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Seek the Narrow Gate

Carlyle Fielding Stewart, IV
Sun, Nov 17

Text: Matthew 7:12-14

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them for this is the Law of the Prophets. Enter By the narrow gate, for the gate that is wide and the way is easy leads to destruction and those who enter by it are many. But For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life and those who find it are few.”

The poetry of common tongue says it is a road less traveled, my grandmother called it the jagged way, Jesus calls it the Narrow Gate.

His ministry is an example of what it means to walk through the narrow gate. The Narrow Gate is the hard way. The uncommon way. But the way that leads to abundant life. This life may be an expression of non-conformity. Choosing this road involves having the courage to do what no one else will, to go where no one else will go.

It is a place where Christians are called to the moral high life. This way of living involves resisting the allure of the mainstream, and separating yourself from the crowd. For Christians are called to follow no one but God. It reminds me of my parents saying, just because its popular doesn’t mean its right. All of these are some aspects of the narrow gate. A place where Christians are called to the righteous path. Sometimes it involves doing what is not expected of us….... what is not expected of us.

This is all true, and easier said than done. The problem is that beyond the obvious meaning which points to the moral high ground, its hard to understand why and how …. The narrow gate leads to life. This is more than non-conformity, so what is it about the nature of our lives that can teach something about this scripture?

SHAHARA STORY….

My therapist told me recently, Carlyle, how do you remember the joy, how do you with everything that has occurred in your life, maintain and hold onto…. The Joy? And in that moment I was thrown off, hold on now are you the pastor or am I?! Joy is my expertise isn’t it!? In our tradition were always talking about joy, but then I wondered why does it feel so foreign to me?

One of the most difficult things to do is to hold on to your joy in a world that is overcome by darkness.

One of the most difficult things is to use your own darkness to motivate you to prioritize joy, instead of being betrothed to a life without light. 

We all struggle with something, and occasionally we feel overrun by it, but when we let it take the wheel We are then primed for destruction! The wide gate renders us completely at the mercy of whatever the world throws at us. Through the wide gate one lies down and says, “OHH  life, how great are your struggles. Too numerous in number to conquer! I hereby no longer choose to fight! Go ahead, have your way!

We can herd ourselves through this wide way of destruction, because it is so abundant, so expected, so easy to give up. There are many a people on that road and there is always space for more travelers. Many folks embark upon that trek towards destruction because they have been convinced there is no other way. They have been convinced that their challenges cannot become sources of empowerment. The powers of darkness in this world profit when we believe that the wide gate is the only way.

You may be thinking, how does joy relate to the narrow gate? If Joy is apart of that journey wouldn’t we always choose it? Why are those who find it few? If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my brief 25 years on this earth is that unfortunately it is easier to walk through the Wide gate. Which again says Ohh life, how great are your struggles. Too numerous in number to conquer! I hereby no longer choose to fight. Go ahead, have your way! For It is easier to be at the mercy of the waves then to swim against the tide!

That way, requires no work whatsoever… Whereas the joy, the life giving sustenance we seek can only be found through the narrow gate, it is something we have to fight for. And we can only work for it once we know what it feels like not to have it. Peace the world cannot give. Joy the world cannot give.

The narrow gate contains spiritual lessons that are not always easy to embrace. Bear with me now!

Sometimes its hard to remember or experience joy when we feel like there is none left within you.

Sometimes its hard to extend love and affection when you haven’t been loved properly in years.

Sometimes its hard to loan a few dollars when you are burdened by financial hardships.

But God often TESTS US DIRECTLY THROUGH OUR RECENT SPIRITUAL AFFLICTIONS, TO SEE WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED!

Oh you haven’t felt love in a while, let me put someone in your path whom you have the opportunity to love.

Oh you haven’t felt joy in a while, let me give you an opportunity where you can radiate some joy from your heart.

Oh you’ve recently experienced the anguish of a personal loss, here’s someone who also has lost! That I am sending to you in their time of greatest need! As in the case of my distinguished colleague.

This illustration displays how The Narrow Gate…… the hard road that leads to life, primes us for resilience, and it gives us the opportunity to invert our afflictions and use them a source of life instead of death! This strengthens our resolve. Such is the nature of the Narrow gate

Through the narrow Gate instead we say, Oh life how great are your struggles, but I welcome you in because somewhere down the line I will flip you on your back side and use you as a source of strength to give me life!

But see through the wide gate, the easy road, the world expects you to be at the mercy of your struggles. Through the wide gate there are no incentives to grow.  That wide gate may be covered in Jewels, it may feel good and look exciting as everyone else moves in that direction. 

There may be some instant gratification but in the end you may look up and find yourself in hell’s kitchen.

The wide gate lets you say to yourself, Oh you struggle with fear? that makes sense, go ahead continue to be consumed by that fear so much so that it may paralyze you, here’s a pass…..

Anxious maybe?  Keep that same level of anxiety! That’s ok.

But the narrow gate says, you struggle with fear? Today take a leap of faith and try something new…  and if you are anxious, don’t fret child everything is gonna be alright. And I know this is not easy!

Beyond the narrow gate there are obstacles.

There may be some bad lighting.

There may be some stones in the road that callus your feet.

You may be stretched and uncomfortable.

There may be some negativity you have to conquer, but I assure you that life DOES lie at the end, your sorrows will turn to joy as righteousness and new life flow into your heart.

Often we hear our challenges make us stronger, which is not entirely true alone. Sometimes they can just break us down…if, we don’t understand that It’s how we invert our afflictions. It is how we use that pain to extend some light to someone else. To extend some light to ourselves when we need it most. With every challenge or decision we face, we have an opportunity to embark on those journeys through the narrow or the wide gate.

The spirit spoke to me on our recent trip to D.C. at the King memorial……

Dr. King Walked through the narrow gate, extending love to those he had every reason to hate……

 I’ll say again, one of the most radical things you can do is to use your afflictions and challenges as a source of life instead of death. If we have been harmed how do we use this pain to compel us to channel it into something good?

If you have trouble with joy, it is a radical act of defiance to proclaim to yourself and the world, today! I will be joyful!

If you have trouble with honesty, it is a radical act of defiance to proclaim to yourself and the world, today I will tell the truth!

If you have trouble with forgiveness, it is a radical act of defiance to proclaim to yourself and the world Today! I forgive you!

 If you have trouble with hatred for another’s God given differences, it is a radical act of defiance to riise early in the morning, and assert to yourself, the world, and those stubborn demons that TODAY, I accept you for who you are!

 GOD KNOWSssss WHAT WE STRUGGLE WITH.

GOD KNOWS OUR AFFLICTIONS. PART OF THE REASON THEY EXIST in the first place, is  SO WE CAN TURN THE TABLES, BALANCE THE SCALES, and USE THEM AS A SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT INSTEAD OF DESTRUCTION.  A source of life and birth that brings us closer to God!

THIS IS THE NATURE OF THE NARROW GATE. THAT WAY WHICH IS HARD BUT LEADS TO LIFE!!

REMEMBER THE JOY, KEEP THE PEACE, TRY SEFLESSNESS WHEN YOU HAVE EVERY REASON TO BE SELFISH, LOVE WHEN YOU ARE NOT LOVED PROPERLY, FORGIVE WHEN THE CROWD EXPECTS YOU TO HOLD A GRUDGE,  and FIND THE COURAGE TO TESTIFY, AND TO SING SOME PRAISES WHEN THE AGENTS OF DEATH AWAIT THE SILENCE YOUR VOICE.

For THIS IS THE WAYYY OF THE NARROW GATE! where I remember Invictus and its words afire, “It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll, for I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.

 Amen

 

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