Life is full of choices to make. I think we don’t have to live long to realise that. But thankfully, most of the choices we make do not really have much of an impact on our life. For example, each day you decided what clothes you would wear. Later you will decide what you will be eating for breakfast, lunch or dinner. These choices are largely inconsequential, and so we should not be anxious about them.
But some of the choices we make do have a great impact on our life – like choosing the right school for your studies, choosing the right career or job, and choosing the right spouse. Making the right choice in such decisions will bring much joy, but making the wrong choice will bring much regret. The question is: How do you make such choices? Some may say, “Whenever I have to make a choice, I simply choose the easiest way.” And others may say, “I just follow the prevailing trends and simply go with the flow.” If this is the way that you make your choices, you may end up going the wrong way. Taking the easiest path and going with the flow can actually be quite foolish and even disastrous at times.
Oftentimes the more difficult path is the one that we should choose, and going against the flow is the right thing to do. The best choices we make are those that are guided by sound biblical principles. Consider what God’s Word says in the following passage:
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13,14)
There are four things we can learn about this road that Jesus recommends us to take.
It Begins with the Strait Gate
“Enter ye in at the strait gate…” The idea of ‘strait’ is that of restrictiveness. This gate seems to be less inviting to people because of the inconvenience of having to squeeze through such a small opening. It certainly does not permit anyone to carry a lot of baggage through it. In contrast to this, you can easily go through the wide gate with any extra baggage you wish to carry along with you – including your ambitions, your passions and your pride. It is very tempting to take this gate because it requires the least amount of effort, the least sacrifice and the least inconvenience.
But Jesus does not recommend it at all. He tells us not to be fooled by it, as it is actually very dangerous to go through it. This gate is actually a mouth of destruction that opens wide only to catch as many victims as it can within its deadly jaws!
Jesus wants you to enter in the less attractive strait gate. He guarantees that this gate is very safe. You will never go wrong or have any regrets at all if you choose it. But there is a cost involved in taking it – you must be prepared to deny self and leave all your baggage behind – whatever sins you love, whatever selfish ambitions you have, and whatever passions and pride in your life. All these must all be surrendered and left outside the gate. This is the price to be paid for going in. Are you willing to pay the price and bear the costs?
Jesus Himself had to walk on the road of self-denial. Because of this, anyone who follows Him must be willing to deny self. The question is: Have you counted the cost of following Jesus? Are there certain things in your life that you refuse to give up? Perhaps you have grown up with a sense of entitlement. You believe that you deserve certain privileges. You want to get your fair share of attention, respect, satisfaction and success. You impose unrealistic demands on others, and you get upset if things don’t work out the way you wanted. If you choose to enter in by the strait gate, you have to give up this sense of entitlement, and take up self-denial instead.
It Is the Less Attractive Road
In v.14 Jesus says “…narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life.” The word ‘narrow’ here implies intense pressure and distress. The one who attempts to walk on this road will find himself constrained to walk in only one straight direction, and also hemmed in on all sides by trials, hardship and difficulty. These are the things that we have to face when we decide to follow Christ and obey God’s Word, rather than to follow the world.
The other road is described as the broad way. The idea given here is that of wide spaciousness. Those who walk in the broad way have lots and lots of leeway to move to the right and to the left. But it allows us to have far more latitude than is good for us to have, and this will only breed overindulgence. Whenever all restraints are removed from man’s sinful nature, there is no limit to the awful manifestations of human depravity. It would be just like a community without any law and order where there is much looting and killing. This is why the broad way is so dangerous.
Jesus, therefore, tells us to walk the narrow path. Even though it may be a hard and inconvenient road to travel, it is actually the safest road for our souls to take. And even though it is a challenge to live within the limits of God’s Word, and to be tried to the very limits of our endurance, the results it produces are wonderful and sweet. The hardship and trials of the narrow way will produce spiritual growth by refining us.
But despite these wonderful benefits of walking on the narrow way, many still prefer to walk on the broad way. One reason is that there is a great multitude of people there. Some people go along with the trends of the world without carefully considering whether they are right or not, because they think, “There’s safety in numbers. Surely so many people can’t be wrong at the same time.” On social media, they would look for the choice that has the most number of ‘likes’. They have a herd mentality that conforms blindly to what everyone else is doing.
The majority can sometimes be very wrong. The twelve spies were sent by Israel to survey the land of Canaan (Numbers 14). While two of them came back to the camp with an encouraging word, they were outnumbered by the ten spies who delivered a very discouraging report. They claimed that the Canaanites were far too big and powerful to fight against, and it would be absolutely suicidal to even attempt it. Whose report did the people of Israel believe? The majority. What was the result? They rebelled against God and were sentenced to wander in the wilderness for forty years.
It Is Trodden by the Smaller Crowd
The narrow way is the right way for us, even though it may be the lonely road, the one that is unpopular and less travelled. But it should not matter to us that there are fewer people walking on the narrow way since Jesus Himself accompanies us there throughout the entire journey. And travelling in the company of Jesus is definitely better than travelling with vast multitudes who have no clear direction.
The best companion you can ever have for your journey through life is the Lord Jesus. If He walks with you, you will have all the help, guidance, provision and security that you need. The way may become extremely narrow and even difficult at times. But as long as you have Jesus with you, there is nothing to fear. Even the experience of death will be emptied of all fear, as long as Jesus is with you. Perhaps you are afraid of death. What is it like to experience death? What pain or discomfort will you feel at that very last moment of your life? What is it like to breathe your last breath and close your eyes for the last time in this world?
If Jesus is with you, there is nothing to fear because of the tremendous assurance from God’s Word that says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.” (Psalm 23:4) And when you come out on the other side of this dark valley you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
There is only one way to dwell there, and that is through Jesus Christ, who is the way the truth and the life. So please be sure that you are on that one way that leads you there because all other ways can never lead you there.
It Ends at Our Desired Destination
This destination is mentioned in v.14: “…which leadeth unto life….” Whenever we choose a road to travel, the overriding consideration is where it will ultimately lead us to. It is not the road conditions but the destination which must determine which road which you choose to travel. A rough road that leads to life is infinitely better than a smooth and easy road that leads to destruction.
One reason why most people fail to live by this principle is that they live only for short-term gains. They keep looking for instant gratification. To them what matters most is what is immediate, whatever is here and now, instead of what is yet to come. Their vision is too short-sighted, for they only see all the short-term gains they can have by entering the wide gate, walking on the broad way, and having a large crowd of fellow travellers to keep them company.
How then can you resist these enticing short term-gains? Faith is the key. You need to have faith to look far beyond your present circumstances. The 11th chapter of Hebrews provides a list of people who did just that. It begins with Abel, Enoch and Noah, and it includes patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. The greatest example of faith is in our Lord Jesus Christ. He is mentioned at the end to bring the whole chapter to a grand climax. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1,2)
Jesus never wavered at any time in the narrow way of faith. It took Him to the cross of Calvary, but thereafter it took Him back to the glory that He had left in Heaven. Jesus looked far beyond the shame and agony of the cross, to the glory of His reign as the King of kings and Lord of lords! This is the kind of vision that faith gives to us. It is of the greatest importance for you to have a long-sighted vision. God has already given you His Word to show you the bright distant future that lies ahead. Look far into the distance for the right destination. And when you have found it, set the course of your life resolutely to reach it. This will enable you to persevere on and on in your journey until you reach the very end. May the Lord help us to keep pressing toward the mark in our present journey on the road less travelled.