How to Be an Overcomer
Here’s how you can overcome and qualify as a ‘firstfruit’ for God’s Kingdom!

The annual holy day of Pentecost commemorates, among other things, the coming of the Holy Spirit into the minds of the first-century disciples (see Acts 2).

It can be difficult for us to fully understand how the Spirit of God effectively functioned in the lives of those early disciples and apostles, and how it ought to be functioning in our lives today. This is one of the reasons why we sometimes fail to overcome, and change and grow spiritually as we should.

Do you fully appreciate the important function of the Holy Spirit in effecting lasting, meaningful change in your life—in helping you to overcome sin and to shape and mold your mind and character into the image of God? Or, like some, do you take for granted the power of the Spirit of God—and tend to de-emphasize its vital role in your life as a Christian?

The Troublesome Inner Man

Each of us struggles with human weaknesses and sin at times. It might be a problem with a certain member of the family. It might be feelings of resentment or bitterness toward a mate, sibling or parent. Maybe we have negative feelings toward our boss. We might be habitually lazy or a chronic overeater. We might have a problem with feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem, or suffer from anxiety and worry. Or perhaps we are struggling with some wrong habit that holds us as its slave—and, struggle and fight as we may against that habit, somehow we are never able to conquer it.

We must overcome these habits, these sins, these temptations. Overcoming is one of the most important keys to salvation. Only those who overcome are promised eternal life, membership in the family of God and rulership over the nations (Revelation 3:12, 21).

Since overcoming is so vital to our eternal destiny, we need to thoroughly understand what it is.

Overcoming is the process of rooting out sinful habits and conduct from our lives. It is forsaking and conquering such lawbreaking practices as swearing, lying, cheating, drunkenness, gluttony, smoking and other sins. We understand, like the Apostle Paul, that sin is actually a law—a law as real and certain as the law of gravity (Romans 7:23). We became painfully aware of the fact that sin exists in our very nature when we began to learn God’s truth and realized that this problem must be dealt with and overcome.

Yet if sin is such a living, dynamic force in human nature, is there any lasting hope of conquering it? After all, the Bible unequivocally states, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). That means our minds are spiritually sick and in need of divine healing!

Oftentimes we fail to see just how evil we are. We refuse to acknowledge the plague of our own heart (1 Kings 8:38). Because of this, our marriages and families often have to reach the disaster stage before we act. Frequently we fail to deal with our problems until it is too late, or nearly so.

Thankfully, God has not left us helpless. Though none can save himself, God has given us a tool that, when properly used, can overcome our troublesome, evil self.

Another Dimension

The trouble is, many of us stumble along in our Christian walk, struggling to keep the commandments by our own might and power.

No wonder so many become discouraged! We do not even have, inherently, the kind of love that fulfills God’s law and makes us righteous! It takes “the love of God … shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy [Spirit]” (Romans 5:5) to pierce through all the layers of pride, vanity, jealousy, envy, hatred and rebellion—and penetrate the inner core of our being.

We must come to realize that only the Spirit of God can fulfill the law and give us God’s righteousness. Only God’s Holy Spirit imparts divine love, faith and power to overcome sin and Satan.

Yes, the true way to overcome a problem—be it simply a wrong habit or perhaps a more serious sin—is to tap into the fountain of living waters, the Holy Spirit of God!

Even with this tool, we still won’t, at least during this physical life, be able to remove human nature completely—but we will become partakers of God’s own divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

But all of this requires much intense prayer, diligent Bible study, meditation and regular fasting.

It is the renewing of the inner man through daily contact with God that enables us to change from within. In other words, to be an overcomer means that the real changes we effect in our lives must not come from the outside in; rather, they must come from the inside out, through the added dimension of God’s Holy Spirit.

Tap the Power of the Universe!

The Apostle Paul was very aware that human strength alone is insufficient—the power of God is vitally needed in the lives of true Christians.

Notice his prayer: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:14-16).

Here we see that Paul prayed that God the Father would give strength, power and might to our “inner man”—where our will exists, in the deepest, most innermost parts of our mind and character.

Do you pray this prayer? If you don’t, you should!

Failure to pray for God’s spiritual strength and might is one of the main reasons why we suffer from so many bad habits, problems and weaknesses!

Paul continued, praying that God would strengthen our “inner man” with His Spirit so that Christ Himself can work within each of us individually (Philippians 2:5; Colossians 1:27), to help us become real spiritual successes! Notice it: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye [brethren], being rooted and grounded in love , May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth [human] knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

It is by living faith and by the love of Christ—both of which come from that fountainhead of spiritual power, the Holy Spirit—that God’s people can have Christ dwelling in them “in the flesh” (1 John 4:2-3).

Paul prayed that we would be completely filled with the fullness of God’s very nature and character!

“Now unto him [God the Father] that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the POWER that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21). Here Paul concludes his prayer, showing that we are to be asking for and meditating on God’s spiritual power.

The degree to which we pray bold prayers of the type recorded here is the degree to which we individually can expect to effect lasting, meaningful change in our lives from the inside out!

Yes, we can lift up our voices in prayer and cry aloud to God boldly—with full confidence (1 John 5:14-15)—knowing He will give us what we ask, and often even above and beyond what we ask of Him!

The secret of success in overcoming lies in the power and might of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Sometimes we slip and fall when we are weakest and tempted hardest. The influences of the devil and the trials of life can undermine our efforts and desires—if we allow it. But God is able to circumvent these forces by imparting to us the power of His mighty Spirit. With this new energy that God’s Spirit gives, all things are possible.

Rivers of Living Water

Jesus Christ spoke about the incredible power available to humans from God. He said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly [the Living Bible renders this word as ‘innermost being’] shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).

Notice! Jesus said that out of the deepest core of converted men would flow rivers of living water—not a little stream or intermittent dribble, but a raging river! We firstfruits now have access to these rivers of living water!

Do you gloss over and minimize what Christ actually promised? He promised raging, surging, foaming rivers of living water! He promised the power of the Holy Spirit! He gave us a vivid, graphic analogy of something that should be occurring daily in the lives of converted Christians!

On a daily basis, we should be receiving, using and stirring up those living waters of God’s Spirit in our mind! We should be so filled with the Spirit that it is flowing from us—out of our inner man—and influencing the daily decisions we make.

If all we change is the way we are on the outside, instead of changing our outlook—our inner man—then we are not proving by our conduct that we are the people of God! All we are doing is changing about as much as the unconverted people of this world are able to change!

Paul instructs us in Ephesians 4:22-24 to “put off concerning the former [conduct] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” We have a responsibility, to grow and overcome spiritually! We owe it to God the Father and Jesus Christ to make our calling and election sure.

Yet sometimes we decelerate our spiritual growth by moving our focus away from the fountainhead of inner spiritual power. We focus too much on physical methods and techniques and sundry man-made programs and remedies alone instead of relying primarily on God and the power He has made available to us. Is this why you continue to suffer from human weaknesses and besetting sins?

The Spirit of God is not a spirit of fear, but a spirit power of love and of a sound, overcoming mind! We need to tap into this Spirit and use this power of God to overcome our fears, our inferiority complexes and shortcomings, and, in the process, develop relaxed faith. We must learn not to trust in our own human might or power.

How can the Holy Spirit work in our life to effect lasting change? What follows are four basic points that lay a foundation on which all viable inner change, beginning in the mind, the “inner man,” can be built and generated.

A Humble Attitude

The first step in becoming an overcomer, and to increase the influence of the Holy Spirit in your life so you may change and grow in godly character, is this: You must become—and remain—sensitive to sin and the weakness of human nature. In other words, you must be repent-hearted and allow God to correct you when you err.

Once you repent—change from your ways of sin and turn to God’s way—you can, with God’s help, grow in spiritual knowledge, develop character and overcome wrong habits, weaknesses and faults.

But having a childlike attitude is a major key. You must be contrite, correctable.

Hardly anyone enjoys being corrected; we naturally resist it. But as a truly converted person, you should enjoy—even welcome—correction. For it is impossible to grow and change and to develop perfect, holy, righteous character without plenty of reproof and correction (Matthew 5:48; Hebrews 6:1; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The Holy Spirit flows freely and abundantly only through a correctable, teachable mind. Acts 2:38 tells us that repentance is a prerequisite for the initial receipt of the Holy Spirit into one’s mind at baptism. However, daily repentance is also necessary for the continual renewal of that Spirit.

In order to facilitate the free movement of God’s Spirit into our minds, we must continually be willing to admit error. When we refuse to admit that we’re wrong, when we refuse to be reproved and corrected by God, we lose our sensitivity to sin and subsequently block the Spirit of God from coming into our minds. The Spirit’s influence on our minds quickly wanes. God grants His people the ability to repent and subsequently grow in character. Conversely, He also allows us to quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The Spirit of God is not static but is either increasing or decreasing in its effect on us. And our actions and attitude regulate the flow of God’s Spirit.

The Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to “stir up the gift of God” so that he could boldly and confidently “[partake] of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:6, 8). Stirring up the Holy Spirit in our lives involves, in large part, this first step—being receptive to correction.

But you must not stop there. It could leave you feeling overwhelmed. There is more you must do if you want to be an overcomer.

Gift of the Spirit

You must ask God, daily, to grant you more of His Spirit. It may sound like an oversimplification, but it is not. You must clearly and specifically pray each day and ask God to replenish your supply of the Holy Spirit.

Overcoming sins, faults, weaknesses, bad habits will be possible only through humbly yielding to God and asking Him for your daily needs.

The best way to get air out of a glass or jar is to put something else in, such as water, to force the air out. The same is true with regard to overcoming. You can’t just remove the bad habit or sin by your own willpower and leave it at that. You must fill the void with God’s power—and to receive more of God’s power, you must ask!

God expects us to reiterate that request day by day—and to spend quality time making that request. Like Paul, we should take a pro-active approach and pray that God would completely fill us with the fullness of His nature and character in our “inner man.” Don’t just assume that God will keep supplying you with His Spirit automatically.

God has promised to supply whatever we need (Matthew 7:7-8; Philippians 4:19), and that promise includes more of His power. In Luke 11:13, Christ said, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

Never forget: You must ask before you can receive!

Matthew 6:8 shows us that God knows our needs even before we ask Him. But He has not promised to automatically supply what we do not ask for (James 4:2-3).

God will restrain the flow of His Holy Spirit into your mind—until such time as you ask! He wants to see your strong desire to increase the Holy Spirit in your life so you can use it to grow in Christian character and produce good fruit. Christ does not want to see you hide the “pound” you’ve been given in a napkin somewhere and do nothing with it (Luke 19:20-27). Rather, He wants you to “occupy”—to overcome, to increase and grow in character—until He comes (verse 13).

The key to accomplishing more is to spend quality time on your knees daily, committing your spiritual needs to God, asking for a fresh supply of the Holy Spirit and spiritual power. “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). This is a biblical key—you must renew the Spirit of God in your minds day by day. It is the only way to grow in your conversion!

As your fleshly body is deteriorating with age, your “inward man” should be alive and growing!

What happens if we don’t ask for that renewal?

Gerald Flurry wrote, “It does not take long for Satan to pick us off if we don’t continually go to God on our knees. We cannot survive without that spiritual strength. We must have the power of God if we are to get through this war! Look at history. Look at what happened to God’s Church in this end time. We simply will not make it unless the inner man is renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). Daniel received awesome strength. Remember, he prayed and fasted for three weeks” (Daniel—Unsealed At Last!).

If you are not using God’s Spirit, you are on dangerous footing spiritually.

Developing holy, righteous character must be your top priority! Each day we need to ask for more of the Holy Spirit, and that it would flow abundantly into our lives so we can experience the effective development of divine character.

From time to time we should also pray specifically for the various fruits or attributes of the Holy Spirit to be imparted to us (Galatians 5:22-23). God expects us to develop and demonstrate these fruits as we overcome.

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit …” (Ephesians 6:18). Prayer, supported by the power of God, is a highly effective tool.

God wants us to ask for power from Him so that we will credit Him—not ourselves, or our own puny human might or power—when we begin to grow in godly character. He wants you to know that it is His gift!

Exercise Effort to Overcome

You must exert self-generated effort.

Overcoming sin and yielding oneself to God does require diligent effort. You must take the first step. You must do your part before God will do His part.

There are two basic misconceptions that some people have about this. The first is that the Holy Spirit does all the overcoming for us—that we need to do nothing except sit back and let the Spirit take full control.

The second misconception is the opposite extreme, that we do 99 percent of the overcoming ourselves. That we struggle, perspire and fight, and then ultimately, when we have nothing left to give, God intervenes and places an extra measure of His Spirit into our mind.

Nowhere does the Bible say we must try to overcome using 99 percent of our own power; nor does the Bible say we must do absolutely nothing, expecting God to handle everything for us!

Overcoming and changing is a cooperative venture—a blending of human effort and divine power!

However, we must initiate the process of overcoming. We must start overcoming with self-generated effort. We must deliberately set our weak will and our human faith in the right direction and begin to struggle and fight against whatever it is we need to overcome. Then, at that point, within the struggle, God adds His power and faith to our human effort!

The Apostle Paul graphically described this unique two-fold process of matching effort for effort: “Whereunto I also labour, striving [agonizing] according to his working which worketh in me mightily” (Colossians 1:29).

The Christian struggle implies hard work and elbow grease. Paul also said he was striving, which literally means to contend in athletic games, to agonize. Paul clearly stated that he was laboring, striving, expending great energy to do God’s Work. But Paul didn’t struggle alone. His effort was accompanied by God working in him mightily! It was a cooperative venture.

God works as we work! He matches effort for effort! We start to struggle, and then God intervenes and backs us up, giving us the strength and might to carry on in that process of overcoming.

To change your heart, you must initiate a struggle, to which God shall respond. But what exactly does it mean to “struggle”? What is it you must do?

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul uses the analogy of an athlete running a race to define the Christian struggle. The Bible also uses examples of laboring in the field, putting the hand to the plow, laboring for the harvest and grinding at the millstone.

Another effective analogy used is that of a soldier going through military maneuvers. In Matthew 11:12, Jesus said that men of violence would take the Kingdom of God by force—indicating that Christians must be proactive and fight the fight of faith in order to enter God’s Kingdom. The words in the original Greek for this verse are powerful, showing that the forceful seize the Kingdom of God by powerful eagerness, with ardent force and energy.

Each of us must exert diligent effort. We may need the aid of certain techniques or programs to get us started on the right path to overcoming. We may need the help of family members, friends or brethren to spur us on—to help us remain motivated to seeking change.

A few in God’s Church over the years have tried to battle alcoholism without success. These individuals finally admitted they had a problem they couldn’t overcome by themselves and exerted some self-generated effort. They humbly sought the counsel of God’s ministry. They also, on the minister’s advice, sought supplemental help from the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery program. They attended the AA meetings and learned what they could from that particular program. But, so that their results wouldn’t be limited or temporary, they took further action: They prayed, fasted and asked God for more of His Spirit to help them overcome their addiction.

They overcame, not on their own strength, but with the combined power of God’s Spirit working with their own human spirit and motivation. They didn’t try to rely solely on their own human willpower or the AA program. They realized the need to make a sustained effort, but looked to God for the necessary help to overcome!

God appreciates our struggling. He likes to see His begotten sons try. What human father doesn’t enjoy seeing his toddler learn to walk? The child may stumble and fall numerous times before learning to walk, but each time he falls the father is always quick and eager to help that toddler back to his feet. God is the same. He wants to help us—so long as we’re also trying to help ourselves, while looking for and yielding to His assistance.

If we’re out of balance in any area—whether we eat too much, drink too much, are deep in debt, stay up too late, burning the candle at both ends and not getting enough sleep—and finally begin to take steps to stop it and overcome, as we go to God in a repentant attitude, asking for His Spirit, He will give it. God will help us have the self-control and patience needed to overcome.

Christ had to pray with fervency and tears to overcome the flesh and never sin. The Apostle Paul said he had to beat his body into subjection to overcome self and sin. Yet, he said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Notice, it was through Christ—not that Christ did it all! Paul had to put forth a certain amount of his own effort.

Never Give Up

All of these steps would yield only temporary success in overcoming without this final point: You must endure to the end. Don’t give up the fight! You must, whenever necessary, repeat steps one through three. It may take a long, long time to overcome your problems, your bad habits, your weaknesses. In fact, it probably will require a great deal of time—weeks, months, even years—before you will see lasting, meaningful changes in certain areas of your life. But God wants to see you endure. He wants you to never give up.

We tend to want instant change and immediate results. We’re willing to struggle for a few hours or days at a time, but often give up too easily. As long as you are continuing, enduring, repenting and asking God for more of His Spirit—as long as you make a sustained effort to progress and grow—you’re not stagnating and God will be pleased with the process. And why wouldn’t He be? Look at how happy we are, as parents, when we see our little children persevering to master something. Our Father is far more pleased with us when He sees us struggling and overcoming.

Divine character isn’t something God can create by fiat. It is something we must choose to develop.

God is not interested in how we start out, but how we finish.

God will be with you, He will bless your efforts and help you to overcome by empowering and strengthening you with His might—if you will continue to endure to the end. Christ promised that “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

Christ gave His life so we can be forgiven for our wretched, self-centered, rebellious lives when we repent. We must be willing to give up our lives and let Christ live His life in us, being led by God’s Spirit (Galatians 2:20).

The end result of using the power of God’s Spirit is that we shall be as God—in a position where we cannot sin, because we ourselves have set it so and have turned from sin and have struggled and struggled against sin, and overcome sin. God’s purpose will be accomplished, and it is all wrapped up in the day of Pentecost.

This is how to be an overcomer!

From the Archives: Royal Vision, May-June 2004