Progress to the Celestial City

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Devotional Word for Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Yesterday I told you about my experience of going through a typhoon on board the USS Tutuila. There was a day when assailed by that typhoon the Captain of the ship was happy to keep the ship’s bow facing in the right direction, even though the zero miles were gained going forward, and, in fact, the Toot (for that was what we called her) was pushed seven miles sideways.

Most days were not like that. Most days, even in the midst of typhoons, forward progress was made toward the final destination. That’s what I would like for us to consider today. Forward progress.

There was a novel written almost 350 years ago about progress. It proved to be an extraordinarily popular book. You’ve probably already surmised its title: Pilgrim’s Progress. It’s author, John Bunyan, wrote it between 1660 and 1672 while he languished in prison. His was an enforced Sheltering in Place! His crime was preaching in non-authorized settings, that is, in congregations that were not part of the Church of England. The magistrates wanted to stop his voice and his message; just the opposite occurred. 

It’s a simple book. The main character is named Christian. He leaves the City of Destruction with the goal of reaching the Celestial City. It is the story of a Christian soul on the journey through this world to heaven. It’s the story of each of us on our journey from earth to heaven as well. 

Christian must deal with the Slough of Despond, The Giant Despair, Doubting Castle, Vanity Fair [located near Reading, I think!] He met characters such as Pliable, the fellow who went with whatever was popular. He also met Ignorance, a fellow who trusts in his own heart. It is a fascinating story. If you’re looking for something to do during this Sheltering in Place period, you might consider reading it. It’s readily available on Amazon, in fact, the Kindle edition is free. We have it in our church library. It’s available in Today’s English, or the original.

The point of the book is in its title: Progress. Christian kept going forward, despite the hazards along the way, despite those who sought to discourage him or lead him astray. He kept his eyes on the goal. He was convinced God was directing his life even in the midst of arduous difficulties. He could have uttered these words from Psalm 66: You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden on our loins. You made men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance. [Ps. 66:10-12] A few verses later he cries out, Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell what He has done for my soul. [v. 16] The Psalmist persevered, he kept going forward. 

Right now, most of the world is in a trying spot, not the place of abundance. Christians need to continue to go forward with the Lord, even if our movements are limited. Spending 12 years in prison did not stop God’s work from progressing in John Bunyan’s soul. His soul was growing/progressing forward all along. Likewise, you and I need to continue our forward progress in following the Lord during these days, trusting that He is growing us in our inner man as well. Listen to this great truth from Ephesians 2:10: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand. That’s encouraging! In the joyful letter Paul wrote to the Philippians while in prison chains on his way to Rome, he reminded them . . . it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. [Phil. 2:13] On this April Fool’s Day, don’t be fooled into thinking God can’t work His good work in you during these unprecedented times. Let’s go forward, let’s make progress, trusting that God is working His purposes out in our lives. 

Let us pray: O God, we give thanks to You for Your faithful work in our lives. Even when our movements are limited, Your work in us is not limited; You continue to shape and mold us. We acknowledge that You are the Potter, we are the clay. We open our lives to You. Continue that faithful work of craftsmanship whereby our souls are made more like You day by day. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.