We have probably all heard many times how Paul compared the Christian life to running a race and “obtaining the prize.“~
“You know that in a race all the runners run but only one wins the prize, don’t you? You must run in such a way that you may be victorious/katalambano.” (1 Cor.9:24)
A lot of versions translate 2638 katalambánō as merely “obtaining” or “winning” and yet there is even more to this word than “being victorious”. I have found that this word is used 15 times in the N.T. and has very diverse and interesting applications.
HELPS Words studies describes it: To aggressively take with decisive initiative and forcefully, firmly lay hold of…to comprehend it, apprehend it and make it your own.
I picture someone trying to scale a very tall tree trunk to reach some high branches. If you have ever done this; you know how you hold on to the tree with every muscle in your body that you can…fingers, hands, arms, elbows, legs, knees, feet, toes…Your entire being is completely fixed on resolutely seizing the prize! That’s katalambano to me.
“Katalambano” (however you say that) is intense, forceful and resolute. It doesn’t just obtain something; it violently seizes it and never lets go! Check out some of the ways it is used (every use is in “italics”)-
First the bad news: Demons can use “Katalambano”.
The first use of this word in the N.T. is in Mark 9:17,18 ~”And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it “seizes” him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.“
-Religious leaders can use Katalambano.
John 8:3,4 ~”The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been “caught” in adultery, in the very act…”
-The last days were like “Katalambano”.1 Thess.5:3-5 ~ “While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would “overtake” you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day.
-Darkness can be like “Katalambano”.John 12:35 ~ “So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness “overtake” you.”
-Fortunately Jesus has the ultimate “Katalambano”! John 1:5 described Jesus, the Word and His light in the world ~ “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not “overcome” it.”
One of Paul’s most powerful prayers is that believers “may be able to “comprehend” (He used this very same word!) with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Eph.3:18,19)
Interesting that this word is used for seize, overtake, overcome and comprehend…because comprehend makes it sound intellectual but this word is anything but intellectual. It’s powerful!
Finally Paul uses this awesome word 3 times when he describes his continuous pursuit for Christian maturity in Philippians 3 ~ “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to “make it my own”, because Christ Jesus has “made me his own”. Brothers, I do not consider that I have “made it my own.” But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
There is no quitting or ceasing. Even Paul stressed that he would not consider his race complete but; constantly, aggressively pursuing every aspect of Jesus in every area of his life! The reason that we can and will do this is because he has “violently seized” us for this purpose and made us children of light!
I believe that it is love we have been violently seized by and really knowing God (for God is love!) and being completed in his love is the high calling! Remember back in Ephesians 3 that fully “comprehending/seizing” the love of Christ is how we are filled up with the fullness of God! (Eph.3:18,19)
Don’t you want to be filled up with the fullness of God everyday?
I am reminded of Luke 16:16 ~ “from that time the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, and every man entereth violently into it.“
Demons, religion and a fear of “the last days” are all assaulting us constantly with this tenacious fervor but, Jesus’ light “overcomes” them all! The question is not: “will we “overcome” if we stay in the light?” The only question should be “Am I staying in the light” because staying in the light guarantees “overcoming”!
Our only victory is in His already accomplished victory! We rest in His love by faith and that faith overcomes the world!