The Church Prevails?

Normally I don’t comment on current events or happenings at my local church, but this Sunday’s Sunday School lesson has got me turning.  The title and theme are simple enough – The Church Prevails.  It is grasping the true meaning and spiritual aspect of this simple concept that has me spinning a bit.  Let’s start at the beginning…

To prevail means simply to overpower, to be successful, to win.  That is simple enough, but there are differences between Old Testament prevail and New Testament prevail.  In short, the definition of winning a spiritual battle has changed.

When David met Goliath there was both a spiritual and physical battle that took place.  We don’t always know what is happening in the spiritual realm, but in many cases the evidence of what is happening is revealed in the physical realm, at least that is mostly what took place in the Old Testament.  Israel’s ongoing battles against the Philistines is largely symbolic of the struggle between God’s people and godless people or heathen.  It is also symbolic of the struggle between good and evil.  In the Old Testament when God’s people encountered a problem they immediately wanted to know what sin had been committed, and who had committed it.  Bad situations, failures, and the like in the physical realm were directly related to deeper spiritual things that were largely unseen.

Not so simple in the New Testament.  For in the New Testament there is not only a new covenant between God and man (whenever I use this term, I mean men, women, children), but the relationship between physical and spiritual have also been altered.  In the Old Testament when the sea got rough and threatened to capsize the boat, the sailors wanted to know who had sinned (see Jonah).  For in that epic sin was directly related to the physical.  However, in the New Testament we don’t find such a link.

In the Old Testament when Israel was obedient to God they dominated their neighbors and brought peace to the region.  In the New Testament no such peace exists.

Now that I’ve said all that, there are some similarities between Old and New Testament, especially in the area of how prophets and spiritual leaders were treated.  They were persecuted in the Old and in the New.  They were both respected and reviled in the Old and in the New.  They were thrown in prison and executed, both in the Old and in the New.

Which brings me to the church.  The New Testament church.  And why we can say it prevails.  In order to fully grasp this concept we have to further define exactly what prevails means.  In the physical realm prevail means simply to win, to be victorious, to dominate and control.  By this definition alone, the church has failed by every physical measure we might want to apply.  So, there must be a further explanation.  For, why would God create His church to fail?

Well, the truth is the church of Jesus Christ has prevailed, and is prevailing.  But, the reasons are deeper than just what we see in the physical…

Let’s take a few examples to illustrate the various forms of prevailing.

In Revelation 5:5 – “And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.”

In this passage we read that Jesus prevailed (overcame, was victorious, etc..) and was counted worthy to open the seven-sealed book.

In John 16:33 – “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

We see the words of Jesus to his disciples to encourage them, because He had prevailed over the world.  However, less than 1 day later Jesus was tortured and crucified, so it didn’t seem like much of a victory after all.

And not only Jesus, but take a quick look at John the Baptist.  He was God’s special messenger – one who prepared the way for the Messiah – Jesus even said that among those born of women there was not a greater than John the Baptist.  However, John was thrown into prison and later beheaded by Herod.  This doesn’t appear to be winning, does it?

So, how does the church prevail, if it looks like it is losing?

The answer lies in those things that are not clearly seen with the naked eye, or understood strictly from a casual observance of the situation or circumstance.  Winning or prevailing is actually a much deeper concept than we give it credit for.

We are accustomed to viewing winning or prevailing in all or nothing terms.  We are also accustomed to viewing winning or prevailing in terms of what is instantly available, and find it hard to view things from the long view.  And if that was not enough, we view winning or prevailing in terms of what is comfortable and pleasing, not what is uncomfortable or displeasing.

So, it is no wonder we are confused and really don’t have a clue about what it means to prevail.  But, let me give you a few hints to help you out…

The teenager who avoids drugs and alcohol during their high school years is a winner, and has prevailed.

The alcoholic who goes a month, week, or even a day without a drink is a winner, and has prevailed.

The smoker who has tried a thousand times to quit, but keeps trying and won’t give up, is a winner, and has prevailed.

The person who goes to the altar and beats on his chest, and cries out to God, “God, be merciful to me a sinner” is a winner, and has prevailed.

Winning and prevailing has more to do with our relationship with God more than it has to do with outward appearances.

Winning and prevailing has more to do with how, and where, we end up, than how, and where, we start from.

Winning and prevailing have virtually nothing to do with all the measures we deem important such as fame, wealth, position, influence, charm, etc…

In this light it is now easy to see how although the largest portion of the disciples of Jesus were eventually imprisoned, tortured, persecuted, and executed, they still prevailed.

And if they prevailed, then the church of Jesus Christ will also prevail, and is prevailing even today.

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One Response to “The Church Prevails?”

  1. beamcguire@gmail.com Says:

    Great food for thought! We need to keep things in prespective and this blog does exactly that. In this world that we are living in today it’s good to be reminded that we must prevail to the end! Thanks as always…..

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