Many years ago, an ecclesial news item in The Christadelphian Magazine read, “Our dear sister XYZ has fallen asleep in the Lord. She has been in the way for over 60 years.” We all know what was meant, although it sounds like she was blocking traffic for a very long time.
Solomon discusses the theme of being in “the way,” the right way, at length. He says, “He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction.” “I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.” The Bible was written so that we will know what righteousness is, to make it clear what God wants of us and what to avoid. We need to learn about and follow the right way. Solomon instructs, “Forsake the foolish and live; and go in the way of understanding.” “In the way of righteousness is life.” “Righteousness keepeth him that is upright in the way.” “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” “He that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked.”
There are actually many ways: the right way that leads to life, and wrong ways that lead to death. Solomon contrasts these ways when he says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Since the consequence of choosing a wrong way is death, it is extremely important to find that right way and stay in it. Not only is it easy to deceive ourselves and think that a wrong way might be right, but there are many going the wrong way who like to encourage us to join them in their activities. At the very beginning of his Proverbs, Solomon warns us about wicked people who want us to walk in their ways. He says, “If sinners entice thee, consent thou not. My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path.”
How do we find that right way? When Jesus was comforting his followers he said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” He then tells them, “And whither I go ye know and the way ye know.” The disciples were puzzled, so Thomas asks him, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and shall we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”
So the right way, the way of life, is to follow Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life. To be in the way, then, is to be a follower of Jesus, which is exactly what he says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me.” We will always be in the right way if we follow our Good Shepherd, who will lead us in the way of righteousness to his kingdom.
We must set our goal in life to follow Jesus. He tells us that “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” When we serve Jesus by following him, we live a way of life that God honors.
What kind of life will we have? Jesus explains to his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” We learn that if following Jesus in the right way involves taking up our cross, it means that He did not promise us an easy life, a bed of roses. He warns us, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
So Jesus is saying, “Cheer up. You are going to have trouble, but I have overcome and you can too.” This assurance caused Paul to exclaim, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He could and we can too. In fact, as Paul traveled among the ecclesias, he comforted them by exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Paul certainly followed Jesus in the way, so much so that he could say to us “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
We know that the dear sister who fell asleep, after having been in the way for over 60 years, certainly had 60 years of troubles to overcome. We who are alive and remain will also have troubles if we are in the right way, trying to follow our Lord who has asked us to take up our cross every day and follow him. The good news is that he is leading us to places in his everlasting kingdom when “God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
Robert J. Lloyd