Three men walk the Narrow Way leading up the Hill Difficulty onward to Jerusalem the Golden – Christian, Hypocrisy and Formalist. There is an infinity of difference between the one and the other two. The Word of God makes that difference. “I walk by the Rule of my Master. You walk by the rude working of your fancies. You go on by yourselves without His direction, and shall go out by yourselves without His mercy.” They proved this difference when they replied, “We don’t see where you differ from us, except for that gratis garment you wear, as you say, to hide the shame of your nakedness.” Soon enough they disclose their spite and contempt for Christ’s righteousness.
Hill Difficulty, Christian got to know quite well, even its rocks, ruts and bumps. He had been over it times enough. A difficulty way pursued without error is traversed only once. But retrace a long, lonely, dark and dreary way to recover an indispensable valuable, carelessly lost or left behind, and you must extend yourself over the same route three times. When the Christian finally conquers a difficulty and goes on for the cause of the Son of God, he doesn’t need Calamity James, like the ten spies, running in the wrong direction, crying. You can’t get there from here! But right at the summit of the hill, who come running into him full tilt, but Timorous and Mistrust. Breathlessly they relate that what lies ahead will make the Slough of Despond and the Hill Difficulty look like a kindergarten May-pole dance. Furthermore, they heard (not saw), far down the road, a couple of lions roaring. His may, too, they point ourt to him, indicates the way leading through Lion’s Mouth country. So, it’s back, man! Back where we came from! Discouraging? The morbid thought made Christian cringe with a twinge of fear. Not saf forward? Then where is safe? Not back at my own country of Sodom and Egypt, prepared for fire and brimstone! To go back is certain death, nothing but death. Forward is the fear of death and the certain safety of the Heavenly City. I must venture! I go forward!
I must venture! I’ll chance it. I’ll stake my life on the narrow way. I’ll risk any harm or loss to gain the desired end. I’ll throw in my lot with the “chosen men…men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26). I’ll hazard it. If necessary, I’ll betray myself to the lion’s mouth.
The Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth Rock in a day of civil persecution and religious tyranny. Under continual reigns of terror, many would-be Christians, like Timorous and Mistrust, went back and walked no more in that lion-guarded path. From a despotic prison in our own day, a tortured believer wrote, “The most unfounded hope is much more founded than the most founded despair.” Released, he testified. “There has been in this time a plot against my life. I live in continual danger of being kidnapped. Sometimes simple swindlers, at other times church leaders…attacked us…In all adversities, God made us more than conquerors.” I must venture!
You have deeply ventured; But all must do so who would greatly win. – Byron
Bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy! Venture? – a venture to hope in the invincible power of Jehovah, mighty to save? Lions between here and eternal life? Every Christian has his own lions, which neither religious nor civil persecutors know anything about. The fiercest lion is sin. Sin made the lion what he is. The early martyrs saw saving grace between the teeth of the lions in the arena. Repentance and reformation? Indeed! But they lie in the way of that lion. Crucify the flesh! Present your body? Offer the sacrifice of your own heart? What else is an indispensable means of our salvation? It is all a divine line drawn through the den of lions. Herod was a mad lion to John the Baptist. The Sanhedrin was a lion to Stephen. The lion, Herod Agrippa I, swallowed up James, the brother of John. Daniel maintained that lions and all, he could do no other than to serve his God only. Lions? what is a veld full of them to a heart full of sin? Lions are lambs compared to sin. I go forward.
Timorous and Mistrust fear the rage of men more than the wrath of God. They despaired of divine providence which can alone restrain or disarm the fiercest persecutors. These two misfits are enemies to the Christian’s faith. The best defense against them is not to listen to them, but to look to God’s truth and faithfulness, to rely on His promises, and take up the whole armor of God1 This demoralizing action of theirs threw Christian into a temporary fit of fear, filling him with perplexity, remorse, self-reproach, uncertainty; yet he conquered all and cast out fear. Sound scriptural reasoning drives off Mistrust, or Unbelief. We always have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto we do well to take heed, as unto a light in a dark place. In the face of danger, remember whose you are, whom you serve, the way you are on and the end of your faith.
The lives of the martyrs, yesterday’s and today’s, reveal that the lions could roar them deaf, dumb, blind and out of their heads, but could not roar them out of the path to Jerusalem Above.
One day, as Christian was passing through the town of Mount Ego, he came to a very narrow passage called the Queen’s Drive. Surely this would be a grand road, pleasant, with rough places made smooth, never stony, indeed, a royal highway. But as he proceeded, he found it nothing as he had imagined, and two lions were in the way. For a moment he made as though he would go back, when one, Mr. Watchful, called out to him, “Is thy strength so small? Fear not the lions, for they are chained; placed there for the trial of faith and for the discovery of those who have none. Keep to the midst of the path and no hurt shall come to thee.” With that heartening word he went on. But the way was like a razor’s edge. Sometimes that is the only way for us. The path for Christian he found so narrow as to allow only foot by foot in the way ahead. A fall to the left would have thrown him into the speeding traffic of the Queen’s carriages. A fall to the right would hurl him through lacy palm fronds and thick grasses down the steep face of a precipice. The path of righteousness lies straight forward, wide enough for but one foot at a time. One must go forward and onward in it, must not pause in it. It has no standing room, is not for loiterers. A misstep to left or right could be fatal. Mind, heart, eyes and feet must be kept in the very middle of that path with all perseverance. The walk here cannot be taken for granted, nor ever relaxed, nor eternal vigilance ceased for a moment.
Carnal security lulls into a sleep, which would be fatal if the Lord did not arouse us.
Press forward and fear not! Though trial be near:
The Lord is our refuge – whom then shall we fear?
His staff is our comfort, our safeguard His rod;
Then let us be steadfast and trust in our God.
Press forward and fear not1 we’ll speed on our way;
Why should we e’er shrink from our path in dismay?
We tread but the way which our Leader has trod;
Then let us press forward and trust in our God.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 10 February 1971