Are You Fighting?
by J. C. Ryle
"From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force." Matthew 11:12
The true Christian life is not for the faint hearted, nor the spiritual sluggard. Every line of scripture breathes with a violent spiritual assault against darkness, and a militant pressing into the kingdom of God. The apostle Paul calls the Word of God our sword, and our faith a shield. You are commanded to, "...take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day..." Ephesians 6:13.
Matthew said, "the violent take it by force." But we also, "press toward the mark..." Philippians 3:14, "...through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22, "Resist the devil." James 4:7, "...presseth into it." Luke 16:16, and "Strive to enter in at the strait gate..." Luke 13:24.
The Marine Corps motto is, "We're looking for a few good men." Oh, how the church needs a few good men, men who are not afraid to get into the fight. It only took one hundred and fifty to come out of an upper room to turn a world upside down. They were armed with the Word of God, their bold faith, and a prayer life that shook the earth at its foundation.
Our battle is spiritual, we gain spiritual ground, we fight a spiritual enemy, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" Ephesians 6:12. It is a violent walk with God in the spirit, and the violent take it by force.
Most of the church today has retreated from the fight because there are so many cowards behind pulpit. Men have grown spiritually fat and slothful, they would rather play than fight, it's too great a demand. But the writer of Hebrews placed an even greater demand when he said, "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." Hebrews 12:4. He was saying, get in the fight, even if it means your life!
"Fight the good fight of faith..." 1 Timothy 6:12 "...let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1 "...ye endured a great fight of afflictions." Hebrews 10:32
"...run, that ye may obtain." 1 Corinthians 9:24 "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection..." 1 Corinthians 9:27
There is a story in the gospels that tell of a women who suffered much from an issue of blood. Herein is one of the great stories of faith. Had the women been healthy, the story still would have been dramatic having pressed through a dense crowd of mostly men. But this women was probably anemic and very weak, it was her faith that gave her so much determination.
"A woman having an issue of blood... came in the press behind, and touched his garment... and immediately her issue of blood stanched. And Jesus said, Who touched me? ...Peter said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, ...Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me." Luke 8:43-46; Mark 5:27
The end result of her determination to reach Jesus, "virtue is gone out of me." Beloved, that we would have such faith, such determination to press into Jesus until His, "virtue is gone..." we would be more than conquerors, we would, "tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy." Luke 10:19.
Be assured though, it will not come without a fight, without pressing in, without the violent taking it by force. Now is the time to rise up Church, as David said, "Is there not a cause?" 1 Samuel 17:29
— by Randy Munter
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON
"From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of Heaven suffers
violence and the violent take it by force." Matthew 11:12
WHEN John the Baptist preached in the wilderness of Judea, the throng of people who pressed around him became
extremely violent to get near enough to hear his voice. Often when our Savior preached did the like scene occur. We find
that the multitudes were immense beyond all precedent. He seemed to drain every city, every town and every village as He
went along preaching the Word of the Gospel. These people, moreover, not like our common Church and Chapelgoers-
content to hear, if they could, and yet more content to keep without hearing, if it were possible-were extremely
earnest to get near enough to hear Jesus. So intense was their desire to hear the Savior that they pressed upon Him, insomuch
that they trod one upon another. The crowd became so violent to approach Him, that some of the weaker ones were
cast down and trod upon.
Now, our Savior, when He witnessed all this struggling round about to get near Him, said, "This is just a picture of
what is done spiritually by those who will be saved. As you press and throng about Me," said Christ, "and thrust one
another with arm and elbow, to get within reach of My voice, even so must it be if you would be saved, 'For the kingdom
of Heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.' " He pictured to Himself a crowd of souls desiring to get to
the living Savior. He saw them press and crowd and throng and thrust and tread on one another, in their anxious desire
to get at Him. He warned His hearers that unless they had this earnestness in their souls, they would never reach Him
savingly. But if they had it, they should certainly be saved. "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of
Heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force."
"But," says one, "do you wish us to understand that if a man is to be saved he must use violence and vehement earnestness
in order to obtain salvation?" I do, most assuredly. That is the doctrine of the text. "But," says one, "I thought
it was all the work of God." So it is, from first to last. But when God has begun the work in the soul, the constant effect
of God's work in us is to set us working. And where God's Spirit is really striving with us, we shall begin to strive, too.
This is just a test whereby we may distinguish the men who have received the Spirit of God from those who have not received
it. Those who have received the Spirit in verity and truth are violent men. They have a violent anxiety to be saved
and they violently strive that they may enter in at the strait gate. Well they know that seeking to enter in is not enough,
for many shall seek to enter in but shall not be able and therefore do they strive with might and main.
I shall this morning, first, direct your attention to these violent men. Look at them. Secondly, we shall show their
conduct. What makes them so violent? Are they justified in this impetuous vehemence? We shall next rejoice in the fact
that they are sure to be successful in their violence. And then I shall endeavor to arouse in your hearts, by the help of
God's Holy Spirit, that holy violence, without which the gates of Heaven will be shut in your teeth and you will never be
able to enter the pearly portals of Paradise.
I. First then, LET US LOOK AT THESE VIOLENT MEN. Understand that what they are they have been made by
They are not naturally so of themselves. But there has been a secret work of grace in them and then they
have become violent men. Look at these violent men who are violently in earnest to be saved. You will observe them when
they come up to the House of God. There is no yawning with them, no listlessness or inattention, no imagination that if
they do but sit in the place the hour-and-a-half which is regularly allotted to Divine worship, they will have done
enough. No. They hear with both their ears and they look with both their eyes and all through the service they have an
intense desire that they may find Christ.
Meet them as they go up to the House of Prayer and ask them why they are going there. They know right well what
they are going after. "I am going there to find mercy and to find peace and rest to my soul. For I am in anguish about sin
and I want to find the Savior. I am in hopes that being in the way the Lord will meet with me, so I am about to lay myself
down by the side of the pool of Bethesda, in the hope that the Holy Spirit will stir the pool and enable me to step in."
You do not find these people like the most of modern hearers, critical, or else careless. No. They are all awake to see
whether there is not something to be had which may be a balm to their wearied spirits and a cordial to their troubled
Mark these violent people after they have gone home. They go to their chambers and they begin to pray. Not that
prayer between sleeping and waking that some of you are used to attend to-not that drowsy supplication which never
gets beyond the ceiling of your bedroom. But they fall on their knees and with a holy anxiety they begin to cry, "Lord,
save or I perish! O Lord save me. I am ready to perish, Lord. I beseech You, stretch out Your hand and rescue my poor
soul from that destruction which now haunts my spirit." And see them after they have prayed, how they turn over the
Word of God. They do not read its chapters as if the mere looking at the letters was enough, but they read just as Watts
says in his hymn
"Yet save a trembling sinner, Lord,
Whose hope, still hovering round Your Word
Would light on some sweet promise there,
Some sure support against despair."
And down they are on their knees again. "O Lord speak to my soul through Your Word! Lord help me to lay hold
on the promise, enable me to grasp it! Oh, let not my soul perish for lack of Your help and Your Grace." And then see
these violent men whom God has made in earnest about being saved. You will not find them leaving their devotions in
their closets, or in their House of Prayer. Wherever they go there is a solemn earnestness upon them which the world
cannot understand. They are seeking after Jesus and rest they neither will nor can until they find Him. Their nights are
disturbed with dreams and their days are made sad with their partings after the blessing-without which they cannot
live and without which they dare not die.
My Hearer, have you ever been one of these violent men, or are you so now? Blessed be God if this holy violence is in
your spirit-you shall take Heaven by force yet-you shall take it by storm and carry the gates of Heaven by the battery
of your prayers. Only persevere with importunity. Plead, wrestle, continue to strive and you must at length prevail. But
ah, my Hearer, if you have never had a strong unconquerable anxiety about your soul, you are as yet a stranger to the
things of God. You do not understand that violence victorious without which the gates of Heaven never can be stormed.
Some of us can look back to the time when we were seeking Christ. I could myself awake of a morning easily then. The
first ray of light that came into my chamber would awaken me to take up Baxter's Call to the Unconverted that lay under
my pillow. I believed I had not repented enough and I began to read that. Oh, how I hoped that would break my heart.
And then I would get Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul and Allen's Alarm and read them.
But, still, I think I might have read them to this day and not been a whit the better if I had not something better than
alarm, in remembering that Christ came into the world to save every sinner who was willing to cast himself upon His
blood and righteousness and take him at His Word and trust God. Have you not seen many-and are there not many
among us-men who have said "I must have mercy, I must have it-it is not a thing which I may have, or may not have
but I am a lost soul if I have it not"? And when they have gone to pray they have seemed like Samsons, they have got hold
of the two posts of Heaven's gate of mercy and they have pulled as if they would pull them up by their eternal roots
sooner than not get the blessing. They have hammered at the gates of Heaven until it seemed as if they would split the
golden bolts rather than be turned away. No man ever gets peace until he gets into such a passion of earnestness to be
saved that he cannot find peace until Christ speaks pardon to his soul and brings him into life and liberty. "The kingdom
of Heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force."
But this violence does not end when a man finds Christ. It then begins to exercise itself in another way. The man who
is pardoned and who knows it, then becomes violently in love with Christ. He does not love Him just a little, but he loves
Him with all his soul and all his might. He feels as if he could wish to die for Christ and his heart pants to be able to live
alone with his Redeemer and serve Him without interruption. Mark such a man who is a true Christian. Mark his prayers
and you will see there is violence in all his supplications when he pleads for the souls of men. Mark his outward actions
and they are violently sincere, violently earnest. Mark him when he preaches-there is no dull droning out of a monotonous
discourse-he speaks like a man who means what he says and who must speak it, or else woe would he unto him if he
preached not the Gospel.
As I look around on many of the Churches, yes, on many members of my own Church, I am apt to fear that they are
not God's children at all, because they have nothing of this holy violence. Have you ever read Coleridge's Ancient Mariner?
I dare say you have thought it one of the strongest imaginations ever put together, especially that part where the old
mariner represents the corpses of all the dead men rising up-all of them dead, yet rising up to manage the ship. Dead
men pulling the ropes, dead men steering, dead men spreading the sails.
I thought what a strange idea that was. But do
you know I have lived to see that true-I have seen it done. I have gone into Churches and I have seen a dead man in the
pulpit and a dead man as a deacon and a dead man holding the plate at the door and dead men sitting to hear. You say,
"Strange!" but I have. I have gone into societies and I have seen it all going on so regularly. These dead men, you know,
never overstep the bounds of prudence-not they-they have not life enough to do that. They always pull the rope orderly,
"as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen."
And the dead man in the pulpit, is he not most regular and precise? He systematically draws his handkerchief from
his pocket and uses it at the regular period, in the middle of the sermon. He would not think of violating a single rubric
that has been laid down by his old-fashioned Church. Well, I have seen these Churches-I know where to point them
out-and have seen dead men doing everything. "No," says one, "you can't mean it?" Yes, I do, the men were spiritually
dead. I have seen the minister preaching without a particle of life, a sermon which is only fresh in the sense in which a fish
is fresh when it has been packed in ice.
I have seen the people sit and they have listened as if they had been a group of statues
the chiseled marble would have been as much affected by the sermon as they. I have seen the deacons go about their
business just as orderly and with as much precision as if they had been mere automatons and not men with hearts and
souls at all. Do you think God will ever bless a Church that is like that? Are we ever to take the kingdom of Heaven with
a troop of dead men? Never! We want living ministers, living hearers, living deacons, living elders and until we have such
men who have got the very fire of life burning in their souls, who have got tongues of life and eyes of life and souls of life,
we shall never see the kingdom of Heaven taken by storm. "For the kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and the violent
take it by force."
Frequently complaints are made and surprise expressed by individuals who have never found a blessing rest upon
anything they have attempted to do in the service of God. "I have been a Sunday-School teacher for years," says one,
"and I have never seen any of my girls or boys converted." No, and the reason most likely is you have never been violent
about it. You have never been compelled by the Divine Spirit to make up your mind that converted they should be and no
stone should be left unturned until they were. You have never been brought by the Spirit to such a passion that you have
said, "I cannot live unless God bless me. I cannot exist unless I see some of these children saved." Then, falling on your
knees in agony of prayer and putting forth afterwards your trust with the same intensity towards Heaven, you would
never have been disappointed, "for the violent take it by force."
And you, too, my Brother in the Gospel, you have marveled and wondered why you have not seen souls regenerated.
Did you ever expect it? Why, you preach like one who does not believe what he is saying. Those who believe in Christ may
say of you with kind partiality, "Our minister is a dear good man." But the careless young men that attend your ministry,
say, "Does that man expect to make me believe that which he only utters as a dry story and to convince me when I see
him go through the service with all the dullness and monotony of dead routine?" Oh, my Brethren, what we want today
in the Churches is violence, not violence against each other, but violence against death and Hell-against the hardness of
other men's hearts and against the sleepiness of our own. In Martin Luther's time, truly the kingdom of Heaven suffered
violence. The whole religious world was wide awake, Now, I fear for the most part it is sound asleep. Go where you may,
our Churches have come to be old established businesses. They do not care to extend themselves.
We must have new blood, no-we must have new fire from Heaven to fall upon the sacrifice or else like Baal's
priests, they may cut and hack our bodies and distract our minds in vain. There will be "no voice, nor any to answer, nor
any that regard." The sacrifice shall lay unburnt upon the altar and the world will say our God is not the living God, or
surely we are not His people. "And you shall grope at noonday, as the blind gropes in darkness and you shall not prosper
in your ways-and you shall be only oppressed and spoiled evermore and no man shall save you." Violent men, then, are
those that take the kingdom of Heaven by force.