Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Walking The Afflicted Road

The classic book “The Pilgrim’s Progress” (the first on my list of “must reads” for 2016) is the story of the Christian life pictured as a treacherous journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City on Mount Zion. It is a strait forward allegory that powerfully makes its point. There is a particular scene where a group arrives at a hill called “Difficulty.” The strait way on which they were instructed to follow goes straight up the steep and rocky hill at a horrible and painful incline for a distance that will take a man the greater part of the day to climb. To the right and left, however, there are other roads that go around the hill rather than over it and make for easy traveling. While the faithful Christian follows the instructions and stays to the path, enduring the pains of the Hill Difficulty in obedience to the Lord, the others take the easier ways that lead them to their untimely demise.

Jesus Himself used a very similar image in His famous sermon on the mount. “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”
(Matthew 7:13-14). Consider how often the New Testament pictures life this way. Like Jesus words about the two roads, the whole of the New Testament speaks of two ways of walking. There are those walking according to the flesh, walking in darkness, walking according to their desires, and the like. This is the path of the world. There are also those walking in light, walking in the Spirit, walking in truth. This is the way of Christ. The narrow and afflicted way. The way of life. Indeed, we see often in the Book of Acts that in the days of the early church our faith was often called "The Way." Life is a journey, and we are promised that a Christian life will not be an easy one.

In a previous post, we looked at the biblical reality that in this present age of sin and corruption as we await the triumphant return of our King, we are to see ourselves as temporary residents in a hostile foreign land, as sojourners and pilgrims of a distinct and peculiar people. Similarly, Jesus also wants us to picture our lives as a difficult road, as a treacherous and narrow mountain pass which we must rely on Him to cross safely to the other side. God delivered his people out of Egypt and brought them by way of a deadly wilderness on a journey to the Promised Land. Even when they reached their destination, God desired them to maintain a sense of their identity as desperate traveler’s dependent on Him. Every year they were to eat the Passover feast loins girded, their sandals on their feet, and their staff in their hand as if ready to fly in the wilderness anew joyfully following their deliverer. They were never to forget. It is directly from this imagery that we
were given the communion meal, our feast of remembrance by which we keep before us our great deliverance and remember that we have not yet arrived in our promised land, but still trust Him in this wilderness while we await His return. 
They were also to celebrate the feast of booths, where they were to leave their homes and sleep in tents and temporary shelters and remember those days in the wilderness when God fed them with manna from heaven and water from the rock. We are reminded, too, that Jesus is our manna from heaven (John 6:30-33) and is our living water giving rock (John 4:13-14). In fact, Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 tells us that Israel’s wandering in the wilderness with all their struggles and all their failures was written down as a warning and reminder to us! We must remain faithful amidst this perilous path, letting this vision of our lives reshape our priorities and letting the inherent struggles drive ever back to our dependence on Him.

This should reshape our priorities. When you are traveling a difficult road, luxuries become a burden. You carry only what you need. You sleep in modest shelters easy to carry rather than comfortable ones more suited for longer stays. You share what you have equally and bare one another’s burdens, lest keeping to much in your own hands you wear yourself out and stumble off the mountain to your demise, or else leaving all the work to another he should fall under the weight, taking all the precious supplies with him, and your ruin is as great as his! You keep focused on the destination, and don’t let the things on the way deter you. If this life is a journey to the kingdom of God, all your priorities change. You live differently, not because comfort and abundance is of itself wrong, but because it is not appropriate for such a journey. You will enjoy it later at the destination. As Jesus said:

“Don’t keep striving for what you should eat, what you should drink, and what you should wear, and don’t be anxious. For the nations eagerly seek all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:29-34)

Luke Wayne is a bi-vocational Baptist missionary in Utah and the chief editor for Perilous Trails. He holds an MDiv from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and an MA in Theological Studies from Midwestern Baptist College. He has served as a church planter in Olathe, KS and a Homeless Shelter Manager in Kansas City, MO. He is also a husband, father, fisher, hiker, security officer, and raiser of livestock. 

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