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Overcoming Faith

Therefore since we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, – Heb 12:1

Now chastening for the present does not seem to be joyous, but grievous. Nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are exercised by it.

Because of this, straighten up the hands which hang down and the enfeebled knees.

And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healed. – Heb 12:11-13

I love stories of overcomers. They tell me that I too can overcome the challenges of my own life.

I once was installing deer fencing on an estate. The path of the fence took us to a small swampy area hidden in a woods. It turns out that trees are like us – if things are hand-fed to them, they take the easy way out. With all the water around, the trees in the swamp didn’t bother to put down deep roots. But roots do more than just draw water, they anchor trees to the ground. Thus, a great windstorm had come and had been able to fell one of the shallow-rooted trees. It lay there just above the water, its dead root system exposed to the air, seemingly a monument to the imprudence that caused its demise.

But on further observation, I was amazed to see that the fallen tree actually had responded creatively to the crisis that should have been its death-blow. The downed trunk had sent out innumerable suckers into the water, forming a new root system. One limb had adjusted itself to point heavenward, and had taken on the role of being the tree’s new trunk. And whereas the fallen tree had been only some nine inches in diameter, this new trunk already dwarfed it at 12 inches in width, and it showed no inclination of stopping its growth.

The tree’s new sucker-roots extended in all directions and now formed a strong matrix over forty feet long and fifteen feet wide, going down into the water and then the earth. It is doubtful that the tree would ever again be defeated by the wind’s destructive power. It had overcome its bad fortune and previous flaw, and out of disaster had secured for itself a future and a hope.

Yesterday I came across the story of a dog born with no front legs. This dog, appropriately named Faith, was fortunate enough to be rescued by people who both loved it and challenged it. And it responded to the love and the challenge, and learned to walk upright.

When we invest love into anything, we always get back much more than we give. The dog has enriched the family’s daily lives immeasurably, but it doesn’t stop there. Here’s a story of one woman who met the dog. Due to diabetes she had lost both legs, and she was on the verge of suicide:

Stringfellow will never forget a woman from New York who happened to see Faith on a street corner. She was depressed and had lost both legs to diabetes.

“She was in her wheelchair and saw us. She was crying. She had seen Faith on television. She just held her and said she wished she had that kind of courage.” Stringfellow said. “She told us: ‘I was on my way to pick up the gun.’ She handed the pawn ticket to a police officer and said she didn’t need it anymore.”

Whatever your challenge, you can overcome it. Whatever is in God’s will, you can achieve. I know this is true, because achieving God’s will serves His purposes by extending His character, reign and glory into Creation. And that is what the coming of the Kingdom is all about. It was God Himself who decided to invade the devil’s dark chaos with His redemptive order. It was He Himself who determined that the Kingdom would be established as a mere tiny beachhead, ahead of the time of its fulness, and then grow by means of the foolishness of preaching, through our exploits, straining, and military advances, all powered by obedience to faith that works through love.

God decided it would be this way because this is the way that brings the most glory. That is to say, this is the way that most clearly reflects His character. And if you want to understand the heart of God’s glory relative to the darkness of this present creation chaos, recall the timeless words of Michael Card: “Your most awesome work was done, through the frailty of Your Son.”

As it was with Christ, so is it with us (1Jn 4.17). His power is perfected in our weakness (2Cor 12.7-10). When we abide in faith, we receive a different power, far greater than any natural ability we have lost. Like that fallen tree, we discover a life far more secure than the old one we were deprived of. And we row point to heaven, a testimony to the power to overcome. Like Faith the dog, in overcoming our challenges – challenges others might not have to deal with – we discover a much higher purpose than what is normal. We bear witness to Him who has overcome even the great enemy, sin and death, and has reconciled all things to Himself. And we gain the ability to imbue others with this same overcoming faith, hope and love.

To those who are willing to abide, God has promised power to overcome (Jn 15.7). To the degree that we are willing to yield up the things of the old life and instead trust in Him alone, we will be infused with the power to bear witness to His glory (1Jn 1.1-4; Mat 5.14-16).


  1. Doreen Saz
    December 17, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Hi Paul
    I’d like to share a story about my friend who phoned me yesterday. She had a biopsy for a growth on her forehead and I thought she was phoning to tell me the prognosis. Instead, through her sobbing she said that her sister Joyce, just an hour ago, had gone out to the garage to call her husband for supper; she heard him cry and then fall to the ground; she ran to him and he died right there in her arms, probably of a heart attack. She herself had just come home from receiving her last chemo treatment. She went into shock, to say the least. My friend Arlene, was not free to go to her place (which is outside T.O.) because the doctor told her she needed to stay here because they were going to call her for surgery anytime, because the results of her biopsy showed cancerous growth.

    So what does one say in this situation? There are no words.

    To make matters worse, her other sister who had been widowed for 10 years met a widowed man and they were a perfect match. He a professional artist, they travelled around various places together. They were ‘over the moon’ with happiness. One night on their way out of one of the hotels where they stayed, they were leaving the parking lot when a car T-boned their car; her husband died shortly after in hospital. It was one of the saddest funerals I had ever attended.

    And now this.

    Tomorrow I’m going to the funeral home and prayer service. This is going to be a very very sad Christmas for all.

    I don’t think I will have any words to say; sometimes pain is so deep that one does not hear any words anyway.

    What are your thoughts.

    • December 17, 2009 at 8:11 pm

      Hi Doreen. I’m sorry to hear of all these sad happenings. You’re right – there are no words that can take away the pain and devastation. The enemy is raging against the Body of Christ. People here are just hanging on through simply incredible trials – health, finances, relationships, ecclesial issues, pain of every kind.

      I can only say that in my devastation it has been a battle to remember God’s faithfulness and to choose to focus on it. Much of the time I’m fighting God; other times I’m saying the words but lacking the feeling behind them. At such times it’s pure faith that I must rely on – that God is in sovereign control of every detail of my life; that He is trustworthy and will reward me if I cling to Him, even blindly at times (heb 11.6).

      It’s not easy – it’s the refiner’s fire. But Paul tells us not to grieve as do they who have no hope. I touched on that in “A reverence for God”, how we need to keep everything down here in eternal perspective. Also, just as Israel was allowed to grieve for Aaron’s sons but Aaron himself was not, similarly we can hold our friends up intercessionally in ways they cannot themselves. This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and He uses it not only to protect and to heal, but to draw the Body together in unity as well.

      I’m sorry that so many Christians are suffering so greatly at this time, but God has not abandoned us, and I believe He is working out good through it as we persevere in faith (rom 8.28). And it does get better in time, as we are healed and gain strength.

      I pray that the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort will hold the suffering ones in the palms of His gentle hands, and minister comfort, strength, healing and restoration to them.

      Thanks for sharing, and I pray the Holy Spirit works through you.

    • December 18, 2009 at 11:08 am

      Doreen, two other thoughts. First, the book of 1Peter is the Epistle on Suffering. It gives a lot of comfort and strength, with its theme that when we yield to suffering that is according to the will of God, we gain spiritually.

      Second, Greg Laurie and Steven Chapman both lost children to car accidents not long ago. They gave a talk on loss, pain and grief that might help.

      And also (I haven’t watched yet)



  2. Doreen Saz
    December 19, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    I met my friend and we really had nothing to say; she was in another dimension; she was on the upper floor, I on the ground floor, maybe she was in the basement; but I could see she was definitely in a different realm. I said, ‘there are no words’ and she agreed; I moved on and she continued to greet people.

    Since then I came across this prayer which I sent to her.


    A Christmas Prayer for those who have suffered the recent death of a loved one

    God of compassion, there is such a hole in my heart! Today should be a day of joy, but I feel only emptiness and loss. While the world celebrates around me, I remember Christmas celebrations of the past and I long to have my loved one with me. I bring my sorrows to you, Lord, like some odd gift of the magi and dump them at your feet. In my blind tears I wonder if anyone can possibly understand the depth of my sadness.

    I know, you can. You sent your son to be with us in our deepest sorrows and I know that even though I might not feel it now, you are here with me, grieving with me, caring for me in my sadness. Dearest lord, help me to turn to the one I miss so much today and speak. Help me heal the loss of our parting and help me not to regret the things I didn’t say. Sorrow tears at my heart, but today I ask that my loss soften my heart and make me more compassionate with everyone I meet, so that my loss may become a gift to others. Amen

    I watched the video; very inspirational…thanks

    • December 19, 2009 at 8:38 pm

      That’s really best – to be sensitive to what if anything might be received. Maybe another time the door will be open. Meanwhile, there’s prayer.

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