Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14
“Test everything. Hold on to the good,” wrote the veteran and world-traveler, Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, in a letter to the Thessalonians. Those living in ancient Thessalonica, northern Greece today, were well aware of the scams which promised to deliver and left people empty, hurting, and broke. “Test everything,” he says. Almost every letter that came from Paul’s hand was written to correct a problem. People had been duped! Some smooth talking individual saying, “I am giving you the truth,” actually was deceiving people and leading them astray.
Those days have never disappeared. P.T. Barnum, the man whose name became associated with the circus for several generations, used to say that people like to be fooled. Perhaps, but when it comes to your life and future, you need to take Paul’s advice and apply his dictum. So how do we do it?
First, there is the test of the Word.
If something doesn’t pass that test, forget it. You’ve got to know what a straight line is before you know what a crooked one is, and the Word, which provides light and guidance, should be the first criterion against which we measure something. The reality is that there are only two ways to measure something–the way “which seems right unto a man but leads to death” and the way of the Word which runs contrary to the mentality of the world. These two are in conflict and will always be opposed to each other. You may live in the world but the battle goes far beyond the world you live in. It’s a spiritual one and you’ve got to decide which side you stand on.
Second, is the test of your convictions.
This is the struggle of convenience versus right. The only way you can develop convictions is through integrity and character, but when you know something is right, and deep within your heart you understand that to violate your convictions leads to compromise, it makes it easy to decide. “Hold on to the good” Paul says, which by implication means, “Turn loose of that which is not good” and the faster the better.
The third test is that of fairness.
Is somebody going to get hurt? So what? Does it matter as long as it isn’t you? That’s the mentality of the world. Jesus, however, said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). In other words, treat the other person as you would like him to treat you. If you get rich at the cost of someone else, though it may be legal, it isn’t moral and it fails the test of fairness. If something seems to be too good to be true, you can be sure it usually is.
The fourth test is that of permanence.
For every effect there is a cause, and one of the tests which determine whether something is good or bad is how are others affected in the equation? Is something good for you and bad for your parents, or good for your company but devastating for your competitor? The way in which you glorify God is a reflection of how deep goes your faith.
So much of what we consider to be important today will have little if any lasting value in a decade, perhaps even next year, yet our time and energies are consumed on what is trivial, surface, immediate, and actually unimportant.
“Test everything,” says Paul. “Hold on to that which is good!” No, he wasn’t talking about stock, but he did mean what you hear, what you are told, what you do with your time, your resources, and your life. It’s good advice for life today.
Resource reading: Matthew 7:1-14.