I’ve been reading John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress to grandma at the nursing home. The rewards are many!
(Amazing how much I still cherish that great little book! And grandma of course!)
Equipped with her bible for references, grandma Dot listened intently.
I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying, “What shall I do?”
Christian became aware of his great burden and the real danger he was in and thus placed his hope in something other than himself. Christian did not understand it all at first, but not doubting what the book said, he could not help but warn others!
That is how it should be with all true believers, whether they understand it all or not. God’s truth should press all Christians with such urgency that they can’t help but share it.
However, as we shall see, this is not always easy. Christian’s own family and neighbors find his words to be a foolishness–the ramblings of a madman.
In this plight, therefore, he went home, and restrained himself as long as he could… but he could not be silent long, because that his trouble increased. Wherefore at length he brake his mind to his wife and children…
At this his relations were sore amazed; not for that they believed that what he had said to them was true, but because they thought that some frenzy distemper had got into his head.
God had already prepared Christian’s heart through the reading of His Word, but Christian still needed someone to encourage him and to point him in the right direction! Sometimes that is all God asks of us–to show the way and to encourage others! (Even grandma can do this, even from the confines of her room or bed.)
Now I saw, upon a time, when he was walking in the fields, that he was (as he was wont) reading in his book, and greatly distressed in his mind; and as he read, he burst out, as he had done before, crying, “What shall I do to be saved?”
I looked then, and saw a man named Evangelist coming to him, and he asked, “Wherefore dost thou cry?”
He answered, “Sir, I perceive, by the book in my hand, that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to judgment, and I find that I am not willing to do the first, nor able to do the second.”
Evangelist gave Christian a parchment roll which read, “Fly from the wrath to come,” and pointed him to the light that would direct him to the narrow gate.
“Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto, so shalt thou see the gate; at which, when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do.”
As ready and prepared as a heart may be, will it ever be prepared for the opposition and resistance of those it loves most? Grandma Dot would tell you, “No, not ever!” and most readily share her box of tissues!
So I saw in my dream that the man began to run. Now he had not run far from his own door when his wife and children, perceiving it, began to cry after him to return; but the man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on crying, “Life! life! eternal life!’”
A prepared heart will heed the call of God and run, but not without opposition! We must pray that those who run would not grow weary, that they would stay the course like Christian, who was not swayed, but shared his hope with everyone. (1 Peter 3:15)!
[Christian]: “Neighbors, wherefore are you come?” They said, “To persuade you to go back with us.” But he said, “That can by no means be: you dwell… in the city of Destruction… and dying there, sooner or later, you will sink lower than the grave, into a place that burns with fire and brimstone: be content, good neighbors, and go along with me.”
Obstinate: “What,” said Obstinate, “and leave our friends and our comforts behind us!”
Christian: “Yes,” said Christian… “because that all which you forsake is not worthy to be compared with a little of that I am seeking to enjoy.”
Obstinate: “What are the things you seek, since you leave all the world to find them?”
Christian: “I seek an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away… Read it so, if you will, in my book.”
Obstinate: “Tush,” said Obstinate, “away with your book; will you go back with us or no?”
Christian: “No, not I,” said the other, “because I have laid my hand to the plough.”
Obstinate: “Come then, neighbor Pliable, let us turn again, and go home without him: there is a company of these crazy-headed coxcombs… wiser in their own eyes than seven men that can render a reason.”
Obstinate stubbornly adhered to his own attitude and found Christian’s words to be quite foolish (1 Corinthians 1:18). Have we not felt the stone-hard stares and words of many an obstinate person? Grandma Dot sure has. However, Pliable ‘liked’ what he heard!
Pliable: Then said Pliable, “Don’t revile; if what the good Christian says is true, the things he looks after are better than ours: my heart inclines to go with my neighbor.”
Obstinate: “What, more fools still! Be ruled by me, and go back; who knows whither such a brain-sick fellow will lead you? Go back, go back, and be wise.”
Christian: “Nay, but do thou come with thy neighbor Pliable; there are such things to be had which I spoke of, and many more glories besides. If you believe not me, read here in this book, and for the truth of what is expressed therein, behold, all is confirmed by the blood of Him that made it.” Heb. 9: 17-21.
Pliable: “Well, neighbor Obstinate,” said Pliable, “I begin to come to a point; I intend to go along with this good man, and to cast in my lot with him.”
Christian was thrilled to have Pliable come along at last. Pliable wanted to know more of the promises and was more than ready to listen to Christian’s words. (And so was Dot!)
Pliable: “Come, neighbor Christian, since there are none but us two here, tell me now farther, what the things are, and how to be enjoyed, whither we are going.”
Christian:” I can better conceive of them with my mind, than speak of them with my tongue: but yet, since you are desirous to know, I will read of them in my book.”
Pliable: “And do you think that the words of your book are certainly true?”
Isn’t it amazing how so many pliable seekers are ever so ready to believe someone’s words at face value, but need proof that God’s Word is infallible?
Christian: “Yes, verily; for it was made by Him that cannot lie.” Tit. 1:2.
How ready Pliable was to hear more and more of the wonderful things! There are indeed may who long for the wonderful things of God! As nice as it is to have some pliable follow us at last, we must be ever so careful that we stay faithful to the Truth!
Pliable: “Well said; what things are they?”
Christian: “There is an endless kingdom to be inhabited, and everlasting life to be given us, that we may inhabit that kingdom for ever.”
So Pliable continues to ask Christian, what else and what else he might receive, what company he would keep, and how he might enjoy it all. And Christian, glad to have Pliable follow, tells him of all the glories of heaven quite to the ravishing of Pliable’s heart.
Pliable: “Well, my good companion, glad am I to hear of these things: come on, let us mend our pace.”
Something seemed very lacking with Pliable! Something very important seems to be lacking with many pliable seekers who run after God’s treasures. They seem merely swayed by His promises, while Christians carefully weigh all the costs!
Christian: “I cannot go as fast as I would, by reason of this burden that is on my back.”
Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk, they drew nigh to a very miry slough that was in the midst of the plain: and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was Despond. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.
Many pliable seekers will accept The Good News but not its great cost. The first real difficulty will bid them to abandon the Truth for more comfortable lies.
What are we to do when this happens? We are to press on! Our pliable seekers will soon find others who will fill their itchy ears with more pleasant ways to obtain the treasures they covet. 2 Timothy 4:3
Evangelizing is dangerous business if we leave out the costs! We cannot and dare not convince pliable seekers of their salvation based only on what makes them feel good. We can’t expect a little prayer to be the fix-all. We can’t let family, friendship, pity, comfort or pride get in the way of God’s truth! We must include the cross, the burden of sin, the death of the flesh and all that is most dear, whatever the cost!
Pliable: Then said Pliable, “Ah, neighbor Christian, where are you now?”
Christian: “Truly,” said Christian, “I do not know.”
At this Pliable began to be offended, and angrily said to his fellow, “Is this the happiness you have told me all this while of? If we have such ill speed at our first setting out, what may we expect between this and our journey’s end? May I get out again with my life, you shall possess the brave country alone for me.”
The man who loves his life will lose it! John 12:25
And with that he gave a desperate struggle or two, and got out of the mire on that side of the slough which was next to his own house: so away he went, and Christian saw him no more.
Wherefore Christian was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone…
Thank God that Christian was not left alone for long, and neither are we ever left alone, even if at first it seems as though we are!!
And grandma Dot knows this as she half dozes off and half smiles back at me!
Thanks for reading,
Petra and grandma Dot
Source: John Bunyan ~ The Pilgrim’s Progress (selected excerpts of stage 1)
Other posts you might like:
The Burden That Brought Christian to the Cross!
Christian Loses His Burden!