Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
The narrow door is a recurring theme in Jesus’ teaching throughout the gospels. It is always a claim to exclusivity and always carries with it the promise that entry by that Way is difficult.
I can appreciate the difficulty. There are things with which I strive — sins that do not want to let go and of which I have trouble letting go; faults of character that God wants to put right and bring into conformity with the character of His Son; places where my understanding is imperfect and leaves me thinking the wrong thing and taking action based on that wrong comprehension.
The word used for strive is a form of the Greek ἀγωνίζομαι, from which we get our English agonize. The thought, according to the concordance, is to enter into a competition — especially the gymnastic games; to fight; to struggle with danger and difficulties; to strive to obtain something.
The idea of the gymnastic games is interesting because it involves discipline (there are no out of shape gymnasts competing for medals) and flexibility (one said “Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be broken.”) and focus. While many athletes speak of getting “in the zone,” gymnasts almost always speak of being focused on the routine; of having to tune out the crowd and everything but that moment and what they train to do. There is a different kind of focus and athleticism involved and it is that implication that I find interesting.
Paul wrote of boxing and racing and competing in games that were of a different sort. When Christ speaks of striving, He gives me the image of a gymnast bending into difficult postures or holding an uncomfortable position long enough to show complete mastery of will over body. Christ tells me that there is a level of discipline and focus required that not everyone is willing to endure for the sake of entering in. Not everyone competes in the Olympics — only those who train for it and qualify. Not everyone will enter by the narrow door — only those who strive to do so.
I have not been as disciplined as I should. Let me seek to so train my will as to bring it into conformity with God’s will an then to impose that will on my all. Let that discipline reign in me that reigned in Christ — the discipline that leads through the narrow door.