“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
– Matthew 7:13-14
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
– Matthew 11:28-30
“If we are going to live as disciples of Jesus, we have to remember that all efforts of worth and excellence are difficult. The Christian life is gloriously difficult, but its difficulty does not make us faint and cave in— it stirs us up to overcome. Do we appreciate the miraculous salvation of Jesus Christ enough to be our utmost for His highest— our best for His glory?
“God saves people by His sovereign grace through the atonement of Jesus, and “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). But we have to “work out” that salvation in our everyday, practical living (Philippians 2:12). If we will only start on the basis of His redemption to do what He commands, then we will find that we can do it. If we fail, it is because we have not yet put into practice what God has placed within us. But a crisis will reveal whether or not we have been putting it into practice. If we will obey the Spirit of God and practice in our physical life what God has placed within us by His Spirit, then when a crisis does come we will find that our own nature, as well as the grace of God, will stand by us.
“Thank God that He does give us difficult things to do! His salvation is a joyous thing, but it is also something that requires bravery, courage, and holiness. It tests us for all we are worth. Jesus is “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10), and God will not shield us from the requirements of sonship. God’s grace produces men and women with a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ, not pampered, spoiled weaklings. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to live the worthy and excellent life of a disciple of Jesus in the realities of life. And it is always necessary for us to make an effort to live a life of worth and excellence.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
Okay, is the Christian life easy or hard?
Jesus said that His “yoke is light.” Many have said that “Salvation is free.” Okay, it is free, but at what cost?
A lot of the cost depends upon decisions. Max Lucado, in his book Glory Days, writes, “Don’t think for a second that you can heed the wrong voice, make the wrong choice, and escape the consequences.”
I wrote a long time ago about my morning routine. My eyes do not focus so well for a while after I get up. I will struggle through reading my devotions and I play two games, Mahjongg and Solitaire, on the computer, daily challenges of each. All the challenges are possible to solve, but they are rated Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert. As the level gets harder, it becomes more dependent on making the right decision at the right time. An Easy challenge allows a variety of wrong moves that will not lose the challenge for you. The wrong moves just make the challenge harder, or at least a longer time to solve. In theory, you could complete an Expert challenge, making all the correct decisions on the first try, and it seems like an Easy challenge. I have done that a handful of times, but it is still rare.
So, Jesus talked of taking up our cross. He mentioned how hard it was staying on the narrow path. Then He says that His yoke is easy. Why is this not a contradiction?
It comes down to that wrong voice that Lucado talks about. In my solitaire challenges, I might be able to take the nine of diamonds from the draw pile and make a move, but to complete the challenge, I must skip the obvious move and wait for the nine of hearts later. In the challenge, I have no way of knowing which move to make until I get stuck after making the wrong move. The game often places temptations in the player’s path, but it is just a game. In the Christian life, we are not placed in that situation of not knowing. We have resources.
Chambers talks of what is within us. When we accept Jesus as our savior, the Holy Spirit guides us. We have God’s Holy Bible, His road map. With the Bible, we have a means to tell the difference in the wrong voice and the voice of the Holy Spirit. As we spend more time in prayer and studying the Bible, we learn the voice of the Holy Spirit. The right Christian friends can also be a help.
But what of the easy yoke that Jesus mentions? The easy yoke comes from what Chambers says in the quote above and Lucado says in the next paragraph following his quote: Obey. Stay on the narrow path. Otherwise, Lucado is right; we will find it hard to escape the consequences from wrong choices. We simply obey, and we will find that we give up nothing that is worthwhile.
But note the beginning of Chambers’ last paragraph in the quote above, it takes bravery, courage, and holiness. The yoke may be light, but the Devil is not going away lightly. He will use everything within his power to tempt us from the narrow path. This could include family, friends, and even a wrong-for-us Christian friend. This wrong type of friend may be someone that means well but does not understand our unique set of issues. Despite those temptations, Jesus promises that we can resist the temptations. He is the power. He is within us.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.