Monday Morning Pastor; The Reward of the Hard Way and The Irony of the Easy Way
The Reward of the Hard Way
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13-14
Jesus never said that the way of following would be easy. He said many times that discipleship is hard and will require your life and will demand your allegiance to all that He commanded (Matthew 5:48; Matthew 28:20; Mark 8:34-35). Matthew 7:13-14 only reinforces this truth that is taught repetitively in the Bible by Jesus and those who followed Him. When Jesus commanded or demanded that we enter the narrow gate and follow the narrow way, He meant that we are to follow and obey all that He commanded and in the context of the Sermon on the Mount that means loving your enemy instead of hating your enemy. It means being pure in your thoughts and not just outwardly. It means loving others the way you love yourself. Frankly, it would be easier, though eternally costly, to say it can’t be done and just be true to yourself, which is the life motto and philosophy of so many in the world by which they justify any and every thought and action.
But for the follower of Christ the hard way (John 14:6) is the only way because striving to obey all that He commanded is the evidence of trusting Him for eternal life. Yes salvation is by grace through faith alone, but true believing produces glad obedience for the glory of God (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Here’s the payoff though, the narrow gate and way is worth it. It is worth it, follower of Jesus! Trouble is inevitable in this life and not just for Christians but for every person, but there will be trouble for those who follow Jesus and it is worth it (John 16:33; 2 Timothy 3:12). There is a reward for those who persevere and follow Jesus and obey all that He commanded.
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if He shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Hebrews 10:32-39
What is the payoff for those who choose the narrow way and are mistreated for the gospel? A better possession than anything this earth has to offer and one that will last (v. 34). Whatever we give up in this life in the way of comfort and ease that the wide gate and the broad path have to offer, it can not match the eternal joy of obeying God and being with Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus never said the hard way, the narrow gate and road, would be easy, but He did say it would be worth it. If you have trusted Jesus for your salvation then continue to trust Him with your obedience which shows you have life.
The Irony of The Easy Way
Following and obeying Jesus is hard. In this broken world it is often counter-intuitive and a temporary disadvantage to do so. It may even seem logical to set aside the standard of righteousness to make life easier and more bearable.
The irony though is that Jesus teaches us that if we try to take the easy road, which is the wide gate and broad way, life may be more bearable for a little while but in the end we will reap destruction.
- If you choose the easy way, it will lead you to destruction. Not fair and even harsh, one might say. CS Lewis responds, “All God does in the end is give people what they most want including freedom from Himself. What can be more fair?”
- If you choose the restrictive and pressed-in way, which is the small gate and narrow way, it will lead you to life everlasting. If you take the difficult way, you will in the end find comfort and joy and peace, and it will not end.
A Qualifying Statement
If you read this you may be inclined to wonder whether I am advocating a works salvation. No, no I am most certainly not. I don’t think that we can earn the favor of God by obeying or doing any righteous deed. Our righteousness and favor before God was earned decisively by Jesus on the cross. Period. But I absolutely believe that to truly trust Him for the forgiveness of your sins is to also to continue to strive to trust Jesus in everything that He said. Obedience after conversion does not save but it is the evidence that you are saved. I don’t see how any person can trust Christ as savior and ignore Him as Lord as though a person were ordering Jesus off of a menu and deciding what they want and don’t want with their customized savior. The person of Jesus who lived and died to save is the same Jesus that commanded us to obey all that He commanded. People who believe in Jesus will have some desire to obey Jesus. That’s all. Read this article for further clarification: How Can I become a Christian?