The Overcomer
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - A Heart Matter

"...having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what... the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints" (Eph. 1:18).
" whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22).
"And it came to pass, when David dwelt in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of Jehovah dwelleth under curtains. And Nathan said unto David, Do all that is in thy heart, for God is with thee" (1 Chron. 17:1-2).
"And David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. And David longed and said, Oh that one would give me water to drink of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! And the three brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: but David would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto Jehovah, and said, My God forbid it me, that I should do this: shall I drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy? for with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it. Therefore he would not drink it. These things did the three mighty men" (1 Chron. 11:16-19).
"And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king: to whom also he bare witness and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who shall do all my will" (Acts 13:22).
"Jehovah, remember for David all his affliction: How he sware unto Jehovah, and vowed unto the Mighty One of Jacob: Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids; until I find out a place for Jehovah, a tabernacle for the Mighty One of Jacob" (Psa. 132:1-5).

"The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." "Ye... are builded together for (or into) a habitation of God..." That is the New Testament basis of our meditation, but we turn to the Old Testament to see that foreshadowed in the first book of Chronicles chapter 17, "It came to pass when David dwelt in his house..." You know what the Lord told Nathan to say to David, but it does not change the position. It only means that David himself personally was not allowed to build the house, and when that has been made clear the Lord says some very precious and gracious things to David. The Lord tells David that He will build him a house, and that He will establish his son upon his throne forever, and many such gracious things, in the presence of which David goes down on his face, so to speak, before the Lord, and says, "Who am I and what is my house...?". Then chapter 18 begins in this way: "Now after this it came to pass, that David smote the Philistines, and subdued them, and took Gath and her towns out of the hand of the Philistines. And he smote Moab"; and so on.

Now all that can find its place in Rev. 12:11. "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death." You may not see how it all fits in or is there, but I think we shall very soon.

There is one thing upon which the present emphasis is to be laid in connection with the overcomer, and it is this, that the matter of the overcomer is a heart matter. When we have said everything that we can say about the overcomer, it all comes back to that, that it is a heart matter.

The link between the letter to the Ephesians written by Paul, of which the fragment we have read is a sample, and the message written by John in Patmos to Ephesus, is quite clear to us. We have seen, in the first place, that the revelation given consisted, in a word, in this, namely, in the eyes of their heart being enlightened by a spirit of wisdom and revelation to know the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. The message to Ephesus in the second chapter of Revelation is, "Thou hast left thy first love; consider from whence thou art fallen". It is a heart matter, and the heart matter has to do with that which is most precious to the Lord Himself. It is a matter of having the heart set fully, utterly and strongly upon that which is, in the Lord's mind, the object that is of greatest account to Him. There is no fragment of Scripture which sets that forth more fully and perfectly than this little fragment, "the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints". It is what the Lord's heart is set upon. It is what is precious to the Lord. The overcomer has got a long way beyond the position where it is his own inheritance, his own blessing, that is uppermost. He has come to a place where it is no longer a matter of things, of blessings and so on. There is but one thing before him, namely, the Lord having what He requires, what He needs, what He desires, what His heart is set upon; not our inheritance, but His. That is the overcomer and it is a matter of the heart. It is jealousy of heart for God's interests, for God's fullest thought to have expression and realization. Wherever you look at the overcomer in type or reality, you find that is the thing which most deeply characterizes him. It is a heart matter.

A Man after God's own Heart

Let us mark this in the case of David. He has now come to mature years, and has a great deal of history with God lying behind. He is sitting in the presence of the blessings and mercies which have come to him through the grace of God, and as he sits, this is the direction and the form of his meditation: I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of Jehovah under curtains. This will never do! David's heart position at that time is disclosed in Psalm 132, "Surely I will not enter into my house, my house of cedar; I will not go up into my bed, I will not give slumber to my eyelids, till I have found a place for the ark of the Lord, the testimony of the Lord." David has sworn. There is the uncovering of David's heart, and that is the key to David's life. From the introduction of David to the end of his life, you find that to be the whole matter.

His introduction, you remember, was in connection with Goliath, and you find him there jealous for the Lord's name, jealous for the Lord's interests. It was not for Israel as Israel that he went out. It was the Lord. "I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, which thou hast defied."

Again, when Samuel is commanded to anoint the successor of Saul and the sons of Jesse are made to pass before him while David is yet absent, the Lord restrains Samuel, when he would have anointed the eldest, with the words, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature... the Lord looketh on the heart. Once more it is the heart of which mention is made.

So it is to the end. Nathan says to David, "Do all that is in thine heart". Nathan was a good man and had a great place of honour in the life of David. Nathan was a man who could rebuke a king, and whose rebuke could be taken without bad feeling; and Nathan, because he knew David's heart, was able to say in face of all his faults and failures, and dishonourable conduct on occasion, "Do all that is in thine heart".

Then there comes out this great testimony to David: "I have found David a man after my heart." How can this be? Look at David and his sin with Uriah. Look at David numbering Israel and bringing upon the whole nation devastation. Yes, look again at David in weakness bringing back Absalom the murderer, without any repentance on the part of the murderer, purely on the ground of natural affection, overlooking moral responsibility. Is this a man after God's own heart? Ah, these are the failures and weaknesses of the man, but right at the heart of that man there is something God sees which remains all through his life. This man has an eager, consuming jealousy for the Lord's interests, to find out a place for the testimony. He is consumed with the zeal of God's house. It is God's inheritance that is dear to David's heart: therefore he is the man after God's own heart.

The Overcomer Characterized by the Same Feature

We read the incident about the three mighty men of David. It is only a sidelight on the same principle. David one day yearned for something with a great longing, and said, "Oh that one would give me water to drink of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!" And the three mighty men broke through the garrison of the Philistines, put their lives in jeopardy, and brought of the water of the well for David. They were "overcomers". What was it that made them overcomers? They discerned something in the heart of their lord and king, and it was for that they counted not their lives dear unto them even unto death. You see the principle.

The overcomer is not someone who stands for a special kind of teaching called "overcomer truth", or one who belongs to a certain body of people who talk about "the overcomer". The overcomer is one or a company of such as have in their hearts this one all-governing, all-dominating passion, not that they may have blessing and things, but that God may have His full satisfaction in His people; those who have seen with opened eyes what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints means and have set their hearts. Note again the language: "The eyes of your heart being enlightened that ye may know..."

The overcomer only comes into view at a time when the Lord's people generally have lost the vision and the position, so that this matter is always found to be locked up with a comparatively small company. The others may be the Lord's people and they may be very devoted to the things of the Lord, but so often their quest and their interest is a matter of blessing, of this kind or that. Sometimes it is that of spiritual power, and their prayer is always for power. They mean, of course, quite truly, power for service, power in order to serve the Lord better, to be more used. Well, it may be that or some other specific blessing. But, you see, they are after things. Oh how many there are who pray for revival! I am not saying it is wrong to pray for power or revival, but so many of the saints are occupied with things like that. They are quite good, but it is something different; not wrong, but it is different.

The Real and the Unreal

In reading the Word recently, I was impressed as I came on two things. One of these was Elijah's great battle for what we might call revival on Carmel. You know the story of that tremendous fight with Baal worship, which had become well-nigh universal. As the altar was set up and Jehovah was called upon and the fire fell and there was a great, mighty demonstration of Divine power and attestation, this same people at once shouted, "Jehovah, He is God! Jehovah, He is God!" You may call that a great revival, and all the people are shouting, "The Lord is with us; we are for the Lord! Jehovah, He is the Lord, and we are on His side!" And a very short while afterward, Elijah is in despair. I do not believe this was all because of what Jezebel said. She may have been the arrow of Satan directed at Elijah at what we call a psychological moment, but I do not believe that accounted for everything. I believe there may have been another factor (I cannot prove it, but it is very true to principle), namely this, that Elijah was well aware of the fickleness of the people. He heard them shouting, he saw them acclaim Jehovah, but he knew this people. It is only because something has happened in an outward, objective way, only because the Lord has given a manifestation and a demonstration of His power that they are there shouting like that. Elijah knew the fickleness of this people, knew how unstable they were, and in his heart he was not satisfied. So you find him in a great state of despair and pouring out his complaint to the Lord. "I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars"; and so on. Do you notice (and this is the thing that struck me) it is not until after the happenings of Carmel, not until after the people have shouted, "The Lord, He is God", that the Lord says to Elijah, "I have yet seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal". I wonder if you see the significance of that. To me that was a revelation. You know, beloved, the people who can come in crowds in a day when the Lord is doing something outwardly, in a day of revival, are not overcomers. They are there because something is happening. It is something deeper than that God wants. It is the knee that never did bow to Baal, not that has to come into revival; that never needed revival, but was with God in the secret when everything else was going wrong. It is impressive, if it is true, that Elijah's heart was saying, "Yes, this is all very well; they can come out like this when there is a demonstration, when power is being manifested, but, oh, they will not stand! If things go wrong and all the outward signs disappear, they will fall away again. What I want is something deeper than that, but I cannot find it". The Lord says, I have it! Seven thousand who are not shouting, whose hearts have been with Me all the way through. They never needed revival; they have been true at heart.

Now alongside of that, as only another illustration of the same thing, I came on that revival in the days of Josiah, the last great revival in Israel. There was something of a revival under Hezekiah, but Josiah called together all Israel, and they all came up from their towns and their villages and had a great celebration of the Passover at Jerusalem. Of this occasion it was said, "And there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet" (2 Chron. 35:18). Oh, revival! But when that whole thing has been presented, and everything has been said that can be said about the thoroughness of it, about the enthusiasm of it, there comes this terrible statement immediately upon the description of that seemingly so genuine a thing, "Yet the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath". I thought, that is an anti-climax! That is spoiling everything! All this great day of revival, with the people right in it, and it looks all so genuine and so wonderful; and then it says immediately upon that, "Yet the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath": and stronger things than that follow. The Lord wants something more than revival, the enthusiasm of revival. Overcomers are not those people. What the Lord wants is a heart-state which has not departed from Him; not those who are caught up in a great movement, but those who have been true at heart right the way through. Is that not true to the New Testament, to the book of the Revelation? Is not that what the Lord presents there? It is, those who, in the midst of declension, are true to the Lord's full thought; not those who have to be recovered by outward demonstrations and signs, but those whose hearts are steadily and firmly set upon His inheritance, that the Lord may have what He is after.

The Challenge and Possibilities of a Supreme Devotedness to the Lord Himself

Now, I think I have brought in enough data to make the point very clear and emphatic. What then arises from all this? What are we after? Do we really mean business with God? Are our hearts wholly set upon all that the Lord's heart is set upon? Now, brother, sister, accept that challenge, allow that question. A good many things will happen if that be true. The Lord can strip us if necessary, to obtain His end, if our hearts are set upon that end. We shall love not our lives unto the death, if our hearts are set upon the Lord's end, the Lord's full end. We shall have no arguments, no debates, we shall not set as our standard and our limit anything or anyone less than the Lord Himself. No one who has his heart so set upon all that the Lord wants will ever say, Well, So-and-so is a very godly man and he does this and that: why should I do otherwise? Oh, how many battles we have with people on that line! Some of the outstanding battles in my experience with people have been of that kind. Beloved, let me say with all solemnity and love, if that is your standard, you are going to fall far short of God's standard. You and I must never appeal even to the most holy and godly man that has ever lived on this earth as our standard. You must recognize that God has never yet allowed a man outside of His Son on this earth to be infallible, and He has taken infinite pains to show that. David, declared to be a man after His own heart, has had none of his failures covered up by God. They are written in God's Word and for thousands of years they have been there for all to see. There never has been a man whose weakness God has hidden, though that man may have been the most used of God. God forbids us to make any man or woman our standard.

The heart of the one who is really going to come to God's fullest thought will always go far beyond the best they know here. There will be no arguing, no debating. The attitude will always be, Well, Lord, if that means something more for You in me, I am ready, I am willing. All I desire is that You should have all You can in me. That is the overcomer. It is a heart matter. We shall be prepared to let go our prejudices, our preconceptions. We shall let go our pig-headedness! The question for us will always be this, and it will govern: Lord, is this the way of Your fullest thought? If it is, then no matter how strongly I may have thought otherwise, my thoughts must go. No matter how much I may have wanted it otherwise, my wants must go. My likes must not stand in the way. Lord, what are You after, what do You want? That clears the ground for the Lord. Ephesians is the highest revelation that we have in the Bible, and the supreme thing to which we are brought by Ephesians, as we have seen, is this: "...having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what... the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints."

Now, that brings about the overcomer position in the end. This Man-child of Revelation 12 is caught up unto God and to His throne. "To him that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne". In the book of Joshua, you have Israel's inheritance, but you have no king. When you come over to Kings and Chronicles and Samuel, you have a king, you have a throne, but it is no longer Israel's inheritance, it is God's inheritance. David embodies that. He is the king and he is the embodiment and personification of this thing. "I will not enter into my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for Jehovah." That is kingship, that is the throne, that is the principle of the throne. We may be the Lord's people and we may be doing a lot for the Lord, and we may want to further the Lord's interests; and we may, in so doing, be occupied with things rather than the Lord Himself. Oh, for the vision to come to the Lord's people which lifts them clean away from things as such, even though they be spiritual things, and brings them to that thing which the Lord is after - the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints: the Lord having the full glory and satisfaction, so that the end is "Now unto Him be the glory in the Church". "Unto Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus"; or, in other words, "The God of peace make you perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight". You see, it is what the Lord is. Are our hearts there? That is the heart of the whole matter of the overcomer. Unto that the counting not our lives dear unto death may mean any one or more of a hundred or a thousand things. Let us get away from literal martyrdom as the only interpretation of that. Oh, we may have to suffer many kinds of martyrdom. We may have to go to Him without the camp bearing His reproach. We may have to suffer misrepresentation, misinterpretation. We may have to suffer ostracism and all kinds of things, in order that the Lord might have His fullest thought. All that is equally the path of the overcomer.

I am not saying you will not get to heaven if you are not an overcomer, but what the Lord is appealing for is that which is necessary and peculiarly precious to Him, the overcomer who brings Him His own satisfaction, who answers to that upon which His heart has been set from all eternity, coming into line with His inheritance. That is why we put the other passage in Ephesians alongside of the first: "The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." - "Ye are builded together into a habitation of God." David's heart was set upon a habitation of God in which the glory of God could be displayed, and so it was out of David's heart exercise that Solomon built the temple; and the glorious consummation is, that the glory of Jehovah so filled the house of Jehovah that even the priests could not remain inside because of the glory. The Lord filled the place with His own glory, and man had no place in it, not even the servants of the Lord. We are builded together for a habitation of God, that He might have the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. It is a heart matter.

Now, if you do not understand everything, if you cannot remember everything, do take the key to it all. The whole question for the overcomer can be expressed like this: It touches everything; I am going to ask the Lord that all that is involved in it shall be really brought up in my life! The heart of the matter is this, that the Lord must have all that He wants and can have in me and through me, whatever it costs. The Lord must get His inheritance. I am set, not for things, not for what I want, not for what I like, but for what the Lord is after. Oh, ask the Lord to bring you under the government of that jealousy, that concern, that heart passion: and it is no small reward. For me, it would be the greatest reward that anyone could give for the Lord to be able to say, "A man after My heart". Do you covet that? "A man after My heart"! Oh yes, what men we are! Like David, like Elijah, who were men of like passions with ourselves; full of failure, breakdown, shame - yes; but of whom God, looking within, can say, despite it all, Ah, there is a heart that is set upon My glory, that is jealous for My fullest thought, "a man after My heart". I say, that is all the reward I want, if the Lord can say that. May we be found such.

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