One of my favorite stories of all times is John Bunyan's Pilgrim'sProgress. If you don't have time to read the book, try to go online and read the Sparknotes summary. The basic story is about a man named Christian living in the City of Destruction. He meets Evangelist who encourages him to go through the narrow gate to the cross and lay his burden down, then stay on the straight and narrow path until he reaches the Celestial City.
On his journey, Christian encounters many people. Obstinate refuses to accompany him, but Pliable decides to join him. However, when they fall into the Slough of Despond, Pliable gets discouraged and goes back to the City of Destruction.
Worldly Wiseman appears and tells Christian that he is stupid to embark on this journey. Christian almost listens, but thankfully he doesn't. He encounters the Cross and the burden of sin on his back falls away and he is given a certificate that he must keep with him to enter the Celestial City. On the Hill of Difficulty, Christian meets Simple, Sloth, and Presumption who only want to sleep and don't take the journey seriously. After Christian enters through the narrow gate, he encounters two men trying to climb the wall of Salvation—Formalist and Hypocrisy.
Christian explains that humbling themselves to walk through the narrow gate is the only true path to the Celestial City, but they ignore him. Along the journey, he meets Talkative, who does nothing but talk religion, but he has no substance and when the going gets tough, he falls away.
Christian encounters Vanity Fair, the city where pleasure rules. Evangelist warned him that many travelers get trapped in thisdangerous place. Christian escapes and on his journey he meets Easewho encourages him to take a short cut of gaining wealth to buy his way into the Celestial City. Christian is not fooled and continues on, but he falls into a pit and the Giant of Despair throws him into Doubting Castle. The horrible giant beats him for days on end, and Christian is despondent and ready to give up.
This is what I wanted to share with you—many of us can endure various obstacles on our journey, but often get trapped in Doubting Castle. Doubts beats us mercilessly, "You don't matter."
"God doesn't reallycare about you."
"You'll never make a difference in this world."
Christian found himself here, but he made an astonishing discovery. He had the key in his pocket all along so he could escape the dungeon.
And what is this key, you ask? The promise of the Word of God.
When we find ourselves trapped in the dungeon of the Castle of Doubt, we need to use the key in our pocket to escape. For every doubt we encounter, God's word gives us a promise to help us escape our despair. There are over seven thousand promises God gives us in his word. Martin Luther once said, "What greater insult can there be to God than not to believe his promises."
Here is a great doubtbuster.-- 2 Cor 4: 17-18 Therefore we do not lose heart…For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for usan eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
After escaping the Castle of Doubt, Christian encounters many other obstacles, and meets Hopeful and Ignorance who accompany him. Ignorance thinks being a good man will be enough to enter the Celestial City even though he doesn't have a certificate of entry. Finally, Christian and his friends make it to the Celestial City. The Shining Ones ask the king of the City to open the gate. The king announces that those who have kept God's truth may enter.
Ignorance is not allowed inside. (We cannot enter by thinking we are good, we need to realize we are a sinner who needs a savior.) The king commands the gate open for Christian and Hopeful and after they enter, they are clothed in garments of gold.
I read Pilgrim's Progress twenty years ago and many times since and it has helped me tremendously on my journey as a Christian to the Celestial City. I constantly need to remember to stay on the straight and narrow path, keep the light in my eyes, and one day the gates of the Celestial City will swing open wide for me. I can hardly wait!!!
Lots of Love,