Old Testament: Numbers 13:1, 26-33
New Testament: Matthew 7:13-14
Hello, everyone. I was just looking at this map to find where the Appalachian Trail crosses the next major highway. If you are under 35 you may have never used a road map. I doubt you will every carry one in the glove compartment of your car.
Those older than you used maps to get from one city to city and from state to state. It’s a shame that you will never know the frustration of having to fold one of these up. It’s like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube, which is a puzzle you might not have heard about if you are younger than 35.
In the early years of my marriage Tina read the map and told me where to go. What I mean is, she would say, “This is the way. Turn here.” Sometimes I would ask, “Are you sure?” If it would not turn out to be the way, we didn’t get along so well for a while.
The truth is, “We only got out the map because I’d already said, “I know the way” and it turned out that I didn’t. Finally, Tina would say something sensible like, “Why don’t we look at the map?”
Later in our married life, God provided a great and wonderful tool for finding our way called the Garmin, and now we have no more map folding. I no longer have to say, “I know the way.” But I must confess, it does feel like I have two wives in the car sometimes. Now I have two women instead of one telling me where to go.
All through life we are making decisions about which direction we should go.
Some of those attending VBS will soon be going to middle school and they will be making decisions like: “Do I join the band or play a sport? Do I join FFA or another club? Am I going to be satisfied with a C, B, or an A?” “What kind of friends am I going to choose? What kind of friend am I going to be?”
Graduating seniors have been making lots of decisions these past six months about the next steps in their lives. “Will I continue to live at home or will I move away? Will I go to college, join the military, or get a job? Will I keep going to church or will I quit?
Then at the other end of the journey retired people are making lots of choices. “How do I make sure I have enough money to last until I die? How do I find a purpose for my life after I stop working? How do I make new friends? Do I even want to make new friends?”
Lots of times we make our decisions based on which way is the easiest. However, if we are listening to God, God’s way is not always the easiest. In fact, His way might seldom be the easiest.
God does not promise easy, but God does promise direction. God promises to become our guide. This week, our VBS motto is from the book of Isaiah, “This is the way. Walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
Let’s say that together. “This is the way. Walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
Now the problem with us is that we don’t always want to walk in the way that God shows us. I promise, if God shows us the way, it is best for us. We might not believe it; we might not understand; we might not be able to see it; but if we will walk in God’s way, trust God’s way and have faith in God’s way, God’s way will bless us.
Now why don’t we believe this? Because some people that are not walking in God’s way tell us that the path they have chosen works fine. They say it’s pleasurable and it is easier than the path we are on. “Why don’t you try it?” they ask. Are they right?
I tell you, I’m all for easy. Most of us are.
How many of you have been keeping up with all the flooding that is happening in Texas? Many cities have seen the most rain in their history and rivers have swollen to record levels.
Here is a universal truth about water. It will always take the path of least resistance because the law of gravity pulls it that direction. The water has no choice but to be pulled in a powerful downward motion.
Here is a universal truth about human nature. It is our nature to be pulled toward easy. That’s led to a lot of modern discoveries and conveniences for which we are all grateful. Did anyone arrive to church on a horse and buggy? We have air conditioning inside our church and we are sitting on padded pews. We like easy.
But can you become physically fit doing easy? No, your body in order to be strong must be exercised and there’s nothing easy about that. It takes discipline and effort. The same is true of our spiritual lives.
Jesus 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).
Is it easier to enter into the broad gate or the narrow gate? Is it easier to walk the broad way or the narrow way?
Jesus realizes that the Christian life isn’t easy. However, He has clearly said to us that the other road, while easier, will lead to destruction.
Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (NIV).
Consider the story of the Hebrew people who were being led on a long hike through the wilderness by Moses.
Through God’s power, Moses recued them from Egyptian slavery. They hiked their way through the Red Sea on dry ground and watched as the receding waters of the Red Sea crushed their enemy. They were headed to a land God promised their ancestor Abraham.
Nothing about this road was easy, but God took care of them by providing water from rocks and they found bread on the ground each morning, manna from heaven, as it was called.
However, the people were impatient and ungrateful. They wanted an easier path.
Finally, after a long trip of struggle, after many blisters from worn sandals, they came to the land of promise. They were excited.
Before going into the land, Moses sent in a team of men to scout it and bring back a report to the people. He chose twelve men to take this hike, one from each one of the tribes of Israel. They were to go into the land and bring back some answers to their questions. They had lots of them.
What is the land like? Are the people there strong or weak, few or many? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there any trees on the land?
After forty days of collecting their data, they came back and said that the land was everything they dreamed it would be. “It flows with milk and honey,” they said excitedly, an expression meaning that the land had an abundance to fulfill all their needs.
As proof of its abundance they brought back a single cluster of grapes that was so large that two men had to carry it on a pole between them.
The people, what about the people? Well, the spies reported that the people who occupied the land were powerful and that the cities were fortified and they were very large.
Apparently, the people were a cause for great fear. Caleb, one of the spies, spoke up. “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
Caleb was saying, “This is the way. Let’s walk in it.” However, the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”
Motivated by fear of what might happen to them if they went into Canaan, the majority of the spies convinced the people that they should not claim the land, even though God had told them that it was theirs.
Prompted by the lack of faith of the spies, the people complained: “If only we had died in Egypt or even in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”
In the midst of this, one more of the spies chose to stand with Caleb. Joshua tried to convince the people that the Lord was with them and as long as the Lord was with them, they didn’t have anything to fear.
Joshua’s speech did no good. Only he and Caleb spoke with conviction that God would not abandon them in their journey. They were the only two that stood with courage and faith.
Today, God is still looking for people to walk the narrow way of courage and faith. Jesus said that most will choose the broad path.
Only Caleb and Joshua were allowed to go into the Promised Land with a new generation of people.
God never promised any of us an easy journey, but He has given us the Bible as our map. He has provided the Holy Spirit as our guide and to empower us.
Just as God was trying to lead the people of Israel to a life of abundance in the Promised Land, Jesus came to lead each of us into an abundant life. A commitment to Jesus is a commitment to put on our hiking boots and follow his teachings.
A lot of people are going to reject that. Those who choose to follow Jesus will find themselves in the minority. Minority commitments are often more difficult, but the narrow road of following Jesus is the one filled with the blessings.
Most people like the wide road. People like the crowd. However, to be a Christ follower, you must take the road less traveled.
Robert Frost wrote the beautiful words to the poem, “The Road Not Taken.” While not meant to be about choices between good and evil, to me they describe a dilemma we face between this broad and narrow way which Jesus describes in Matthew seven.
Ponder his words with Jesus words as your backdrop as you choose which road you will take?
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The less traveled road is to be an obedient follower of Jesus. “This is the way. Walk in it.”
There are easier ways, to be sure. But the story of the children of Israel warns us that if we do not have faith to follow the narrow road, destruction lies ahead.
As we begin the week of VBS, who is willing to say, “I want to walk the trail that Jesus has blazed for me. I want to walk the narrow way”.