Have you ever been surprised by an unexpected message in the morning? It happened to me recently as I was reading one of my morning devotionals. In the Brian Simmons’ devotional, “I Hear His Wisper”[i] for March 2nd, the topic of striving was discussed. I believe that the Lord highlighted the word “striving” so that I could study it and change some of my ways. Some key sentences that really touched me were the following:
“Anxiety and striving are the enemies of your peace…To strive is to leave my strength and embrace the cares of life. To refuse striving means you will enter the lifestyle of faith-rest…I will strengthen you in the quiet place….to calm your soul.”
The word “Striving” means to devote serious effort or energy to achieve something or contend for something. At this time in the world, there are probably millions of people that are striving to overcome the effects of the world-wide pandemic. Or maybe it relates to the ongoing efforts of many people to reach the destiny that God created for us. So, striving can be a good thing when the goal is good, as Jesus said in Luke 13:24:
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many…will seek to enter and will not be able.” (The “narrow gate” being the way of following His commandments and getting to know him personally by prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual efforts).
Examples might be working intently for a job promotion, doing rigorous exercise to excel in a sport or hobby, or seriously trying to do everything to impress someone. Another example was explained in a recent book by Mike Lindell, the “Pillow Man.”[ii] He worked intently to invent the special foam mixture and characteristics of the pillow that has had tremendous success recently. The name of his company, “My Pillow,” came to him in a dream! And, he had to try more than 90 types of foam to get the right softness and rebound he wanted. There were many other problems he had along the way to invent the pillow and continue to grow the company.
Many other inventors in history have had similar challenging times to perfect something new. And they did not give up until that achieved their vision!
Good or Bad Striving
Striving can be good or bad. I am qualified to write about this because I have striven both ways! Some of my striving was for good reasons and some had a negative effect on other people. Striving to achieve in school to escape a dysfunctional home was a good one. Striving to achieve success by working overtime when I had young children had some ‘absent father’ effects on my son and daughter. Currently, I have fallen into some intensity over “getting work done quickly.” That is the main reason I am writing this Blog! Also, I have been asking the Lord to help me overcome that striving. This morning, in prayer, I felt the Lord saying, “I created humans in my image to strive for peace, joy and fellowship in the Garden, but the forbidden fruit caused more striving for everyone. Discern the difference between good and hurtful striving. Count the cost!”
So, clearly, it was the temptation of the Serpent at the Forbidden Apple tree that caused more severe striving outside of the garden (Genesis chapter 3). Eve was striving for more wisdom but chose the wrong direction to obtain it. So, because of a bad type of striving, Eve and all women were given more pain during childbirth and Adam and all men were given “painful toil” to work the land for food production. So, this motivated me to study striving.
The Ways of Good Striving
One of the best ways to reach the good striving is to seek the Lord during times of quiet prayer and journaling as we discussed in a pervious blog, “Time with the Lord”, on August 15th in 2020.
Here are some other suggestions for getting closer to the Lord:
- Thanksgiving and Praise: Starting each morning with a “Thank you Jesus for another day.” Thanksgiving and praise are a highway to the throne of God, as it says in one of the songs in the Victory CD by Bethel Music—one of our most popular worship collections available at our Store. (That collection includes “Raise a Hallelujah,” which wins so many people to Christ!).
- Worship Music: Listening to worship music, particularly in the morning, can give you a peaceful start and get you focused on the Kingdom of God. Jesus often talked of living in the kingdom, not the world only. The kingdom is our spiritual life, the area that angels operate in, and the place we come closest to God. If we start the day focusing on the “cares of the world’ we might miss the chance of having a blessed day. One of our purposes in iworship423 is to bring you closer to Jesus and give you new aspects of God’s goodness. For example, we play the long, spontaneous version of two popular songs. First, “Waymaker” by Michael W. Smith. Second, “Raise a Hallelujah” by Jonathan and Melissa Helser (Bethel Music). These songs were recorded live in 2019 in a huge event in Nashville where the singers are directed settings. So, we include the things of the Holy Spirit that helped the singers comment and sing in special ways to touch your heart.. If you see the entire event of “Waymaker” on YouTube (“Surrounded Event” by Michael W. Smith, Nashville, 2019), you will see how many people from all backgrounds are excited about the Lord and show an amazing level of worship}.
- Reading Scripture: Another great start on the day, or any time convenient for you, is the reading of some portion of the Bible. You might follow some method to read the Bible daily (e.g., online or from your Church), from your own choice, or from asking the Lord to guide you to a Bible location that will bless you. Using a “Study Bible” (the ones with lots of comments on each chapter, helpful introductions to each Book, and other study guides}. Also, as I mentioned at the beginning of the Blog, watch for certain verses or words that “touch your heart” or stand out to you in some way. When this happens, it could be the Spirit directing you to something important in your life at that moment. Take a word or a verse and do a “word study” which can be done easily with the help of online resources such as the Blue Letter Bible (www.blueletterbible.org), a free resource. They will find all the verses in the Bible that have your word in them. They also can lead you to commentaries from Bible experts to give you more in-depth information. The ultimate is to study the meaning of the words in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic languages. This often reveals more aspects to the word, and you will be blessed!
There are any more ideas that could be listed, and you probably have some that you enjoy already. Some of our earlier Blogs also give you tips on getting closer to Jesus. We wish you all success in expanding your growth in the Kingdom. As one of our former pastors used to ask, “What percent to the Kingdom are you living in right now?” The goal is to increase the amount of time you stay in touch with the heavenly, spiritual part of your life, as compared to the (often necessary) attention to your duties and cares in the world. The Lord wants to partner with you in those worldly cares, so call on Him for greater peace.
Pastor G. Harold
[i] Brian Simmons and Gretchen Rodriguez, (2019). I Hear His Wisper: Encounter God’s Heart for You. BroadStreet Publishing Group, Savage, MN.
[ii] Mike Lindell, (2019). What are the odds? From crack addict to CEO. Lindell Publishing, Chaska, MN.