In almost every decision, we have the option of two paths — the easy or the hard way. Only one way offers a permanent reward.
I crested the rise, coming to a small plateau leading to a forested dip before rising higher up the steep grade. The well-travelled path was broad and deeply indented by annual tourists seeking a better view of the lake below. The path narrowed through the trees, shrinking to a barely visible trail up the steepest and highest slope. The majority of hikers contented themselves to climb the easiest section, declining the more strenuous upper portion. The further the trail ascended, the more difficult the climb became. Because few people possessed the initiative to scale to the upper ridge, the path was barely visible.
Reaching the summit, I scanned the view. From here, I saw details of the lake and surrounding terrain obscure from lower levels. Vehicles and people moved between miniature houses far below. The refreshing breeze tangled my hair as I rested in the warm sun. I quietly watched as groups of hikers turned back after reaching the first plateau, saddened that they wouldn’t see from this perspective.
I thought of these words of Jesus:
“Enter through the narrow gate because the wide gate and broad path is the way that leads to destruction—nearly everyone chooses that crowded road! The narrow gate and the difficult way leads to eternal life—so few even find it!”
The Hard Way
The hard and most difficult way always proves to be the least travelled. We all crave the way of least resistance — minimum output for maximum returns. But wisdom leads us through the “narrow gate” and up the steep slope of hardship.
My dad often questioned, ‘Why do you do everything the hard way?”
Sometimes, it was because I anticipated the challenge. At times, no other way but the hard way seemed available. Other times, I recognized choosing between the easy or the hard way determined a lesser or greater outcome. Often, I looked beyond myself to the long-term benefits for future generations.
By choosing the hard way now, I somehow hoped to make life easier for others. I knew that if I didn’t choose the hard path, someone else would have to. I trusted God to help me break through the generational cycles of addictions, depression, and poverty thinking. My tough work would bring freedom for others to come.
Life is hard! God doesn’t promise any of us a fair or easy lot.
“My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up in you the power of endurance. And then as your endurance grows even stronger, it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.”
Quick and Easy
Human nature leans toward quick and easy ways. We look for the smooth road and the fast track to success. We sow seeds of faith today, expecting to instantly receive a bountiful harvest.
Advertisers everywhere shout, “7 Easy Steps to …”, “5 Quick Ways to …”, “10 Days to …” Promotions invite us to flock down the wide road of ease.
The hardest way will always be the Jesus way. Jesus calls us to the narrow and difficult path of self-sacrifice and self-denial. He commands us to
” … love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
When given the choice between the easy or the hard way, few choose the difficult way of fully following Christ Jesus. But those who do, brightly shine among us.
Seldom do we reap the full reward of the difficult path on this side of Heaven. Eternity, like the high view, will reveal the full scope of our efforts.
Many who have walked before us left a vivid example of choosing the difficult road — giving abused children a home, enlisting in war to defend godly values, sacrificially caring for the sick and dying, burying personal dreams to promote others, laboring long hours to support the needy, working through difficult relationships for the benefit of the most vulnerable … Their full reward awaited them, not always in this life but certainly in the eternal one ahead.
“Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward.”
2 John 1:8
The loss people experience in choosing an easier path far exceeds anything this world offers. We have everything to gain and lose through the daily paths we choose.
Faith and Maturity
The sign of true maturity shows in our willingness to choose the hard path over the easy one — to choose to love amidst hate, to give out of our need, to forgive through pain. Such obedience to Jesus carries a deep cost. Are we willing to do the tough thing? Will we abandon the tough to others? Will we choose the easy or the hard way?
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Jesus warns that doing what we want, even if it’s good stuff, will never validate our love for Him. In obedience to Him, we find our true connection to Christ. By choosing the hard road over the easy, we become like Him through suffering.
These thoughts I share with you today come out of a deep conviction to keep walking the tough road, the hard path, the way of sacrifice and pain. Too often, I have quit too soon. Too many times, I have served and obeyed Him from the plateau of comfort and convenience.
God spurs me, and us, further into radical obedience — to fully love Him and others along the gruelling path.
“Father, forgive us for the times we have chosen the smooth road and self-serving ways. Forgive us for narrow-minded thinking and self-seeking intentions. We turn our faces toward You — the One who travelled the most difficult path to the cross because of Your love for us. When we were utterly wicked and steeped in sin, You rescued us, saved us, and claimed us as Your sons and daughters. Give us boldness, courageous fortitude, and faithful, pure hearts willing to take the high way, the most difficult way — representing You well to those around us. In our weakness, give us strength. In our poverty, make us rich in love. Shape us into sons and daughters willing to follow You wherever You lead us. Strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees to go higher and further with You than we ever dreamed. Help us to become faithful and true followers of The Way, leading many others into life eternal.