By Dr. William F. Holland, Jr.
Those who identify with following Jesus are usually satisfied with being comfortable and cozy in their religious styles. Let’s just say that suffering for God is not on their bucket list. When we take a peek at the last six thousand years, we learn that countless numbers of people who loved the Lord literally gave their lives for Him. It’s only within our modern secluded religious environment that we assume persecutions and deaths no longer happen. By no means of the imagination is this true. According to Open Doors World Watch List, in 2022 many Christians were imprisoned and killed for their faith, and countless churches were attacked and closed. Last year, 360 million Christians, or 1 in 7 believers around the world, experienced horrific persecution for their faith. With over 6,000 martyrs in 2022, this means an average of 16 believers were murdered every day just for following Jesus. When we accept Christ into our lives, many are focused on Him being a Savior instead of Him being their Lord, as the latter involves not only living for Him but possibly dying for Him.
In the New Testament, Jesus talks about temptations and decisions, but basically, the main two choices are good and evil. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus describes what we all face every day, “Enter in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many will choose this: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.” It’s true, there are only two choices, God’s way, and our way. The narrow path is good but difficult because it involves surrendering our will to God. What does this mean? It means we no longer serve our desires because we have made a covenant promise to obey God and only do what He says. Obedience is what the Christian life is about and His grace invites us to live in the awareness of His presence. The wide highway is evil, but it’s so easy as the great majority will gladly give all control to their flesh and allow their carnality to lead them. The masses ignore their conscience and resist anything that has to do with listening to God or the Bible. But wait, there are grave consequences attached to this philosophy of living, remember? This popular road is more than a blasphemous rock song, it’s a torturous eternal destination far removed from the hope of a second chance.
There’s not a lot being said nowadays about an everlasting punishment for those who do not love and serve God. The modern ideas about religion argue that this sounds too extreme, and it’s just too negative to think about. Hmmm…but aren’t these the same people who watch paranormal programs and personal testimonies about demons and hell for hours and believe it? When divine truth is rejected it’s a sure sign of Holy Spirit conviction and the rebellious will always avoid feeling guilty for living in sin. Our old depraved nature loves to do whatever feels good and is very defiant against anyone including God that tries to interfere. Yes, the Christian life is difficult and filled with sacrifices and accountability, but wouldn’t a lifetime of obedience to God here on earth be worth an eternity of living with Him in heaven? Being a follower of Yahweh requires a concerted effort on our part as well as an infinite supply of His mercy.
We realize this analogy about the two paths causes some to question the fairness of God. I often hear if He really wants to save everyone, why doesn’t He just let everyone go to heaven? You knew someone was going to say that, didn’t you? When people hear the word narrow, they tend to associate it with a predestined selection as it sounds as though God has rated us all on some scale of acceptability and only allows a few favorites to experience His glory. However, a few verses earlier, Jesus clarifies this within the context, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” God made it clear: the path to eternal life is open and available to all who want to follow Him.