Be A Hearing Overcomer
By Richard C. Benjamin
In coming days, God is going to bring some mighty things to pass. It will be a wonderful time for the church, a time of great revelation of the power of God and of great gathering of lost souls.
At the same time, however, I see great persecution of Christians ahead. I see that some of God's people will not stand. I see nowhere in the Bible any kind of guarantee whatsoever that any and every Christian will be an overcomer in the last days.
I am writing to encourage Christians to set their sails to be in the wonderful company of those who overcome and inherit all that God has laid in store for them. For the Bible clearly says, over and again, that those who are overcomers will live.
I am motivated to warn every Christian of the urgent need to hear what the Spirit of God is saying to the churches in the last decade of the 20th century – not in opposition to the Bible, but in concord with the Bible and specifically as it relates to individuals.
Christians in this age cannot afford to be deaf. Rather, each must live close to the Lord so that when the Spirit speaks, he can hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. In this way, any Christian can be an overcomer.
Jesus Wrote to the Churches
In the book of the Revelation are seven letters written by Jesus. He Himself is the author of the letters addressed to seven churches, and more specifically to the leaders of the churches. These are local church pastors. If the Lord ever wrote a letter to a church today, it would be the pastor of the church generally who would open the letter and read it. The words "overcome" and "hear" are used together in each of these seven letters.
To the church in Ephesus: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To Him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God" (Rev. 2:7).
To the church in Smyrna: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death" (Rev. 2:11).
To the church in Pergamum: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it" (Rev. 2:17).
To the church in Thyatira: "To him who overcomes and does My will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – 'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' – just as I have received authority from My Father. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 2:26-29).
To the church in Sardis: "He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and His angel. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 3:5-6).
To the church in Philadelphia: "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of My God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from My God; and I will also write on him My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 3:11-13).
To the church of Laodicea: "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 3:21-22).
Again, these letters are from Jesus, the second person of the Trinity. He is writing about the words of the third person of the Trinity. The Son of God is speaking of the voice of the Holy Spirit. These letters are written to the church in a collective way, and they are to be heard by the individual.
Jesus repeated the instruction seven times. It is important. Seven times he said, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." And seven times the promise was made with the instruction. Those who hear from the Holy Spirit can be overcomers in this critical last age.
The Holy Spirit Is a Person
The Holy Spirit is not just an influence. Christians are told that they receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon them (Acts 1:8), but again, the Holy Spirit is not just power. The Bible shows again and again that the Holy Spirit is a being – a holy being.
The Bible also describes other kinds of spirit beings, such as angels, which are ministering spirits. On the negative side, the devil and his subordinates, the demons, are spirit beings. Then, too, every person is a spirit being, according to Scripture. The Bible says things like, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead" (Jas. 2:26). Jesus, a person, said, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit" (Luke 23:46). And "while they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit'" (Acts 7:59).
So we have the Holy Spirit in the world. He is a person who wants to communicate with the church.
The Bible Is the Holy Spirit's Communication to Men
Even the Bible was written as "men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21). As the last book of the Bible was being written – the book of the Revelation – the Lord said in a sense, "I am sending My personalized message to each one of these churches. This is coming from Me."
The words came by the Holy Spirit to John in the realm of commendation, of instruction, of warning. These words are written down in a book. Any member of any local church today can read the seven letters of Jesus to the churches and can adhere to what is taught there, deriving great benefit from them.
Jesus Wants His People to Be Overcomers
What Jesus is saying is that He wants Christians to be overcomers. His heart's desire is not a defeated people, but an overcoming people. As students of the Word of the Lord look at the Bible, they find two possibilities: being an overcomer or, conversely, being overcome. Yet it is never God's will for one of His people to be in the latter division.
In my thinking I consider how closely these two factors are related in the Revelation: 1) being a victorious overcomer, and 2) being an appropriate hearer from the Spirit of God.
Christians have almost retreated from a position that God has ordered for them when they do not think in terms of the Holy Spirit talking to them in this generation, of Him communicating with them in a very definite way in the hour in which we now live. Somehow Christians have found in error that the Holy Spirit is somewhat mute, that He is not communicating with them. In reality, however, the Holy Spirit in this hour wants to be in vital communication with His people.
So we find that it is not the Holy Spirit who is failing to speak, but it is the people of God who are deficient in their hearing. What comes through is a final warning: if you have an ear, hear what the Holy Spirit is saying.
The Decade of the 1990's Is Momentous
The slowness of so many of God's people to hear from the Holy Spirit causes me great concern. The decade of the 1990's is a momentous decade. Theology points to it. The Bible points to it. Natural observation points to it.
In such a critical era, churches need to know the voice of the Spirit of God explicitly so they will not miss what God wants to do.
I ask the question, "If you are going to be an overcomer, then what is it that you are overcoming? What is it that is existent in society that you must surmount?"
We are told that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12). As Christians, then, the church is not wrestling with other human beings.
As I have investigated this, I have found five primary enemies by which Christians may be attacked: by evil, by the influence of the antichrist in the world today, by the devil himself, by the world, by their own flesh.
The first of these enemies is simply evil. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). Evil is flooding the face of the earth in the 1990's.
I believe Christians need to be extremely discretionary in how they handle their televisions and so many other tools that can be used for evil in today's world. Christians can become so numb to the evil that they can live among it and it does not disturb them. They can grow calloused to things like abortion, pornography, perversion – evil in its many, many forms.
In Romans 12 Paul spoke of others doing terrible things to the Christian, and the Christian wanting vengeance. But he instructed, "On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.'" And then he said, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:20-21). When someone does a Christian wrong, the Holy Spirit is saying, "Do not return in kind. Overcome evil with good."
Overcome the Antichrist and His Influence
The Apostle John said, "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth" (1 John 2:18-20).
In fact he said, "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:2-4).
There are all kinds of voices in the land. There is a strong tendency toward compromise on the part of the church in many quarters.
John wrote that the reason a Christian today can overcome the power of the antichrist is because he has an awareness of the Holy Spirit within him. The influence of the antichrist will ultimate in the big antichrist – the world ruler. I trust by God's grace I will not be around when he is here. This evil one can be overcome by a realization that even though he may be enormously strong and very influential, there has come to reside within the Christian the person of the Holy Spirit. There is the realization that the Holy Spirit is even stronger and more influential than the forces of the antichrist are, and that God will bring each of His own into victory. The Christian can overcome by an awareness that the greatest One lives inside of him.
There used to be a popular expression that said, "It's not the size of the fighting man, but the size of the fight in the man." I have the conviction that a person can have no better help than the Holy Spirit inside of him. There is nothing greater. There is no force that can overwhelm a person who realizes that the greatest One is in him and on his side. It simply makes the man an overcomer, one to inherit the promises that Jesus wrote of in the seven letters in Revelation.
He said, "You…have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).
Overcome the Devil
In First John 2, the apostle wrote to people of various age levels. He said, "I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one…I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you and you have overcome the evil one" (1 John 2:12-14).
The devil tells all kinds of lies. But when a person has the Word of God in him, and a lie comes to him, he has the measuring rod. He can say, "This is reject," because he knows what the Bible says. No matter what the voice is, no matter how the message is being conveyed, the Holy Spirit says, "You young men, you are victorious over the devil himself." It is because they have the Word of God in them.
Overcome the World
Christians should be involved in the world. It is not that God's people should become defensive against people of the world but against all of the rottenness in the world. They should live good lives in God, being basically good and righteous before the Lord, overcoming evil with good.
"Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4). God told the truth. God is with His people. They have the absolute promises of God that are guaranteed to them until the end of the age. Because of that, I do not plan to look at the possibility of defeat, or of being overcome.
Overcome the Flesh
Christians must conquer their own flesh, too. They have to master themselves. They have to be willing to submit to the rules of God.
The failure of Adam and Eve was not so much because of the devil, who was involved in tempting them, but because of their failure to overcome their own fleshly appetites.
The way a person gets the victory over the flesh is to kill it. Galatians 5 lists the works of the flesh, and then it says, "such like," meaning there are a lot more fleshly passions to be overcome than even those listed there. Some of the "such like" evils of the flesh have come into existence in the 20th century. In the garden, there was the deadly poison of the fruit of one tree. There are many more rotten things to entice the flesh in the 1990's than there have ever been. But the Holy Spirit says, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24).
God Wants His People to Hear the Holy Spirit Directly
God wants to make His people overcomers. Therefore He wants them to be hearing, perceiving Christians. Seven times He said words like, "If you have ears, the Holy Spirit is talking. I am writing a letter. It is put down here in a book for you to read. But in addition to that, I want you to hear the message directly from the third person of the Trinity. He wants to talk firsthand to you." It is astonishing, but true.
As we read the Bible we find that God spoke rather dramatically to people. I pondered very carefully as I prepared this message whether Christians do not sell themselves short by settling for something less than what God intensely desires.
The Holy Spirit spoke directly and dynamically to the Apostle Paul. He spoke to him first of all when he was Saul of Tarsus. His words came sovereignly in a voice that could be heard even by those around him (Acts 9:4, 7). It was pointed. It was direct. Another time Paul was in a trance and he had a two-way conversation with God. On still another occasion Paul wanted to go to certain places, and the Spirit stopped him. In the night he had a vision where the Lord imparted: "Go to Macedonia." Paul had God talk right to him by the Holy Spirit. It is very plain.
The Apostle Peter was told by the Holy Spirit to go to the Gentiles, which was a great departure from his normal ministry. Later the Holy Spirit adjusted him when he got carried away with it, eating with the Jews at one time and the Gentiles at another time. The Bible says Peter "fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners…Then a voice told him, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.' …This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven….While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision," the Bible says, three men sent by God found him, and it all began to unfold for him (Acts 10:10-19). Peter had a threefold object lesson let down from heaven.
The truth that emerges from these accounts of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit, left in charge of the church, orchestrates such things, putting them in order. Often He does so only as His people hear the voice of God directly.
The Holy Spirit Speaks through Saints
On the other hand, the voice of the Holy Spirit can be heard as it is vocalized by other men, too. As Jesus Christ of Nazareth spoke to the Apostle Paul audibly and directly by the Holy Spirit, He said, "Get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do" (Acts 9:6). Further instruction then came to Paul, not again by an audible voice from heaven, but this time through a lowly man by the name of Ananias. Now it was a person speaking the words of the Holy Spirit. It was a man who came to him saying he had also had a visitation of the Lord. Now the Lord was taking another approach in speaking to Paul. And the words he spoke were far-reaching things that would affect the rest of his life. These were words from God spoken through the lips of a man. That is also a marvelous thing to me.
I am emphasizing hearing from the Lord, and looking at the reality of where the church is today – not just ideally, but where Christians actually are. As I do, I am very glad that God in His mercy elects to speak not just through angels, as He did to Philip to go down and attach himself to an Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8;26) or to Cornelius concerning the coming visit of Peter (Acts 10:22), but that He will use, on occasion, a lowly saint. I am not putting down Ananias or any other Christian who is used as a messenger of God, for a person who can hear from the Holy Spirit must have some stature in God. Yet remarkably, he is a person. And the Bible tells me that God's Spirit at times does choose to use persons to speak to other persons.
A Christian who desires to be keenly led by the Holy Spirit will keep this in balance before the Lord. He will not plan to get all of his direction through men. But he must be willing to listen to them when God chooses to use them to speak His words.
The Holy Spirit Speaks through Spiritual Gifts
Agabus was a prophet – one of the New Testament fivefold ministries – who had a word from the Holy Spirit for the Apostle Paul. The Bible says, "After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, 'The Holy Spirit says, "In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’
"When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, 'Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.' When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, 'The Lord's will be done.' After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem" (Acts 21:10-15).
The Apostle Paul was serving God with all of his heart when Agabus came and gave him this word from the Spirit of God. It was a disturbing word, an unsettling word. As a Christian, I am very much concerned about my own attitude toward such utterances. I want to be sure to hear from the Lord directly, as the Apostle Paul certainly did. But, at the same time, I do not want to be adverse to God speaking to me through men who are being used in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit spoke to Paul that way, and He is still speaking to the church that way. He speaks to men directly, and He speaks to men indirectly.
The Holy Spirit Speaks Quietly
The Lord also speaks to Christians in an inaudible voice. I know that when another person speaks to me, the sound normally enters my ear, travels through the eardrum to the hammer and stirrup, and somehow the vibrations reach my brain. It is marvelous. It is wonderful to have the capability of hearing.
Yet the Holy Spirit can speak in a way that can bypass the outer ear, the eardrum, the hammer and stirrup, and enter the brain directly. This is even more amazing! If a person is spiritual, he can hear what the Spirit is saying, even in an inaudible way.
Sometimes what a person calls a heavy impression – that is, hearing from the Spirit in an inaudible way – needs to be guarded and checked out. A person could get a heavy impression from the wrong place, especially if he is an immature Christian or, most particularly, if he is not a Christian at all. But a Christian should also guard against becoming so discretionary that he never hears anything from the Spirit of God. Today I am emphasizing, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches." One valid way in which the Spirit speaks is through inaudible "impressions."
God Speaks to Overcomers
God talks more quickly to overcomers than He does to careless-living people. That is why hearing and overcoming are so closely related in the letters to the seven churches which are written in Revelation. If a person wants God to speak to him, then he has to live close to God.
This is a valid contingency. The Bible says that if a person overcomes he will get something; if he does not overcome, then he will not get it.
How can a person ever be accurately used in any kind of a gift of the Spirit unless he has heard from God?
To hear from the Holy Spirit a Christian must continually practice the basics of the faith. He must have the Word of God richly in his life because when he does get impressions, he wants to measure them against the Bible. Of course there are some things that God will tell a man that are not in the Bible. He may tell a person to go to California tomorrow; yet California is not in the Bible. My wife and I minister to churches which are spread from coast to coast. We pray and pray about which ones to go to. Finally, we are able to say, "We feel the Holy Spirit wants us to go to California." We do not want to be out there batting around aimlessly, but keenly led by the Holy Spirit.
Besides studying the Word of God, a person who wants to hear the Holy Spirit speak must be steadfast in prayer. He must spend time in meditation. He must have close fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
The Written Word of God Provides Understanding
I get most of my understanding of what is going to happen in these last days as I read the Bible. It says, "There will be terrible times in the last days" (2 Tim. 3:1). A person can read that and say, "Ho hum," and I fear that many Christians do. I would classify such a person as "not hearing" what the Holy Spirit is saying through the Bible.
Christians of our day better beware. The Holy Spirit said there will be terrible times! We are in the last days. Matthew 24 gives great insight about what is going to happen before it all comes to an end. A Christian cannot discount that as being anything but the voice of the Holy Spirit through the written word.
Natural Observation Can Provide Understanding
I get an understanding of what is happening in the world and in the church by endeavoring to be keenly observant, to check out a lot of things. I desire to stay abreast of what God is doing by praying about just that. I pray, "God, what are You doing?" and then I look at what is going on around me. As I do, I believe the Holy Spirit communicates with me.
– From The Gospel Truth. Used by permission.