Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT) “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
“Beating a dead horse” is to bring up an issue that has already been concluded, something that has been considered to be pointless. If an argument erupts and it is the one previously settled, often people will say that “you are beating a dead horse”. This phrase is thought to have originated in horse racing. The animals are often “beaten” during a race to push them harder and make them move faster. The jockey will use a riding crop to slap the horse on the thigh in an effort to get the horse to respond to get to the finish line securing the victory. So you can see the irony in “beating a dead horse” it is not going anywhere therefore it is futile to keep hitting it.
You are probably thinking to yourself, “What in the world does this have to do with the narrow road and small gate that leads to life”? I will be the first to admit God speaks to me in mysterious ways sometimes. I guess the truth is if I knew the direction our conversation was going and didn’t like what it meant, I would probably change the subject or just lie down all together. I have a stubborn nature that takes God’s Will and Way often trying twist and turn it a little to be more comfortable and convenient. There is but one way. I know, I know I struggle in that too many times wanting God to consider my way that usually requires a little less of me and a whole more of Him. God will not relent in His Persistent Love for us. His Plan is perfect and needs no tweaks by us. What the Lord desires of us is faithful obedience to get from where we are to the wonderful things He has for us. We need only follow His Direction.
Well, that seems to be a consistent problem for God’s People dating back to the Garden of Eden. When given only one rule and a plethora of rights – humanity chose to disobey the only rule. It is that “one thing” or “what if” that often drives us from the narrow path of faithfulness and small gate called obedience to settle for lesser things and compromise in life. Something in us rises up when told “no” or “don’t” or “go this way” – why is it that it is that very thing we desire? As the road gets narrow, our options are fewer. Our flesh hates that so we tend to deviate just a little. Nudging the lines of obedience and fudging a little on faithfulness sure that the Lord will let us slide this one time on the grease called grace.
Numbers 22:23-28 (NIV) When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road. Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again. Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”
Balaam was a prophet who heard from the Lord but had not given his heart to God. The Children of Israel had moved into Canaan and the King of Moab, Balak, summoned Balaam to curse them and drive them out. But God objected as it was His Plan to bless them. When he declined, Balak summoned Balaam again this time with an even greater reward. God told Balaam, “You must not put a curse on those people because they are blessed.” This time the Lord told him, “Go with them, but do only what I tell you.” Hello flesh! Seriously this is like a red flag in front of an angry bull. Anytime that we feel restricted or restrained, it is human nature to rebel.
Although we find out later that Balaam never had a change of heart, we can still learn from his example along the “narrow” way. On his way with the Moabites, Balaam cannot see the angel of the Lord ready to kill him but his donkey can. The angel stands at the narrow point of the pathway. When the animal stops to save his master, Balaam becomes angry and beats the donkey. The donkey responds by continuing the journey. The angel moves down to the “narrow” place.” The donkey sees him and stops again to save his master who in return beats him again. This will happen one more time before the donkey says enough is enough and begins to speak to Balaam whose eyes are opened to see the death angel in the “narrow” place.
What does this story have to do with the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 7:13-14 or the story of Balaam? Everything. It is all about the narrow path, road or gate. We want to get to Heaven… our way. We want to please God… our way. We want to serve the Lord… our way. When all along the only way to get to God the Father is through His Son who is called the WAY. (John 14:6) We cannot have the blessings of God without doing it His Way. His Way is not broad and general but narrow and specific. Everyone thinks that serving the Lord will lead to greater acquisitions in our natural life but I believe it is in the complete yielding of our life that we can be saved, healed, delivered and set free to enter the Gate that is narrow.
The donkey resisted three times and got the daylights beat out of him as we say in the south. He finally was given the ability to speak reminding his owner of his faithful service and inquiring about such harsh punishment. When Balaam’s eyes were opened and he could see the angel – he knew that the irritating, stubborn and belligerent animal was really sacrificing his life for his master. The angel of the Lord would have killed Balaam had the donkey not stopped or turned away. As a believer who is serving the Lord with your life, there will be times when our life does not add up to God’s Plan. When experiencing some difficulties or irritations, we must evaluate the direction and ways of our life.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The Way of God is narrow because the Will of God is perfect. There is no need for deviation because it id divine and distinct leaving no margin for error or omission. Human beings are not perfect. We need grace and lots of it. The more narrow the road the more evident our need for God’s Grace to maneuver. Three times seems to be consistent in our passages today. The irritations, difficulties, setbacks and curveballs in life may just be God’s Grace making its way to us as we attempt to live our way and do our own thing with the delusion that it will produce prosperity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Balaam was looking for a tangible reward. He would find it in the end as he gave in to his evil heart. God intervened by ultimately Balaam chose a broader path and wide open gate to fulfill his heart’s desire.
When we experience hardship and weakness in life, it is simply because the Lord is doing His Part to keep us on the proper path and headed in the right direction. The narrower the road becomes the more we need His Grace. The more of His Grace we get the stronger we become in our faith and trust in God the Father through Jesus His Son. The path is narrow because God is perfect. It is built to lead us to righteousness and fulfillment in God that is perfect! Just because you are experiencing weakness, insults, hardship, persecution, difficulty doesn’t mean that you are on the wrong path but it could just mean you are closer to breakthrough than ever before.
Balaam kept lashing out at his donkey when he could not see the danger in his way. We do the same thing when faced with irritation sometimes reacting to our condition rather than responding with faith. To trust the Lord is to walk by faith and not by sight. Balaam knew of God and was used by God but He did not love the Lord withholding his heart. We must daily examine our heart and life for signs and symptoms of rebellion, stubbornness and spiritual blindness. Instead of beating dead horses, we must check for signs of life. Life in our words, deeds and actions that keep us on the right path.
Psalm 16:11 (NIV) You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
If you want your way today, the Lord will let you take it. He will continue in each step to attempt to reveal Himself to you. The Lord will make the path of life known to you. It will be the road less traveled. It will require letting some things (okay maybe a lot of things) go in our life to take hold of His Hand and walk humbly with the Lord. He is leading us to better things if we will let go of the past including our will, our way and our wants to fully embrace His Will for our life. It may not be easy. It will always be worth it. You cannot rush God. He does everything in His Timing. This life is worthless and meaningless outside of knowing our Lord and Savior and walking in His Ways. Are you tired and weary today? Frustrated and worn? Give it all to Jesus and He will show you the better way. The way of rest is only found when we give Him our burdens allowing faith to produce peace and rest. When we give up our way to fully embrace His Way, we will find what we are looking for and pleasures evermore.
Matthew 19:23-24 (NIV) Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”