by Will Dole
“The world provides no cheerleaders on the pathway to godliness,” so says pastor and author Kevin DeYoung in his new book The Hole in Our Holiness. As I read that quote I was struck by the simple and yet profound truth it contained. It reminded me of a couple verses, “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” (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV).
These words of Jesus ought to be very sobering to us. This is most definitely not what we commonly hear in most Christian circles. Jesus does not say, “The way is easy and simple as one prayer that leads to life.” That’s certainly what we want Him to say. We want our cute and friendly Easter Bunny Jesus to come bringing salvation to everyone hiding it under their pillows next to the
chocolate eggs. But instead He tells us the way is hard, and what’s worse, not many will make it. Most will choose the easy road. Most will look at the hard road and lose heart. Many head for the wide gate. Many head where the world will provide them with cheerleaders.
I want to do two things with this article, but first I want to make clear what I do not intend to do. I do not want to puff up Christians with some sense that because they are on the hard road, they are superior to anyone else. Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul says in Philippians to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Why? Because God is the one working in you, both to desire His pleasure, and to work towards it. It is not something innately great about us that enables us to walk the hard and rewarding road to life. It is the Spirit of God at work. This should not puff us up, but rather it should humble us and make us thankful that God would have mercy on us.
What I do want us to consider as we look at the seventh chapter of Matthew is our perception of Christianity. More than our perception, we need to consider how we communicate what Christianity is to others. I believe we are being very foolish, if in our presenting the Gospel to unbelievers, or in our encouragement of young believers, we paint a picture of following Jesus that is rosier than the one Jesus paints. We can see this very easily in areas such as “prosperity preaching.” What sense does it make to say that the God who humbled Himself and took on human form as a poor, homeless peasant, would bring us wealth just for
believing in Him; and the one who would not remove the thorn in Paul’s flesh, would give us healing if we conjure up enough faith. This is obvious enough, but there’s a common theme of contemporary Christian music which says having Jesus in your life “makes you happy.” Please don’t misunderstand me. Those who have an eternal hope in Christ should certainly be happier than our neighbors and family and friends who have no such hope. In light of Paul’s command to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15), while on a hard road filled with persecution in a sinful world, there will be much weeping as well. It is not all sunshine and lollipops and we do no one any favors by pretending that it is.
The second point is that Christians should take heart! How often in our efforts to grow in Christ-likeness or to follow God where He leads us do we begin to question our faith? This is usually due to difficulties, roadblocks or hardships that we encounter. Jesus’ message to us in these situations is clear: we’re on the right road! Paul, in both Galatians and 2 Thessalonians, exhorts
us not to lose heart in doing good. Brothers and sisters, do not lose heart, but be strengthened. The hard road to life is worth it. We see it dimly now, but there will come a day when we will pass through the narrow gate into the eternal company of our heavenly Father and these momentary afflictions will seem light in comparison. Long for that day and stay on the road. Take heart! There is no need for the world’s cheerleaders when we have Almighty God to look to for encouragement and aid.