One of the songs that put Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman on the map in his early career was one that talked about how great the road to Heaven is. “There’s no better place on earth than the road that leads to Heaven. No other place I’d rather be.”
A lot of times we talk about the Christian life as a great place where our troubles pass away, sickness is healed, and every need is provided for. We draw a picture of how God works all things for our good and wipes away every tear.
While each of these statements comes from Scripture, we have a tendency to place God’s promises where they don’t belong. For example, God will wipe away every tear in the New Jerusalem where we enjoy eternity with Him (Revelation 21:1-4). In our zeal to lead souls to Jesus, we have to be careful not to dye the grass so green that we do not prepare those souls for the realities of following Jesus.
So many people are looking for a fix for their lives. No, I’m not talking about a “fix” as it pertains to some drug or other addiction, but some method to repair their lives. Men and women, teenagers and children, all walk around with broken hearts and spirits. They know life is meant to be better, different, more than they have experienced. To hear the message that Jesus will fix their lives gives them hope, but not the hope we want them to receive. They have hope that their problems will disappear. God will look down and work His magic and erase troubles and pain.
A Difficult Road
We do these seeking souls a great injustice, for the “road that leads to Heaven” is not an easy path. Steven Curtis Chapman mentions in his first verse, “it will not be the easy way.” We admit that it is narrow and few find it, but our message to the Western world is that this will fix your life. We need to be reminded of the words of Jesus and how He described that narrow road.
“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 NKJV)
Some translations of the Bible change that line in verse 14. The NIV says “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life”, but the original word there means to be afflicted or troubled. The road of life is one of difficulty.
Jesus told His followers that they would be ignored by those they shared the Gospel with. He said they would be persecuted by governments and rulers. He warned that those who received the Gospel with joy might have the Word of God stolen from their hearts, or fall in difficulty, or be choked by the cares of this world. “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows,” Jesus said, “But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b NLT).
As I ask for commitments to Jesus, I try to make sure that I dispel some of those “grass is greener” ideas about the Christian walk. Not everything will perfect. In fact, you will probably be tempted and tested to give up.
Fasten Your Seat Belts
To ignore the warnings of Jesus is to remain unprepared for the reality of living for Him. The first part of John 16:33 tells us that Jesus gave these warnings so that we would have peace. It is that same peace that Paul promised the Philippians would receive as they took every care to God in prayer, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, [that] will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NKJV).
When I start to talk about difficult truths in Scripture I tell the congregation to “fasten your seat belts, because it’s about to get bumpy.” One of my favorite movie quotes comes the film version of Jurassic Park, and I use it with my kids in the car: “Hold on to your butts.”
The road of life in Jesus is not easy. It is bumpy and rough. Fasten your seat belts and hold on to your butts. And when it gets really rough, look “unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV).
Sometimes we find ourselves face first in the dust of that narrow road. There are few around to help us on our journey. But the road is straight, and there is comfort in that fact. When I get tired doing something I try to focus on the goal I am working towards. When we are walking the narrow road and the cares and troubles of life are pushing us down, we can look up and see the goal because the road is straight.
Jesus, the power of the resurrection, the guarantee of everlasting life, is at the end of that road. If the road twisted and turned we would have a difficult time seeing the goal when the road is hard. But because it is straight, even though it may be lonely, narrow and difficult, I can keep my eyes on Jesus and plod along until His power fills me and lifts me up in strength again.
The comfort Jesus offers us is not found in the elimination of our troubles. When we have faith in Him, He brings His presence and power into those difficulties. He gives us grace to overcome them. Life won’t be perfect, but it will be better with Him.