A while ago the phrase “well beaten path” came up during a conversation with a friend. That made me think of the Robert Frost poem:
The Road Not Taken
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;”
So often we stand at a crossroads in our Christian experience, a simple matter of choosing to do or not do something. More importantly, it is the choice between the complete surrender of our will and following God’s guidance or following after the world. Matthew 7:13, 14 says, “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.”
In Luke 16:13, the Bible says, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
As we look at our lives on this earth, we can see that there is far more than just living, working, and then dying. There is a future to be considered. A future that we must choose or we will live just to work and ultimately die. John 14:6 tells us how we may choose that future. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” And Paul tells us in Acts 4:12 that Jesus is the only way we can obtain salvation. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
“ ‘For their sakes I sanctify Myself,’ Christ said, ‘that they also might be sanctified through the truth.’ The Lord Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; and those who unite with Him, putting Him on, will work as colaborers with Him, by conforming to the principles of truth. By beholding, they become imbued with truth, and unite with Christ to transform the living temple given to idols, that human beings may become cleansed, refined, sanctified, temples for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 466
“When Christ bowed on the banks of Jordan, after His baptism, the heavens, were opened, and the Spirit descended in the form of a dove, like burnished gold, and encircled Him with its glory; and the voice of God from the highest heaven was heard, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17). The prayer of Christ in man’s behalf opened the gates of heaven, and the Father had responded, accepting the petition for the fallen race. Jesus prayed as our Substitute and Surety, and now the human family may find access to the Father through the merits of His well-beloved Son. … Jesus is ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). The gate of heaven has been left ajar, and the radiance from the throne of God shines into the hearts of those who love Him.
“The word that was spoken to Jesus at the Jordan. … embraces humanity. God spoke to Jesus as our representative. With all our sins and weaknesses, we are not cast aside as worthless. … The glory that rested upon Christ is a pledge of the love of God for us. It tells us of the power of prayer—how the human voice may reach the ear of God, and our petition find acceptance in the courts of heaven. By sin, earth was cut off from heaven, and alienated from its communion; but Jesus has connected it again with the sphere of glory. His love has encircled man, and reached the highest heaven. The light which fell from the open portals upon the head of our Saviour will fall upon us as we pray for help to resist temptation. The voice which spoke to Jesus says to every believing soul, This is My beloved child, in whom I am well pleased. … Our Redeemer has opened the way so that the most sinful, the most needy, … may find access to the Father. All may have a home in the mansions which Jesus has gone to prepare” God’s Amazing Grace, 83
And yet, we linger, as Frost’s poem suggests, looking from one road to the other, seemingly unable to make a choice, and in not making one, we make one. We must clearly understand that without Jesus Christ, without the transformation of the Holy Spirit, we are and will always be on one road. Without a determined choice, our sinful nature keeps us on the road that leads away from eternal life.
I recently heard a young man’s response to the question, Why does God send people to hell? He said that God doesn’t send people to hell, that it is by nature that we are on the road leading there and unless we choose to follow Christ, we will simply take ourselves further away from Him, ultimately to destruction. Simple. We are by nature destined for eternal death. We say we have two choices, but in truth, we really only have one. We choose to follow Jesus or by nature we take the broad road to destruction.
“All along the path that leads to death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings from God’s messengers not to go on, and God will make it hard for the heedless and the headstrong to destroy themselves. All the way up the steep path leading to eternal life are wellsprings of joy to refresh the weary. The true, strong joy of the soul begins when Christ is formed within, the hope of glory. If you now choose the path where God leads, and go forward where the voice of duty calls, the difficulties which Satan has magnified before you will disappear.” Notebook Leaflets from the Elmshaven Library, Vol. 1, 76
Did you catch that? God makes it hard for us to destroy ourselves. He is determined that while He will force no one to accept Him, He will not let them choose otherwise without putting forth His powerful efforts to save him. And more, He has prepared “wellsprings of joy to refresh the weary” all along the path to eternal life. He promises to be with us every step of the way inviting us to “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22
As we read further in Frost’s poem, we see that a choice was made to take the road less traveled. Matthew 7 describes that road as narrow, difficult, and few choose it. And why is that? In Lift Him Up, 222, Ellen White writes, “The path of the upright is the path of peace. It is so plain that the humble, God-fearing man can walk in it without stumbling and without making crooked paths. It is a narrow path; but men of different temperaments can walk side by side if they but follow the Captain of their salvation. Those who wish to carry along all their evil traits and selfish habits cannot walk in this path, for it is too straight and narrow.”
She also writes, “It is the path which requires a denial of sinful pleasures; it is a narrow path, cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in. None can walk this path and carry with them their burdens of pride, self-will, deceit, falsehood, dishonesty, passion, and the carnal lusts. The path is so narrow that these things will have to be left behind by those who walk in it, but the broad road is wide enough for sinners to travel it with all their sinful propensities.” Testimonies, Vol. 4, 364
During his discourse with his three friends, Job says, “My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside.” Job 23:11. Paul says, “Make straight paths for your feet.” Hebrews 12:13, first part
“What must we do to make straight paths for our feet? We must speak no unkind word, either at home or abroad; we must be gentle and considerate toward all. We cannot be fretful and impatient, and still be Christians; for a fretful, impatient spirit is not the Spirit of Christ. With such a spirit, you are making crooked paths, and someone else will follow you; and so you are not only making crooked paths for your own feet, but for the feet of others. You ask how shall you perfect a Christian character? Look to the life of Jesus. He is your pattern. See what kind of spirit be manifested, and endeavor to show the same in your daily life and conversation. Make just such paths as He made. You are to follow Him, that you may know that ‘His going forth is prepared as the morning.’ His path is a most precious path in which to walk.” The Review and Herald, August 14, 1888
How do we perfect Christian character? Seek with perseverance the spirit that Jesus manifested in His daily life and surrender to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit so that we may show in our lives and conversation every day the same spirit that Jesus manifested. We need not be fainthearted or discouraged, for Psalm 16:11 says, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
“Christian life is more than many take it to be. It does not consist wholly in gentleness, patience, meekness, and kindliness. These graces are essential; but there is need also of courage, force, energy, and perseverance. The path that Christ marks out is a narrow, self-denying path. To enter that path and press on through difficulties and discouragements, requires men who are more than weaklings.
“Men of stamina are wanted, men who will not wait to have their way smoothed and every obstacle removed; men who will inspire with fresh zeal the flagging efforts of dispirited workers; men whose hearts are warm with Christian love, and whose hands are strong to do their Master’s work.
“… Those who would win success must be courageous and hopeful. They should cultivate not only the passive but the active virtues. While they are to give the soft answer that turns away wrath, they must possess the courage of a hero to resist evil. With the charity that endures all things, they need the force of character that will make their influence a positive power.
“… There is in true Christian character an indomitableness that cannot be moulded or subdued by adverse circumstances. We must have moral backbone, an integrity that cannot be flattered, bribed, or terrified.
“God desires us to make use of every opportunity for securing a preparation for His work. He expects us to put all our energies into its performance, and to keep our hearts alive to its sacredness and its fearful responsibilities.
“Many who are qualified to do excellent work accomplish little because they attempt little. Thousands pass through life as if they had no great object for which to live, no high standard to reach. One reason for this is the low estimate which they place upon themselves. Christ paid an infinite price for us, and according to the price paid He desires us to value ourselves.
“Be not satisfied with reaching a low standard. We are not what we might be, or what it is God’s will that we should be. God has given us reasoning powers, not to remain inactive, or to be perverted to earthly and sordid pursuits, but that they may be developed to the utmost, refined, sanctified, ennobled, and used in advancing the interests of His kingdom.” Gospel Workers, 290, 291
How do we find this path less traveled? If Jesus’ life is the pattern we are to follow, how can we know it? “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
“We all need a guide through the many strait places in life as much as the sailor needs a pilot over the sandy bar or up the rocky river, and where is this guide to be found? We point you … to the Bible.
“God, has given us His word as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Its teachings have a vital bearing on our prosperity in all the relations of life. …
“The Bible is the great standard of right and wrong, clearly defining sin and holiness. Its living principles, running through our lives like threads of gold, are our only safeguard in trial and temptation. The Bible is a chart, showing us the waymarks of truth. Those who are acquainted with this chart will be enabled to tread with certainty in the path of duty, wherever they may be called to go.
“When faith in God’s word is lost, the soul has no guide, no safeguard. …
“To this cause may in great degree be attributed the widespread iniquity in our world today. When the word of God is set aside, its power to restrain the evil passions of the natural heart is rejected.
“When God’s word is made the man of our counsel, when we search the Scriptures for light, heavenly angels come near to impress the mind and to enlighten the understanding, so that it can be truly said, ‘The entrance of Thy words giveth light. …’ Psalm 119:130
“The word of God is light and truth. … It is able to guide every step of the way to the city of God.” The Faith I Live By, 7
We are cautioned to turn away from the ways of the world. “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.” Proverbs 4:14–17
“The path of implicit obedience is the only path of safety, for this is the path cast up for the Christian to travel—the path which leads him close to the side of his Redeemer. He will have a converted body. His soul is in harmony with the laws of God. He is daily receiving renovating grace and is made rich by his title to an immortal inheritance. He is walking in the path of the overcomer.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 20, 283
“The path of uprightness is the path of peace. Those who have the meekness and lowliness of Christ can walk this humble path calmly, restfully, trustfully. No matter what may be our temperament, we may walk this path if we will. It is plain, and there is no need of constant anxiety and fear, fretting and worry, lest we shall lose the way. This path is the highway of holiness, cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in. It is the glorious path of the just, which ‘shineth more and more unto the perfect day.’ Those who walk in this way will wear a cheerful, happy countenance; for it is lighted up by bright beams from the Sun of Righteousness.” The Review and Herald, July 8, 1884
Yes, the road less traveled is the sweet, peaceful path of obedience, oneness with Jesus our Redeemer. It is only with committed effort, by continuous choosing to be like Him, that we are able to stay on this narrow, difficult road.
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. …’ ” Jeremiah 6:16
“Whatever path God chooses for us, whatever way He ordains for our feet, that is the only path of safety. We are daily to cherish a spirit of childlike submission, and pray that our eyes may be anointed with the heavenly eyesalve in order that we may discern the indications of the divine will, lest we become confused in our ideas, because our will seems to be all-controlling.” Our Father Cares, 133
“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:6
“Let us make straight paths, lest the lame be turned out of the way. Let no one follow a crooked path that someone else has made; for thus he would not only go astray himself, but would make this crooked path plainer for someone else to follow. … Determine that as for yourself, you will walk in the path of obedience. Know for a certainty that you are standing under the broad shield of Omnipotence. Realize that the characteristics of Jehovah must be revealed in your life, and that in you must be accomplished a work that will mold your character after the divine similitude. Yield yourself to the guidance of Him who is head over all. …” Reflecting Christ, 235
The end of Robert Frost’s poem reads,
“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.”
Friends, the road less traveled may be more difficult to choose, the attractions and pleasures of the world may be hard to resist, but Jesus says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Taking the road less traveled will make all the difference. “Ages and ages hence,” may we all be in that eternal home that Jesus has gone to prepare for us.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1–3
“A pure and noble life, a life of victory … is possible to everyone who will unite his weak, wavering human will to the omnipotent, unwavering will of God.” The Faith I Live By, 154
“In every trying situation we are to ask, ‘Were Christ placed as I am, what would He do?’ We are to go to God in humble faith, and on our knees give ourselves wholly and entirely to Him. We are to make it our choice to do as Christ would do … .” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 14, 348
May each of us be able to say, “And I—I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Judy Rebarchek is a member of the LandMarks team. She may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org