As Jesus was teaching about the Kingdom of God through parables, he was asked: “Are there few to be saved?” Jesus’ reply was not as direct as the question, rather he told his listeners what they should do. He said:
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. (Luke 13:24 KJV)
I like the way Weymouth’s translation puts it:
“Strain every nerve to force your way in through the narrow gate,” He answered; “for multitudes, I tell you, will endeavour to find a way in and will not succeed. (Luke 13:24 WNT)
To strive is agonizomai (G75) in the Greek. We get our word agonize from this word. I am to agonize over entering this narrow or strait gate (Luke 13:24). Jesus was in agonia (G74) or agony in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44). We get these words from the root word agon (G73), which is translated in the New Testament as “fight, continue, conflict or race.” The word relationships are interesting and reveal a picture of our spiritual struggle as we enter the strait gate.
Jesus said in John 18:36 that his Kingdom is not of this world, for if it were then his servants would fight (G75) or agonize to keep him from being delivered over to the Jews (hierarchy). Therefore, though we may hold this world accountable to obey its own laws, our striving to enter the strait gate has nothing to do with political struggles. When my wife and I contended with the state over our removing our daughters from the school system, we told the school superintendent that the laws governing the school system were too subjective. The law varied in execution from school district to school district and was left to the interpretation of each school director. We explained that we could teach our children at home in a neighboring school district with the blessing of the state, while in our own district we were treated as criminally incompetent and were being threatened to have our children removed from our care. Eventually, the school district did permit us to teach our children at home, and just two or three years later the state law was declared unconstitutional, and the legislature had to come up with a more uniform law. They did, and it is friendly to the plight of the home schooling family.
My wife and I agonized over this idea. We wanted to be sure we were doing the best thing for our daughters. We prayed. We talked. We believed we were correct, and we stood fast. God blessed us, and he became our great shield in the struggle. I praise him for bringing us through this. I went through the struggle with great fear, but I came out on the other side with a new revelation of my relationship with my Lord and Savior.
Paul told Timothy to be a man of God (1Timothy 6:11) and to put distance between himself and the things of this world. Fight (G75) the good fight (G73) of faith (1Timothy 6:12), i.e., “follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and meekness” (1Timothy 6:11). It is not allowing this world to squeeze me into its mold (Romans 12:2). To strive to enter the strait gate does not mean striving to become narrow minded. Often I am able to see the wisdom and point of view of another’s way, but it is not my Wisdom or my Way. Christ is my Way (John 14:6) and is made Wisdom to me (1Corinthians 1:23-24, 30). What others say and do may be wise in reaping the short term benefits of Adam’s world, but I look for a Kingdom which one cannot analyze in a laboratory or walk the length and breadth thereof to know its limits (Luke 1:33; 17:20). To enter its narrow gate I must agonize in prayer (Colossians 4:12) seeking, knocking and asking (Luke 11:9-10).
The world feels threatened with our struggle to enter the strait gate. In Philippians 1:27-30, Paul encouraged the Philippian brethren who were undergoing persecution. Paul reminded them that he had to endure the same conflict (G73) that was now in them, when he first brought the Gospel to them (cp. Acts 16:20-24).
I remember when I determined within myself to follow the Lord as a young man. I completed my military tour of duty for my country and got a job working for a large corporation. I was placed in a temporary, entry-level position. It was meant to last only a few months, but it lasted for five years. This was because, at that time in my walk with Christ, I thought he demanded that I worship him on Saturday, and absolutely no work was to be done on his Sabbath. When I told my boss about my newfound faith, he was not elated. They refused to move me into a position where a better paying job awaited me. I was able to see their point and didn’t press the matter. I worked quietly for the next five years. The company thought I was self-destructing (Philippians 1:28), but the Lord was receiving me and building the patience and self-discipline in me that I lacked. Striving to enter the narrow gate, therefore, involves conflicts with and being misunderstood by those in authority. I agonized over such things, because I did not want to dishonor the name of Christ. During the times of my conflicts, I didn’t want to be merely correct. I desired to act in a godly manner, so Christ would be honored no matter what the outcome in the conflict.
Today, I am still agonizing or striving at that gate. It is already evident in what I have written in my blog, that I believe certain things about Christ and our common salvation that are not shared by my brethren who hold to more traditional doctrines. I don’t try to be different. Neither do I desire to be so, but I can believe and speak only what I see in the Holy Scriptures. If this is of God, then the opportunity I have to share my faith here could be seen as an open a door that no one can shut (Revelation 3:8). If I have deluded myself, which of course I do not believe, but if I have erred, then nothing lasting will ever come of what I do here (Acts 5:38). Neither would I desire error to prosper. I agonize over this, because, though I believe what I have written is true, I know some will misunderstand my motive and believe I will hurt the Gospel of Christ. I don’t relish the idea of being thought of as a heretic. Nevertheless, I will be as clear as I know how to be and strive to speak according to the Spirit’s work in me (Colossians 1:29). Let whatever power is in these words be life to the believer and bring honor and glory to my Lord and Savior.
One day the door will close for each of us. The judgment of the house of God will be complete (1Peter 4:17), either upon our demise or at the end of this age. I shall be judged, finally, not by whether or not Christ taught me, because Christ will not fail. Neither will I be judged by how much I studied his word (Luke 13:26), but I shall be judged according to the effect the word of God has had in my personal, private life. Is Jesus in my labor (Luke 13:27)? Does he know me in my life experience? God revealed himself to Moses as I AM (Exodus 3:14), i.e., activity. God is more like a verb than a noun! He wants to know me in my labor. If his word does not influence my walk, then Jesus does not know me experientially, which is the meaning of the word “know” (G1492) in Luke 13:25 & 27. I don’t want to be on the outside looking in (Luke 13:28), but I do desire to make my election and calling sure (2Peter 1:10). I desire, like Paul, to be enabled to say at the close of my own life: “I have fought (G75) the good fight (G73), I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2Timothy 4:7). May my Lord and Savior be praised and lifted up in all my labor until the moment I draw my final breadth.