Following Jesus 166

Following Jesus: The Progress of the Pilgrim.

The Castle of Doubt and the Giant of Despair. 2 Corinthians 4:1-18.

In John Bunyan’s classic allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and his companion Hopeful, at one point in their journey, stepped aside from the true Way into By-Path Meadow because it looked easier and seemed to be going in the same direction as the Way. Soon they realized their mistake and began the journey back towards the Way. As they traveled, they slept one night on the grounds of a castle. But it turned out that this was Doubting-Castle, owned by Giant Despair. When the giant found them, he threw them into his dark and nasty dungeon, and they suffered terribly.

As Pilgrims traveling through this life following Jesus, we face spiritual conflicts from the world (Vanity Fair; I John 2:15-17), the devil (Ephesians 6:10-20), and our own sinful desires (Romans 7). As we face this threefold battleground, it is easy to become discouraged by doubt and despair.

Doubt is not trusting. It is not being committed to live for God, to acknowledge dependence upon God and to not worship the One, True God of the Bible in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Doubt is uncertainty and having a lack of conviction for what you believe and to what and to whom you are committed. It is no longer having confidence in what God has promised in His Word.

Despair is a lack of confidence in the character of God. It is hopelessness, disheartenment, discouragement and desperation because of circumstances and situations. Doubt and despair can occur at any time if we are not watchful. Doubt and despair can occur because of any situation, especially persecution, if we are not careful to rest in the truth from God.

As Pastor Burk Parson’s writes, “In 2004, I traveled to Iran with a delegation of Protestant Christians from the United States to meet with the vice president of the Iranian parliament. While in Iran, I preached at the Garden of Evangelism in Tehran, which was founded by the twentieth-century missionary William M. Miller. Over the following days, dozens of Iranian Christians told me stories of the many ways they had been persecuted. Many who had been converted to Christ from Islam had been disowned by their families, shunned and despised by their neighbors, or fired from their jobs. Some had been imprisoned, and one man’s father had even been executed. Many of my Iranian brothers and sisters expressed how they lived under the constant threat of persecution. Many told me how much they would love to live in the United States of America because it is a free country where Christians are not persecuted.”

Parson’s continues by saying, “Although we in America are by no means under the same kind of persecution as Christians in Iran, we are beginning to face persecution in unprecedented ways. America is changing rapidly. Following the path of Europe, we are entering a day in America wherein Bible-believing Christians are viewed as suspect and even as traitors to humanity. Relativistic tolerance has become America’s religion, and its dogma is tolerance for anything except Christian dogma. Someday, our grandchildren might find themselves admitting to foreign missionaries their desire to live in a free country where Christians are not persecuted.”

It is easy sometimes to begin to doubt God’s promises and to even despair of life because we begin to doubt God’s character in the wake of personal pressures and persecution. What hope do pilgrim’s such as we have in the midst of mounting doubt and despair?

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