For a long time, I’ve misunderstood Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
I’ve treated that verse as if what it said was I needed to work really hard to put one foot in front of the other on God’s narrow way to show God how pleasing I can be to Him. I felt as if the narrow way was a test for me to show how good I can be. If I follow it close enough, God will deem me worthy of heaven.
I think I was wrong.
God has not established a narrow way in order to test my goodness. God wants me to have life and not destruction. He established the narrow way because it works.
What does this mean on a practical level? It means God hasn’t established His commands to make eternity hard for me to grasp. He has given His word to shine a light on the way and make it easier. Psalm 119:105 says God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. He didn’t give His word to make it harder, but to make it easier. How hard would it be if I was left on my own to figure out how to journey into eternity?
Isaiah 50:10-11 talks to those who are walking in darkness and have no light. God says two things. He says they need to trust and rely on Him. Then He talks to those who light their own fires, that is follow their own ways. The end result, He says, is torment. Then there the two proverbs: Proverbs 14:12; 16:25 say, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
This is the point, if I want life, I can’t achieve it by being good enough. I can’t achieve it by earning it. I’ve already lost that. What then am I to do? Whatever God tells me. His way works. My way will just lead to death. If I go my own way, it’s not that I’m falling short of earning life, I’m simply not walking the path that leads to life. Think of it this way. I live off I-65 just south of Nashville, TN. If I wanted to go to Indianapolis, I’d hop on I-65 and drive north. Why? Why not turn onto I-40? Why not go south? Is it because going north on I-65 will earn my way into Indianapolis? No. It’s because that way works. When mapquest tells me to turn on to I-65, is it trying to stifle my expression, my creativity, my own strength? No. It is just telling me how to get there. It’s making it easier for me.
But God’s narrow way seems so difficult? I seem to keep falling off the side and into the ditch. I can keep getting up and getting back on the path because I know I’m not alone. God is working in me and through me (Philippians 2:12-13) and He is able to keep me from stumbling (Jude 1:24).
Today, instead of trying to earn your way into heaven by working hard on the narrow way, just do what God wants. His way works. Yours won’t.