Grow stronger in making good choices
Matt. 7:13-4 NET
Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Path of least resistance – or not?
LIFE continually presents choices, and making choices is part of life; for everybody, every day. However, seeking to be disciples of Jesus means submitting our choices to Him – the significant ones, anyway. He probably doesn’t much care whether or not I wear my Christmas socks but He cares about the person who gave them.
Here’s the point: as disciples of Jesus do we intentionally choose for Him? Do we do the work to try to discern the Way of Jesus among the options, or do we just go with our preferred way, or the path of least resistance?
The path of least resistance does not sound like Jesus’ saying, that “the way is difficult that leads to life”. Sometimes it is a courageous choice.
The higher aim
If we all chose Jesus’ way, every time, would there be dispute and division? No, by definition we would be in unity. The Bible speaks of blessings that come as a result of unity (e.g. Psalm 133:1-3 where berakah, v.3, speaks of God’s favour on the righteous).
Of course we don’t always get it right and if we’re honest, we have to admit that we don’t always ask. If we do ask, we are not always good at listening. So it can seem easier to opt out and let others decide – don’t churches elect leaders for that? But that is a false unity, if it is anything – another version of the path of least resistance. Unity doesn’t just happen, and it isn’t a default. Quite the opposite – it’s something we all have to work at (Ephesians. 5:3).
There is much in the Bible about the holiness that is surrounds unity, and the unholiness and therefore spiritual danger that goes with disunity. The world recognises that unity is desirable and preferable, from the Palace of Westminster down to family decision where to go on holiday.
Unity doesn’t just occur. It is a choice. If you have 10 people, you have, humanly speaking, 10 opinions e.g whether the referee should have allowed that goal, whether Brexit or Remain was the right choice for the UK, who should win BBC1 and whether the Kingdom of God is more about worship or mission. Often there isn’t a ‘right choice’ as such (although there may be clear Scriptural principles that point the way) but the Holy Spirit will always try to bring a unity to that group or situation.
Pros and cons of being individuals
We were created as individuals with minds and opinions and we all bring different experiences and desires to the debate. Sometimes ego demands its own way or pride asserts that it is right, but teams with no particular spiritual dimension soon recognise these immaturities for what they are and learn to listen and defer.
We were also created as, potentially, spiritual people, submitted to God through friendship with Him by accepting Jesus as Saviour and Lord. At this point we have the Holy Spirit’s gentle guidance available to us – if we listen. We have a diversity of gifts and life experiences – and passions. This is where our call as disciples of Jesus steps up to have its say.
I don’t believe in a divide between sacred and secular – God works through everyone and everything if we allow Him to. But we still have choices – whether to be swayed by all those opinions, and how much value we place on what other people think and our loyalties to them. That’s friendship with the world’s way.
Over and against that, is what God might be saying to us through His Spirit and His Word, which is flagged up for us in various ways. It might be a prophetic word, submitted for weighing by others, given in a church setting. Or it may be the two or three people who are hearing and then saying the same thing.
Which do we go with? Sometimes it takes courage to go with our conscience, to go against the crowd.
Free will and the kingdom of God
We have free will, and on many issues we may be entirely free to exercise that will. The Holy Spirit’s leading, informed by Scripture (He won’t ever go against His word) may not be too concerned to sway our choice of who wins a match or competition.
On kingdom issues, however, it is quite different. Heaven has clarity, and we are meant to have clarity, too. Frequently we settle for confusion. In heaven there is no question that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6) – it’s the only way. For us, it is a question of choice. It is a matter of our intention. His Way might not be the way we would choose for our own comfort or fulfilment. What if it is unattractively narrow or seems too difficult? What if that more difficult way puts us in a minority, facing the peer pressure to go with our friends?
That sets out the problem, and also reveals the solution
Bottom line: God wants to grow us
The reason we so often face this dilemma is because God wants to grow us. He wants to grow us stronger in choosing for Him, more able to take a different path from the crowd – better at hearing Him and better at following Him.
We can’t lead anyone else until we can lead ourselves, and that comes from us first learning to follow!
DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION
- Bible study. Ephesians 5:2-3 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep [NASB “being diligent to preserve”] the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
- There are two different instructions here. What are they? How are they linked?
- Why is Paul making this exhortation?
- How do we “make every effort”?
Why do we so often choose the ‘default’ path of least resistance, rather than the more narrow or difficult way? What simple discipline would improve our choices?
When the path seems to be disappearing, how do you know you are on the Way that’s a path of truth and life – the right path – and not taken wrong turning?