A very wise and witty business consultant would write a newsletter to his clients and dispense his pearls gleaned from years of private consulting. One essay dealt with the futility of always looking for the big move; some single thing we could do in our practices and double our gross receipts. This was, in his view, an unrealistic expectation derived from quantum leaps we enjoyed in the early days of our business when, proceeding from zero, we enjoyed large percentage increases if we just kept going to work. He chronicled the phenomena like this: " You started your practice. Then you installed a phone and your gross doubled. Several months later, you unlocked your front door and your practice doubled again...". Of course his point is that those big gains in the beginning, the simple achievement of going from 1 to 2 represented a dramatic 100% growth rate and depended on our just continuing to breathe. As the enterprise matured, gains were smaller and harder won. I've come to understand this as a phenomena in our spiritual lives. When we first meet Jesus, we repent ( hopefully) and very often jettison activities or associations that have plagued us and dealt us misery. Even the simple minded can discern that the wages of sin is misery and ultimately death. So a born again person may have a testimony that they received Jesus in a church service or a street corner, and " turned their life around ( increased by 100%)!"
20 or 30 years ago, as Christian television became a multi-station, 24/7 phenomenon, that testimony became the ubiquitous norm as so many people including celebrities and their celebrity wantonness were transformed by an encounter with Jesus. The downside to all that , is that we created a culture that didn't dwell on or teach the rigors of the " narrow way" as Jesus described it; that spiritual growth is a constant and occurs at the expense ( death!) of the flesh. Progress is hard won and incremental and usually not applauded or celebrated by the masses.
If you have followed these articles for any length of time, you'll notice we have turned inward; Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is within. You are " in" the kingdom if within yourself you are yielded to the King. You are yielded to the King if His Word is your reality. Conversely, your flesh, which is at enmity with the Word, has as its reality sensory input and the conclusions it's mind has drawn from that input, which may be anywhere from fairly rational to totally delusional. The Christian world for the past generation has focused on how wisdom and faith can be victorious in bringing order to our circumstances providing our " Best Life Now". But the Spirit is showing me the triumph of the child of God who can write letters from a filthy prison cell exhorting fellow believers to rejoice and declaring that his total focus is to know Jesus more and more( see Phillipians), rather than focusing on his release, or improving his living conditions. Peter wrote this, speaking to the inner conditions of his readers' lives:
May grace (God’s favor) and peace (which isperfect well-being, all necessary good, all spiritual prosperity, and freedom from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts) be multiplied to you in [the full, personal,precise, and correct] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
That peace, as defined by the Amplified translation, is the great fruit of having endured the "narrow way".
The narrow way is rigorous and not celebrated by society or even most of the religious world. So you have an inner repulsion to it and suffer an outer contempt for it so well, characterized by Job's wife who at the spectacle of her husband maintaining his piety in the face of horrific disaster and loss that clearly demonstrated the futility of said piety, suggested he curse God and die! People will wonder why you bother while you wonder why you bother! But truly this is the way to eternal life and the "broad way" is unto death! The narrow way is a specially designed path to bring the believer to a yieldedness to the lordship of Jesus and a complete faith in His word. The kingdom of God is a reality and His word is more true than the ground we're standing on no matter what everybody says, no matter what your eyes see, and no matter what your experience tells you. My accountant who is irrepressible and always has a smile on his face like he has pranked you and is delightfully anticipating the reveal of the prank was in my office the other day. We had finished our business and with a smile , of course, he remarked that he had to go convince a client that she was not destitute and would probably have enough to buy groceries for at least the next few weeks. He stopped and smiling said, " She has a fortune in Exxon stock and doesn't need to worry about money, ever!" I'm sure it was the prodding of the Holy Spirit that caused that little story to beat me over the head for the next few days. That woman was riddled with care and anxiety ( fears and agitating passions as Peter would say) to the point of distraction when the realty was, that there was no factual basis for her fear! In her possession was an amount of grade A, blue chip stocks, paying a lovely dividend guaranteeing her material comfort and abundance for the rest of her days. An expert ( our accountant ), was about to go assure her of that fact, and yet, she was given to fear. Now , like me, you probably think it's ridiculous and yet you and I have assurances in the Word of God more powerful than a box full of Exxon stock:
Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God]Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not,[I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]
And yet, we allow ourselves to be riddled with fear. And fear is a trap the enemy lays to ensnare us. No doubt you've heard it said that fear is the opposite of faith, but really, fear is faith in evil. As I've pointed out, fear is a faith that can thrive irrespective of physical evidence to the contrary ( a box of Exxon stock)! We can walk by fear and not by sight.
Conversely, where God wants to get us is secure in our citizenship in His kingdom. There has been a wonderful movement over a generation to re-establish the firm connection between the Old Testament and the New. In my denominational upbringing as a military kid who might be under a Methodist minister one year and a Presbyterian the next, I don't remember teachings from the Old Testament; we stuck to the gospels and Paul's epistles. But with great teachings weaving Old Testament scriptures with New Testament truths came a focus on the material and physical fulfillment of God's promises. It was good in that it shook us from a state of not really believing in the miraculous fulfillment of God's promises; we just hang out here and not expect much until we get to heaven. On the other hand, there were tendencies to become fascinated with arcane Jewish rituals and to regard faith as a means to procure material blessings more than yieldedness to God's eternal vision of a kingdom filled with Christlike children. We really don't need any more teachings encouraging materialism. We need teachings to help us procure security from trust in him rather than security through material satiety ( if there is such a thing!). The bible beginning in Genesis, reveals truth progressively through Old Testament, through New Testament to Revelation. The Promised Land is not a place but a state of being. The word interpreted as trust in the Hebrew is the same word sometimes translated as refuge. So the rest that the writer of Hebrews speaks of, as the land of promise we should desire to enter, is a state of faith, obedience and trust that provides the refuge from fear and anxiety. Because there's probably not enough money ( or Exxon stock) or a land flowing with enough milk and honey to completely calm us.
If you're new to this website, go read the Inner Garden which is a pretty good "prequel " to this article. The point is that successfully negotiating the narrow way is our ticket into the wonderful refuge of God's rest. The disciples breathed a deep sigh of relief when having endured a terrifying storm and the horrific vision of Jesus walking out on the water, they were able to jump out of the boat onto solid land having reached the other side. Once again, after the frightening waves and lightning and difficult lesson learned, they were once again able to rest in "normal". Contrast that with an earlier episode of scary storm on the open sea where in the midst of turmoil and life threatening weather conditions, when all of the disciples longed to enjoy the calm of "the other side", there was One who was sleeping( at rest) down below. Jesus; Who had long since entered the blessed refuge of trust! Theo