Summary: This is the second of a series that I gleaned from Pilgrim’s Progress. It is ongoing and I have no idea of how many there will be.
1 Kings 19:4 KJV But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
l. INTRODUCTION – PILGRIM’S PROGRESS – GIANT DESPAIR
There is no way for me to be able to stress to you the value of the work of John Bunyan called Pilgrim’s Progress. John Bunyan’s own words have the ability to arrest even the casual reader when he says, “Ponder my metaphors. . . . What if my Gold is wrapped up in ore?” Throughout that incredible book there lays vast amounts of gold wrapped up in ore. He traces the path of every weary traveler who is attempting to gain entrance into the Celestial City or what we commonly understand as heaven. There is nothing in this life that is as important as to making it to heaven. But to die well you must live well.
One particular scene in this book has provoked my thoughts more than once in the last several days. It is a scene later on in the book where Christian and Hopeful are traveling along the river and find themselves faced with the possibility of a shortcut. This shortcut is very appealing to them and after a brief conversation, Christian is able to persuade Hopeful into climbing the fence and taking the path along the shortcut. It has everything that they think they may want and need. The meadows are deep green and peppered throughout are white lilies. There is abundant amounts of fruit and it is incredibly serene. Perhaps the only thing that is missing is the background of classical music or maybe some Hillsong music which ever your choice may be.
For three days, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, they are in a state of bliss as they meander throughout what Bunyan terms “the Bypath.” I might add that shortcuts generally are not really beneficial to any of us. You will not gain spiritual power with shortcuts. There are no shortcuts to greatness. It requires time, discipline, effort, and just a day-in and day-out walk with God to succeed at this Christian life.
For three days, not much energy is expended, not much effort is required. It is a time of rest and recuperation. Then a series of events overtakes them, one of which is a severe storm. This storm floods the river and brings to them thunder and lightning. They are miserable in the cold and weariness of their travels. Finally, they find a sheltered place to stop and to rest for the night. So down they fall into a troubled, wearied sleep. What they do not realize is that they have trespassed on the land of a fearful giant, whose name is Despair.
The next morning, Giant Despair finds the two miserable pilgrims and captures them and takes them to the dungeon that is within Doubting Castle. This dungeon is dark, wet, and has a terribly foul odor to it. It is in Doubting Castle that they almost lose every bit of their faith and hope in finishing the race. Giant Despair starves them and gives them nothing to eat and they have to endure a fearful beating that leaves them lying almost dead on the damp dungeon floor. But this is not the worst of the dreadful punishment that Giant Despair brings to them.
In the three days that they stay there he starts talking to them. He finds them after the severe beating and knowing they are sore, weary, and hungry, he begins to whisper to them foul things from hell. He suggests to them whisperings that wilts them even further. He tells them that their life is over and they may as well go ahead and kill themselves. He tells them that he is going to leave a knife, some rope, and a bit of poison in the dungeon with them and that when they get sick enough of where they are they can end their lives as they see fit.
Upon his exit they begin to reason among themselves that it would be better to end their lives than to just continue in the state they are in. Giant Despair has already asked them, “Why should you choose life when it has been accompanied with so much bitterness and pain?”
-There is more to this little story but I will get back to it in a bit. However, what you must understand is that no matter how close your walk with God is and how grand and great that things are right now, periodically life comes along and knocks the stuffings out of us.
-There is not a man here in this room who has not had his own share of trouble and difficulties in life. Whoever it was that said that just because you served God would eliminate the problems in your life obviously had not read their Bible.