All Efforts of Worth and Excellence Are Difficult

Enter by the narrow gate . . . . Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life . . . —Matthew 7:13-14

If we are going to live as disciples of Jesus, we have to remember that all efforts of worth and excellence are difficult. The Christian life is gloriously difficult, but its difficulty does not make us faint and cave in—it stirs us up to overcome. Do we appreciate the miraculous salvation of Jesus Christ enough to be our utmost for His highest—our best for His glory?

God saves people by His sovereign grace through the atonement of Jesus, and “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). But we have to “work out” that salvation in our everyday, practical living (Philippians 2:12). If we will only start on the basis of His redemption to do what He commands, then we will find that we can do it. If we fail, it is because we have not yet put into practice what God has placed within us. But a crisis will reveal whether or not we have been putting it into practice. If we will obey the Spirit of God and practice in our physical life what God has placed within us by His Spirit, then when a crisis does come we will find that our own nature, as well as the grace of God, will stand by us.

Thank God that He does give us difficult things to do! His salvation is a joyous thing, but it is also something that requires bravery, courage, and holiness. It tests us for all we are worth. Jesus is “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10), and God will not shield us from the requirements of sonship. God’s grace produces men and women with a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ, not pampered, spoiled weaklings. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to live the worthy and excellent life of a disciple of Jesus in the realities of life. And it is always necessary for us to make an effort to live a life of worth and excellence.

The Grace to Overcome

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

The Lord declares that His grace is sufficient for every painful situation we will ever encounter. Because of His abundant goodness, kindness, and love for us, we do not have to succumb to discouragement, give up hope, or walk away from His plan. We will know God’s grace is working in us when . . .

We have the strength to persevere. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, God releases His supernatural power into our life so we might endure (Acts 1:8).

A spirit of confidence in Him is ignited within our hearts and minds. Grace helps us believe that God will bring good from our troubles (Rom. 8:28).

We sense His presence with us. When grace is at work, we will be conscious of the Spirit’s abiding support.

Our focus shifts from our trials to the Lord. Grace helps us shift attention from our situation and emotions to God’s sufficiency.

We trust that God will bring us through this—and not just barely through, but with deeper intimacy and greater faith at the end.

We are assured of God’s sovereignty. The Lord knows our frailties. So He has promised to limit our trials to what our weaknesses, strengthened by His power, can bear (1 Cor. 10:13).

The apostle Paul had been through shipwrecks, imprisonment, and beatings—difficulties far worse than what most of us face. Yet he didn’t quit, because he drew on God’s grace and found it sufficient for every circumstance. Where do you need an infusion of grace in order not to give up and walk away?

Garments of Salvation

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)

One of the beautiful biblical metaphors of salvation is that of clothing appropriate for coming into God’s presence. Such clothing is not something we ourselves can make or purchase; it must be prepared and provided by God.

Adam and Eve tried to dress themselves in fig leaves, but that could not avail. Their Creator God first had to slay two innocent animals, and then He made “coats of skins and clothed them” (see Genesis 3:7, 21).

So it is today. If we try to come to God dressed in our works of righteousness, we can never make it, for “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” in the presence of a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). He must provide the clothing. As our text says, “He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”

In Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast for the king’s son, there was one man who wanted to participate in the feast, but who tried to come in his own attire, disdaining the wedding garment provided by the king for his guests. When the king asked, “How camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” he was speechless (Matthew 22:12), and then was bound hand and foot and thrown “into outer darkness” (v. 13).

One day, when “the marriage of the Lamb is come,” His bride must be “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: . . . the righteousness of saints” (Revelation 19:7-8). But this righteousness will be His, “for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Therefore, we are exhorted to “put on thy beautiful garments” (Isaiah 52:1), and be prepared to meet our King. HMM

And, whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men

And, whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.—Colossians 3:23.

IF you love Him as I want you to do, you will offer Him the whole use of your day, as you open your eyes to the light of each morning, to be spent in activeservice or silent suffering, according to His good pleasure. You will not select the
most agreeable task, but His task, whatever it may be; you will not disdain humble service, or be ambitious for distinguished service; you will lie, like a straw, on the current of His will, to be swept away and be forgotten, if it pleases Him, or to be caught up by His mighty hand and transformed thereby into a thunderbolt. ELIZABETH PRENTISS.

Let us pray Him, therefore, to shed abroad in us the mind that was in Christ; that we may offer up ourselves to be disposed of as He sees best, whether for joy or sorrow; to be slighted, or esteemed; to have many friends, or to dwell in a lonely home; to be passed by, or called to serve Him and His kingdom in our own land, or among people of a strange tongue; to be, to go, to do, to suffer even as He wills, even as He ordains, even as Christ endured, “who, through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God.” HENRY EDWARD MANNING.

The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many

The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28

If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter. — I lay down my life for the sheep. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.

The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. — Without shedding of blood is no remission.

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Hebrews 9:13,14. Isaiah 53:7. John 10:15,18. Leviticus 17:11. Hebrews 9:22. Romans 5:8,9.

Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil

Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Matthew 4:1

In the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. — We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities: but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. — My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

Hebrews 5:7-9. Hebrews 4:15. 1 Corinthians 10:13. 2 Corinthians 12:9.