The Way that Leads to Life

Why is the way so narrow?

by Emmanuel Higgins

Some people don’t seem to care about life. They appear indifferent. You’ll hear them say “I don’t care whether I live forever or not”.

However, if these people where suddenly placed in a critical life-threatening situation, watch how much they care about their life. They don’t want to die, and they desparately cling to life with everything they have!

All of us have an in-built longing to live! We long for life.

God also longs for us to have life.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

The longing desire in God’s heart is for us to live!

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” Luke 13:34

This verse shows us the longing in Christ’s heart for the people of Jerusalem to experience life and salvation.

We’re off to a good start! We all long and desire life. We want it. God wants us to have it.

This may come to you as a suprise then:

“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14

Despite the fact that both God and humans long for life, the way that leads there is difficult to find. It is so narrow that few find it! Wow!

Why? Why is the way to life so narrow and difficult?

Naaman’s Narrow Way

We learn something about what makes the way so narrow, by the story of Naaman. You’ll find this in 2 Kings chapter 5.

“Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable,” – 2 Kings 5:1

Naaman is the captain of the host of Syria. A powerful, great, honourable man. This guy is a war veteran. He is highly respected, wealthy, and in close aquaintance of the king of Syria. He commands the entire Syrian army. Syria at this time was a powerful military nation, much stronger (in human terms) than the nation of Israel.

How did people treat Naaman? Imagine seeing him walk down the street. People would show him great respect, perhaps even bow as he walked past. No doubt he always went with a retinue of servants, and maybe even bodyguards. When he spoke, people listened and obeyed him without question.

Naaman contracted leprosy, a fearsome and deadly disease. A young Israelite maid told Naaman’s wife about the prophet Elisha who could heal Naaman from his leprosy. Naaman, incredibly enough, listened to his wife and the maid and decided to make a trip to Israel and visit the prophet. The king of Syria helped with a letter of introduction to the king of Israel.

This is where the story gets interesting.

Naaman arrives at the prophet Elisha’s house with a retinue of chariots carrying gold, silver, servants and bodyguards. What a surprise to see a very humble, simple and lowly-looking house! Naaman was probably thinking: “Have I come all this way for this? If were a successful prophet, surely he would be a wealthy man and have a mansion with many servants! Maybe he is actually a scam. He might just humiliate me and send me back. how embarassing would that be”. Many doubts were likely running through Naaman’s mind.

And then! Movement was seen at the door. With tense expectation Naaman strains to catch the first glimpse of the man who can save his life. But alas! The man at the door is not the prophet. How disappointing. How insulting that the prophet would send his servant to speak with the haughty captain. “So, I’m not good enough for the prophet to speak with me directly”, Naaman may have muttered under his breath. And then the servant speaks:

“Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” verse 10

This was the last straw. Naaman was furious. It was humiliating enough for the captain of Syria’s army to act on the advice of a servant girl, an Israelite maid. It was humilating enough to trek through the land of Israel and be stared at by all the people passing by. It was humilating enough to seek help from someone so humble and lowly as Elisha turned out to be. It was downright offensive and insulting that the prophet didn’t even come out to see him. And now the servant of the prophet tells him to wash in the muddy waters of Jordan!

But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
” – 2 Kings 5:11-12

In a rage, Naaman began to return home. As they went his servants reasoned with him thus:

“if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” verse 13

Listening to their logical reasoning, Naaman turned down to the Jordan river, and dipped in seven times. And through the miraculous power of God, he was healed.

Imagine Naaman now as he returns to the prophet’s house. He would be thinking “What a fool I was! I almost lost my only chance of life! My pride almost cost me my life!”

Now, if you were travelling that hot and dusty road, and came accross the river Jordan, how easy would it be to jump in, have a quick swim and cool yourself off? Really easy, right? If I was hot and dusty, I’d love to jump in the river for a few minutes to cool off. So it wouldn’t be difficult at all. I’d rate that 1/10 for dificulty.

But how difficult was it for Naaman to carry out the instructions to wash in the river Jordan? You know, it was almost impossible. Why? Why was it so hard for Naaman to jump in the river? Because of pride. His pride was offended. The difficulty for Naaman was 9 or 10/10.

For Naaman, washing in the river Jordan was a narrow way.

Dear reader, this is what makes the way of life a narrow way. It is not narrow because it is truly difficult. It is as simple as “wash and be clean“. That’s not hard is it? But our proud sinful heart makes it almost impossible.

Please take your time to slowly and thoughtfully read through the following powerful testimony.

“Nature, like Naaman, is full of prejudices. She expects that Christ will come to make her clean, with as much ado and pomp and bustle, as the Syrian general looked for, when ‘he was wroth, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper’ (2 Kings 5:11). Christ frequently goes a much plainer way to work: and by this means disconcerts all our preconceived notions and schemes of deliverance. ‘Learn of Me to be meek and lowly in heart: and thou shall find rest unto thy soul’ (Matthew 11:29), the sweet rest of Christian perfection, of perfect humility, resignation and meekness. If thou wilt absolutely come to mount Zion in a triumphal chariot, or make thine entrance into the new Jerusalem upon a prancing horse, thou art likely never to come there. Leave, then, all thy worldly misconceptions behind, and humbly follow thy King, who makes His entry into the typical Jerusalem, ‘meek and lowly, riding upon an ass, yea, upon a colt, the foal of an ass‘ (Matthew 21:5).” – Fletcher

Christ’s methods are simple, modest, meek. Commenting on the above statment from Fletcher, a Christian gentleman Charles Fitch, writes:

“These remarks were particularly blessed to me. It seemed to me, indeed, a most delightful thing to sink into the meek and lowly spirit of the blessed Saviour. I had before been laboring to rise above my sins, and thus leave them; now I felt willing to sink below them, into a depth of humility, where the proud, unhumbled spirit of sin would not be willing to follow, and it seemed a delightful thing to sink in the arms of my Saviour, below the reach of all my spiritual foes, when I had long been seeking in vain to escape them, by soaring above. 

I felt then in my spirit a most sweet and heavenly sinking into the arms of my Redeemer, such as I had not before experienced, and it was followed by a calm, unruffled, blissful peace in Christ-such as I need not attempt to describe to those who have tasted it, and such as I cannot describe to the comprehension of those whose hearts have never felt it.

It was attended with such a full and delightful submission in all things to the will of God; such a joy of heart, in the thought of being for life, and for death, and for ever, altogether at God’s disposal; such a gladness in giving up earth in all its possessions and pleasures for Christ’s sake; such an overflowing of humble, penitential, grateful love to my Redeemer; such a satisfaction in the thought of having Him as my only everlasting portion; such praise to His name that I might possess Him as the portion of my soul for ever; such full-hearted and unshrinking confidence in all His promises, and such a readiness to do and suffer all things, even to the laying down of life for His name’s sake, that I felt constrained to say, this is purity of heart.” – Charles Fitch, 1840

In Conclusion

The way that leads to life is narrow because it is a way of lowliness, modesty, humility, meekness and simplicity. Let us nobly embrace this way. Let us sacrifice self and our pride, and embrace the lowliness of the narrow way. Let us cast ourself at the feet of our dear saviour and redeemer and allow him to strip away all our selfishness and pride.

Is the way too narrow?

It was wide enough for Christ; it is wide enough for me!

Morning & Evening

Morning
“When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, then thou shalt bestir thyself.” — 2Sa_5:24
The members of Christ’s Church should be very prayerful, always seeking the unction of the Holy One to rest upon their hearts, that the kingdom of Christ may come, and that his “will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven;” but there are times when God seems especially to favour Zion, such seasons ought to be to them like “the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees.” We ought then to be doubly prayerful, doubly earnest, wrestling more at the throne than we have been wont to do. Action should then be prompt and vigorous. The tide is flowing-now let us pull manfully for the shore. O for Pentecostal outpourings and Pentecostal labours. Christian, in yourself there are times “when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees.” You have a peculiar power in prayer; the Spirit of God gives you joy and gladness; the Scripture is open to you; the promises are applied; you walk in the light of God’s countenance; you have peculiar freedom and liberty in devotion, and more closeness of communion with Christ than was your wont. Now, at such joyous periods when you hear the “sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees,” is the time to bestir yourself; now is the time to get rid of any evil habit, while God the Spirit helpeth your infirmities. Spread your sail; but remember what you sometimes sing-
“I can only spread the sail;
Thou! Thou! must breathe the auspicious gale.”
Only be sure you have the sail up. Do not miss the gale for want of preparation for it. Seek help of God, that you may be more earnest in duty when made more strong in faith; that you may be more constant in prayer when you have more liberty at the throne; that you may be more holy in your conversation whilst you live more closely with Christ.
Evening
“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.” — Eph_1:11
When Jesus gave himself for us, he gave us all the rights and privileges which went with himself; so that now, although as eternal God, he has essential rights to which no creature may venture to pretend, yet as Jesus, the Mediator, the federal head of the covenant of grace, he has no heritage apart from us. All the glorious consequences of his obedience unto death are the joint riches of all who are in him, and on whose behalf he accomplished the divine will. See, he enters into glory, but not for himself alone, for it is written, “Whither the Forerunner is for us entered.” Heb_6:20. Does he stand in the presence of God?-“He appears in the presence of God for us.” Heb_9:24. Consider this, believer. You have no right to heaven in yourself: your right lies in Christ. If you are pardoned, it is through his blood; if you are justified, it is through his righteousness; if you are sanctified, it is because he is made of God unto you sanctification; if you shall be kept from falling, it will be because you are preserved in Christ Jesus; and if you are perfected at the last, it will be because you are complete in him. Thus Jesus is magnified-for all is in him and by him; thus the inheritance is made certain to us-for it is obtained in him; thus each blessing is the sweeter, and even heaven itself the brighter, because it is Jesus our Beloved “in whom” we have obtained all. Where is the man who shall estimate our divine portion? Weigh the riches of Christ in scales, and his treasure in balances, and then think to count the treasures which belong to the saints. Reach the bottom of Christ’s sea of joy, and then hope to understand the bliss which God hath prepared for them that love him. Overleap the boundaries of Christ’s possessions, and then dream of a limit to the fair inheritance of the elect. “All things are yours, for ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.”

Rylisms January 30

The Word of His Grace
“And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” (Act_20:32)
Let me set the scene for you. There was a gathering of some of Paul’s dearest friends on the docks of the Ephesian harbor, shortly before was to board the vessel that would take him to Jerusalem – and ultimately to a Roman prison. This would be the last time Paul would ever see these dear friends, and he knew it.
They feared it, and sought earnestly to persuade him to change his mind; to cancel his traveling plans and stay on with them. But, as we saw yesterday, their tender appeals held no power over the greater influence of the Word of the Lord placed upon his heart by the Holy Spirit.
But, surely he could effectively serve the Lord by staying there with them, for Ephesus was an epicenter city – having great influence near and far. Paul could live out his days in peace and prosperity, carried by the love and support of so many to whom he meant so much. Surely his ministry there would thrive!
Yet, Paul was unpersuaded. He leaves them, but he does not leave them empty-handed.
“And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”
Paul is not pontificating here; he is testifying. There is a difference. One means saying things that are right because they have been studied and learned from books. The other means saying things that are true because they have been lived and proven on the road of life.
Paul knew from firsthand experience the power of God’s grace, and he also knew it would be the only means whereby the leaders and the church in Ephesus would prevail.
the empowering presence of God enabling them to be who God created them to be, and to do what God had called them to do – they surely would fall victim to the “grievous wolves” who were poised to enter among them to ravage the flock.
And there were a few even among Paul’s dearest friends who, like Judas at the Last Supper, were waiting for him to leave so that they in his absence could “arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them’ (Act_20:29-30).
Therefore, knowing these things, Paul gave them the one thing they needed most – a blessing of the Grace of God.
He tells them of its power “to build them up, and to give them an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” And those who took his words to heart found everything he said to be true.
Those who did not heed his apostolic words did indeed fall away. They fell from grace to such degree that the Lord Jesus personally chided them years later in John’s apocalyptic message — “You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen!” (Rev_2:4-5).
What about you and me? Will we stay the course empowered by the grace of God? Will we be all that God wants us to be, and do all that He has purposed for us to do?
Will we let the Word of His grace build us up, and give us our inheritance among all those who have been set apart for God?
Yes! By the grace of God!

Devotional Sermons January 30

The Secrecy of God
“Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.” Psa_77:19
Men tell us that there are few more impressive sights than that of a burial at sea. It is even more solemn and arresting than the last rites beside an earthly grave. There is the ceasing of the throbbing engines, the gathering of the hushed crowd upon the deck. There is the simple service, the lifting of the body, and then—the plunge into the deep. And it is this element of silent secrecy, this hiding in unfathomable depths, which thrills and solemnizes and subdues.
Something like that was in the poet’s mind when he said of God, “Thy way is in the sea.” Mingling with all his other thoughts was the thought that God has His unfathomable secrets. And it is upon that element of secrecy, so characteristic of the divine procedure, that I want to dwell.
The Divine Secrecy of God’s Gifts
The best gifts are always at our hand. The brightest are never far away. All things needed for the song and crown are in the region where our hearts are beating. And yet though they are here, they are not flaunting themselves. They are by our side, but they are never showy. There is no name inscribed upon their foreheads nor any blast of the trumpet on their lips.
Think, for example, of the gift of love. In the darkest spot on earth some love is found. I doubt if there is a man so brutal and so base that no one loves him and thrills at his approach. And yet how silent and how secret love is, hiding itself away from human eye and speaking in a momentary glance. Our poets liken love to a flower. It is red as the rose, white as the lily. Yet love is not a flower of the field; love is the treasure hidden in the field. And thousands cross the field and never see it nor do they dream of the treasure hidden there until at last, in the appointed hour, passes the traveler who understands.
It is always so with the love of man. It is always so with the love of God. God’s love is here, and yet how secret and hidden it all is—-how meaningless to the blinded—till Christ has come and shown His wounded side and led us to the glory of the cross.
The Providence of Life
The same thing also is true of the gift of life. Life is the one impenetrable secret. We have it and we thank God for it, and yet the wisest does not know what it is. It is not only of the heaven of heavens when looking up we say, “Thy footsteps are not known.” It is not only where the sun is shining and where beyond the sun there are the angels. The deepest mysteries are not in heaven; the deepest mysteries are not in hell. The deepest mysteries are here where we are, and know not what we are. Life looks at us in every human glance. Life speaks to us in every human voice. Life meets us riotously in the play of children. Life shines transfigured on the face of saints. And yet what is it, so near and yet so far; so strong and beautiful, and yet so frail; so evident that none can pass it by; so hidden that no human hand can reach it? It baffles science with all its mighty claims. It baffles philosophy with all its pondering. No thought can get at it. Yet it is here where you are sitting and where I am writing. God’s footsteps are in the temple of my heart, and yet His footsteps are not known.
Not with the sound of a bell does God arrive when our feet are at the turning of the ways. Over the silent sea the boat approaches, but the oars are muffled and we don’t hear it as it comes from the haven of the far away. Decked with the embroidery of common moments, the moments which are not common reach us. Wearing the aspect of our usual hours, our great hours of destiny arrive—and life shall never be the same again. We thought it was a common hand that touched us; we know now it was the hand of God. Ah! sirs, life would be easy if providential hours declared themselves; if they met us radiant and with an uplifted look, and cried, “I am one of thy great hours.” But they never meet us in a guise like that—never betray their greatness by their bearing—we hear no sound of the approaching footsteps—thy footsteps are not known.
When Abraham rested by the door at Mamre, he saw three travelers drawing near to the tent. They were but wayfarers, thirsty and dusty, and he had no idea that they were angels. And it is always thus that the angel-hours come, wearing the garments of the undistinguished, treading on the dusty ways of life, worn with the everyday weariness of man. How many noisy hours have passed away, and left no impact upon our life. How many a little hour has been a seed, and it rooted deep and blossomed high as heaven. Yet was it borne upon the wind so noiselessly and fell so lightly that we never noticed it; and its roots are deep today and its topmost branches in the sky.
The Secrecy of God’s Approaches to the Soul
You who are students of the Scripture know what a favorite thought the secrecy of God was with Jesus Christ. It is not in the whirlwind that the kingdom comes when it makes it lodgment in the heart. Christ will not strive nor cry nor lift up His voice in the streets—those steep streets that lead into the soul. The kingdom comes as if a man should sleep, and the seed should spring up he knows not how. The kingdom comes just as the leaven comes, and who is so watchful as to see it rise? When Christ was born at the inn in Bethlehem, choirs of angels were singing in the sky. And when Christ comes again there will be the sound of the trumpet and a light so bright that every eye shall see Him.
But when Christ comes into the human soul, He comes with voice so soft that none can hear it except the ear on which the message falls. Christ does not ride in uproar to the soul; Christ steals in quiet secretly. The kingdom cometh not with observation, and here the kingdom is the King. His knock is so clear that when He knocks, you hear it, but His knock is so soft that no one else can hear it. To everyone else it is an ordinary footstep, and to everyone else it is an ordinary hand. But to you there is a wound upon the hand and the print of the nails upon the feet. To you it is CHRIST, and He is yours forever in infinite and redeeming love.
The Secrecy of Christ While on Earth
Notable, too, is this element of secrecy in the life of Christ when He was here on earth. God hid Him under the garb of poverty and set Him amid the silence of the hills.
When a man has a message which he burns to make known, you know the passion that rises in his heart. You know how the beckoning hand of London calls him, and how he is restless till he has reached the capital.
But when God had a message, He despised the capital and passed it by and all the glories of it, and He sent His Son into a secret place where the wind was fresh upon the hills. There He was born, and men were in the inn jesting and drinking and knew not it was He. And kings were rioting and scholars pondering and armies marching with the imperial eagles. But not a whisper broke upon that riot nor hushed the play of the children in the streets nor fell on the legionaries with a sense of awe as at a greater captain than their own. Wrapped in the secrecy of distant Galilee, moving obscurely amid obscurer villages, shrinking when men would hail Him king, craving for Bethany in crowded streets—that was the signet on the hand of God; that was the seal of the divine procedure. The footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth were the footsteps of God, and yet His footsteps were not known.
God’s Secrecy Drives Us On
So far, then, upon the spheres of evidence, and now a word or two upon the other aspect. Can we discern the spiritual uses of this great element in God’s procedure? I shall tell you how it seems to me to bear upon our triumph or our failure.
In the first place the secrecy of God is meant to be a spur to drive us on. There are things which are better for us not to hear, and God has the gracious strength to keep a secret. How often have we said to someone, “Ah, how I wish you had never told me that!” We can never have the same thoughts again since that one word was whispered in our ear. And we put it away from us and it comes again, and it rises from the dead when we least wish it; and we are brought lower and we are ashamed, just because someone could not keep a secret. There are times when there is strength in speech. There are times when there is strength in silence. There are things that it was very sweet to tell, but life has been far harder since we told them. And that is why God is silent in His love and will not speak although our hearts are craving; and tomorrow we shall thank Him for the silence that seems to be almost cruelty tonight.
“My father,” said Isaac, as they went up the hill, “Here is the wood, but where then is the lamb?” Poor child, so wistful and so happy, it would have been cruelty to have told him that. And so with us who are but wistful children, speech may be cruel and secrecy may be kind. When we reach the hilltop we shall see; and seeing we shall understand.
The Secrecy of God Should Give Us Hope
There is hope for the world and there is hope for men when we can say, “God’s footsteps are not known.” The footsteps of sin and vice are always known. There is nothing unobtrusive about them. They leave their print of filthiness and blood on every pavement and on every newspaper. And that is why a thousand men are pessimists, for these reeking footsteps are before them and they forget that God is also there—-only His footsteps are not known.
Let some drunken husband kill his wife tonight, and you shall hear all about it in tomorrow’s newspaper. And any scoundrel may have his doings published there so that any child can read about them. But thousands of homes were very happy yesterday and wives were singing and children were playing, but you shall read nothing in the papers about that. All that is of God, for love is of God; but then, you see, God’s footsteps are not known. And no one buys the paper to read that, and it is not at all notorious or flaunting. And what I say is that you must remember that sin is riotous and God’s way is in the still, small voice—-or hope will go and hearts will be embittered and faith will die into the cold of death.
God’s Secrecy Keeps Us Faithful
And then, in closing, the secrecy of God is surely meant by God to keep us faithful. It is the pattern for our everyday life. It is given to help us on our daily round.
Rarely are we summoned to great deeds. To many of us they never come at all. We are not beckoned along the shining road to anything that might arrest the attention of the world. We make our journey by a quiet way, with crosses that are commonplace and duties that are ordinary duties unlustered by any sparkle of glory.
There are blessings in a life like that, and there are hardships too. We miss the excitement and the music and the cheering. And it is on that level road when we are a little disheartened and discouraged that we should recall the secrecy of God.
When a man is famous, his footsteps are well known. He is not nearer God on that account. From the tiniest violet up to Jesus Christ, God moves in quiet and unobtrusive paths. And if it is thus He lavishes His beauty and makes His infinite sacrifice of love, we can be very near Him in our calling.
His way is in the sea, and so let mine be. Let me live and work where there is depth and freedom. His footsteps are not known—ah! happy God, who hast thus chosen to reveal Thyself. So would I move apart and live unknown and never seek the clamor and the show; for love is not there with gladness in its eyes, nor does the road to the kingdom lie that way.