Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13-14
I feel like I say this a lot lately, “Life is hard. It’s supposed to be.” I say it to crowds, or friends or sometimes strangers. I would not have to say this in most other countries except maybe France, because they know this already. And sometimes I get this back: Blink. Blink. Respectful silence. I know they want to argue. Many know it can be difficult, but most do not agree that it should be. In fact, our culture sets comfort as a priority.
Okay, I admit I like comfort too. I love my flannel sheets in winter, and I secretly covet those car-starter-uppers on days when snow and wind make just a short walk to the driveway feel like an arctic trek. But I also have learned the benefit of being challenged – at work, at home, in church. Here is where Pride collides with our incompetence or sometimes laziness, where a mirror is held up to self-righteousness and we are uncovered. Our first instinct is to cover and deflect. We get angry, petulant. “I have my rights.” Well, actually you don’t.
Hard Lesson #1. God’s kingdom is not a democracy.
There are no rights for God’s children because it is an unimaginable privilege and undeserved gift to even know Him, let alone be “joint heirs” to all that is His. Leave your rights at the foot of the cross and make sure you read this disclaimer carefully:
And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:17
Ah, the hard part!
Hard Lesson #2: You will suffer if you follow Christ. No sissies allowed. Read this too:
Count it all joy, my brothers,[ when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Don’t worry – be happy! We get a variety of trials and they are good for us, because there is no other way to have a faith that is real and unshakeable. And then you get to be perfect, complete, lacking NOTHING. Wow! But first, the fire…
Hard Lesson #3 God does always answer prayer, but sometimes He says No.
He’s God. He can do whatever He wants and it’s always right and for our good.
Hard Lesson #4 You have to love everyone. E-ver-y-one! No exceptions.
In fact, God will intentionally bring you unlovables, all those people you really can’t stand. (refer back to Hard Lesson #2).
Hard Lesson #5 It’s not fair.
So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen. Matthew 20:16
Back to the narrow gate. It’s not that Jesus doesn’t want us all crushing the gate, or having to create a wait-list because the line is so long. Jesus really is calling, but few are answering this call. They hear the call, but opt out of the “difficult” part. We want results, guarantees, position. On this side of heaven, there is no reward. Instead you will likely be laughed at, scorned as foolish or ludicrous.
You don’t mean to tell me that you believe the whole Bible? My mother would ask, one eyebrow raised as if to coach me away from saying something she considered idiotic.
Yes, I would say. The whole thing. Because it’s not just a book, it is life, from the Giver of Life.
But what about Blessing? The Promises? Ah yes – lots of those. But read the fine print…
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Do you love me? Jesus asked this of Peter three times. Exasperated, Peter finally said, “Lord, you know all things.” He does, He knows what is love and what is just lip-service or lukewarm compliance.
Called according to His purpose. What if His purpose for my life is obscurity? Or more humiliating than that – a laughing stock, an offense? Elisabeth Elliot noted:
Did the earthly life of our Lord appear to be a thundering success? Would the statistics of souls won, crowds made into fruitful disciples, sermons heeded, commands obeyed, be impressive? Hardly.
At the foot of the cross, there is a lot of room. There’s no box seats, or roped off sections. It’s you, it’s me, staring into this unfathomable love despite the seeds of evil that are implanted deep in every heart. He is calling me from death to life, into a love I am incapable of but for His immeasurable grace.
Follow me. The way is difficult, uncertain. I stumble, waver or sometimes stop dead in my tracks. Which way now?
Jesus Christ had to fathom every sin and every sorrow man could experience, and that is what makes Him seem strange. When we see Him in this aspect we do not know Him, we do not recognize one feature of His life, and we do not know how to begin to follow Him. – Oswald Chambers
There are times where nothing is familiar. No GPS.
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21
God is there, always. Even in the dark, or when the pain is so loud you can’t hear him. Jehovah Shammah: “the Lord is there.” And I am His, the only one that I care to please, and He will lead me according to HIS purpose. Then one day, I will meet him at the narrow gate. I don’t know for sure, but I think Jesus will be there with a huge smile, holding it open just for us. I hope I see you there too, as we enter into the fullness of His joy and glory. Then real life, the one we were made for from the start, will begin.
When Love Was Slain by Selah – Enjoy!