Summary: The seventh message in the series on the little foxes. Fear is detrimental to faith.
Song of Solomon 2:15 KJV Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
2 Timothy 1:7 KJV For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
I. INTRODUCTION—MR. FEARING
Another of the many characters in Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan that can give us great insight concerning our journey is Mr. Fearing. This character is found in Part 2 of Pilgrim’s Progress and his passage is a bit different from Part 1. In Part 1, the journey is basically that of one person, Christian, as he travels through all of the difficulties and struggles that lay along the path to the Celestial City. Part 2 differs in that it is a collection of travelers and it would almost resemble the collection of a congregation in a church.
Mr. Fearing has two other main companions, Mr. Honesty and Mr. Self-Will. They are all from the Town of Stupidity. Mr. Fearing demonstrates some great contradictions in his life. One minute he is very brave and the next minute his courage has left him. He is ushered along the way by Great-heart who is their noble guide. Sometimes he resorts to encouragement and at other times he just pushes Mr. Fearing whether he wants to go or not.
When he came to the Wicket Gate, which was the entrance to the road to the Celestial City, he waited and waited filled with doubt as to whether or not he was supposed to enter. After long contemplation, he finally went through it to begin his journey. In fact, he read the words, “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” a thousand times before he finally knocked to gain entrance. Despite the door being opened to him, it took Goodwill to pull him into the entrance because he thought he could not make it. This is a remarkable thing because all through his travels, anything that was related to spiritual matters, Mr. Fearing would sink beneath his burden of fear and doubt. He was desperately afraid to speak to the pastor or any of the saints that were in the House Beautiful (a symbol of the Church). He always felt as if he never measured up.
It took Mr. Fearing a month before he finally decided to cross the Slough of Despond and then he shocked all of the travelers because he made it across so fast. Great-heart summed it up when he said the Mr. Fearing had a slough of despond in his head because the slough of despond on the outside was never a problem for him. Fear has the ability to put mud holes in our heads!
But there is an interesting contrast that takes place when he comes to the actual challenges along the way. When he came to the lions along the way, Mr. Fearing wagged his finger at them and pulled some of their whiskers out. When he came to the Hill of Difficulty, his legs appeared to be the strongest and he would outrun all of his fellow travelers to the top. When he went through the Valley of Humiliation, he outpaced all of the travelers; even Great-heart was left behind by Mr. Fearing. He did well when he was in the challenge but he had great doubt before he went into it.
One scene that Bunyan describes is provoking. It is when Mr. Fearing is in the House Beautiful. Every morning he gets up before all of the other travelers and goes to the Rarity Room with a candle so he can see in the darkness before the dawn. This room is filled with all sorts of past trophies like Moses’ rod, Shamgar’s ox goad, and David’s sling and stones. Mr. Fearing also took great encouragement when he went into the Armory Room whose walls were loaded with helmets, breastplates, belts, swords, shoes, and shields. He would be secretly observed dancing, shouting, and singing in these rooms but when he left, he fell into a dejected state again. He would not eat with those in the House Beautiful because of his fear. Bunyan uses this as a picture of communion and his hesitation of partaking. Mr. Fearing was in a constant state of self-examination that robbed his faith.
He was a godly and reverent man but he was so filled with fear that he could hardly function. When he finally does cross the river to receive his reward, he is amazed at the great reception that he finds. He can only wonder at why he was so weighted down with fear while he was on his journey.
I am certain that Mr. Fearing is not the only one who ever felt the grip of fear as he travels along the way! The little fox of fear can disarm us in such a way that it almost paralyzes our ability to walk faithfully for the Lord.