Bible with Cross ShadowEvery time a large following would gather around Jesus, He would share something that would drive most of them away (e.g., eat my flesh, drink my blood). Did He do this because He hated large crowds? Did He desire that only a few be saved? Why did He share such difficult things so early in His ministry? Is this a pattern worth imitating?

Based on current church growth programs, the answer is: Apparently not. Not only have we failed to help potential converts count the cost, but we have hidden the cost from them. We will get them in the door, get them committed, and then explain the sacrifice that is required. Sounds like bait-and-switch to me.

Forgive my brutal honesty for a moment: In some streams it has gotten so bad, seeker friendly has become seeker deceptive. The truth of the difficult way is never shared. You know what I mean. You may not believe it happens in your church, but you know it happens somewhere.

Jesus shared the hard truth, because it was the truth. He was not interested in recruiting volunteers that would desert Him when the going got tough. He was – He is – recruiting an army.

He is recruiting you; and those in your spheres of influence. He has not hidden the cost. He has been brutally honest about the way that leads to life.

Strive to Enter

There is a wide gate and a broad way that leads to destruction. Then there is His way: The narrow gate and the difficult way.

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

Your favorite translation may use the word “narrow” to describe both the gate and the way. This is (unintentionally) misleading. The Greek words are different. The one used to describe the gate does mean “narrow”.

However, the Greek word used to describe the way – thlibō – means “press (as grapes); press hard upon; a compressed way; and metaphorically, to trouble, afflict, distress”. Thlibō is translated as afflicted, troubled and tribulation in several other passages. Perhaps even “difficult” is an understatement of the way which leads to life.

It is important to recognize that the “it” that few will find is not the gate or the way, but the life. Few will find eternal life. That may be hard for many to accept. God desires that all men be saved. So why aren’t they? What seems to be the problem?

And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Luke 13:22-24

Sometime after His Sermon on the Mount – probably after running off another less than committed group of followers – Jesus was asked by one of His disciples about the effectiveness of His ministry. In answer, He once again referenced the narrow gate. This time, He used a word we don’t hear much in Christian circles: Strive.

The Greek word for strive – agōnizomai – means “to enter a contest; to contend with adversaries, fight; to endeavor with strenuous zeal”. Entering the narrow gate – just to get to the difficult way – is not what we like to think about, or share with others. But it is the truth.

We will not be saved if we do not endeavor with strenuous zeal to enter the narrow gate that leads to the difficult way. And we will not find eternal life if we do not walk the way of trouble, affliction and tribulation. This is a hard saying; but, really, we should not be surprised.

Following after Him

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Mark 8:34

And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. Matthew 10:38

Being a follower of Jesus Christ means just that: Following the way He chose to walk. We know His walk was one of denial and sacrifice. Do we think we can follow Him by taking a different road – a broad and easy road?

In case you were wondering, there are only two roads. There is not a sort-of-hard road, or a little-bit-wider gate, that leads to life. That way is just another on ramp to the way that leads to destruction.


Do you and those in your spheres of influence understand and believe that the way to life is a difficult way? Are you willing to live the difficult life? Have you embraced it as the only way to be saved?

Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered. Luke 11:52

Sometimes we decide to ignore the most obvious and critical things. Sometimes we decide to deceive ourselves. Sometimes we choose, by not clearly sharing the truth, to deceive others. We are not intentionally trying to harm ourselves or them. Deception is like that.

I think it is safe to say that you have now been warned. The truth will make you free. Deception is no longer an excuse. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Faith without works is dead. Please don’t let your faith in this die.


If we do not warn them, many will choose the compromise. Many will choose it, anyway. But we must, for God’s sake, be brave enough to warn them. We must encourage them to strive to enter the narrow gate. We must edify and equip them for the difficult way. We must walk in it with them.


  1. Decide which way you desire. Commit your way to the LORD (Psalm 37:5). Strive to enter the narrow gate (let me know if I can help you with that).
  2. Share the truth of the difficult way with those in your spheres of influence. It will make them free. Should We Leave Them at the Gate
    is a short parable that will help introduce the topic.
  3. Identify those that will walk in the way with you. The difficult way is no place for loners.

Recommended Reading

The following are some of my favorite books on this subject. Most can be found at your local Christian book store, or at one of the many online distributors.

The Cost of Discipleship; Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Crazy Love; Francis Chan

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Humbly Yours and Forever His,