The path of striving towards the goal of the heavenly kingdom requires facing of the enemy of righteousness in various wars. God allows the spiritual warfare for our spiritual benefit through our victory in these wars. The Bible shows us the nature of the devil, and encourages us to have a canonical striving, without which we could not win or be crowned; and it also indicates to us the blessings for the victorious and the rewards waiting for them.
The concept of spiritual striving
The Christian believes that in his struggle he couldn’t achieve his spiritual perfection without a heavenly help and the work of divine grace in him. He strives relying on Him who said, “Without me you can do nothing” (Jhn15:5). Therefore he did not experience the feelings of sadness in his struggle, but rather the spiritual joy of heartfelt delight. It is striving of the spirit by the grace which is in him and working with him, and for him. The Apostle Paul says, “For it is God who works in you” (Phlp2:13), and “… by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom8:13).
Christian Striving is not a start for the spiritual life, but it keeps the new life which the believer received from God ... and keeping this new life does not depend only on human effort, but on God’s supporting power, as the divine dispensation is to work with man to deliver him from his enemies; so He said, ‘“They will fight against you, But they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you,’ says the Lord, ‘to deliver you’” (Jer1:19). He also says, “I’m with you” meaning that He will not save you without you; and this is confirmed by St. Augustine by saying, ‘God who created you without you can not save you without you.’ Therefore, the Apostle Peter says, “(you) who are kept by the power of God” (1Pet1:5), and the Psalmist wrote about Him, “He preserves the souls of His saints” (Ps97:10). The Apostle Paul also says, “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one” (2Thess3:3). Man participates with God in this work, so the apostle John wrote saying, “He who has been born of God keeps himself” (1Jhn5:18), and the Apostle Paul says,” And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things” (1Cor 9:25).
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called” (1Tim6:12). As long as we are alive in the flesh in this present life, Satan raises his wars against us aiming to let us lose our salvation to be belonging to him as his followers. So we have to strive spiritually to win our wars. St. Peter says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1Pet5:8, 9). Therefore Spiritual wars are addressed to everyone, and these wars are plenty and varied. Thus we must struggle spiritually against sin to be crowned with imperishable crowns of glory, as St Paul says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1Cor 9:24-26)… but “He is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2Tim2:5), i.e. in accordance to a spiritual law to which we abide. We also must strive against each sin with patience, until the last moment of our life on Earth. About this point, St. Paul says, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Heb12:1-4).
Author and finisher of our faith
What comforts us that Jesus Himself, the second Adam, has passed the temptations, when He allowed Satan to tempt Him (Matt4:1-11), so it was said about Him that He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb13:4). Jesus did not in need to be praised by His victory in these wars, but He won for us to be victorious in him, and in his blessed Person, and to be consoled in everything we pass through in these wars, knowing that as Christ triumphed over, He also will give us the victory if we strive patiently until we get our victory... Thus Christ reminds us of this victory saying, “He who hates Me hates My Father also” (Jhn15:23).
The features of the spiritual strive appeared in His life on earth, being the perfect Man who represented all of us; and as a perfect example for us to emulate in our striving. These profiles show clearly the spiritual strive styles:
?Abstinence fasting for 40 days straight, till He starved (Matt4:2; Lk4:2).
?We did not find Him an eater or interested in physical food at any day, but rather He refused to eat making it clear that what makes Him full is the completion of His spiritual work, like what happened with His hungry disciples when they invited Him to eat, but He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know. Therefore the disciples said to one another, has anyone brought Him anything to eat? Jesus said to them, My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (Jhn4:32-34).
?He did not seek physical comfort, and had no place to lay His head... He said about Himself, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Lk9:58).
?He owned absolutely nothing, and He did not have money so that some women were serving Him from their own funds (Lk8:1-3), and didn't have even a piece of money (didrachma) for the temple tax (Matt17:24-27).
?He has had long periods of individual prayer, “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (Lk5:16), “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Lk6:12), “And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there” (Matt14:23; see also 9:18; 9:28; 11:1). He also had the opportunity to pray three times before His arrest while His disciples slept from the severity of fatigue (Matt26:36-45) where He prayed more earnestly and persistently (Lk22:40-46), prostrating on the ground (Mk14:35).
?Frequently He had periods of spiritual retreat in desolate places (Lk4:42; Matt14:13; Jhn8:1).
?He used the written divine word in facing the Devil (Matt4:4, 6, 10), as well as in several occasions, presenting to us how our relationship with God’s Word should be.
?He refused to be glorified by men saying, “I do not receive honor from men” (Jhn 5:41), and He escaped from the positions which give Him glory “Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone” (Jhn6:15). Furthermore He refused to make miracles just for showing off (Matt12:38).