Jesus' words in Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT) always make me shudder: "You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it." Just how narrow is that gate? Why does He say that?
I read something once about the narrow gate being kind of like a turnstile. You can only enter one at a time - not in groups. Salvation is a personal decision, one that is made by an individual and just because the ones around you have chosen to follow Jesus that doesn't make you a Jesus follower, too. Also, when you go through a turnstile, you have to leave your things behind. No room to carry baggage with you going through one of those things!
Same as going through the narrow door to salvation - we must leave everything that seems to matter behind to follow Jesus.
Why is the road to salvation so narrow anyway? I decided to go on a treasure hunt and look for some answers, so I went to Strong's Concordance. A really good way to figure out the meaning of words in the Bible is to go to their original Hebrew or Greek meaning and context. So I looked up the word "Narrow" in Matthew 7. The Greek word that was originally used in that sentence is "thlibo" and it is used many other times in the New Testament, too.
What I realized today was that the word "thlibo" is the same word used for tribulation, trouble, affliction and distress! It was the word that was used to describe the persecution the disciples and apostles experienced and even the word "throng" which was used to describe what the angry crowds wanted to do to Jesus Christ as He went around preaching, teaching and performing miracles.
No wonder few are able to enter the "narrow" gate. It promises to be gate that opens a life to tribulation, trouble, affliction and distress! Who in their "right mind" would want to enter a gate like that? I tell you something, only a right mind would! We are so sure that comfort and a life free of any tribulation is the best way. God says that's not true.
God does say the way is tough, filled with tribulation and trials and all that stuff we try to avoid - but He also says "I will never leave you or forsake you" and He says it will produce in us endurance and build our faith (James 1). That is why He gives us JOY in abundance - joy is contentment IN SPITE OF circumstances. Happiness is contentment as a result of circumstances. Happiness doesn't elude the follower of Jesus Christ, but it doesn't define us, either.
The Lord promises peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5) when we enter the narrow door and into a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Those are some serious benefits. I'd say they far outweigh any persecution or tribulation that could come our way.
Yes, the gate is narrow. Yes, we will have tribulation. Yes, it will be hard. But hear these words of Jesus Christ, words He says to you: "These things I have spoken to you, so that IN ME you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world".
It might seem crazy to the world to enter through a narrow door that seems to be leading to a life of troubles and tribulation. The thing we miss in all of this is that the tribulation and troubles that are on this side of the turnstile also exist on the other side of it! But without Jesus, the trials are going to be experienced without the joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, self- control, faithfulness, love, and kindness that God provides to those who drop their baggage and slip through the turnstile into His loving arms.