An Over-Overcomer

Romans 8: 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

On June 23rd 1940 as the 20th of 22 children, Wilma Rudolph was born prematurely in Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee.  At the age of 4 Rudolph contracted polio and, as a result, suffered from infantile paralysis.  She recovered but her leg and foot had become badly twisted from the polio and Rudolph was required to wear a brace until she was 9 years old, and then an orthopedic shoe for her foot for another two years.  Over that time, she had to regularly travel significant distances to obtain painful treatments at a Nashville hospital.  At the age of 11 Rudolph could finally walk without braces or special shoes, but only a year later Rudolph faced further setbacks when she had another bout of polio and even scarlet fever.

How does a young girl deal with such incredible setbacks?  It must have been difficult for Rudolph to carry on and pursue a normal life, however, Wilma Rudolph did far more than that.  After being discovered by Tennessee State’s legendary coach Ed Temple, Rudolph went on to capture a bronze medal in the 4x100m at the 1956 Olympics as a 16-year-old, and then four years later, 3 gold medals at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.  Rudolph was a woman who would not be overcome by adversity.  She was an overcomer.

In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul asks the rhetorical question “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (v. 35) The intended and obvious answer is no one.  “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (vv. 37-39).

The phrase “more than a conqueror” is actually a single Greek word that Paul used – hypernikaō.  This word is extremely interesting for a couple of reasons.  For one, linguistically it would be called a hapax legomenon which is a term that only occurs once in a body of literature, in this case the New Testament.  Secondly, hypernikaõ is a bit of an absurd and redundant word.  It comes from hyper meaning “over, beyond, more than” and nikaō meaning “to conquer, to overcome”.  So literally, Paul’s word is “Over-Overcomer”.  In fact, some scholars believe Paul made up the word as they cannot find it used elsewhere in literature.  I believe Paul intentionally created this exaggerated word to describe how, through Christ, we can conquer far more than we can through our own personal will-power.

There are times in my life where I’ve been surprised by what God has allowed to transpire all at once – times where I just wanted to lift up the white flag and say “Lord I am done”.  In those times, it is passages like this one in Romans 8 that remind me that in Christ I am an Over-Overcomer.  I may fall, but in Christ I will overcome.  If you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Saviour, then you too have one whom you can turn to.  When you next feel overwhelmed by life, cry out and say “I am an Over-overcomer!”

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