Depending on the situation, I’m not one that regularly has ambition and gusto. Certain things will definitely put me in the running for sure – music, vacations, worship, service work, things I love to do or are passionate about. Other things, however, take more coaxing and excitement has to be built up – loosing weight, getting up early, long drives, sports, stuff that might seem fun but … I’d rather do other things.
For awhile now, God has laid the word “strive” upon my heart, to mediate on and put into practice more regularly. He’s been teaching me what the word means, and how to build it within my day-to-day routine.
By definition, the word strive means: to make great efforts to achieve or obtain something; to struggle or fight vigorously. No doubt, strive is a hefty word; a word God smacked me with one day while reading the Gospel of Luke. In Luke 13:24, we read, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
In context, Jesus is traveling towards Jerusalem. He is asked by a follower, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” Jesus answers, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” He then goes on talking about followers who seemed to live a good life, but still failed to know (intimately, personally) the Christ.
Jesus then moves into a lament over Jerusalem’s failure to see Him as the Christ, the One they had been waiting for.
Reading in a standard ESV Bible, you will find that Luke 13:24 has quite a few verses attached to it concerning the word strive. This Greek word, only used by Paul, Luke, and the writer of Hebrews, means to struggle, as in a race, and to endure through trial. The corresponding verses for it are: 1 Timothy 4:10, 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:3-4; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
Scripture calls followers of Christ to strive in their faith, because the things of God far exceed the temporal things that occupy our life now. And for the majority of Christians, we understand this and even desire this. The problem isn’t so much seeing that the things of God are more glorious than this world. The issue is the constant battle we face within ourselves on a daily basis. As the world presses in, our fight becomes tiresome, leaving many of us wanting to give up – and some do. As Rich Mullins sings: Surrender don’t come natural to me / I’d rather fight You for something I don’t really want / Than to take what You give that I need. And for all of us, this is reality.
Life is so much easier when we surrender to the world and just enjoy things. However, that’s not the life God calls us to. He calls us to enjoy something better – Himself. So, how does one strive through the narrow gate and finish this strenuous race? Here are some thoughts:
We strive, because our HOPE is on Jesus Christ, the Living God.
We strive, because of the PROMISE of eternal life.
We strive, because Jesus has CALLED us, and BELIEVES in us.
We strive, because the journey is WORTH every step.
We strive, because Jesus is our FOCUS and EXAMPLE.
We strive, because Jesus is our STRENGTH.
We strive, because Jesus is our SAVIOR, who has defeated death.
We strive, because Jesus has given us POWER, SELF-CONTROL, and ENDURANCE.
We strive, because Jesus is our GOAL and REWARD.
No one will deny that the fight of faith Christ calls us to isn’t easy. The journey is long and trying. And if we continue to lean on our own efforts to strive, we will continue along the same path. However, if we learn how to strive upon the efforts of Christ (His power and presence), our fight of faith will look much different from now.
We are not called to strive by ourselves. We are called to strive in Christ, with Christ, and for the beauty of Christ.