For my birthday, my son gave me a subscription to National Geographic Magazine. Since I’ve not read it for many years, and since it will not be in my mailbox for a few weeks, I picked up a couple copies at the library to ‘get up to speed.’ In reading one issue, I observed the reality of Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
That particular issue had several articles about spirituality and religious practices around the world. Most of them were pagan ceremonies involving idols and based on fear and superstition. What surprised me is that these were not taking place in remote jungles but in areas I would consider the civilized world.
I remembered Jesus also said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
As I thought about these articles and Jesus words, I marveled at both the ease and difficulty of faith. It seems easy to me to believe in a God who has revealed Himself as loving, gracious, merciful, and forgiving. But I sometimes forget about Job.
Job was a man whom God applauded for his faith, but Satan challenged God. He said that if Job were put to the test, his faith would fail. God allowed the test, and it was severe. Yet as much as Job complained and argued that he’d done nothing to deserve this, his faith in God remained firm. He said, “Why do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hands? Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. He also shall be my salvation, for a hypocrite could not come before Him” (Job 13:14-16).
Job’s statements show his faith that God knew all about him. Sure, he didn’t like what was happening but he also did not piously pretend otherwise. He openly said what was on his heart because He believed God knew anyway.
What is more important, Job trusted God no matter what He allowed to happen to him. This is why I think the “way is narrow” and “few there be that find it.” The way is also sometimes extremely difficult!
In a parable about seed sowed in various types of soils, Jesus tells why many are called but few are chosen. The seed represents the word of God and the various soils represent the hearts of those that hear it.
In the parable, some of the seed came up, but it didn’t produce fruit for two reasons. The first was the seed sown on stony places. Jesus said this represented a person who hears the Word of God and receives it with joy, “yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (Matthew 13:20-21).
Those who cannot take the heat get out of the kitchen. Those who cannot stand loss of friends or admiration or respect, because they believe in Jesus Christ, will bail out. Those who cannot deal with the trials of living for God will run the other way.
The other reason for lack of fruit and perseverance in faith is illustrated by the seed sown among thorns. Jesus says in verse 22 that “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.”
Those who are more interested in this life and what it has to offer will not go through that narrow gate. They might get close enough to see what is the kingdom of God on the other side, but are repelled by it so pull back to the comforts and hopes of what they want in this kingdom.
Job endured. He was a rich man and was distressed and grieving at the loss of his wealth, and his family, and even his health, but he hung onto God. For him, faith was the only indestructible thing he had. Few there be that find that.
The articles and photos about many people on that broad road made me wonder at the grace of God. I’m no different from they are, except that God called me and chose me. Perhaps the difference is that He also taught me very early that I cannot go through that narrow gate by myself, nor can I believe in Him by myself, nor even keep believing by myself. My devotional reading today says, “We must trust Him to keep us trusting.”
I wholeheartedly agree. My faith is like a mustard seed. It sometimes winds up on the rocks or amid the thistles, and without Him to rescue me, I’m sure my face would be in the crowds in that magazine article, joining them in their contemporary pagan worship.