As part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorted His followers:Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

—Matthew 7:18 KJV

I wish I had been there to hear the sermon. I’ll bet Jesus took time to explain the principle as he taught it. Matthew didn’t have a tape recorder or video camera to replay and transcribe the event for us to read, take apart and analyze. But the notes he remembered are success principles, not only for religious zealots but practical advice for the modern success-seeking entrepreneur. That is the way it is with Biblical teachings. They have multiple meanings and applications because they are true principles that govern success in any field. We just need to search for the deeper meanings.

The strait gate, and narrow way, has always meant that we must stick to the commandments and follow them strictly to get to heaven, but what if we thought of the strait gate and narrow path as the path to success in this life? The path to success must have a strait gate with a narrow way or there would be many more successful people.

There are principles that govern success in any field, and only a few people want to spend the time and energy it takes to find them. We would often rather put the blame out there somewhere, not in ourselves. It’s too uncomfortable to think we can have anything we want just for the asking and the effort. Yet Jesus said it was so:


Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

—Matthew 7:8 KJV

He didn’t say, “All you need to do is ask. Say a little prayer and I will do the rest.” Knocking and seeking imply action. The path to success is a journey of trial and error. It is a journey of defeats and mini-victories. It is holding to goals with a vision of how it will be to achieve them and doggedly doing things that will take you there.

We have all set goals. Perhaps it is going on a diet to lose 20 pounds. Perhaps it is to get into better shape. Maybe it’s getting out of debt. It might be to build a business and make a million dollars. Maybe you are like me. I make elaborate plans to succeed but, a couple of days into the goal, I start second-guessing the wisdom of my plan. I start to dismantle the rules and regulations I set up for myself. “It would be better to do it this way.” “This other diet would work better.” “The exercise plan I saw on Facebook must be easier than the one I set up.” After a while, the whole plan is in shambles, and I am worse off because I have chipped away at my self-confidence. I give up the entire plan and doom myself to the status quo.

Isn’t that a lot like straying from the path? Isn’t that like taking the broad way traveled by the crowd that leads to destruction? What destruction? Will I not get to heaven if I don’t achieve my goals? That is for a religious discussion. In my case, I have destroyed my goals and made it harder to start again. I have unwittingly joined the crowd that blames success on luck or chance. I begin to believe, “Success happens for other people, but not for me.” I wallow in my misery and stop my progress for a season. Then I get so miserable I devise a new plan of attack, a strait gate and narrow path, so to speak, and the whole cycle commences again. It is much harder to begin and to maintain this time because I have past failures to contend with.

It would have been easier if I had stayed with the plan.

J. Golden Kimball once said, “I may not always walk the straight and narrow, but I cross it as often as I can.” People who are successful don’t have time for straying into destruction and self-pity. They accept their defeat, doctor their bruises and get back on the path in short order.

I am learning that just devising a plan and setting long- and short-terms goals is not enough to ensure success. I must create rituals and daily habits that will help me maintain the stamina I need to climb the rocky terrain of my success plan. I must build my strait and narrow path with some bruise ointment and some strategies to get back on the path when I fail. I must recognize it is not the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners that keep me plump. It is the way I eat the other 363 days that adds the pounds. It’s not the short summer vacations and excursions in the park that keep my bank account anemic and feeble. It’s how I use my time and money the rest of the year.

I must plan for a two-minute pity party when I fail. That helps me recognize I have made a mistake. The Bible calls it repentance. I need to feel the sorrow for what I have done, say I am sorry. I need to give myself a pep talk reminding myself of past successes, take responsibility, learn from the mistake and move on. Mistakes are teachers, and we make them for a reason. Napoleon Hill even suggests that we be grateful for them by recognizing that, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

Wallowing in a one-week or six-month pity party leads to destruction and depression. Worst of all, it digs trenches in our minds that are hard to climb out of. The more we repeat an emotionally charged thought, the easier it is to be imprinted in our brain. The negative imprint changes our self-image and destroys confidence. Those trenches in the gray matter of our brains influence our body language, choices and habits. With our brains working against us, it is easy to see why it is easier to fail the next time we try.

When I was growing up, we lived on a ranch and rode horses often. It was understood that if you were thrown from your horse, you got back on immediately or you would ruin the horse. This philosophy was so ingrained in the fabric of our family that when my uncle was thrown from his horse, he climbed into the saddle and rode a few miles, all the while biting his tongue against the pain. Come to find out, the pain was caused from a fractured hip. My uncle would have climbed back on the horse even if he had known his hip was cracked. He had spent precious hours training the horse and didn’t want to have a rodeo every time he decided to ride. Horses learn from experience also.

As I think about it, the advice wasn’t just to save the horse. It was to teach the rider to face the fear of falling off. The longer you stay on the ground staring at the horse that just threw you off, the bigger and meaner the horse becomes, and the harder it is to put your boot back in the stirrup.

That’s how it is when we stray from the path of success. The longer the pity party, the harder it is to believe you are capable of success and the harder it is to try again.

Theodore Roosevelt believed “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure ... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

We were born to be successful. Jesus taught us the way with His strait and narrow path, and we can follow His pattern to create our own path to success.  end mark

Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.