The Life that Really is LifeDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Mars One has been in the press recently. Its purpose is to start a human colony on Mars by 2025, and 202,586 people from around the world have applied. By 2024 that number will have been reduced to two astronauts for the first mission. The journey is one-way. Once launched it will not be possible to return to the earth. It reminds me of when Jesus said, “The gate is narrow and the way is difficult.”
But then Jesus wasn’t taking about going to Mars, he was talking about living faithfully here on Earth. Jesus begins his Sermon on the Mount with a series of grace-filled invitations (Matt. 5:1-12). These are the kinds of invitations that just about anyone would want to accept. But he ends his sermon with a series of stern warnings about life-and-death choices that make me wonder if anyone could actually succeed in this kind of life.
“The gate is narrow that leads to life.” It’s hard even to get in. From the very first step, it is difficult. It requires a radical reorientation of life—a new heart, a new mind, a new will. The gate is a single turnstile and there’s no line. It’s not popular. It’s not easy. Before you pass through you’ve got to sign your valuables over to God. And once you are through you still must manage your fickle and ferocious emotions, wrestle with your temptations, and live with other people—the greatest challenge of all.
At the same time, “The way is easy that leads to destruction.” And this way doesn’t feel like the way to destruction. In fact it feels quite the opposite. It is the physically pleasurable way, the morally permissive way. It’s the way that doesn’t challenge our natural inclinations. It’s the way that allows me to keep your three Cs intact—Control, Comfort, and Consumption. That’s precisely why most people choose this way, because it feels like real life. But Jesus says it’s the way to destruction.
So here’s the maddening paradox: the life that seems like life to most people really isn’t life at all, and the life that doesn’t seem like life really is (1 Tim. 6:19). And that means when you’re buying groceries, waiting for your Starbucks, sitting in a stadium, pacing in your office, walking the dog, and perhaps even when you’re sitting in church, you are surrounded by people who are not really alive, not in the sense that Jesus has in mind. And worst and most importantly of all we have to ask ourselves every day, “How about me? Am I alive? Am I in possession of the life that really is life?”
Two things I know,
- I really like a lot about the life that really isn’t life.
- I’m learning to trust what Jesus’ says about this other life with its narrow gate and hard way.
Despite its appearances, the life Jesus describes really is the better life—not just by a narrow margin but by the difference between heaven and earth.
It might be easier to go to Mars, but I rather walk with Jesus here and now.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What kinds of habits and pleasures are you afraid you’ll have to give up in following Jesus? Where have you been surprised to discover that the narrow gate and the hard way is actually better than the wide gate and easy path. What does it require of you to live faithfully when surrounded by people who are on a different path?
PRAYER: Almighty God, there are times in life when I truly feel alive. When I carefully examine those moments, I discover that you are the common denominator. The closer I stay to you and the more I trust and obey you, the more alive I am. Give me courage to choose the narrow gate and to travel the hard way that leads to life. Amen.
Dave Peterson is an ordained pastor who is the Director of Community Outreach for The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and Scholarly Advisor for the H. E. Butt Family Foundation. He is the author of Receiving and Giving, Unleashing the Bless Challenge in Your Life. Dave and his wife, Terri, have four adult children and four grandchildren. Send a note to Dave.
What if spiritual discipline is easier than we think it is? In his book Celebration of Discipline Richard Foster offers this list of spiritual disciplines: meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.
That list can look like a mountain to climb and a setup for failure. We start to ask questions like: What spiritual disciplines should I practice in my work life? Does prayer make a difference in my work life? Does a Christian layperson really need to read the Bible everyday? We wonder how to fit spiritual disciplines into our lives with so many deadlines and meetings and expectations and budgets. Wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air to discover the Holy Spirit at work, even here, even without working so hard to bring the Spirit with us everywhere? We hope this series on Spiritual Disciplines gives you freedom and a little more space to breathe.