By J. Oliver Jones
(From the Summer 2012 Illuminator)
There is a poem by Robert Frost that you probably read as a student titled, The Road Not Taken. It describes a person coming to a fork in the road and stopping to contemplate which way to go. Now, I have never been one who easily understands what most poets are trying to say. I am not even sure I understand what Frost was trying to communicate about the road he chose in his poem.
But I like the last stanza as it reminds me of a scripture passage that is very easy to understand. First, let us read the last stanza of Frost’s poem. . .
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Now let us read the passage of Scripture found in Matthew 7:13-14 that deals with another road less traveled. . .
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 poem speaks of a road divided and a traveler deciding which fork to travel. The Scripture speaks of two gates – two paths to travel, implying a decision from the traveler as to which gate to pass through.
Free will is involved in both. A choice must be made. In the first example, however, there is no indication as to where either fork of the road leads. Perhaps both lead to some preferred destination, or perhaps both lead to some undesired location. But in the scripture lesson, the choice is clear. The wide gate leads to destruction while the narrow gate leads to life. So it should be an obvious choice as to which gate the masses would choose. Why would anyone choose destruction over life?
This question is also answered in the Bible. It has to do with pride. Twice in Proverbs we are told, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (14:12; 16:25). God has declared plainly the right way, the clear path, the way to life. Yet the majority of people, just as Jesus declared, choose a path that leads to destruction. Why, because of pride, “I know better than God,” and arrogance, “I can make this work in spite of what God has said!”
So what we have are people who take side against God’s chosen path, and instead choose to go their own way. They change God’s written Word so to interpret it in a way of their pleasing. They ignore God’s warnings and continue on the way they have chosen. They reject God’s Son and trust in another way to the Father – all because they have lifted themselves above God and His Way. Sounds much like what happened in heaven many years ago as we are told in Isaiah 14:12-15.
“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer,son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.”
This summer as Barbara and I were on the way to El Dorado, AR for the Southwestern Conference of the Southern Methodist Church, we discovered that somewhere between Memphis and Little Rock the Interstate was closed, or at least restricted, due to construction. The signs warned ‘Long Delay -Seek Alternate Route.’ We have a GPS in our car whose route was set to go through Little Rock, but we also had an Atlas with us, so we began to seek an ‘alternate route.’ We selected a route that seemed good to us, exited the Interstate, and headed through the country.
Those of you who use a GPS system know what happened as we left the charted route. Lil’ Barbi, as I call her, wasn’t happy with our choice. Now normally she will ‘recalculate’ and try to get us back on her track. After a while, she will usually automatically plot a new route to get us to our destination going the way we have chosen. But on this particular day all she would say, repeatedly, was “Make a U-Turn!”
Barbara and I discussed why she was not adjusting her instructions to compensate for the route we had chosen, but for some twelve miles all she would say was for us to make a U-Turn. The map showed that the road we were on would get us to the place we wanted to go, but the warnings from Lil’ Barbi said otherwise. You already know what happened. When we came to the end of our road, it had not led to where we wanted to go. The map proved to be wrong, the warnings were correct, and Lil’ Barbi was vindicated. We had to go back. I do not think she is programmed to say the words, “I told you so” but I could almost swear I heard them anyway!
The point I am trying to make is simply this. God has given us the way. The choice to go His Way or not is ours. When we choose to go our way, there are warnings. He never adjusts the route to accommodate our way. Our way always leads to a dead end, an undesirable place, or as the Bible states, “to destruction.” And the sad truth is that the masses still choose their own way, ignore the warnings, and realize only too late that their way has not led to the destination they had desired.
In our Methodist Discipleship classes this summer at Southern Methodist College, our instructor, Dr. Gary Thornton, introduced a term that was new to me. I do not know who coined the term, but I like it, and will likely use it now in my writing and speaking when addressing this topic. The term is simply this, “God’s Preferred Future.” We were asked to answer the question, “What is God’s preferred future for your life?” Understand, we all have a future. We may have an idea of what we want that future to look like. We may even have some understanding of the path that must be taken to get us there. But have we ever stopped long enough to ask God what His preferred future for us might be?
Might I suggest that for those of us who have chosen the narrow gate, the right path, the way of life, we still have choices to make. We can choose to do any number of things for God as we travel that road that leads to eternal life – good things, honorable things, productive things. Yet, perhaps all of those good things are still not what God prefers for us. God not only has provided the Way to eternal life, He even wants to show us the way to have abundant life here and now. No, I am not speaking about being rich in the things of the world, but in the things of God! God’s preferred future for you and for me will lead us not only to life, but to a spiritually abundant life! It is not only a matter of choosing the way to life eternal, but of allowing God to show us the way to His preferred future for us now.
Perhaps when you were younger you felt God’s leading into some Christian ministry, possibly a vocational ministry, but maybe a ministry He desired for you as a lay person within His Church. Even now you may be sensing His leading to go in some direction that you see no way of going. But I believe God never leads us to a path that is impossible to take. Life may have to change, temporal sacrifices may have to be made, and the future we have planned might have to be forsaken. But if we choose God’s preferred future over our own, it will lead to abundant life, and a joy that is unobtainable any other way.
So accept the challenge. Ask God, “Lord, what is your preferred future for me? And when you hear Him answer, if you choose His way, be ready for the ride of your life! For you see, this is the road less traveled, and as Robert Frost said, that does make all the difference!