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HOW TO BE AN OVERCOMER!
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.,
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Hymn Sung Before the Sermon:
“Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out” (Song of Solomon 4:16; p. 707 Scofield).
This is the most important sermon I ever heard in my life. If you read my autobiography you will see why this sermon changed my life. Dr. Robert L. Sumner said, “I appreciate and admire a man who is willing to take a stand for truth – even when all the odds are against him. R. L. Hymers, Jr. is that kind of a Christian” (The Honor Was All Mine: Giants of the Faith Whose Paths Crossed Mine, Biblical Evangelism Press, 2015, pp. 103-105). One of our missionaries to Indonesia said, “Dr. Hymers is a hero who has survived many deadly wars.” This is the sermon by Dr. Timothy Lin that made me who I am today. I hope this message will change your life too.
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Dr. Timothy Lin said, “Man was not created by chance; he was specifically created to have dominion over God’s creation…Joseph’s life reveals the preparation the believer needs for future dominion [in Christ’s coming Kingdom].”
Before Joseph became a ruler over Egypt, God took him down a long hard path to prepare him to be an overcomer and a keeper of His Word to the very end of [his] life. The great things that Joseph did were not only related to Egypt, but also to Israel, and to God’s church throughout the ages. Without Joseph’s reign, not only might the Egyptians have starved to death, but also the nation of Israel might have been annihilated, and the revelation of God’s redemption in Genesis would not have been completed.
The steps which God took to build Joseph’s spiritual life may be considered in the light of Song 4:16. Studying Joseph’s life carefully, one can observe how God let the north wind and south wind alternately blow upon him until the aromatic spices of his character flowed out. God prepared his character by sufferings, exercised his body with toil, exposed him to disgrace and humiliation, and frustrated him with injustice and ingratitude, that his mind might be cultivated, his sensibility be stabilized, his volition strengthened, his faith and character developed, and his faith in the Lord increased. The operations of the north wind and south wind in Joseph’s life may be clearly seen.
South Wind – Enjoying Parental Affection
Please turn to Genesis 37:1-4 (p. 53).
“And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him” (Genesis 37:1-4).
Dr. Lin said, “Parental love has a lot to do with a child’s future characteristics…”
“Joseph knew the differences between love and evil…love and truth are two interactive concepts, but this is not true of love and evil, which are two different categories. To refrain from exposing evil is not love, but cowardice…As long as a person’s motive is selfless, exposing evil is a noble deed and should be encouraged… The details of Joseph’s two dreams hurt his brothers’ pride and excited their envy; yet Joseph still loved his brothers and remained an obedient son to his father.”
I myself did not have the love of my father, but my mother’s love and approval kept me from becoming bitter at my father. My mother was far from perfect, but “She was the kindest, sweetest, smartest person I knew in my young life. She taught me to love books, to drive a car, and most importantly to stand up and say what needs to be said, even if I stood alone” (p. 16 of my autobiography). Thus, my mother always was my defender and advocate. Mother’s last words to me were, “I love you, Robert” (p. 181). When my mother was finally saved at the age of 80, it was one of the greatest things that happened to me in my life.
North Wind – Sold into Slavery –
Please turn to Genesis 37:23-28 (p. 54) and stand as I read it.
“And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt” (Genesis 37:23-28; p. 54).
You may be seated.
Dr. Lin said, “Sincerity, obedience, patience, faithfulness, diligence, thoughtfulness, and wisdom are not obtained through an easy life, but by enduring hardship and obstacles. Joseph would never have been completely equipped to be [an overcomer] had he remained at home. His being sold for 20 pieces of silver would have caused many to be mortally sick. But Joseph did not accuse or curse his brothers, although he may have wondered how God would fulfill his two dreams through these circumstances.”
South Wind – Earning Confidence and Esteem –
Please turn to Genesis 39:1-6 (p. 56) while I read it.
“And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured” (Genesis 39:1-6; p. 56).
Joseph was sold to a captain of Pharaoh’s guard named Potiphar. Instead of complaining Joseph went to work and fulfilled the duties set before him. He won the confidence of his master, Potiphar, and became a man characterized by success. But Joseph needed further training. So God permitted him to be humiliated.
North Wind – Facing Temptation and Injustice –
Now stand as I read Genesis 39:1-18 (p. 56). Dr. Lin said, “When the north wind blows into their lives, many young people think it is tragic…But such trouble is often a manifestation of God’s grace. Jeremiah said, ‘It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth’ (Lamentations 3:27; p. 837). A life of ease without struggle can ruin a young person. But the yoke borne in youth is a stepping stone for him to reach a higher station.”
“And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured. And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her. And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within. And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice: And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out. And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home. And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out” (Genesis 39:1-18; p. 56).
You may be seated.
One day as Joseph was working in Potiphar’s house, his wife caught Joseph and tried to make him lie with her. But Joseph wrenched himself loose from her, left his garment in her hand, and ran away.
This temptation might have been irresistible for other young men, but Joseph overcame it. He quickly overcame it by getting away quickly. Some temptations can be overcome by facing them, but temptations connected with sex and lust can only be overcome by fleeing (II Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee also youthful lusts”). Joseph’s victory – his faithfulness – to God, to Potiphar who had so much confidence in him, and to himself, so his purity could be kept from defilement. For God’s sake he would rather go to jail than yield to the wicked woman’s desire. For Potiphar’s sake he did not defend himself, to avoid disgracing his master’s wife. So he kept silent. When Potiphar returned home, he accepted his wife’s accusation, and put Joseph in jail.
South Wind – Promotion and Friendship –
Turn to Genesis 39:19-22 (p. 56). Stand as I read it.
“And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it” (Genesis 39:19-22; p. 56).
You may be seated.
Even though Joseph’s physical environment changed for the worse, his spiritual conviction did not. And God’s presence continued to be a blessing to him in jail.
Joseph was able to create a friendly environment in the jail. Pharaoh’s butler and baker, who were also in jail, were troubled by dreams. No one could tell them what these dreams meant. In Joseph’s mind God could do anything. He interpreted the butler’s and baker’s dreams. After three days both interpretations were fulfilled. The butler was restored, and the baker was hanged. This was Joseph’s south wind blowing, even in jail.
North Wind – Enduring Ingratitude and Tardiness –
Look at Genesis 40:23 (p. 57).
“Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him” (Genesis 40:23).
Joseph’s imprisonment for two more long years must surely have been a severe north wind for him. “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgot him” (Genesis 40:23). This shows the ungrateful character of the butler. Such a situation could lead a person to hate the world for its ingratitude, but not Joseph. He had learned the virtue of waiting for God to work. God prolonged his time in jail to increase Joseph’s patience in waiting for God to work, and to deepen his confidence in God’s faithfulness. God’s tardiness was evidence of His extra grace to His overcomer. Later David said, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14; p. 611).
South Wind – Reigning as a King –
Stand as I read Genesis 47:12-17 (p. 66).
“And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families. And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine. And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought: and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house. And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth. And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail. And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year” (Genesis 47:12-17; p. 66).
You may be seated.
Dr. Lin said, “No chastening is enjoyable when it is received; it is always painful and unpleasant. But it brings forth the fruit of righteousness in those who have been trained by it.” Turn to Hebrews 12:11 (p. 1303),
“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which [grow] thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).
At the end of those two long years, God caused Pharaoh to have a dream in which the butler remembered that Joseph had interpreted his dream. The butler told Pharaoh to ask Joseph to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream! The dream meant that the seven years of plenty would end with seven years of famine. Pharaoh appointed Joseph to carry out the plan, and prepare for the coming seven years of famine. Pharaoh saw that Joseph was supernaturally gifted to do this work. Thus Joseph was made a ruler over all the land of Egypt (41:38-43; p. 59). Joseph reigned over the Egyptians with wisdom and sympathy – and he reigned over his brethren with discipline and love. Finally Joseph was honored above his brothers (49:26; p. 69).
Dr. Lin said, “As God trained Joseph to lead an earthly kingdom, so God trains His overcomers to have authority over His coming Kingdom. Salvation is unconditional, in that no works are involved. But reigning with Christ in His coming Kingdom is conditional.” The Bible says,
“If we suffer [endure], we shall also reign with him” (II Timothy 2:12; p. 1280).
Pastor Richard Wurmbrand went through 14 years of suffering in a Communist prison. Pastor Wurmbrand said, “I have not known a Christian who remained faithful through adversities and inner struggles who did not come out of them enriched” (Preface of “If Prison Walls Could Speak”).
Again, Pastor Wurmbrand said, “My brothers and sisters, you must believe that your lives are like clay in the hands of God. He never makes mistakes. If at times he is hard on you…just trust. Discover the message for which He is molding you. Amen.” (p. 16).
If you become an overcomer like Joseph, you have this promise from God. Turn to Revelation 2:26 (p. 1333).
“He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations” (Revelation 2:26).
Thank you, Dr. Timothy Lin, for teaching me what we have heard in your great sermon. It changed my life, dear pastor. I owe my life to this teaching!
Please stand and sing our hymn for today, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?”
Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb;
And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight, if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.
(“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).
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If you are not yet saved, I want you to trust Jesus Christ now. He came down from Heaven to die on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins. The moment you trust Jesus, His Blood will cleanse you from all sin. I pray that you will trust Jesus now.