Rom. 8:37; 1 Cor. 15:57). It is His power and His love for us which enables us to overcome the forces of evil during spiritual battles. It is also His power which enables us to combat evils we deal with on a personal, day-to-day level.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people. Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Romans 12:18-21, NET
Though we’re part of a large, cosmic-scale fight against evil, we also deal with it on a personal level as well. Part of overcoming the evil one with the Good One involves choosing peace and goodness in our actions. We might not be able to stop others from doing evil, but we can choose not to contribute to the wickedness of the world. By aligning ourselves with God and choosing to act according to His goodness, we fight against evil getting a foothold in our lives. And we do make the world a little bit brighter by shining Jesus’s light into dark situations.
Featured image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay
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