– Henry Ward Beecher
The Hard Way
I’ve been in the deep, dark valleys in my life, but I’ve had to climb out of them, and as you know, it’s not easy. I’ve actually done some mountain climbing before. It is so grueling, and the air gets so thin that you think you’ll never make it to the top, but once you’re there, there is nothing like it. The view is incredible, and all the hard work that it took to get there is soon forgotten by the view that you have. It was easier climbing downhill than going uphill, but the view was not quite the same. So too is the Christian faith. If it were easy, most could follow Christ, but Jesus said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14).
The Narrow Way
I’ve done a lot of hiking in my life, and sometimes the path gets very narrow and winding. The analogy to the Christian faith seems a lot like that. Jesus said we must “enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matt. 7:13). The road to hell is paved with the best of intentions, but good intentions are not enough. We need to follow Christ. This path is very narrow, and the gate is not wide at all. Sadly, many try to enter through it but aren’t able to because they don’t count the cost (Luke 14:28).
The Costly Way
Jesus once again tells us that the way is hard. He never promises us it would be easy. In fact, He says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). The word “hate” is comparative in language. It is a love for Christ contrasted to what might seem like hate toward everyone else, even those in our own household. It’s easier to go downstream, but any old dead fish can go that way. It takes great effort to swim upstream against the culture, but that is the only way to eternal life, found only in Christ (Acts 4:12).
Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt 7:21-23). So the most important statement is not “I know Jesus,” which I hear a lot. The question is, “Does Jesus know you?”