If you have never read The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, you have truly missed a blessing. Several years ago, I received a gift in the form of an old book that contained some of Bunyan’s writings. In that old book was a copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress. I have been greatly encouraged through my personal reading of this great old allegorical tale that seems to transcend time and culture. Charles Spurgeon first read Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress at age 6 and went on to read it more than 100 times in his lifetime before dying at age 57. Spurgeon said of Bunyan’s grasp of the Word, “Prick him anywhere and he bleeds Bibline (Pronounced – Bib-lean).” Or a more modern translation = “Prick him anywhere and he bleeds Bible.”
The book, The Pilgrim’s Progress was written by an uneducated pastor named John Bunyan. He was held in a Bedford, England jail for 12 years for his uncompromising resolve and call to preach the gospel. During his time in jail, he could receive visitors and he was given freedom to read and write. It was during this time in jail that he took time to write this allegory of the Christian life in a masterful way that has literally touched hearts and lives around the world. This book, written by an uneducated metal worker and Baptist pastor has been translated into over 200 languages and is considered the most famous and best-selling book of world history – other than the Bible!
Doubt, Despair, and Discouragement
Starting today on the DBG blog (a Tuesday series), we will turn to Bunyan’s book to see a glimpse of God’s grace and lessons that we can apply to our lives from The Pilgrim’s Progress. This past week I had a pastor friend and his wife in our home for lunch after church on Sunday. It was during our time together that we talked about ministry and times that we have both battled with discouragement. As we talked, I was reminded of a scene in The Pilgrim’s Progress where Christian is stuck inside of the dungeon of Doubting-Castle. Below you will see the conversation between Hopeful and Christian as he discovers the key called Promise in his chest pocket:
What a fool I have been, to lie like this in a stinking dungeon, when I could have just as well walked free. In my chest pocket I have a key called Promise that will, I am thoroughly persuaded, open any lock in Doubting-Castle.” “Then,” said Hopeful, “that is good news. My good brother, do immediately take it out of your chest pocket and try it.” Then Christian took the key from his chest and began to try the lock of the dungeon door; and as he turned the key, the bolt unlocked and the door flew open with ease, so that Christian and hopeful immediately came out.
As you see the scene unfold in the book, three different times the key is said to be in Christian’s “chest pocket.” This is significant for several reasons.
1. All Christians have found themselves, at some point, locked up in the dungeon of Doubting-Castle.
2. Different life circumstances, fear, anxiety, stress, and countless other things can lead us to this place of discouragement – as a prisoner.
3. As a Christian, (as the character – Christian- illustrates in this scene), we should have this same key in our “chest pocket” as well.
4. The key called Promise illustrates the truth of God’s Word that is hidden in our hearts (Psalm 119:11, 105).
5. If we use the key called Promise in the same way – we can open the heavy dungeon door within Doubting-Castle and walk free!
What are you struggling with in life that has caused you to become a prisoner in Doubting-Castle? Why not take the key called Promise from your chest pocket and open the door? Why stay locked up as a prisoner when you can walk free? God has gifted you with the grand truths of Scripture for a purpose – use them wisely. Find encouragement in the Word of God rather than the wisdom of the age and the world’s system. Far greater is the liberty that we find in God’s Word as opposed to what the world has to offer us. If we trust in the world’s wisdom, we will surely find ourselves locked away in a dark dungeon in Doubting-Castle, but if we turn to the Word of God – we will be able to avoid such imprisonment as we seek to progress in the journey of faith! We are never promised that we will not encounter a giant called Giant Despair in the Christian life. What we are told is that we have the key to unlock the doors to his dark discouraging dungeons.
Jerry Bridges said, “God’s Word must be so strongly fixed in our minds that it becomes the dominant influence in our thoughts, our attitudes, and our actions. One of the most effective ways of influencing our minds is through memorizing Scripture. David said, ‘I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You’ (Psm. 119:11).”
Pastor Josh Buice
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When the Darkness Will Not Lift - John Piper
Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure – Martyn Lloyd-Jones