Do you ever feel like you’re up against the entire world?

Sometimes it feels like there’s so much darkness around us. It’s almost fatiguing to stand on the truth.

We believe what the Bible says. We do our best to practice it. All of it. That’s a lonely road.

Sometimes when I look around at the world, I begin to wonder, how can there be so few who really get it? How can there be so few who really live in the Spirit and speak the truth?

Am I missing something? Am I arrogant to think that I hold the truth? How can I believe that everyone else is wrong? Would God do that?

Well, apparently He would. And the situation isn’t at all surprising to Jesus.

As recorded in Matthew 7:13-14, at the end of the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus told his followers, “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.”

Don’t be discouraged.

If it feels like you’re up against the whole world, don’t lose heart. You may be just about right.

Jesus’ disciples accepted this reality from the start. They were born into persecution. I think part of our challenge is that we live in a post-Christian culture. 

Our country was founded on Christian values. Christians used to have the luxury of holding the dominant perspective. Regardless of how well it was lived out, until recently most Americans would have at least publicly said they agree with a fair portion of what the Bible teaches.

Until relatively recently, Christian values dominated our cultural spaces.

Not anymore.

This makes us feel like society is in decline around us. It feels like the darkness is gaining ground.

But our feelings can be deceptive.

In his book Onward, Russell Moore makes the argument that despite falling church attendance and the general moral decline of our society, Christianity is not in decline in America. He argues that there are more real Christians now than ever. However, because our culture no longer rewards people for pretending to be Christians, the Church has just shed all of the fakers.

In the 1960s, practically everyone went to church. People went to church because it made their lives easier—easier to find a job, meet a spouse, or get out of trouble. But the sad reality is that you could have eliminated 80% of the congregation and not actually lost any real Christians.

Today, those who stand in the Christian faith actually have to stand for something. Acting on your Christian faith will make your life harder—you will lose opportunities and relationships, and your principles may actually get you into trouble, not out of it.

Today, we feel the narrow gate in a way our grandparents may not have.

Jesus saw that too, and he said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Matthew 5:11)

Don’t be discouraged. Take heart. If you are walking with few, you may indeed be on the right path.

Sadly, not every narrow gate is the narrow gate. Plenty of religious systems subject their followers to rules and regulations, arbitrarily shrinking who is qualified for righteousness. Simply standing against the world and what is popular is not a guarantee that you are on the right path.

By the grace of God, our key for discerning which gate is THE narrow gate is also right there in this same passage. As the scripture says, the narrow way “leads to life.”

We may automatically assume the word “life” here means “eternal life”—find the narrow gate so you can get into heaven—and that’s a reasonable interpretation. But what it says is just “life.”

I am not a linguistic scholar, but the tools I have available tell me that life here is the Greek word “zoe.” Zoe is often understood to be eternal life with God, but it also just means life, as in the state of being alive. It may carry a connotation of fullness and vitality.

We see plenty of people who have constructed a narrow gate of their own design. Lots of hoops to jump through and things to be done, but it doesn’t look like life, it doesn’t look like the Spirit, and it doesn’t bear fruit. Those arbitrary rules and regulations are the spirit of religion and it brings only death. It feels like bondage, anxiety, and boredom.

If your way leads you to carry hatred, jealousy, and bitterness in your heart, you may have indeed found (or constructed) a narrow gate, but perhaps not THE narrow gate.

If, however, the narrow road you’re on leads you to life, you may have found what Jesus was talking about.

We need writers who are willing to stand on the truth. In a post-Christian society, we need writers who are willing to be the vocal minority. We need you to walk with the Spirit, then get loud, when he tells you to get loud.

To walk the narrow path well requires community and continuing spiritual development.

Jesus said that “few find it,” not “only you find it.” While Jesus said we’d be unpopular, if you’re the only one on your narrow road, you may be in trouble (and it’s likely not passing the life test, anyway).

Church history is an imperfect metric, but if there is no historical tradition to your beliefs, that’s worth evaluating as well. The truth started with Jesus 2,000 years ago, not with you and your buddies in the modern era.

It’s not such a bad thing to discover we’re wrong about some belief we hold. By the grace of God, rejoice when you find something by which you’re not aligned with the narrow path! Now you can get it straightened out.

If there’s one thing I have learned, it’s that God is infinite, and I will always have more room to learn and grow in him. No matter how much of my life I get worked out, there is always more.

I know that my beliefs are not 100% correct. How could they be? I rely on my church community, mentors, and the voice of the Holy Spirit to help me see where I can continue to learn and grow.

Do you have that in your life? Mentors and community and the voice of the Holy Spirit? If not, ask God for them. Then be patient and keep your eyes open. God will deliver them to you. You may have to put on your big-kid pants and take some risks to grab hold of them, but God will open the doors for you.

Let me say again: don’t be discouraged.

To those on the narrow path, continue on, fight the good fight.

My heart as I prayed this week was to encourage you. If you’re walking the narrow path and you’re feeling the “few” part of that, Jesus sees you.

If you’re feeling alone or doubting yourself, but you’re on THE narrow path that leads to life—take heart. Many have walked the path before you, and it’s worth it.

Don’t shrink back. Don’t waver. Look for the life, look for the mentors who exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, look for the community that challenges and comforts you. Look for Jesus.

And don’t give up.

It’s worth it.

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