Agonizomai: Why Agonizomai?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Why Agonizomai?

Jacob WrestlingThe origin of the word is found in the culture of the citizen state of Sparta. Those infant males who were permitted to live after birth were separated from their families at the age of 7 and put into warrior training in the wilderness under an experienced mentor. One of the exercises pitted two boys against each other in a contest called the "agon". They were stripped bare, slathered with oil and required to wrestle to the point of utter exhaustion in the broiling Mediterranean sun. We derive our word "agony" from the name of this ritual.

In the Koine Greek of the New Testament, the derivative word "agonizomai" means "to strive, to fight, to labour fervently". It is an apt word for the call to the Christian life. We are exhorted to sell all that we have and buy the field in which we have discovered buried treasure. We are told to count the cost of discipleship. We are commanded to lose our lives for Christ's sake and the gospel, so that we may find eternal life. We are exhorted...

"Strive (Greek = agonizomai pronounced ag-o-nid'-zom-a-hee) to enter through the narrow door, for many will seek to enter and will not be able." (Luke 13:24)

But Christian striving, arduous as it may be, is not the same as worldly striving. The unsaved man strives in order to effect a result which will add to himself - value, worth, acceptability, riches, acclaim and so forth. We Christians labour in order get out of the way of what has already been added to us. We strive to abide in the Person who will effect results in and through us. We fight by God's grace to remove from ourselves every obstacle to the Lordship and life of Christ in our own being. These obstacles are manifested in the wrong ideas and tendencies of the old man - a twisted and false perception of reality invented by our Christless selves. This old man - this corpse - is left chained to our new man in Christ so that we will desire to see Christ in us, rather than to see what we have been. We learn to hate the stench of sin in ourselves and to yearn for the sweet purity of Christ to fill us more and more. We want to see Him in our innermost being, to see Him at work through us in His world, and for Him to be seen by others in our place.

Though it is an inward battle, the fruits of our progress are also manifested in outward things. Attitudes, speech and deeds flow from the heart, as the Lord said. People will see fruit of the growing life and Lordship of Christ in us. The fruit is not to be confused with mere works. True outward holiness is the inevitable result of progress in the inner battle. When this battle is being won, the actual manifestation of fruit is effortless, one might even say even unconscious. It is reflexive. It flows from Christ in us. And it is He that people will see. Just as He conquered sin and death upon His cross so He will reveal that victory in us. All we need to do is to die when we are already dead. And our struggle, our striving, our agonizomai is to do just that. And then to battle to keep that corpse dead, because it is nothing if not stubborn. As we put to death the deeds of the body, so the life of the risen Christ will be manifested through our obedience.

In view of all this, it is small wonder that the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God. For which of us in the natural state would see past the oxymorons of striving to be still - of dying in order to live - of descending in order to rise - of being humbled in order to be exalted - of losing all in order to gain eternity? Yet we know that we are discarding rubbish in exchange for riches. Christ is our treasure in heaven. He is our reward, of which we have the down-payment now in the Holy Spirit. Not only is He these things, but He is also our Way and our Life. He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. He is our righteousness, our glory, our Lord and our God - to Whom be all honour and glory and blessing and power forever.

This site is dedicated to encouraging God's people in the struggle to "be still and know that He is God". It will contain material that is more devotional than theological. I am a layman, not a minister. There may also be opinion, mysticism, poor hermeneutics (though not deliberately so), polemics and very little that would pass for the practical. Some academics and proper theologians might shift uncomfortably in their seats, if they bother to read any of this at all. Some may cry "Pietism" or even "Quietism". Arminians may be offended by the emphasis on God's sovereignty. Calvinists may be turned off by the mystical elements. Theonomists may be disappointed by the impractical nature of it all. Charismatics or Emergents may find it all too "doctrinal". But for right or wrong this is where Christ has brought me so far in my pilgrimage.

In short, this is a blog mainly about the inner life. It does not deny that there are other aspects of the Christian call pertaining to the personal outworking of that inner life. Some of the links given in the blogroll and elsewhere are included so that the reader might see the way that Christ, in the heart of His saints, is working out into the world. We can be sure that, wherever He truly is seen, the soil will have been ploughed deeply so that the seed may grow.

So, wherever you are coming from, feel free to exhort, rebuke, reprove, guide, correct and teach me. Only be civil and gracious, and let His light shine in you.

8 Comments:

Blogger Leslie said...

It was a blessing to come across this.

5:04 pm  
Blogger agonizomai said...

Leslie,

Well thank you for letting me know and God bless you.

Tony

5:08 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:13 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

This came at a crucial time of struggle for me. I am selling most of what I have left & leave to Calif to live w family. I just turned 50 & have lost about everthing in the recession. I spent today asking God why ? -then I come across this & know it was led by the Holy Spirit. Thank You.

6:16 pm  
Blogger Kerri Elizabeth said...

To lose things and gain yourself is the reward that will allow you to rebuild the life meant for you.

1:46 pm  
Anonymous Emmanuel said...

Very well put. I am not Calvinistic but it has ministered to me hugely. Many, many Thanks.

1:19 pm  
Blogger agonizomai said...

I am grateful to God that you found this helpful, and to you for your encouraging comment.

I don't keep this blog up any longer, but I have left it on Blogger for any who may want to browse the content.

Blessings,


Tony

9:46 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, this was on time as I am trying to understand where I am in this season of my faith and looking to make life decisions. I understand the fight of faith a little more.. Thank you!

10:37 pm  

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