John Bunyan’s arrest, trial, and 12 year imprisonment never had to happen. He could have declined his last invitation to preach. He could have followed his friends’ advice and fled the meeting house before the constable arrived. And, he could have promised to never preach again and been quickly released. He could have walked away from the whole commotion quite easily.
But Bunyan could not deny his God and Savior. He could not abandon God and “blaspheme the gospel.” As he told one of his accusers, “If I were out of prison to-day, I would preach the Gospel again to-morrow, by the help of God.”
Bunyan’s convictions would cost him dearly. When he was imprisoned in 1660, John Bunyan left behind a pregnant wife and four children, the oldest of whom was blind. When his wife Elizabeth heard of Bunyan’s arrest, she went into premature labor and gave birth to a still-born child. And for the entirety of his twelve-year prison term, Bunyan provided a meager income for his family by making and selling shoelaces.
As a loving husband and father, Bunyan’s heart was tormented by his family’s sufferings. At times, he felt that he “was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children.” As Elizabeth, would later tell a judge, John Bunyan truly “desired to live peaceably, to follow his calling that his family might be maintained.”
Although Bunyan longed to care for his family, he knew his ultimate allegiance was to Christ. No matter how much he loved his family, Bunyan could not abandon his Lord and Savior. And he was able to trust Jesus through this time because he knew that God could and would care for his family. Bunyan truly believed Jeremiah 49:11 which says, “Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive: And let your widows trust in Me.”
Furthermore, Bunyan was convinced that denying Christ to save his family would ultimately lead to his and his family’s destruction. He wrote:
If I…venture all for God, I engaged God to take care of my concernments: but if I forsook Him and His ways…I…should count also that my concernments were not so sure.
Whether in or out of jail, Bunyan knew that God was the one that preserved his family. John abandoned his self-sufficiency and entrusted his life and his family to the God of the universe. And as a result of his faith, Bunyan was able to boast that, “Jesus was never more real and apparent than now; here I have seen and felt him indeed.” His family was preserved by the grace of God. And Bunyan got a new family becoming the spiritual father of thousands through his writings.
Lessons For Today
The world has changed much since Bunyan was imprisoned. We no longer travel by horseback. And we no longer hide our retirement account in a chest above the fireplace. But, we can still learn much from John Bunyan, the parent. And my biggest take away is this: Christ is everything.
As parents, we long, like Bunyan did, to give our kids the very best things. We take them to church. We sign them up for softball. We select great piano teachers. We do anything and everything to help them excel at life. But at the end of the day, our kids really need only one thing, Jesus. The rest is all fluff.
Bunyan understood this truth. He understood it to the point of separating himself from his kids’ so that they could achieve the thrown of grace. He would rather suffer for his faith and see his family confined to poverty than provide comforts for his children and see them miss heaven. Bunyan lived out Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
Friends, we must take time to listen to Bunyan’s message. We should not sacrifice the church and the gospel for our kids’ worldly advancement. Rather, we should do the opposite.
We must see that sports, musical skill, and even our own careers are secondary to the gospel. If sacrificing these things enables us to reach our kids with the gospel, then we must sacrifice them. We must be willing to sell all that we have and follow Jesus.. No half measures will do. Christ must be primary. We must build our family and our family’s schedule around the gospel. We should listen’s to Bunyan’s message and make Christ everything.
Do you hear it?
Come learn more about Bunyan on Wednesday night, October 26, 2016. FBCE will be hosting our third annual Reformation Day Festival featuring the life and works of John Bunyan. We will have a live historical skit, games, candy, and yes even a prison based on his famous work, Pilgrim’s Progress! I hope to see you there!