My wife and I celebrated our 40th anniversary by spending a week in Glacier National Park. In addition to the natural beauty of the area, I was struck by the wildlife that we encountered along the trails.
We saw the typical wildlife one would expect to see along trails; some deer, including a 4-point buck, and a few bald eagles. An unexpected encounter was with a herd of big horn sheep and a mountain goat. But my greatest surprise was when I came across a black bear moseying up a trail ahead of me.
These animals made the same choice we make – they followed the path of least resistance. The sheep and the goats followed the trail not out of necessity but out of ease; the trail was more convenient than the rocky slopes of the hillside. But the bear I encountered chose the trail because the undergrowth off of the trail would have made the journey more difficult. Though navigating the brush would have been easier for the bear than us, the ease of eating berries off the trail made the choice easy.
While our path might not be level, it is easier than pushing through the undergrowth. So, what would cause us to leave the easy trail? There would need to be some benefit for us. Jesus tells us how the easy way may not be the best saying, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Matthew 7:13–14)
The broad way is the path we are on until we choose a different way. I cannot tell you why the bear I encountered choose to go off into the brush, but I was thankful that he did allowing me to continue on my hike. While I did not pose any real or perceived threat, it’s likely that my sheer presence was a nuisance. The bear chose a better way.
Likewise, we too have a choice to make. Which gate will we enter? Which road will we choose? What will motivate me to consider something other than broad, easy road? Fear? However, fear is a weak motivator in the long run.
Maybe you can think of a time when you were motivated by fear to stop some type of destructive behavior. However, over time, the behavior returned. Why? Because, among other reasons, it’s likely that the initial shock of the fear faded. The truth remains, the destructive patterns of my life will still lead to my destruction, but fear no longer constrains me.
Hope is a better motivator than fear. It is my hope of entering the Kingdom of God that causes me to seek out and find the narrow gate. Jesus’ familiar words in Matthew 6 tell us how the journey begins, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (33)
Seeking is something we have in common with the wildlife on the trail. While they seek food for their sustenance and life, we seek God to find our life and sustenance. Animals cannot see beyond the present; they are unable to reason how today’s choices will impact them in the future. But God gave us the ability to see beyond the temporal to see the eternal. This realization leads us to look to Christ and search out the narrow gate to find life.
Seeing that the path I’m on is leading me to death makes it an easy choice to search for the narrow gate to find life. Unless I realize that life will only be found by entering the narrow gate, I will have no reason to leave the path that is leading to death and destruction.
Jesus offers one more thought, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7–8) Jesus’ invitation is for us to come and seek his righteousness; to ask, seek and knock expecting him to answer.
Why should we look for the narrow gate? Why should I alter my course? Because knowing that my hope of eternal life is found through that narrow gate, I will seek it out, follow it and claim Christ’s righteousness for my own.