Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
From verse 9 on this is like a waterfall of good advice, with one or two pithy zingers per verse. Any one of those is worth writing on, but this last verse comes closest to summarizing it all. The fact is, there’s a lot of evil out there. Frankly, we are constantly bombarded with evil of all sorts, from moral depravity to despicable terrorism, so this is extremely pertinent advice. I could create quite a list of the evil that assails us, but that would benefit nothing. To overcome evil, we don’t need to focus on the evil but rather on the good, that is, God. I am reminded of the often-quoted fact that to detect counterfeit bills, bankers don’t study counterfeits, but rather the real thing. With all the changes in US currency in recent years, that’s kept them pretty busy! When we want to know when something is false, we need to be fully familiar with what is true. God has given us consciences for that purpose, but our conscience by itself is rarely sufficient against the moral creep of the age. (I didn’t intend a pun there, but either spelling/meaning could apply!) We need the written standard of the Bible, and we need the present help of the Holy Spirit who authored it. So to overcome evil with good, the first step is an attitude of submission and obedience to God, as James said so clearly. (James 4:7) The second step is familiarity with His instruction manual, the Bible. This is ongoing, because very few if any people have the whole thing memorized, and even memorization in itself is insufficient; it must be internalized. The third step, taken along with the other two, is asking for and being open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is where the power comes in. Jesus wasn’t speaking idly when He said that we would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on us, (Acts 1:8) however that power wasn’t so much for miracles, though they are possible, but for the basic task of overcoming evil to establish the kingdom of God in this world, as He told us to pray. (Matthew 6:10) Today we are faced with more evil than we can enumerate, and each person faces a different mix. Accordingly, just as each person in a military squad on patrol has a different function but all have the same mission, we are to support and encourage one another but not think that another person is called to do exactly what we feel called to do. However, all of us are called to submit to God, resist the devil, and overcome evil with good.
I am certainly no different from anyone else in this respect. As a pastor I have more responsibility than some, but the overall task is the same. The Bible has plenty of instructions specifically for those in my position, so I’d better be fully familiar with them and putting them into practice. At the same time, evil comes against me at least as much as it does against those without my responsibility. I must never think my position makes me immune from anything! However, I am never to be discouraged, but remember that the Holy Spirit in me is greater than all the forces against me. (1 John 4:4) Ultimately, all that I am called to, or anyone else for that matter, is faithful obedience.
Father, thank You for this very clear exposition of the task at hand. Keep me from the dangerous mistake of relying on my own strength or on past victories. Help me rather stay in the flow of Your Spirit each moment, hearing and obeying, so that Your power may be expressed perfectly in my weakness, (2 Corinthians 12:9) for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!