Off The Beaten Path
Read Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)
“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.”
How is following Christ like walking off the beaten path? How is it more difficult than following the ways of the world?
My family and I love to spend time hiking. We’ve visited many state and national parks over the years. What we’ve discovered is that the easy trails are usually pretty crowded. On those paths, we can usually do a quick loop, see some cool sights, and return to the comfort of our own vehicle with little risk of injury and with little exertion. People with little kids can push their strollers because the terrain is flat and wide enough. We rarely need a map on those trails because it’s pretty hard to get lost.
But we don’t run into as many people on the tougher hikes. The paths are much more narrow and require a lot more mileage, sometimes with a steep incline! The terrain may have ruts, boulders, tree roots, and slippery slopes. Families with kids have to leave their strollers at the base of the trail, strap their kids on their backs, and carry them along. These types of trails often have warning signs at the trailhead that caution hikers to watch out for bears, be careful of high winds or ice, be aware of possible avalanches, etc. These are trails that you have to prepare for. You need to wear the correct shoes, bring along enough water, dress for the weather, and of course, bring along a trail map! But these trails are often extremely rewarding! The view is often the best when it’s the hardest to reach.
In today’s verses, Jesus contrasted two very different paths. The first one is easy but it leads to destruction. The second one is hard but it leads to eternal life in the presence of God. If you do a risk/reward analysis based on what Jesus said, the best road to take should be obvious! But Jesus said that very few people actually commit to walking down the path that leads to life. Why? What makes the path to God so difficult?
First, Jesus said it was narrow. You know how Jesus said He’s the only way to the Father in John 14:6? That’s what He’s saying here. Some people call it being “narrow-minded” but the path to God is not broad. Many people forgo the narrow road because they don’t want to be confined or told what to do. They want to do as they please, think what they want, believe what they will, and have very little required of them.
Second, Jesus said the road is hard because it can be risky. While eternal life is a free gift from God, following God can cost us here on earth. Think of cancel culture these days! Professing Christianity is becoming less and less popular. If you take a Biblical stance on any number of social issues today, you are likely to get “canceled.” You could get sued, lose your job, lose friends, or even be rejected by your own family. That’s why Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple... So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27, 33). He wasn’t literally telling us to hate our families, rather, He was saying that we have to be willing to lose them. We have to love Jesus more than we love anything and anyone else in this world. We have to count the cost before we commit and sadly, many decide the earthly cost is too great for the narrow road.
Finally, following Jesus isn’t necessarily safe. There is risk involved. We know many brothers and sisters in Christ have lost their very lives following Jesus over the years. Christians are still being martyred in some parts of the world today! And if you aren’t killed, you might get locked up.
Friends, no matter how hard the narrow road is, it is infinitely worth it! The reward of eternal life will far outweigh the risks of discipleship. Paul put it this way: “For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:17). If your walk with Jesus has seemed particularly narrow and hard lately, take heart and stay the course. He will be worth it. I promise.
Jesus, following after You is not easy. Discipleship can be hard. But I count everything else as loss compared to knowing You (Philippians 3:8). You are my very great reward and You are worth it. Help me to faithfully walk this narrow road. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
If you found value in this post, please share your comments, questions, and prayers with us!Discipleship Tip: Sharing is discipleship. Invite a friend to join you each day for a morning coffee and conversation about God. Click the sharing button below to get the conversation started.