When Christ was asked how many people would be saved, He told us to strive to enter Heaven, that many intending to enter will be turned away. (Lk 13:23-24) The Greek is agonizomai, from which we evidently get agonize.
The way to Heaven’s narrow, obscure; very few find it. (Mt 7:13-14) God uses this word few for the eight souls, of perhaps millions, who escaped the Flood (1Pe 3:20); most won’t make it.
But for any thoughtful soul, the second death simply isn’t an option. How then are we supposed to strive to enter?
Trying harder to be good certainly won’t work; the more we grow in holiness, the more sinful and broken we find ourselves to be, like filthy rags on our best day. (Is 64:6)
The more light we get the more of our own filthiness we can see; we’ll never be worthy on our own merit. We all need infinite mercy, a Savior to be continually cleansing us from our sin. (1Jn 1:7) We need perfect righteousness (Mt 5:48); and it needs to be a free gift (Ro 6:23), because we could never earn it.
In our striving we must not be looking primarily at ourselves, but at Christ (He 12:2), and what He’s done for us (Re 1:5), laboring to ensure that we’ve entered into the eternal rest (He 4:11) He’s provided, and that our lives obediently and joyfully reflect this reality. (1Pe 1:2)
God tells us to seek Him (Is 55:6-7), to feel after Him and find Him for ourselves (Ac 17:27), to examine our souls and prove our relationship with God (2Co 13:5), to make sure we’re His. (2Pe 1:10) Are the things that accompany salvation evident in our lives? (He 6:9) Do we love Him? (1Co 8:3) Is He precious to us (1Pe 2:7)? Is God Himself our portion in life? Is He the passion of our lives? (Ps 73:25)
If we haven’t found God yet, like the merchant seeking exquisite pearls, let’s follow after Christ, seeking God until we find Him (Je 29:13), until we know that we know Him (1Jn 5:13) and are abiding in Him. (1Jn 2:28)