There were five kids in my blended family, growing up during the 1950s, and my stepfather was a genius at keeping all of us busy. As kids, we were allowed to play, but first, there was a myriad of chores and maintenance projects that kept us busy doing productive things. The usual chores, like regularly mowing the lawn, trimming hedges, and raking leaves, over time grew into adding an extra room to our house, painting the house, stripping hardwood floors for waxing, and painting and hanging wallpaper in an upstairs apartment. All this industry did not go unnoticed.
Once, a neighbor stopped by and asked, “Do you rent these kids out?” My stepfather replied, “No, I have enough to keep them busy.” And so it was, even when it came to each of us learning to drive.
With driving privileges came further responsibility. For example, if we had a flat tire, he expected us to know how to fix it ourselves. At one point there were five vehicles in our household, and those vehicles needed lots of upkeep. We changed the oil on schedule, changed spark plugs, and replaced fuel pumps, starters, batteries, and the like as needed. Doing these things was a real stretch for me since I don’t have a mechanical aptitude, but my stepfather was always nearby with pointers and encouragement.
He also kept us in line in other ways. As teenagers, if we stayed out too late, he would not fuss about it. He would simply get us up an hour or so earlier than usual to get to whatever tasks he had for us that day. About mid-morning, he would say, “I hope you had a good time last night, but you might want to get home when you are supposed to, so you don’t have to get up so early!” As you might imagine, we complained bitterly about the difficulty of our many tasks. He would listen, then respond with, “Boys, if it was easy, everyone would do it—but very few do!” We heard that often.
We learned valuable life lessons as we tackled difficult projects and learned skills that would serve us well as adults. My stepfather was a tough taskmaster, and I remember thinking back then that he was a tyrant. Later, I realized that he was preparing us for life. Before he died at a good old age, I thanked him for being willing to put up with our complaints as he accomplished his purpose, pushing us out of our comfort zones to learn to work and do productive things—and I never forgot his adage.
My siblings all were molded by these experiences and used the resulting work ethic and “can do” attitude to accomplish good things in their various endeavors. I think we all have looked back and realized that we were being prepared for a productive life. I also learned to see a spiritual connection to the lessons my stepfather taught me.
Jesus Christ, in describing the Christian life, put it this way: “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” (Matthew 7:13–14).
Most people choose the path of life that leads to the “broad way.” Only a few choose the narrow gate, which is to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). What is “righteousness”? The psalmist wrote that “all Your commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 119:172). Those who choose the difficult way will encounter many obstacles and distractions to overcome. The Apostle Paul explained it to the young evangelist Timothy this way: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). If one desires to live the Christian way of life, he or she will always be going upstream, against the current. As a Christian, one cannot "go with the flow."
The many projects we undertook in my youth required us to stick with them until they were completed. The same principle applies to the Christian life. Jesus said that “he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mark 13:13). The Tomorrow’s World telecast, magazine, and study guides on biblical topics are available free of charge to assist as you traverse the “narrow way.” They are available right here, and they are well worth the effort.
If it was easy, everyone would do it—but very few do.