Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
In my studies, I stumbled upon Luke 5:1-11… the story of when Simon Peter, James and John (both sons of Zebedee) decide to follow Jesus. It starts with Jesus getting into Simon’s boat and asking to be taken a bit out from the shore. There were a lot of people who wanted to hear Jesus speak, and so He did this to allow for them to better hear and see Him. After preaching, He asks Simon to cast his net into the sea. Simon does so reluctantly because he had tried previously – and caught nothing. Well, this time would be different. There are so many fish that the net begins breaking. Simon calls to the other boat for help, and they come, but there’s one problem – the number of fish cause both boats to start sinking.
Simon Peter is astonished. He exclaims in verse 8: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Simon felt the weight of his doubt against the greatness of Christ, so much so that he doesn’t feel worthy to be in His presence. James and John also find themselves amazed at what has just happened. In this moment Jesus says to Simon in verse 10: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” And then we get to the part that gave me pause. In verse 11 we read: So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him. It’s interesting to note that growing with God always leads to some type of separation.
Going Through the Narrow Gate
We don’t reference that separation, however, when we consider Christ’s teachings on the narrow gate in Matthew 7:13-14, but we must. Christ said:
“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.
The gate that Christ refers to is narrow with intention. We cannot get through something so small if we have too much luggage to take with us. This means – we have to leave some things, some people, and some situations behind. Not every person is meant to come with you on the next phase of your journey. Not every character trait will serve us as we seek to reflect the character of Christ more deeply. Our dreams, intentions, and purposes must be reassessed to ensure they are rooted in the Spirit of God. There is peace in letting go, even when life tries to guilt us into holding on.
It’s important to remember that there is considerable risk when we spend our time trying to take everything and everyone with us. We’ll find that our movement is slowed down or even stalled. We’ll end up lost along the way because we’ve succumbed to life’s distractions. Our job stress, family drama, loneliness, pain, disappointment, and trauma taunt us as we use external markers to define internal worth. By doing this, we’ve broken the first commandment when we choose not to forsake what is meant to be left behind. God said in Exodus 20:3 – “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Are we really living up to that standard?
Removing the Hidden Gods
If we look at the first commandment as only speaking to literal gods, we might count ourselves as being obedient to that scripture. Nevertheless, it’s important that we assess all aspects of our lives to see if there are any hidden gods that may not be so obvious. I would caution us that “self” is often the loudest god in our lives. It’s the part of us that wants what we want, when and how we want it to happen. Unfortunately, it is this same self, rooted in darkness, that breeds doubt and fear when life isn’t going according to our plans. In our spiritual disconnect, we become like the Israelites – who at times, thought it would be better to go back to being slaves in Egypt than to experience freedom with God.
They had an idea as to how their journey should go, and when life gave them something different, they didn’t want to adjust or seek understanding. They wanted to retreat. And I know that feeling – of not fully comprehending a part of the journey and wondering if going backwards is the better answer. Fear will have us deciding to look behind when God is telling us to move forward. In our discomfort, we’ll make decisions to the detriment of our souls. We’ll delay our healing, forego our blessings, and give more credence to the voice of others because we’ve distanced ourselves from the voice of God.
I am Not Inferior to You
There is danger in choosing to place the opinions of others before God. And what’s interesting is that often people want us to do exactly that. They want us to agree with them, to see their recommendations as mandatory, and to give more weight to their opinions than our own. Whether or not they have bad intentions, the problem is still the same. They are leading from a place of arrogance, not humility or spirituality. Proverbs 3:7 advises us on this by saying: Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
If we aren’t careful, the limitations of others can hinder our own faithfulness. In moments like these, I think of Job. His friends visited him, while he was sick, with good intention. Nonetheless, their spiritual limitations caused them to give incorrect advice. Job responds in Job 12:3 by saying: But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. We get to decide where we go next, and how we get there. Most importantly, we are accountable to God first for those decisions, everyone else second. We may or may not agree with each other as we search for the narrow gate, but once we find it, our goal should be to point others back to Christ, and not to ourselves.
What We Forsake
What we leave behind is just as important as what we decide to take or pick up along the way. Whether it’s the opinions of others, the trauma that needs healing, friendships, family, dreams, opportunities, bad habits… there will always be some level of separation. There has to be in order for us to be successful once we make it through the narrow gate. Our entry isn’t the end of our journey, it’s the beginning of a new one. When Abraham was called to leave his family, his country, and his father’s house, it wasn’t just about endings, but also new blessings. God would make of Abraham a great nation (Genesis 12), but in order for this to happen, separation had to occur.
Even Christ, while on Earth, had to go through a separation from God in order to pay the price for our sins. On the cross, He proclaimed: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mathew 27:46). He bore the weight of our sins, and “And by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) Don’t fight the goodbyes that God is calling on us to have. Instead, ask for the courage and strength needed to let go. It might feel scary, lonely, uncomfortable, or awkward – but it’s necessary. If not, we’ll foster the distractions that lead us away from the Spirit of God. So ask yourself – are you willing to see what God is showing you to forsake? If so, you’ll be able to confidently walk through the narrow gate… the one that leads to life.
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