You’d have to search long and hard to find a more unlikely hero than Desmond Doss, the real-life subject of the 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge. And you’d be equally hard-pressed to find a better representative for the theme of this book: how to live as an Overcomer.
Born in Virginia in 1919 to working-class parents, Doss volunteered for the army during World War II. Due to his deep religious conviction that God had called him to never carry a weapon, he trained as a medic and was assigned to a rifle company.
Imagine refusing to carry a weapon yet being determined to go to war! Doss’s convictions earned him ridicule, abuse, and contempt from his fellow soldiers and disdain from his superiors, but he never wavered. Terry Benedict, who filmed a documentary about Doss in 2004, said, “He just didn’t fit into the Army’s model of what a good soldier would be.”
But all that changed in April 1945, when Doss’s company fought the Battle of Okinawa, the bloodiest battle of the Pacific war. The key to winning Okinawa was gaining a Japanese stronghold atop a four-hundred-foot sheer cliff the Americans called Hacksaw Ridge. A bloody battle raged, but the Japanese held their ground. Finally, Doss’s battalion was ordered to retreat.
But Doss could see American bodies strewn across the field, and he knew there were wounded among them. He stayed behind and, with machine gun and artillery fire bursting around him, ran repeatedly into the kill zone, carrying wounded GIs to the edge of the cliff and singlehandedly lowering them to safety in a makeshift rope gurney.
For twelve hours, he repeated this grueling task until he was sure no wounded American was left on the escarpment. By the time he finally left the ridge, Desmond Doss had saved the lives of seventy-five men!
Days later, the Americans took Hacksaw Ridge while Doss lay wounded in a base hospital. When his commanding officer brought him the precious charred and soggy Bible he’d lost in the initial assault, he was told every able man in the company—the same men who once ridiculed him for his faith—had insisted on searching for his Bible until it was found.
For his incredible feat, Doss was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Years later, he was asked how he found the strength to continue that night. His answer was simple. Each time he finished lowering another wounded man to safety down the cliff, he prayed, “Lord, just help me get one more.”1
As Desmond Doss discovered, overcoming is a spiritual issue. But the idea of “overcoming” also has a military meaning: to conquer. As members of God’s kingdom, we’re called to conquer the barriers between who we are and who God wants us to be. Our goal is to “come over” from where we are today, and to flourish as the person God made us to be.
The obstacles we must overcome fall into three main categories: sin, the world, and the devil. Our own sinful nature is an obstacle; the temptations of the world are an obstacle; and the devil himself is an obstacle. Thankfully, in each case, God has equipped us to overcome every barrier in our path, as we’ll discover starting in chapter 2.
In my estimation, David is the Old Testament’s greatest Overcomer, and he is the poster child for the lessons we are about to learn. David fought a lot of battles during his life, but it’s his first we all remember best—the day he defeated the giant Goliath.
In this first chapter of Overcomer, I invite you to take a fresh look at this well-known story. Listen to it as if you’d never heard it before, because I will use it to help you understand what it means to be an Overcomer. As you learn how David found the strength and courage to face down his giant, you’ll discover how to overcome the challenges in your own life.
David Jeremiah, Overcomer: 8 Ways to Live a Life of Unstoppable Strength, Unmovable Faith, and Unbelievable Power (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018).
I have just completed a 10 Week Bible Study Lesson Series on David Jeremiah’s book Overcomer. It is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription plan. The idea is to invite each participant to purchase their own book. Topics include:
Overcomer: Lesson #1
Overcomer / 1 Samuel 17
David and Goliath
Overcomer: Lesson #2
Overcoming Weaknesses with Strength
Overcomer: Lesson #3
Overcoming Falsehood with Truth
Overcomer: Lesson #4
Overcoming Evil with Good
Overcomer: Lesson #5
Overcoming Anxiety with Peace
Overcomer: Lesson #6
Overcoming Fear with Faith
Overcomer: Lesson #7
Overcoming Confusion with Wisdom
Overcomer: Lesson #8
Overcoming Temptation with Scripture
Overcomer: Lesson #9
Overcoming Everything with Prayer
Overcomer: Lesson #10
Overcoming Death with Life
1 John 5.1 – 5