The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
December 21, 2014


1) Choosing the Narrow Way -- Even When Difficult (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Choosing the Narrow Way -- Even When Difficult
by Tom Edwards

Throughout life's journey, we often come to many turning points or crossroads that confront us with needful decisions which can sometimes greatly alter not only the direction of our lives, but also whom we become.  So let us choose wisely, using God's word for our standard. And if we hearken to all of that standard, we will not only have a better tomorrow, but we will also have --  even more so -- a much better eternity!

Choices, of course, can vary greatly -- all the way from unnecessary or trivial to that which is vitally important.  And though making those more important choices, which can change our lives for the better, might seem like such an easy thing to do, yet how often have we failed or neglected to do that?  Perhaps we need to remind ourselves or become aware of the fact that some of that disregard can actually be sinful -- or, as also referred to, a "sin of omission."  For James warns, "...to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin" (Jms. 4:17).  So our choices are to involve not only abstaining from the wrong, but also in carrying out those things which the Lord wants us to.

In the gospel, we have a better life set before us for the taking; but, sadly, the majority continue to choose it not.  Is it unbelief, indifference, laziness, no incentive, worldliness, a love for sin rather than a love for God, discouragement by the thought of persecution for doing what is right, not realizing the value or importance of the better choice, or different combinations of these factors that hold one back from accepting that right or better way?  Whatever it is, it needs to be overcome.  For nothing should stand in the way of our doing what is right unto the Lord.  

Every new day -- with its joys or sorrows, its trials and temptations or whatever else it brings -- is to be a day we each live faithfully unto the Almighty God.  And our hearts should be motivated with that commitment as we daily face the differing paths and select from among them the right one to follow.  

Job did this and says of God, "But He knows the way I take; When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.  My foot has held fast to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside.  I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:10-12).  

Though there are many ways to choose that lead to destruction, there is only one way that leads to eternal life!  As Jesus declares, "...'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but  through Me."  Notice in this statement that the Lord does not refer to Himself as being "one of the ways"; but, rather, as being "the way."  This clearly corresponds with Acts 4:12 where Peter states about Jesus that "...there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."

So in thinking of Jesus as the only Savior, we can also think of Him metaphorically as being the only road to heaven; but we will also use the idea of a right "road," in this article, to refer to any right choice.

Because there are so many wrong roads that lead in a direction away from God, we can also sum them all up as one extremely wide road that the majority have so easily taken.  For what characterizes each of these roads is sin -- and it takes only one transgression to keep a person out of heaven.  Apparently, this summing up is what Jesus has done in referring to the "broad" way in Matthew 7:13,14, where He urges the hearers to "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."     

We must not only enter that narrow way, but also continue on it, which is implied in various passages of the New Testament. For benefiting from the Lord's sacrifice is conditional: Initial requirements are to be met to become a Christian: One must hear the gospel, whereby faith comes (Rom. 10:17), believe in the deity of Christ (Jn. 8:24); repent of sin (Acts 17:30), publicly acknowledge faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38), and be baptized in water for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; 1 Pet. 3:21).  But just as roads are meant to be traveled, even so entering this road (by the previous means), must also be continually journeyed (by faithfulness unto the Lord) toward  that final destination of eternal life (cf. Rev. 2:10; Heb. 10:36-39); and that we may remain on that highway of God's mercy, grace, and blessings, all along the way.  For sin will cause us to turn off that road and lose our way and the spiritual blessings of God (cf. 2 Pet. 2:20-22).  As John states: "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as he Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 Jn. 1:6,7).  

Choosing the narrow way is not always the easy road to take; but it is the way that, down through time, many have taken because of their faith in God, their love and appreciation for Him, and their desire to gain heaven and avoid hell.  

Moses, for instance, "...when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward" (Heb. 11:24-26).  

There were two roads set before Moses, figuratively speaking; but he chose the one that would involve "ill-treatment," suffering, and becoming an object of scorn to the worldly, for that road of faithfulness unto God was the one that would lead to heaven, though difficult at times to travel.

Consider also how that narrow road was that the apostle Paul had chosen.  It had him encountering persecution and imprisonment, along the way, and even death.  Yet he had stayed the course and completed his journey.  Paul verified his apostleship by all the sufferings he endured on that road, as if they were his "credentials"; and he had quite a list: "in far more labors...far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  Five times I received...thirty-nine lashes.  Three times...beaten with rods, once...stoned, three times... shipwrecked, a night and a day...spent in the deep. ... frequent journeys, in dangers [from rivers, robbers, his  countrymen,  the Gentiles, cities, the wilderness, the sea, and false brethren], in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern" (2 Cor. 11:23-29)?  Yes, Paul chose the narrow road, the more difficult way -- but did so gladly because of his love for God, love for others, and the determination to serve them.  

Consider, too, the road which many of the Old Testament prophets took.  How lonely of a journey it must have seemed at times, such as in the case of Elijah who mistakenly thought he was the only one still on that road (cf. Rom. 11:2,3).  Many of these messengers of God were persecuted and put to death.  They had pleaded with God's wayward people (who were usually the majority) to repent and return to the Lord; but, sadly, their message often went unheeded.  God's word to Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, had been written on a scroll and delivered to Jehoiakim, the king of Judah; but he cut it up with a scribe's knife and threw all the pieces into the fire. Jeremiah was soon put into a cistern in  which "...there was no water but only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud" (Jer. 38:6).   

To that group of Jews who soon became so infuriated over Stephen's message that they stoned him to death, he had previously declared, "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.  Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become" (Acts 7:51,52).  

Many other examples could also be given of those who chose the narrow way -- and even when it involved much opposition, adversity, and suffering.  It was their faith in God and love for Him that helped them make that choice and stay on that course -- even if it meant being thrown into the lion's den (Daniel 6) or cast into a fiery furnace with its heat increased 7 times (Daniel 3).  

Choosing the way of the Lord wasn't always easy; but it was done by those who were seeking to please God rather than self.  Another Old Testament example of this is seen in what many of God's people under the Law of Moses had to do when they found out, during the time of Ezra's reading of the Law, that the Lord did not want them to be marrying outside of their race; and, therefore,  many of these who had already done so were now willing to put away their foreign wives in obedience to God -- and even though children were involved.  In Ezra 10, the men are mentioned by name; and we would think that it must have been an emotionally difficult severance for many of them (if not all) -- but they did so in spite of that.  

So Moses certainly wasn't the only one who in putting God first was willing to suffer in doing what was right.  For this would also be true for every faithful follower of the Lord.  Concerning some of them during the Old Testament times, for instance, the Hebrew writer points out that "...others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskin, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground" (Heb. 11:35-38).  

Perhaps some of these thoughts remind you of the song, "Faith of Our Fathers," which rings out, "Faith of our fathers! living still, In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword...Our fathers, chained in prisons dark, Were still in heart and conscience free; How sweet would be their children's fate, If they, like them, could die for thee!...."

I have viewed the meaning of this last part as not wishing to be a martyr; but, rather, to have enough faith, as those in time's past, to be able to be one if need be.  

May we be encouraged by the faith of these recorded in the Scriptures to always  make the right choices in our lives regardless of whatever opposition or difficulty that would possibly lead to, in conflict with the world.  

It is because of His love that God wants each of us to choose His way of salvation. For  He is "...not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9).     

Of all the choices that we can make in life, none will ever be as important as those which pertain to our eternal destiny!  If we continue to choose the way God wants us to and remain in the narrow way -- even if it be difficult -- we will never have any regrets in all eternity for having done so!


News & Notes

About a week ago, Deena Hensley Fields started experiencing sciatic pain in several places, with the most severe being in her knee.  Her doctor thinks this is probably related to having lifted a boat with a few friends that affected some discs in her lower back.  Let those of us who are Christians be keeping her in prayer for a complete and speedy recovery.

And let us also be praying for the following people:

Jesse Bailey
has been diagnosed with cancer.

Ginger Ann Montero has been experiencing different degrees of abdominal pains for the last few weeks.

Robin Brown recently had trouble with her blood pressure, which required medical treatment.

Emily Cox
(Jonathan and Anita Abbott's daughter) is to continue with bed rest until her child is born in about 3 weeks. 

Also for their health: Myrna Jordan, Jim Lively, Danielle Howard, Marie Turner, Penny Medlock, Ronnie Davis, Rex and Frankie Hadley, Jewel Wilson, Mary Vandevander, Deborah Medlock, Shirley Davis, Sue Wooten, Mandy Strickland, Dexter Roberts, Dolly Downs Moody, Steve Vista, and Colleen Henson. 

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21)     
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

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