The house sits on a corner lot where two streets intersect. The yard is hedged with beautiful ornamental shrubberies on all sides. The cars in the driveway back unto a busy street. The other street is not as busy. To get on that street, the owners took part of the shrubberies out, just enough space for a car to pass through. And now they are driving across the middle of their nice yard to get out to the less-busy street. On rainy days, deep ruts on the water-logged yard are formed by the car tires. The owners temporarily resolve the problem by filling the grooves with wood chips.
The thought occurred to me that sometimes, ironic as it sounds, we take great pains to put ourselves on the path of least resistance. We'd do anything to keep from waiting in traffic, standing in line at the bank, post office, or grocery store. We'd come back another time when the place is not as busy. And when adversity comes our way, we pray to God to remove it as quickly as possible. Thorns on the side? Forget it! We don't want them either, do we? We don't want to climb the mountains in our lives. We always seem to want to take the path of least resistance, don't we?
If Noah, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, Joseph, Joshua and Caleb, Esther and others had taken the path of least resistance, would we be reading about them in the Scriptures? We probably wouldn't, would we?
Sometimes we fail to realize that the struggles and challenges in life, the trials and adversities that we face day to day are just what we need to grow in Christian grace.
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther. Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.
The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly.
What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for the flight once it achieved its freedom from cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly.
In the wisdom of God, He allows many of our afflictions to come upon us in order to bring us closer to the throne of grace. He softens and subdues us by sorrows and trials. He fashions us for the courts of heaven. He uses the planing knife upon our quivering hearts until the roughness and irregularities are removed and we are fitted for our proper places in the heavenly building.
Through tribulation and distress the Christian becomes purified and strengthened, and develops a character after the model that Christ has given. Let the afflictions which pain us so grievously become instructive lessons, teaching us to press forward toward the mark of the prize of our high calling in Christ. Let us be encouraged by the thought that the Lord is soon to come. Let this hope gladden our hearts. --God's Amazing Grace, Page 89.
No cross, no crown! How can one be strong in the Lord without trials? To have strength, we must have exercise. To have strong faith, we must be placed in circumstances where our faith will be tried. The apostle Paul, just before his martyrdom, exhorted Timothy, 'Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.' 2 Timothy 1:8. It is through much tribulation that we are to enter the kingdom. Our Saviour was tried in every possible way, and yet he triumphed in God continually. It is our privilege to be strong in the strength of God under all circumstances, and to glory in the cross of Christ.
Throughout sacred history, those who took the path of least resistance were led to destruction.
The people of the plains of Shinar took the path of least resistance and fire and brimstone fell from Heaven and consumed them. The people in Noah's day also took the path of least resistance and were destroyed by the waters of the deep. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram took the path of least resistance and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them and 250 of their cohorts. Achan, Pilate, Herod, Judas, Ananias and Sapphira and many, many others in the Bible took the path of least resistance and they lost their lives and their eternal inheritance.
Jesus Christ never took the path of least resistance as can be seen in the following paragraphs.
"Christ, at the very beginning of his ministry, openly rebuked the superficial morality and ostentatious piety of the Jews. He did not conform his life and his work to their customs and regulations. He was not influenced by their unreasonable prejudices against the Gentiles. He, on the contrary, sternly rebuked their conceit and selfish seclusion. The Pharisees rejected Christ. They ignored his miracles and the truthful simplicity of his character. They refused to recognize his pure and elevated spirituality and all evidences of his divinity. They scornfully demanded of him a sign that they might know that he was indeed the Son of God.
"Jesus spoke as one having knowledge and authority. The denunciation he uttered against the Jews condemned their formalism and hypocrisy. His scathing rebukes and denunciation of formalism have the same force today as they had in the days of the scribes and Pharisees, and apply to those who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. The God of infinite holiness cannot accept external service as spiritual worship. Those who worship God must worship him in spirit and truth, or their service is vain. There must be reality in the religious ceremonies, or they are simply pretensions, hollow abominations.
"But though Jesus rebuked the priests and religious teachers for their formalism and hypocrisy, yet how forbearing and tender were his lessons to the poor, the oppressed, the afflicted, and discouraged. The priests and rulers, the scribes and Pharisees, destroyed the living pastures, and defiled the well-springs of the water of life. By their false precepts they confused the understanding, and clouded that which was clear. They misrepresented God by their hardness of heart, by their impurity, pride, and selfishness. They made God altogether such a one as themselves. Their imagination was darkened and polluted by their wicked works. Because of their religious degeneracy they could discern nothing that pertained to the spiritual kingdom of Christ. Through rejecting the messages of mercy brought to them by the Lord of light and glory, they became, in their stubborn resistance, past feeling. They had evidence in abundance of the divine character and mission of Christ, and increased evidence would only have increased their guilt. Thinking themselves to be wise, they became fools. As men do today, so they did then, and used the very intellect that God had given them to brand with falsehood his eternal truth."
--Sabbath School Work, December 1, 1894.
Jesus began the work of reformation by coming into close sympathy with humanity. While He showed the greatest reverence for the law of God, He rebuked the pretentious piety of the Pharisees, and tried to free the people from the senseless rules that bound them. He was seeking to break down the barriers which separated the different classes of society, that He might bring men together as children of one family. --Desire of Ages, Page 150.
Christ rebuked the Pharisees and doctors of the law because of the dishonest practices which they had brought into the temple courts. These men influenced the buyers and sellers to purchase cattle at the lowest prices, and then to sell them for a high price to those coming from a distance, who could not bring their offerings with them and were therefore compelled to buy them in Jerusalem. As these men sat at the table, counting the money they had gained by robbery and extortion, Christ stood before them. His eye flashed with indignation as He saw the fraudulent transactions which were carried on. Picking up a scourge of small cords which had been used to drive cattle to the temple, He drove out those who sold and bought, and overthrew the tables of the money changers and the seats of them that sold doves, saying, 'It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.' --Medical Ministry, Page 122-123.
The Lord Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, likening them to sepulchers that do not appear, hidden from sight, but full of corruption. The Lord hates all deception, secrecy, and guile. This is Satan's work; the work of God is open and frank. No one will work against a child of God on the strength of the testimony of the Lord's enemy, and work after Satan's manner--concealing himself, yet suggesting, instigating, planning in perfect unity with the Lord's enemies. --Testimonies to Ministers, Page 274.
The path of least resistance is one of Satan's most powerful tools. He puts dark thoughts in people's minds and causes them to lose sight of their Saviour. He lures them into the broad path of ease and pleasure that their Lord had not traveled.
All the way along, Satan has prepared pitfalls for the feet of the unwary. But following our Guide, we may walk with perfect security; for the path is consecrated by His footsteps. It may be steep and rugged, but He has traveled it; His feet have pressed down the thorns to make the way easier for us. Every burden we are called upon to bear, He Himself has borne. Personal contact with Him brings light and hope and power. Of those who follow Him, He says, 'They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.' John 10:28. --The Faith I Live By, Page 249.
"Many are ruined by their desire for a life of ease and pleasure. Self-denial is disagreeable to them. They are constantly seeking to escape trials that are inseparable from a course of fidelity to God. They set their hearts upon having the good things of this life. This is human success, but is it not won at the expense of future, eternal interests? The great business of life is to show ourselves to be true servants of God, loving righteousness and hating iniquity. We should accept gratefully such measures of present happiness and present success as are found in the path of duty. Our greatest strength is realized when we feel and acknowledge our weakness. The greatest loss...is the loss of earnestness and persevering zeal to do right, the loss of strength to resist temptation, the loss of faith in the principles of truth and duty.
"Satan is ever seeking to destroy; he is casting his hellish shadow between our souls and the light of the Sun of righteousness. When you talk doubts, and distrust your Heavenly Father's love, Satan comes in, and deepens the impression, and that which was only a shadow is made the blackness of despair. Your only hope is to cease talking darkness. In dwelling on the dark side, you cast away your confidence in God, and this is just what Satan wants you to do. He wants to sift you as wheat; but Jesus is making intercession for you. His love is broad and deep. Perhaps you will say, 'How do you know he loves me?' I look where you may look, to the cross of Calvary. The blood shed upon the cross cleanseth from all sin. When tempted to go in the dark cave of doubt and despair, sing. . .
"When Christians complain of being in darkness, when they dwell upon their trials and discouragements, and murmur against God, they virtually say that they are not following the example of Christ in offering to God humble, fervent prayer for grace and strength that they may be fortified for trials and strengthened for duty. Christ's professed followers may be strong in the Lord if they avail themselves of the provisions made for them through the merits of Jesus. God has not closed the heavens against the humble prayers of repenting, humble, believing souls. The humble, simple, earnest, persevering prayer of the faithful one will now penetrate heaven, as surely as did the prayer of Christ. Heaven opened to his prayer, and this shows us that we may be reconciled to God, and that communication is established between God and man through the righteousness of our Lord and Saviour. Christ took upon him humanity, and yet he was in close, intimate relationship with God. He linked humanity with his divine nature, making it possible for men also to become partakers of the divine nature, and thus escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. --Signs of the Times, July 24, 1893.
"Let no man flatter himself that he is a successful man unless he preserves the integrity of his conscience, giving himself wholly to the truth and to God. We should move steadily forward, never losing heart or hope in the good work, whatever trials beset our path, whatever moral darkness may encompass us. Patience, faith, and love for duty are the lessons we must learn. Subduing self and looking to Jesus is an everyday work. The Lord will never forsake the soul that trusts in Him and seeks His aid. The crown of life is placed only upon the brow of the overcomer. There is, for everyone, earnest, solemn work for God while life lasts. As Satan's power increases and his devices are multiplied, skill, aptness, and sharp generalship should be exercised by those in charge of the flock of God. Not only have we each a work to do for our own souls, but we have also a duty to arouse others to gain eternal life." --Testimonies to the Church, Volume 5, Page 70.
Public opinion favors a profession of Christianity. Little self-denial or self-sacrifice is required in order to put on a form of godliness, and to have one's name enrolled upon the church book. Hence many join the church without first becoming united to Christ. In this Satan triumphs. Such converts are his most efficient agents. They serve as decoys to other souls. They are false lights, luring the unwary to perdition. It is in vain that men seek to make the Christian's path broad and pleasant for worldlings. God has not smoothed or widened the rugged, narrow way. If we would enter into life, we must follow the same path which Jesus and His disciples trod,--the path of humility, self-denial, and sacrifice. --Evangelism, Page 319-320.
Matthew 7:13-14 reads: Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
The way of the cross is an onward, upward, way. And as we advance therein, seeking the things that are above, we must leave farther and farther in the distance the things which belong to the earth. While the world and carnal professors are rushing downward to death, those who climb the hill will have to put forth efforts or they will be carried down in the broad road.
The path of least resistance is the path of disobedience, unfaithfulness, selfishness, covetousness, impurity, lust, pride, ambition, deception, corruption, slothfulness, guile, etc.
We take the path of least resistance when we couldn't hold back that hasty word, when we couldn't refrain from participating in gossiping, when we criticize others knowing full well that frequent admonitions however constructive they may be have a demoralizing effect upon sensitive souls, when we evil surmise our fellowmen, when we manifest unholy tempers, when we harbor depraved desires and lusts, when we neglect the plight of the needy, the widows, the orphans, etc.
We don't have to take the path of least resistance however. Even though the path to Heaven is narrow and apparently inconvenient and full of conflicts, trials, of tribulations and sufferings, Jesus Christ has revealed to us the map to show us the way.
'Take my yoke upon you,' Christ said, as in human nature He lived and worked upon this earth. Constantly He wore the yoke of submission, meeting the difficulties that human beings must meet, bearing the trials that they must bear. The enemy will continually assault us as he assaulted Christ, bringing against us strong temptation. But for everyone there is a way of escape. 'Be Not Weary in Well-doing.' --Upward Look, Page 235.
The followers of Christ should expect to be regarded by the world with no more favor than was their Master. But he who has God for his friend and helper can afford to spend a long winter of chilling neglect, abuse, and persecution. By the grace which Christ imparts, he can maintain his faith and trust in God under the sorest trials. He recalls the Saviour's example, and he feels that he can endure affliction and persecution if he may thus gain simplicity of character, lowliness of heart, and an abiding trust in Jesus. The triumph of Christian faith is to suffer, and be strong; to submit, and thus conquer; to be killed all the day long, and yet to live; to bear the cross, and thus win the crown of immortal glory. --Sketches from the Life of Paul, Page 300.
"Those who stand in defense of the honor of God, and maintain the purity of truth at any cost, will have manifold trials, as did our Saviour in the wilderness of temptation. The yielding temperaments, who have not courage to condemn wrong, but keep silent when their influence is needed to stand in the defense of right against any pressure, may avoid many heartaches and escape many perplexities, and lose a very rich reward, if not their own souls.
"Those who in harmony with God, and through faith in Him, receive strength to resist wrong, and stand in defense of the right, will always have severe conflicts and will frequently have to stand almost alone. But precious victories will be theirs while they make God their dependence. His grace will be their strength. Their moral sense will be keen, clear, and sensitive. Their moral powers will be equal to withstand wrong influences. Their integrity, like that of Moses, of the purest character.
"It is not the absence of temptation or trial that is most favorable for the development of Christian character. Where there are fewest difficulties to meet, the Christian is in the greatest danger of spiritual slothfulness. The God of all grace has promised that his people shall not be tempted above that which they are able to bear, but that with the temptation he will make a way of escape. Constant exposure to rebuffs and opposition, will lead the Christian to greater watchfulness and more earnest prayer to the mighty Helper. Extraordinary trials, endured through the grace of God, will give him a deeper experience and greater spiritual strength, as vigilance, patience, and fortitude are called into exercise. --Sketches from the Life of Paul, Page 300.
Trials will certainly come, but we have a living Saviour, an Intercessor, one who will help us in every time of need. 'Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.' Eternal interests are here involved. Maintain to the last your Christian integrity. You cannot afford to become discouraged, and cast away your confidence; the Lord Jesus is your only hope. Make sure to work for eternity. You must not murmur or complain; neglect no means of grace; encourage your soul to believe and trust in God. 'Take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.' --Review and Herald, August 25, 1891.
When we claim His promise that He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear, we will be sustained in the hour of our trials. Through His wonderful grace, we will climb all the mountains of our lives cheerfully. Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places..." Habakkuk 3:18-19. Having exercised our faith in God, we will grow in Christian grace and strength and power. We will thank Him and praise Him eternally for helping us choose the right path, for making us realize that there's nothing to be gained but ultimate destruction if we had taken the path of least resistance.
Related topic: Dare to Stand Alone!