Most of our forefathers who dramatically impacted the status quo of Christianity wrestled with their sin, the reality of eternity, a holy God and new birth on intense levels. John Bunyan is one of those who lived a self-proclaimed “morally reprehensible” life, questioning himself deeply if he had committed the unpardonable sin. When God revealed his grace to him and saved him, his deep thoughts and meditations overflowed in rarely equaled depth and profundity.
While serving a prison sentence for preaching without a license, Bunyan wrote a book entitled, “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners”, his autobiography. In reflecting on his turmoil pre-conversion, he made this statement:
“I saw old people hunting after the things of this life as if they should live here always . . . [and] I found [professing Christians] much distressed and cast down when they met with outward losses, as of husband, wife, child, etc. Lord, thought I, what ado is there about such little things as these. What seeking after carnal things by some, and what grief in others for the loss of them. If they so much labor after and shed so many tears for the things of this present life, how am I to be bemoaned, pitied, and prayed for. My soul is dying, my soul is damned. Were my soul but in a good condition, and were I but sure of it, ah, how rich should I esteem myself, though blessed but with bread and water. I should count those but small afflictions and should bear them as little burdens.”
– John Bunyan
Bunyan was primarily wrestling with the disconnect between Christianity’s claims on eternity and the way Christians live. Do we not do the same? Do we store up treasures for ourselves here on Earth where moth and rust destroy? Do we build barns for ourselves to house our worldly treasures, and die the next day, leaving it for someone else to enjoy?
“And He told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.'” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”'”
– Luke 12.16-21
I was meeting with my mentor recently and we had a conversation about the selfish nature of our grieving the loss of a fellow Christian. If we truly believed what we say we believe, wouldn’t we rejoice at the passing on of a brother or sister in Christ?
“Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?”
– 1 Cor 15.55
Have you wrestled with eternity? Have you processed the meaning of life? Do you live for toys, or pleasures, or achievements, or family? If you were to die today, would you regret a pleasure or experience here on Earth? If you had the choice to enter eternity this moment or remain in life, which would you choose? Are you confident to stand before the creator?
We will not always live here.
“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.”
– Matt 24.42
If there is one conversation you need to be ready to have, it is that one that will happen between you and God, face to face, when you enter into eternity. And when we are ready for that, these momentary afflictions truly do seem small (2 Cor 4.17-18).