If some of your goals for 2017 have fallen by the wayside, this may be a good time to reflect on the words of the apostle Paul in the Bible: “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on…” (Philippians 3:13-14). I never cease to be encouraged and challenged by those words! Speaking of being encouraged and challenged, consider this:
In the 17th century, when John Bunyan was thrown in jail for his preaching, he didn’t sit there bemoaning his fate. He wrote a book (in fact, nine of them during his 12-year imprisonment!). The most well-known of Bunyan’s books is “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” most of which he wrote during another imprisonment. This epic work is probably the most famous allegory in the English language and, next to the Bible, the most read book in history. It is the story of a man who had a great load of sin on his back and was journeying from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City.
The Bible says of the believer: “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:21-22). The exciting reality for Christians is that Jesus Christ has brought us out of the City of Destruction and is leading us toward the Celestial City. As John Newton, the composer of “Amazing Grace” put it: “I am not the man I ought to be, I am not the man I wish to be, and I am not the man I hope to be, but by the grace of God, I am not the man I used to be.”
Furthermore, the Scripture says that believers have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (See Ephesians 1:3). What a truth to ponder! God does not want believers to live like spiritual paupers; therefore, we must never forget where we were, where we are, and where we are going. The City of Destruction is behind us, the Celestial City is before us, and in the meantime, we have the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to guide and use us for the glory of God! Understanding and regularly calling to mind these truths will give us a radically different perspective when we encounter trials in this life (as we surely will). Samuel Rutherford said, “Our little time of suffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to heaven.”
If you’ve never read “The Pilgrim’s Progress” I encourage you to give it a go. I think you’ll be glad you did. Bunyan turned his adversity and unjust imprisonment into an opportunity to write for the glory of God. And we are the beneficiaries!
Dr. Marc Drake, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Sun Lakes