As we sit in the quiet or chaos of our days to study our King James Version Bibles, we might come across seeming contradictions in the words that are used. In one place we are told not to strive, and in another, we are told we should. So, which is it? To strive or not to strive, that is the question.
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient. 2 Timothy 2:24
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. Luke 13:24
Welcome to my KJV Bible Word Study Series!
I love the King James Version Bible. I believe it is the most accurate and beautiful translation we can read. Nevertheless, it is important for us to know that none of the translations we have today (including the KJV) is perfect. Only the original Hebrew and Greek texts from which they came are divinely inspired.
The KJV, its lyrical beauty aside, uses some antiquated words, and words that have changed their meanings over time, that might send us scrambling for the nearest dictionary or concordance.
In this series, I take words that we may be unfamiliar with outside their biblical setting or that may be confusing to our modern-day English sensibilities, and expound upon their original meaning within the context of the verse.
By using Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, it is my hope to bring clarity to, and broaden our understanding of, many beloved and obscure KJV Bible passages.
Strive: H#1777: to rule; to judge (as umpires), to strive (as to law), to contend, execute judgment, judge, minister judgment, plead, plead the cause, at strife
H#7378: to toss, grapple, to wrangle, i.e. hold a controversy; (by implication) to defend, adversary, chide, complain, contend, debate, lay wait, plead, rebuke
H#5327: to go forth, (by implication) to be expelled, desolate, causatively to lay waste, (specifically) to quarrel; ruinous, strive together
H#3401: (literally) he will contend; contentious, adversary, that contend, that strive
G#75: to struggle, (literally) to compete for a prize; (figuratively) to contend with an adversary; to endeavor or accomplish something; fight, labor fervently
G#118: (a contest in the public games), to contend in the competitive games
G#2051: to wrangle, strive
G#3054: to be disputatious (on trifles)
G#3164: to war; quarrel, to dispute, fight
G#4865: to struggle in company with; to be a partner(assistant); to strive together with
Strived—G#5389: to be fond of honor; emulous (eager or earnest to do something); labour, strive, study
Striven—H#1624: to grate, (figuratively) to anger; contend, meddle, stir up
Striveth—H#7378: to toss, to grapple, (figuratively) to wrangle, hold a controversy, (by implication) to defend; plead, rebuke, adversary, chide, complain, contend
G#75: (see above)
Striving—G#75: (see above)
G#464: to struggle against (figuratively) “antagonize”—strive against
G#4866: to wrestle in company with; (figuratively) to seek jointly; labour with, strive together for
Strivings—H#7379: a contest (personal or legal) adversary, cause, chide, contend, debate, plead, rebuke
G#3163: a battle, (figuratively) controversy; fighting, strive, striving
[Underlining and words in bold are added for emphasis in Bible verses throughout this study.]
The word strive in the KJV Bible means different things in different situations when applied to God, other people, mental activity, or physical things. When we strive or fight among ourselves, physically or verbally (H#7378/G#3164), if we wrangle over superficial doctrinal issues or other inconsequential things, or worst yet if we strive with our Maker, this is the kind of striving the Bible warns us against.
In daily life, we strive over many trivial and unimportant things (but oh, how they matter in the moment!). We are all guilty of making mountains out of molehills. It takes intentional growing as sons and daughters of the most high God to get past the angst that makes us strive wrongfully.
Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm. Proverbs 3:30
Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame. Proverbs 25:8
The Apostle Paul spoke to Timothy about the desire many in the church had to debate back and forth about things that ultimately had no bearing on their salvation and, essentially, were a waste of time. This is still true today. One debate that comes to mind within the Christian community is the pre-Tribulation rapture. Although Scripture doesn’t support it (Christ returns for His bride after the Tribulation), why fight about who’s right? We’ll find out soon enough and then what? Are the pre- or post-Tribbers going to taunt “I told you so?” to their fellow brethren? That doesn’t sound very Christian-like, now does it?
Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. 2 Timothy 2:14
Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. 1 Timothy 1:4
To get worked up over issues that don’t matter spiritually defiles you. Opinions vary among brethren as to what is or isn’t right, especially among women. Short hair or long, pants or skirts, home school or public, stay-at-home or work outside the home, smoking, drinking, piercings, head coverings, KJV only or modern translations, and the list goes on and on.
Although there may be scriptural proof to back up what you think about these issues, it is ultimately up to the individual to decide what is best for them and their family. God works with each individual at that person’s pace for learning and overcoming. He is patient, but we, often, are not.
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. Titus 3:9
Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. Romans 14:22
Every one of us is at a different stage of growth in our Christian calling and what we “allow” for ourselves now may change, as we grow closer to God and understand His truth. But we must examine our motivations. We must be fully persuaded in our minds that what we do is out of faith, otherwise it is sin (Romans 14:23). The reason why we do or don’t do something must come from our own convictions and belief in Scripture and not because the prevailing consensus is for or against it.
If a matter could cause doubt in a new believer or if an issue focuses on matters not relevant to salvation, there is no benefit to this kind of striving. It only divides the body of Christ.
Patience and gentleness toward other believers; this is what we should strive for. This is how we grow in Christ—by fighting our own proclivities to forego compassion or speak harshly because of impatience or arrogantly because of self-righteousness. If fellow believers follow a spiritual matter incorrectly, gentle words spoken with love should be our approach, not striving. Because we all have much to learn. And none of us knows it all.
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Philippians 3:15
As children, most of us were taught that yelling, fighting, and general gimme-I-want-it wrangling with others was self-centered and wrong. Yet, as we’ve grown older, we still strive with one another mentally and emotionally. The Bible is filled with examples of men and women selfishly striving for things outside of God’s will that only caused pain and ended in futility.
James said it right, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (James 4:1–2). We are still children fighting with a gimme attitude.
Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Isaiah 45:9
Who would strive against the Lord God? How is that even done?
The obvious way is by actively working against good and promoting evil. (Like our current government and many governments around the world.) To strive against God is not only foolish, it is frightening. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).
Behold, all they that were incensed against thee [God] shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Isaiah 41:11
But you and I can strive (H#7378–9 grapple, contend, complain, hold a controversy) with God and not realize that’s what we are doing. When we question God’s righteous judgment over matters we haven’t fully accepted like divorce, homosexuality, submission to a husband, forgiveness, obedience, self-sacrifice, etc., we strive with our Maker.
When we want things in life to be a certain way, to fit our preconceived parameter of what we think is right, but it goes against what God already said was right and true, we strive with the Lord. Christians do this all the time when they accept the world’s standards and invite those standards to walk through and defile their minds.
The good fight
There is a good fight. The fight of faith. A time to strive for something noble and right.
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnessed. 1 Timothy 6:12
The meaning of fight in 1 Timothy above is the same meaning for the word strive (G#75) in Luke 13:24. It means to struggle, to compete for a prize, to contend with an adversary; to endeavor or accomplish something; fight, labor fervently. This is no easy walk in the park. But why must we fight for our faith? Because the devil doesn’t want us to win this battle. Or realize its importance. He wants lazy, unprepared Christians who think they don’t need to do anything after conversion. Satan can easily fool these people and render their faith inert, powerless, empty because they aren’t grasping onto it fiercely.
Remember in Philippians 2:12 we are told to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”? We are encouraged to work fully, to accomplish, to finish what God started in us. How do we do that? We follow Paul’s example and “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14) by our obedience, repentance, and perseverance. This is active, purposeful striving for the only thing that truly matters in this life—hearing “well done, thou good and faithful servant,” at the second coming of Christ.
And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. 2 Timothy 2:5
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 1 Corinthians 9:25
There is lawful and unlawful striving. Like Martha, who was troubled by all she placed upon herself to do, we, too, strive in ways that hinder our peace and blind us from the needful thing. Yes, we could work tirelessly to accomplish many awe-inspiring things in this life, win accolades, admiration, and display our shiny trophies to be known, loved, needed, and important all while maintaining spotless houses and serving gourmet meals. But what good would it do if we lose our souls (Mark 8:36)?
But if we strive for mastery over our carnal selves, there’s a crown of life awaiting us.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. James 1:12
It does not matter if we have no great talent or beauty or skill to impress. It does not matter if we are plain or ordinary or boring by anyone else’s standards. God looks at the inner man, the contrite heart, the “weak” and “foolish” to confound the mighty and wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). We are chosen and royal and holy to God (1 Peter 2:9) because we have chosen to obey our King in our most holy faith.
If we strive in faith and prayer (G#4865–6), we become partners with our fellow brothers and sisters, near and far, known and unknown, and our hidden work builds up the body of Christ and brings about unity in the Spirit that pleases God.
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. Phil. 1:27
Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me. Romans 15:30
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. Luke 13:24
Most importantly, dear Christian, strive to enter that strait gate spoken by our King and Savior, Jesus Christ, because wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leads to destruction. This entering takes great effort, unlike the easy path the world offers. Their way is all-inclusive; it doesn’t require you to change. It is contrary to God and embraces evil unabashedly. But because of God’s great love for us, He specifically told us we would need to strive (G#75 labor fervently, struggle, fight) to enter this narrow and difficult way in order to find ultimate joy and peace at Christ’s return.
There is only one occurrence of the word strive (H#1777) relating to God striving with man. In Genesis 6:3 He says, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” In this instance, strive means to rule, to judge, to contend, and to plead with. The good news is that God will not always be dealing with us as weak and faulted human beings. Yes, this verse is referring to the cap God put upon our lifespan, but what I also glean from this verse is that a time will come when we won’t need judgment or ruling as wayward children need. We will have stepped past the physical limitations of our mortal selves and the sin that so easily besets us (Hebrews 12:1) and gained entrance into immortality where we will be like God, righteous and true. What joy!
To strive or not to strive? The answer is both.
- We don’t strive with people over words and issues that don’t lead to salvation.
- We don’t strive to attain a physical reward at the expense of a spiritual one.
- We do strive together in prayer and godly purpose.
- We do strive to enter the strait gate, working out our salvation with fear and trembling.
- We do strive against evil, sins, temptations, and bad habits in ourselves. This kind of striving comes with a promise—a crown of life.
I love a good word study, don’t you? I hope you’ve gleaned, along with me, some additional insight into the rich words used in the KJV Bible.
If you would like to read more posts in this series, please check out my KJV Bible Studies page.
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