My word for 2021 is Presence, but a close second in my reflection was the word Strive. To strive means to devote serious effort or energy to achieve or obtain something, to struggle in opposition or fight vigorously. We should strive for continual growth throughout life. After all, life is a journey.
A great personal example using the word strive is the statement in my book, “Strive to have integrity in the moment of choice. Choose based on our principles and values and not on our moods and conditions.” Life is a continuous stream of choices and making the appropriate one requires serious effort and often a struggle.
Life is admirable to the extent that we make the most of our potential. That effort can serve to inspire our ‘sphere of influence.’ Although the capacity for accomplishment can be out of our control and varies among us, we each control our effort. Some people might not strive, fearing it to be too difficult; it’s not. It can be simple and straightforward. People move forward, by acting with courage. Fear isn’t absent, they have learned how to step forward despite it. They are goal setters striving for the feeling of peace and joy. This focus can distract us from life’s nagging concerns and worries.
Strivers believe they’ll make a difference. To me, making a difference at any level is what matters, more so than my pursuit of happiness. I could be happy spending all my days hiking, playing with the dog, dancing to my favorite tunes, and watching sports on TV. However, that life fails to meet my potential and use my God given talent. Doing all that I can, my part, feels virtuous and empowering.
“The credit belongs with the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
America is still a great nation, one that must continue to endeavor to live up to its ideals. It has its shortcomings and deficiencies but nonetheless it is still the greatest nation on earth with the promise for an even better future. I was thinking the country could use a ‘peer advisory council,’ something found in business where a group of peers provide unbiased advice, insight, and accountability. A group that looks forward to what lies ahead, using the past as teachings and not an anchor. I would welcome the return to the mindset of Abraham Lincoln and his words of reconciliation and healing that are carved in the walls of the Lincoln Memorial in the nation’s capital, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
From the basement of East Harlem public housing, the organization STRIVE was founded in 1984 to tackle chronic unemployment in New York City, helping people stuck in poverty gain sustainable employment and transform their lives. Since inception, STRIVE has prepared more than 75,000 people for success at work and in life, gaining national recognition with an exceptional job placement rate. STRIVE sees the opportunity within the problem and creates the solution. Employers are looking for a pipeline of middle-skill talent for jobs that are going unfulfilled. STRIVE is building that pipeline of talent with workers who are determined to succeed.
The word agonize comes directly from the Greek verb, agonizomai. The root of the word is the noun agon, meaning struggle, contest, or opposition. Agonizomai itself means to enter a contest, to contend with adversaries. Agonizomai appears seven times in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 9:25, it is used in competing in public games. In John 18:36, it is to fight or engage in conflict. More often, it is used metaphorically to “contend with perseverance.” Jesus issued a command in Luke 13:24 to strive to enter by the narrow door. In 1 Timothy 6:12, Paul issues a command to Timothy to fight the good fight of faith. In Colossians 4:12, Epaphras was always laboring in his prayers. In Colossians 1:29, Paul is constantly striving according to God’s power for others’ salvation. Finally, in 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul says that he has fought the good fight.
In Philippians 1:27, Paul called the Philippians to contend “together for the faith of the gospel.” Other Bible translations use the verb “strive.”
We each must strive to imitate Jesus’ example. It will provide us the strength to move forward and to make an impact every opportunity we can, especially helping those around us. Just as we crave justice because He is just (Psalm 9:16) and we love because He is love (1 John 4:16); we must also struggle for excellence because He is excellent in everything He does (Deuteronomy 32:4).
In today’s culture we must devote serious effort and like the Philippians contend for the faith of the Gospel. The words strive and Gospel fit well together. The Gospel truth is the absolute truth, worth fighting vigorously for on our journey. Let’s strive for success by proceeding, simply and straightforward, with courage.