Have you ever had a single word in Scripture that just literally knocked a pause in you? Like, you can’t leave it. There’s something more there? Well, that’s what the word “STRIVE” did to me in my last blog post.
In case you missed it, you can read that post in its entirety HERE. And here is the primary Scripture reference that I included:
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.Luke 13:24
The word “strive” is translated from the Greek, “agonizomai,” which means to fight, or labor fervently. Strong’s Concordance says that the word is used to mean “to contend with adversaries, struggle with dangers, or to strive with zeal to obtain something.”
Suffice it to say that I don’t believe God chose words that people would protect, bleed for, and translate, only so someone could misconstrue them when we need it the most!
Timothy used the same word, twice. But it is translated in these verses to mean “fight” and “fought”. Still, you can see how they mean the very same thing:
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.1 Timothy 6:12
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:2 Timothy 4:7
Paul uses the word in 1 Corinthians chapter 9. But here, you see it translated as “striveth”…
And every man that striveth for mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.1 Corinthians 9:25
In all three of these instances, there is an obvious and ongoing work. Not something that happens only once. If our faith-walk were not an on-going thing, why then would we need our armor every day? Why would we need to stand? Why wouldn’t we hear more about relaxing, no matter what the enemy throws our way?
Because there is a very REAL battle going on! If the devil can hit us with enough to throw us OFF the narrow path, so that we miss that strait gate, what then?
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.Matthew 7:21-23
I will choose to STRIVE, and to fight that good fight of faith!
STRIVE To Be Found In Christ
In telling us to STRIVE, Jesus taught us that if we hope for salvation, it requires diligence. There is a certain way a person has to walk to be found in Christ Jesus. Worship, ingesting the Word daily, hearing the Gospel when it’s preached… these are all things that are between us and God.
OF COURSE, it’s not about OUR words, or OUR ability to rub out our own sin by saying some rote prayer, or OUR ability to somehow make ourselves acceptable to God through some work of our own. Understand, above all, that I DO NOT say that it is BY WORKS that we are saved. But there are works fitting of a life that you have dedicated to God. After all, you wouldn’t expect to pick pears off an apple tree, would you?
Nevertheless, if all we have to do is believe and sit and wait, Jesus would not have bothered to speak the word STRIVE.
STRIVE Points To Our Role As A Free Agent
God is happy to deal with us as the responsible person, just as He created us. Remember how He gave Adam and Eve free rein over the garden of Eden? And how, He could have locked the most important tree under lock and key, but didn’t?
So today, He isn’t asking us to simply wait, hope, feel, etc… He said to STRIVE to enter in… because not many would be able to.
For us to believe that we are simply saved and “sealed” is no more a Biblical principle than that of predestination. The former says that once we “are saved” we are sealed until the day of redemption, no matter what. The latter says that if you are not converted, it’s not your fault… only a few are ever actually meant to be from the start (also known as predestination).
Look at some of the words Jesus used when speaking to sinners:
It’s true that God is in complete control of our salvation, from start to finish. However, it’s no less plain that our RUIN, is entirely on us. If we are not accountable, and we are not responsible, how can we STRIVE?
STRIVE Through Daily Conflict
There are many words, far more than I could outline here in a single blog post, that speaks to our battle, and the adversary that we do battle against, every day. The enemy of our soul will never let us escape without an accompanying struggle.
The flesh is, as Paul has reiterated many times himself, sensual and cannot focus on the spiritual aspect of daily life without a daily battle. There is simply too much temptation to avoid it. But is this really so out of the ordinary, or so surprising?
To grow a garden, you must first plow, sow, water, and tend. To become affluent in business, you have to be attentive and follow a plan. Even in marriage, there are hurdles to cross. Heaven then, not surprising after all, cannot be reached without picking up our cross and following HIM.
We must STRIVE.
STRIVE For The Incorruptible
If anything at all is worth a struggle, it is the salvation of our soul. Think of all the things that many people struggle furiously for in this world: money, position, title, knowledge, acceptance. Some even waste obscene amounts of time to heap up social media “likes” and “shares” just for acceptance from people they don’t even know. These are ALL corruptible. They will NOT matter on that Great Day. When the trumpet sounds, not a single one of them will determine whether you are a tare or the wheat.
Those things that are incorruptible are found through the strait gate. It is that peace, as the Bible tells us, that passes all understanding. It is the hope of the good that we wait for, the Spirit inside of us, and the knowledge that we have the Blood of Jesus that covers ALL of our sins! These are the things that rust cannot corrupt, the true riches in glory. These things are worth STRIVING for!
STRIVE To Avoid Sin
Religious laziness is a sin all to itself, but it’s one that contaminates everything. It’s not just a regret, either. The simple fact of the matter is, that if you breach a commandment, what does that make you? There is only ONE right answer: a sinner. If you commit murder, but you have “already been saved,” does that mean there is no need to repent, but rather to sit idly by while the Blood of Jesus works its magic? I shudder to think that true at all!
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.1 John 3:4
If the Scripture above were in the Old Testament, it would be much easier to sweep under the rug as being “before Jesus.” But this certainly isn’t the Old Testament. So what “law” was John talking about here? It can only be the “law” that came through Jesus, who came NOT to do away with the law and the prophets but to FULFILL THEM.
This leads to the idea that to sit idly by and think nothing of striving at all in this respect is effective disobedience to Jesus’ words to “STRIVE.”
STRIVE To Not Be Found Outside The Gate
To be found outside of the strait gate is to be in danger of eternal damnation. To be found here at the time of death would mean perishing with no hope at all of salvation. And Jesus saw it. Just as clearly as He saw the young man who asked the questions, He SAW IT.
Life is uncertain. Time is short. We are just a vapor here on this earth. And He wanted us to know that we cannot afford to delay. Putting off our soul maintenance is dangerous! Jesus spoke because He saw through time and space, saw the devil drawing near to the ones who wanted in. And He saw life slowly slipping away, unbeknownst to the ones who would be cut short just shy of that gate.
So, to warn them against missing it, He says, “STRIVE!”
The Condemned Christian
This word, “strive,” must raise the careful consideration of the condemnation in place for forsaking it. There are many who confess themselves Christians. They do not curse, or kill, they don’t cheat on their spouses or steal or lie. But they would also not be convicted of “striving” to be saved, as there wouldn’t be enough evidence to convict.
There is a spirit of slumber on many with regard to everything that has to do with the supernatural realm of the soul. These people go about their day, their work, they’re careful to do good, but the one thing that they should really be concerned for, gets no striving at all. These people put away their faith along with their Sunday clothes and go on about their business in the world at large. Common sense itself dictates there is no striving here!
No Reading the Bible?
It’s easy to find one. If you don’t have a print copy, you can easily look up any number of Bibles online or download an app that will even read it to you. It teaches everything necessary for life, and most importantly, for death, but finding the time to read it, for most, is a chore so monumental it’s impossible to fit in.
It’s easy to make time for work, games, music, newspapers, fiction, vacations, but never time for reading that most important book at all. Is there any striving here? What judgment comes with common sense on this account?
How can a person get up in the morning, and then go to bed at night, without consulting God? They make no confessions, there is no gratitude, no asking for anything at all. We are born and then move straight on towards death, and dare to not even be on speaking terms with our Maker and Judge?! Is this, according to common sense, any form of striving at all?
It Is More Solemn Than It Appears
The Holy Bible is our instruction manual for life. In it, we find that no man (or woman) can achieve salvation without repentance, conversion, faith in Jesus, and holiness in living. There’s no doubt, for the most part, that everyone that attends church services listen, nod, and approve, but how often do they “strive” for their salvation?
Our Pastors and mentors share everything from the ugliness of sin to the beauty in Jesus and His love. They uncover the world and all its selfish pride and offer the Living Water to the weariest sinner. But it so often seems like they are breathing on the wind. They look and see that it’s obvious, people no longer “strive” for salvation.
When they look around, what do they see? The devil and all his tricks, or the world with all the prizes gained from working for it. And that one thing… that most needful thing… no one strives for it at all.
By All Means, Learn To Strive
If we often find ourselves worried about our jobs, our money, our bills, and our allotment for free time, are we really striving for what we SHOULD be striving for? It’s a sad thing to think that we would have eternity so close, but salvation so far away because we did not in the least little bit, STRIVE to be saved.
Be careful that you don’t wind up lost because of your lack of striving. No, you don’t have to be some great sinner. In fact, all you have to do is sit around and do nothing! Or worse… strive for those things you won’t be able to take with you on that great day.
The enemy of your soul is not asking you to follow in the footsteps of Cain or Pharoah or Judas. No, there is another road leading just as plainly to hell. It is paved with all manner of spiritual laziness. Satan does NOT care if you are a fine upstanding, church-goer that never misses a chance to tithe. You can take notes on every sermon preached within those four walls and still miss heaven.
You Can’t Be Too Careful
On the other hand, don’t let anyone tell you you’re going too far, or “striving” too hard, for the spiritual state of your soul. If nothing else, determine that you will not be deterred from thinking that the MOST profitable work is the work that pertains to the soul. Do not consider carelessness at all and don’t be lazy.
Your Master says to STRIVE. In cases that have to do with your eternal soul, be more afraid of moderation than what anyone might say about your zeal for the eternal things and for Jesus. Whatever you do for God, do it with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. THIS is striving. It seems unsavory to many around us, if not ALL those around us, but it is the only way. It is why there will only be a few that find that narrow way and that strait gate.
But the end of the matter is: Jesus said, “STRIVE” and THAT is what we should do!
Look for more in the next post, as I wrap up some thoughts about striving.