Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to the working which works in me mightily. (Colossians 1:28–29—NKJV)

It is not often that we hear the word strive. It is a word that tickles the funny bone as you change its tenses. Strived, strove, striven—not many words in our language change so often. As you may have guessed, it is an old word, but you may not have guessed that its root meaning is to quarrel, to compete (as in strife). It came to mean the exertion of much effort and energy, to endeavor, to make a tenacious effort, to fight and to contend, to struggle vigorously against opposition or resistance.

American Christianity seems to have forgotten that being a world-class Christian takes a good deal of work. Christianity is not a life to be lived free of effort. Real Christianity is worthy of endeavor, of sacrifice, of personal investment, and of striving for advancement. I am afraid that much of what is called Christianity has grown soft in its cultural acceptance, its thirst to be entertained, its search for methods of ease and convenience, its penchant for the cool shade of unspoken, stealthy faith, and its love of safety in its home field of church and friends. Modern Christianity is often at home with the idea that matters of faith are better left unspoken unless directly asked for. Graciously standing up for biblical convictions is rarely even given “the old college try.” These dalliances were unknown to first century Christians.

When a Christian finally does muster enough courage and he takes an unpopular stand for his Lord Jesus, he will often stagger, but not fall, when he feels the fiery threatenings of the unsaved world. But his resolve will melt and yield when fellow believers urge him to “turn it down a bit” and “don’t rock the boat” because things will get a little rough for everybody else because of truths unintelligible to the unsaved mind. Discouragement sets in and the Christian is less likely to stand firm the next time. After all, “such things are left to the experts, far be it from the average Christian to stridently press on and endeavor to fully represent his Lord and His interests.

Paul knew no such personal misgivings when it came to putting his shoulder to the work. There are several passages where his words are translated to strive. The Greek word he used is agonidzo, meaning to agonizingly exert oneself in the contest, whether athletic or military, to labor fervently. In the verse sited above, Paul states that he “labors to the point of exhaustion” by athletically and energetically exerting himself to accomplish the work for which God continues to energize him. In this case it is his witness, his discipling, and his service in the behalf of souls facing eternity. Paul uses the same word in describing Epaphras’ endeavors of prayer laboring fervently for the Colossians that they “may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).

In the early chapters of Philippians, he uses a slightly different word (sunathleo, meaning to contend together in games, to wrestle) for heavy labor alongside the team while facing strife. Philippians 1:27 reads, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that…you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel.”

Paul’s striving was not just limited to his evangelistic efforts, but also applied to his personal walk of sanctification. He labored mightily, endeavoring to keep his body under subjection “lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). He enjoins others to a similar course in their actions one toward another. Ephesians 4:1–3 reads, “Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” A similar thought is expressed in Romans 14:19, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” We must always be about the task of sharpening each other.

Hebrews 12:4 matter-of-factly states, “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed [up to blood], striving against sin.” Such striving is a terrific fight, essentially to go to war, to stand against in line of battle. What are you endeavoring in the Name of Jesus Christ? Are you valiantly fighting sin within and without? Are you contending for the faith? Are you earnestly praying? Are you seeking out opportunities to witness? What mighty work is God working within you that must find its way out and bring influence in your world? Endeavor and do not lose heart. Trust and obey.