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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The Pilgrim’s Progress – Original
The Pilgrim’s Progress – Modern English
Biography on John Bunyan (To Live Upon God that Is Invisible) by: John Piper
When the Darkness Will Not Lift – John Piper
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Download it here
Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Buy it here
As I survey my short time on this earth, I have come to the realization that the people who have had the greatest impact upon my life as a Christian are those who have had Scripture saturated hearts. From family members to preachers to professors – those persons who have been overflowing with the Word of God are those who have been most influential in my personal sanctification as a child of God.As we consider the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 119:11 – “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” – shouldn’t we as Christians be constantly striving to hide God’s Word in our hearts? Today in the Christian community, the only ones who seem to be seeking to hide the Word of God in their hearts are the children. Most adults claim they cannot remember anything, so they never try to memorize any portion of Holy Scripture. Is it any wonder that people find themselves discouraged in their journey and unable to live successful Christian lives? No amount of success in any other area of the Christian life can compensate for an insufficient amount of God’s Word. Therefore, if we are going to be successful in the Christian life and able to overcome the pitfalls of sin that encompass and surround us daily, we must do so with the pure light of God’s Word!A couple of years ago, several members of our church traveled to Georgia to a preaching conference at Pray’s Mill Baptist Church. It was there that these laypersons came in contact with Bro. David Miller. Bro. David is an Evangelist from Arkansas who has the majority of the Bible committed to memory. As he preaches from his wheel chair (due to muscular atrophy) he does not use any notes or the Bible itself. He quotes his passage (often large portions of Old Testament Scripture) and then preaches an expository message verse by verse. It is quite amazing and powerful at the same time. After returning from the conference, these laypersons decided to memorize a chapter of the Bible and quote it before the church. It started on one Sunday evening when the first gentleman quoted a chapter from Matthew’s Gospel. It shocked the church. My wife then committed to memory Ephesians 5 and quoted it before the church body. This sparked a desire within the heart of an 81 year old deacon who then committed to memory John 3 and quoted it before the church body. Needless to say, I was extremely shocked and amazed at what had occurred in the lives of these average laypersons. These people understood the importance of memorizing Holy Scripture as a means of Christian sanctification and worship of God. I personally believe that this understanding transformed their lives and their walk with God.It is my prayer that I will personally find more time for Scripture memory in my Christian life. Although time is required and commitment is necessary, in the end – the precious Word of God will dwell in my heart and I will be more likely to evade the pitfalls of sin in this wicked world. May it all be done for the glory of God!Rev. Josh BuiceTips Regarding Bible Memory1. Repetition: Like exercise to the body involves daily or weekly repetition in order to stay in shape, our minds require constant repetition of God’s Word in order to memorize a passage of Scripture. There has never been anyone run a marathon without putting in adequate training to make it to the finish line. The same thing is true regarding Scripture memory. It does not come easy!2. Meditation: Meditating on the particular passage of Scripture that you are seeking to memorize is a very practice. If we understand the passage of Scripture and have the overall subject matter saturating our hearts, we will find the specific text easier to recall to our memory.3. Verbal Quotation: People are often wired differently, but no matter whether one is more audible or visual in their learning techniques, to hear yourself quote (and read) the text aloud helps call it to memory. This process can begin by reading it aloud several times. Once the text has been read, the initial memorization process can begin. After repetition and meditation, the first portion of the text is where one must begin.4. Start Short: In order to find early success, one must begin with a short section of the passage of Scripture that he or she is seeking to memorize. This will be encouraging in the beginning and provide fuel to the overall goal. If the section of Scripture happens to be 10 verses, start with one verse before moving to the second verse.5. Connect Verses: Once the process continues through the passage of Scripture, it is always a necessity to continuously repeat what has already been memorized in order to connect the new verses to those already memorized.6. Fill The Blanks: For those who are more visual learners, the text can be copied from an online website or computer program into a Word document whereby it can be altered with blanks for a type of “exam” that will enable you to fill in the blanks.7. Careful Listening: For those who are more audible learners, the text can be listened to on an iPod while walking, jogging, or driving down the highway. To hear someone else read the text may provide a means to strengthen your overall ability to recall the text.8. Patience and Commitment: It requires patience and a commitment to persevere to the end. Just like running a marathon, hurdles and complicated parts of the process will be revealed mid ways through the memorization exercise. Therefore, it is always wise to have a strong commitment to endure to the end for the glory of God!Other Resources:Dr. Andy Davis – Pastor of FBC of Durham NC. An Approach to the Extended Memorization of Scripture – Dr. Andrew Davis Download .pdf – Click Here