January 1, 2022 | by: Chris Kiiskinen | 0 comments
As we enter another new year, this is often a time where we will set some new goals...or maybe renew some old ones. It can be a time where we will strive after that new goal with vigor. Sometimes that carries us through to accomplish that goal...and, well, sometimes it doesn’t.
Maybe our striving won’t be seen in a personal goal, but rather in a hope for something greater than us. As we view the world around us, we will sometimes strive to “make the world a better place.” We may find ourselves striving with the world as it’s morals and values change. We may strive with friends or family members who don’t see things the way we do. As we enter another year of dealing with Covid, we may strive with that from a number of directions.
As 2022 begins, please allow me to focus your striving in a particular direction, which could then potentially impact all the rest of your striving in other areas.
From the time we are born, we begin striving after things. First, it is simply things like food, sleep and your mother’s arms. Once we become a bit more mobile, our desires increase to the point where we want whatever is within reach, and a few things that aren’t! Those things that we desire and strive after, often times, become things that we then expect or feel like we somehow deserve.
Then as we mature into adulthood, we learn that in order to obtain some of the things we are striving after, we must do things that we may not necessarily desire or strive after (like work!) in order to get the things we really want. But are the things we spend time and effort to obtain the things that we ought to be striving after? If Scripture is our guide and Christ our example, then we ought to turn there for wisdom to see what we can learn about our striving.
First it will be good to know what the Bible means when it uses the term “strive.” In the Old Testament, the main word used to describe this type of striving is “r`uwth” and is defined as feeding upon or grasping after. In the New Testament, the main word used meaning to strive for something is the Greek word, “agonizomai” which is where we get the word “agony” and has meanings of contending or working hard for something. So biblically, to strive after something basically means to really go after it pretty strongly.
It’s not just a weak hope or desire that produces no activity in the person seeking it, but rather it is a strong desire that produces much effort by the person seeking it. The Bible both warns us about striving for wrong things or in wrong ways, as well as encourages us to strive for right things or in right ways. As believers, it should be important to us to know what our Lord desires us to strive after and then put our efforts out strongly to that end.
Before we get to what Scripture says, think for a moment about the things that you find yourself striving after. What consumes your thoughts and energy? Where does your extra money go to? How do you plan to use your extra time? All these things, and others, are reflective of what it is that we are striving after, and are effective ways to measure or reveal to us the desires of our hearts.
Our old, sinful nature will push us to strive after selfish things. Some of those things are not even sinful things in and of themselves, but they can easily become idols and thus can consume us in various ways.
Consider also that as Christ is our example in all things, then we ought to seek to “strive” in the same ways that he did. By reading through the Gospel’s it is fairly easy to conclude that what Jesus sought after the most was to please and glorify the Father in all that he did! So that then becomes our goal as well. None of us will meet that goal here in this life due to our ongoing struggle with sin, but we must remember that the Lord is sanctifying us toward that end, and so we should also be striving for that same goal, in all that we think, say and do. A daunting task, but one that we all ought to seek and help each other with.
So what does Scripture say? Well, Solomon has much to say about all forms of striving in Ecclesiastes. Basically he said that everything under the sun is vanity and striving after the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14). He then spoke of some specifics in the same way. Wisdom and foolishness. Hard work and enjoyment. Our words and even life itself. (Ecclesiastes 2:11, 17, 26; 4:4, 6, 15-16; 6:7-9 and others). He basically addresses any and every pursuit that is not done to please God, nor for His glory. Sadly, these are things that can be true of us, often times in a number of ways. Some obvious, some subtle. Part of our striving then must then include to be centered on, or focused on, Christ.
As we look to the New Testament, there are, on the positive side, some very clear things that we are to be striving after.
And again, looking back to Christ’s example, all of this striving is for the ultimate goal of pleasing the Father and honoring Him with our very lives. Notice all of the things that are absent from this list...things like financial security, the perfect job, travel/vacations, all kinds of material possessions, sports/athletics, all forms of entertainment...so many things that we tend to strive after!
All of us struggle with this. No exceptions. Of course there is nothing wrong with having a good job, nor going on a vacation, nor owning things. The question we ought to ask, though, is are we content to strive after things that are potentially vain things? Remember, these do not need to be (and often times are not) sinful things...just vain, if done for selfish motives and not done to be pleasing and honoring to God.
Brothers and sisters...examine yourselves. As we enter a new year of striving, see what things may be in your life that keep you striving after vanity and keep you from striving after the things listed above.
Think about these things, don’t just read an article. Take stock in your life and see if you are striving with all the energy the Lord provides you, as Paul did. As you look at the teachings of Scripture, does your “striving” line up with what it should? If not, ask the Lord to strengthen you to seek more and more after things that He desires and less for what you desire. Then watch as His desires become yours!
Striving with you...by His grace!
Chris Kiiskinen is a Pastor at Grace Bible Church
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