♣ We ARE Pilgrims
MOST OF US no doubt have read John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Despite being written several centuries ago, it continues to hold readers in fascination and for some, more so than The Lord of the Rings because it is an allegory of the true Christian life; this is reality greater than fiction. One aspect that stands out in Bunyan’s portrayal of Christian is how he was beset with great trials before entering the Celestial City. This is an accurate depiction of the lives of those who truly desire to live a godly life (Acts 14:22).
Many preachers today emphasise that we are saved to have our best life now. It is true we are set free from the tyranny of sin, that our feet have been established on the path of Truth and we are on the way to glory, but seldom are we told that to enter the kingdom of God we must go through many trials. Instead we are told that since we have committed our lives to Christ, God is now going to bless all our plans – our careers, our finances, give us that perfect dream lover to live with happily ever after and keep us safe from all harm and danger. I want to reiterate that such a mentality is the furthest thing from authentic Christianity.
Over the last six years, particularly, there have been painful experiences revealing stark contrasts between true and false Christianity. Without having to go into detail, both my wife and I have known extreme times, enough to send any man or woman insane but for the grace of God. We are still enduring this long phase where we have been stripped of everything (apart from the roof over our heads and our health, for which we are so grateful) and where our only hope is God Himself. He has kept us and has been so gracious and faithful toward us through it all. We have not prospered in the material sense but we have most certainly grown to realise our richness in Him. When God reveals Himself to you as your inheritance it is one of the greatest truths any human can possess.
Spiritual warfare begins the moment we are truly born again. The moment anyone enlists for military service they are entering a deadly war zone; it is not a PlayStation 4 game, where you can just lose your life and then start all over again. It is real and pain is going to be felt. There are going to be casualties and even great loss of life. The Christian is going to meet serious opposition and the raging storms of life because his or her allegiance is now unto the God of life; the Christian has been freed from the kingdom of darkness and there is no greater thing our adversary hates than awakened souls who embrace the Truth, the Way and the Life. He will not overcome the sound regenerate believer, but he will do all he can to make the Christian’s journey to heaven as miserable as possible; he will do all he can to persuade that Christian to not being so serious in contending for the true faith, in making that Gospel known worldwide and in living a holy life that makes him a great tool in the hands of God and a powerful weapon against the kingdom of Satan. Losses and many tears will be found along the way when we determine to pick up our cross, deny ourselves and follow Christ. It is not all roses and God giving us all we want; it is a journey out of self, away from the world – an exodus toward the kingdom of heaven; we indeed are pilgrims.
Many professing believers will not want to hear this. They will laugh at it, scorn it and disassociate you from their company and fellowship; they will acknowledge you but not as a close friend. They will see you as being judgemental, a killjoy and the greatest ill-witness to their gospel by which they make their converts twice the sons of hell as they are. They may know a measure of success in their ministries that will be so overwhelming they cannot but think God is the author of such blessings. Their paths may run smoother than those who have chosen the narrow way and ‘success’ is sure to take place wherever they put their feet, but put a soundly converted believer in their midst, who is marked with God’s blessing through serious adversity and they will know that something genuine is missing in their own lives; they will know something of a distinctive contrast between artificial and authentic Christianity. Such a heart-reformed believer will soon become a discomfort, an annoyance and a hindrance to the other professing ‘believer’; he or she will most times, under such situations, refuse to change because they love the life they are living; they are in love with this present world. This is one of Satan’s greatest deceptions today by convincing professing believers, who faithfully go to church and who may be active in ‘ministry’, that worldliness is debauchery, adultery, fornication, smoking, being hateful, swearing, stealing… It incorporates those aspects, but the essence of worldliness is to be comfortable in this world; it is to feel at home in it; it is to give allegiance to it rather than God; it is not seen as a battleground but instead as a playground.
One of the concerns, especially among young adult Christians is an attachment to this world. This world’s fashions and other latest vogues enamour so many of them. You see that by the way they talk and what they discuss most of the time reveals their number one passion in life. Many of them are no different from the world. Why on earth are Christians imitating the world? Is Christ not good enough? Are we embarrassed of Him? Why are so many Christians watching that garbage on cable, listening to that filth in the music charts and dressing to physically appeal and lure the opposite sex? There is a sharp distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan; between light and darkness and there is to be such a contrast between the regenerate and unregenerate. If as Christians we do not make the world feel uncomfortable with their lifestyles when we engage with them, we need to seriously examine our profession of faith. I’m not saying we have to go around all the time preaching hell, fire and brimstone in the middle of Starbucks, Wal-Mart or our place of employment; just by our walking close with God should emanate a glory that convicts the world of sin; just by our obedience to God will make the difference. By not telling or even listening to filthy coarse jesting, using profane language or not losing one’s temper under stressful moments will be a witness in and of itself; they will see the difference more than we are conscious of. We have all the heard the saying that the world is watching us (Christians) when we are unaware of it; the sad thing is, many who don’t care if the world is watching just shows they lack a spiritual pulse.
This world is a place of preparing the Christian for eternity. The world in which we inhabit is a battleground and the war does not let up until we either pass from this world or Christ returns; we don’t take our armour off; we don’t rest like Christian on Difficult Hill to the point where we slumber and lose our assurance of salvation, which in turn affects all our Christian endeavours. Our eternal rest will come when we reach heaven.
There are seasons of refreshing for the tried soul and God knows exactly when to give them. The normal way of the Christian in this life is to know joy and pain mingled together, but such a path would not be traded in for an easier one; to know Christ is the summum bonum (the highest good in this life – and the next) and the believer’s cry from a bleeding heart is, “Lord, at any cost, let me know You.” There are many times when we will feel overwhelmed to the point of even despairing of life itself and God permits that in order that we will rely less on ourselves and more upon Him (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). We may encounter such times as being pressed beyond our means and cannot contemplate taking another step forward, but that is the very opportunity to draw liberally on the all-sufficient grace of God. When we do draw on and encounter God’s grace in these impossible periods, it is then we know that through such situations we are more then conquerors. The Christian life is one of perpetually drawing on the supernatural grace of God. That is what transfigures our deserts into an oasis; our wilderness into lands plenty.
This is not to say that God does not bless or gives a measure of success in this life, but it doesn’t become the resting ground or foundational comfort and stability to continue in the faith; it is not the evidence that God loves us. If that were the case then Christians such as Adoniram Judson, William Cowper, Corrie Ten Boom, Jim Elliot and Eric Liddell, some of whom faced horrific treatment, were far from the favour of God. Has it not occurred to us that those whom God uses to great capacity are those that have been ‘through the mill’? –
Life is not as idle ore,..
But iron dug from central gloom,
And heated hot with burning fears,
And dipt in baths of hissing tears
And batter’d with the shocks of doom to shape and use.
(Lord Alfred Tennyson)
The regenerate Christian loves God because he or she has been forgiven much and their lives are lived out in thankfulness for such amazing grace. We have been called out of darkness to conform unto Christ’s image. That is the Christian’s vocation; everything else must fall secondary to that. Your present cross may be to sacrifice that career. “God has gifted me with such talents, why would He ask me to give them up?” someone may ask. Among great influential Christians, Oswald Chambers was exceptionally gifted in the area of art, but God had different plans to him pursuing such a vocation and instead served as President of a Bible college and Chaplain to troops out in Cairo during the First World War; C.T. Studd was a champion in cricket but gave up all his fame and fortune to spend the rest of his life on the mission field and who could say with his whole life, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”; Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was assistant medical physician to king George V. He became one of the top students at St Bartholomew’s Medical College. Turning down an immensely prosperous financial career as a royal physician, Lloyd-Jones was called of God to enter the ministry where he spent the remainder of his life being a ‘doctor’ unto souls. He is held to be one the greatest expositors of God’s Word in the 20th Century. Beware of justifying your natural gifting for the calling of God. That is not to say God will not use it but it doesn’t always mean it is God’s path for your life either. Esteem Christ higher than career; be prepared to lay it down and never to pick it back up for the sake of Christ if He says so.
Our obedience may not always entail immediate blessing – in the sense that many are accustomed to expecting. God’s blessings often come in ways we do not seek or anticipate; He knows all that we need and has ordained to enrich us with nothing but the best. Our trials are the gateways to such blessings –
You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessing on your head.
Those blessings are reminders and great encouragements to continue steadfastly in the race set before us. They are indeed foretastes (that outmatch all the world can possibly give) of that heavenly glory to come and to abide without end.
Posted on March 11, 2014, in ♣ Devotional and tagged 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Acts 14:22, Adoniram Judson, adversity, authentic Christianity, born again, C.T. Studd, calling of God, careers, Celestial City, conquerors, Corrie Ten Boom, deserts, devotional, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, encouragement, Eric Liddell, eternal rest, Exodus, fashions, finances, godly life, grace of God, heart-reformed, heaven, holy, Jim Elliot, john bunyan, latest vogues, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Mark Anthony Williams, military, natural gifting, oasis, obedience to God, Oswald Chambers, pilgrims, preparing for eternity, regenerate, richness in Christ, Satan's deceptions, seasons of refreshing, spiritual warfare, steadfastly, The Lord of the Rings, The Pilgrim’s Progress, transfigures, trials, truth, tyranny of sin, We ARE Pilgrims, wilderness, William Cowper, Worldliness. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.