October 20, 2010

Danger and the Christian Life

John Bunyan, 1628 – 1688

John Bunyan was a Puritan pastor three and a half centuries ago. You may know his name from his book, Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan spent 12 years in prison for telling people about Jesus Christ. Had he agreed to give up preaching, he would have been released from prison and allowed to return to his family—including his blind daughter.

Some years after his imprisonment, John Bunyan wrote the book Seasonable Counsels, or Advice to Sufferers. The following quote is from this book and I found it to be tremendously encouraging as I face my own trials and difficulties in life—difficulties that are significantly less than the difficulties Bunyan had to deal with.

May we try to escape? Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly: if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Any thing but a denial of the truth. He that flies has warrant to do so; he that stands has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled (Exodus 2:15); Moses stood (Hebrews 11:27). David fled (1 Samual 19:12); David stood (1 Samuel 24:8). Jeremiah fled (Jeremiah 37:11–12); Jeremiah stood (Jeremiah 38:17). Christ withdrew himself (Luke 9:10); Christ stood (John 18:1–8). Paul fled (2 Corinthians 11:22); Paul stood (Acts 20:22–23).

There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly.... Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word. Matthew 10:23.... If, therefore, when thou has fled, thou art taken, be not offended at God or man: not at God, for thou art his servant, thy life and thy all are his; not at man, for he is but God’s rod, and is ordained, in this, to do thee good. Hast though escaped? Laugh. Art thou taken? Laugh. I mean, be pleased which way soever things shall go, for that the scales are still in God’s hand.

John Bunyan, Seasonable Counsels, or Advice to Sufferers, in The Works of John Bunyan, Vol. 2, George Offor (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991, original, 1854), p. 726

This passage from John Bunyan came to mind yesterday when I was talking with a coworker who mentioned that sometimes it seems like we have no control. I said we really never have control. Sometimes we’re just lulled into thinking that we do. John Piper talks about “the myth of safety” with these words:

...Risk is woven into the fabric of our finite lives. We cannot avoid risk even if we want to. Ignorance and uncertainty about tomorrow is our native air. All of our plans for tomorrow’s activities can be shattered by a thousand unknowns whether we stay at home under the covers or ride the freeways.... Security...is a mirage. It doesn’t exist. Every direction you turn there are unknowns and things beyond your control.

The tragic hypocrisy is that the enchantment of security lets us take risks every day for ourselves but paralyzes us from taking risks for others on the Calvary road of love. We are deluded and think that it may jeopardize a security that in fact does not even exist.... It is right to risk for the cause of Christ, and not to is to waste your life.

Well, with that in mind. I step forward into the day.


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