Matthew 7: 13-14 (New King James)
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 (the message)
“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. They way to life –to God! –is vigorous and requires total attention.”
I have read over this scripture many times. The last line always touches my heart. Always reminds me that although really finding God is not hard, it requires vigor. Total Attention.
There are times in my life when I don’t always “feel” God’s nearness. I still have peace on the inside. I still get up and read my Bible and talk with Him, but there are times when I don’t feel as connected to Him. As these times have come, I have learned much about not relying on feelings in my walk with God. I have learned more about searching my heart and letting God show me new or different things I need to see. I have learned more about walking in faith based on what the Bible says about my life and not needing an emotional experience to validate that. These lessons have all been part of my journey. I remember last year riding in the car talking with a couple of friends about it and my close friend of many years, who has seen it all, said…maybe you are just becoming stable. A wow moment for me. I could learn to know God and grow into a steady and stable woman. I was doing just that!
There are other times, however, when I must ask myself if I feel less “connected” to God because I am not fully focused. There are times when I must ask myself if in my Bible reading and prayer I am truly seeking Him with vigor. We are all human. And when we are born it is into the flesh, or that very human nature that is not reconciled to God until we submit to Jesus and His sacrifice. Observe a small child! They completely think life is all about them! And they always want the easy way…the “shortcut.” They would eat candy, never clean their rooms, never share and watch t.v. all day if we let them. As parents we are charged to train them up. Not in what will feel good or the path of least resistance! We are to train them in ways that will produce life for them…health…character…in the truths of God and His love. Yet, we can so often live like the little child with God. We want to know God and yet travel the path of least resistance.
See, I don’t personally believe that knowing God is difficult to do. I mean, He is not hiding from us. But to really know Him in a deep and spectacular way we must hunger for Him enough to give it all we’ve got…to choose the path that requires living vigorously and giving Him our full attention. The beautiful part is that once we choose Him, really choose Him, God enables us through the Holy Spirit. The crux of the matter is making our choice. What kind of life do we want to live? Do we really, really want God or not? We say “yes, yes” but the truth is it can seem like a terribly hard choice to make. Why do I say that? Because I continue to discover the Bible is quite clear on Jesus following and full surrender. And I know for myself that I only wanted to wade in but so deep for most of my life. The truth is I wanted God to the degree it felt comfortable for me. I cared what other people thought of me. I was absorbed in my own pain. I was grasping at approval from others.
What happens when we change lanes? What happens when we get off the conveyor belt full of people drifting along that path of least resistance? What happens when instead of dipping our toes into the waters of God we decide to just dive right in? What makes me smile is that for me, the deeper I get the less it matters what anyone thinks of my devotion and very deliberate choice to live vigorously for Him. The less consumed I am with my own pain…matter of fact, walking this path of giving God my full attention brings healing to my life like never before. And in a most amazing way, I trade my need for man’s approval for God’s approval. And I discover my hungry heart pleases Him.
Remember that verse about the narrow gate and the wide gate? How few travel through the narrow gate? I think somewhere along the way we get the idea that the narrow way is impossible. It’s probably unbearable and God makes us live that way to prove ourselves. Besides, the narrow gate people take things too far, don’t they? They pray about everything. Why does everything have to be spiritual!? They talk about God far too much. Don’t they know that makes others uncomfortable and it’s not PC? They smile a lot and their cheerful optimism and joy grates on the nerves of those intent on being negative. These narrow gate people are always inviting people to church or offering them a life-changing book they just finished. They are far too content when they don’t seem to have any more stuff or any less challenges than everyone else! They hum, they sing, they laugh. But then they’ll cry with you and offer to pray with you on a dime! They know the conveyor belt crowd sneers at them sometimes but it never dissuades them. It’s like they can’t contain themselves. Like they are on a mission or something. Living wholeheartedly and imperfectly for a perfect God.
My heart’s cry and one of my deepest prayers is that God stirs my heart to vigor. You know, we can be narrow gate people but over time find ourselves drifting down the current of popular opinion and submersed in our “all about me” culture. I don’t begin to think it couldn’t happen to me again. I place no confidence in myself and that is the absolute truth. See, there has been nothing in my life over this past year and a half that came from my own ability or efforts. I know what my default living looks like: judgemental attitudes, offense, self-absorption, fear, insecurity, striving and hopelessness. I shake my head at my former fears and attitudes toward narrow-gate living…toward surrender. It’s a lie. A lie from the pit of hell. Surrender to Jesus, really choosing Him, living vigorously for Him has set me free from my default living. I’m far from perfect, but my heart is free. And I know God can and will do anything in a heart free and open to Him! I tried the shortcuts. You know, I wanted the healed marriage so I went up for prayer but then I wouldn’t obey God and ask forgiveness or put my husband’s needs above my own or love Him like the Bible describes in 1Cor 13. See what I’m saying? There are no shortcuts. There is prayer, faith and surrender that leads to freedom, joy, peace and healing. This sweet, sweet surrender in narrow-gate living that leads to real life…forever.
Never will you find it on the conveyor belt. Never.