Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pilgrim's Progress: journey through a varied landscape

This book will make a traveller of thee,
If by its counsel thous wilt ruled be;
It will direct thee to the Holy Land,
If thou wilt its directions understand.
John Bunyan is inviting you on a journey. It’s a pilgrimage from a City doomed to Destruction to a City of Glory. Along the way, you’ll face giants, fiends, lions and robbers. You’ll be tempted to leave the stony path for softer pastures. You’ll meet people who try to turn you from the way. You’ll face hunger, thirst, weariness, even death. There will be times of rest and refreshment, but also times of doubt and despair. Are you ready to travel the straight and narrow path?

God also invites us on a journey. Like Abraham and Moses, we are nomads travelling through an inhospitable land to a fair country we have been promised but never seen. We flee Satan's country for a new and better land, a heavenly City prepared by God. We are “aliens and strangers”, “sojourners and exiles”, “strangers and pilgrims on this earth" (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11 – NIV, ESV, Geneva). God calls us to turn our backs on all that is dear to us, and to run, like Christian, with fingers in our ears and faces towards heaven.

Do you think of your Christian life as a journey? People talk about their "spiritual journey", but it's often a fuzzy-minded way of saying "You have your journey, I have mine". We've forgotten the Bible's idea of the Christian life as a pilgrimage through an alien landscape, beset by troubles and trials, ever tempted to stray from the true path. We have much to learn from Pilgrim's Progress. ...

Old Honest sums it up beautifully:

It happens to us as it happens to wayfaring men: sometimes our way is clean, sometimes foul; sometimes up hill, sometimes down hill; we are seldom at a certainty. The wind is not always on our backs, nor is every one a friend that we meet with in the way.

Here's what I've learnt from Pilgrim's Progress. I've learnt that no time lasts forever: that times of difficulty are followed by times of rest, and times of refreshment with new trials. I've been warned not to leave the path for an easier way, the promise of safety, or the lure of pleasure. I've been reminded not to put down my roots in pleasant places, and be lulled to sleep by comfort and happiness. I'll choose my travelling companions with care. I'll keep my Guide-book close, and consult it often. I'm determined to travel on days of sunshine, and days when I struggle against the wind. I'm travelling a pilgrim's path, and with God's help, I'll make it to the end. "The bitter must come before the sweet, and that also will make the sweet the sweeter".

Read the rest at EQUIP book club today.

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