“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
He was thrown in jail in 1660 for preaching without state approval. He was a non-conformist, a Puritan pastor. Although he was uneducated, John Bunyan was known to be a powerful preacher who drew large crowds to hear the gospel. The Church of England considered him (and thousands of other Puritan pastors) to be dangerous outsiders. Thousands of these pastors were forced out of their pulpits. Some were killed. John Bunyan was imprisoned.
He would spend twelve long years in his cell during this first imprisonment. He spent that time writing to his church, praying for his captors and worrying about his family. Astoundingly, Bunyan could have secured his release at any time but did not. Had he simply agreed not to preach any longer, he could have gone on his way; but his conscience wouldn't allow it. How many of us would have done the same I wonder? His willingness to endure for twelve years would be laudable even had he been a bachelor, but Bunyan was a family man. He had a wife and six children, the oldest of which was blind. As long as he was in jail, he was unable to provide for their needs. This caused him no small amount of anguish.
"Parting with my wife and poor children has often been to me like the pulling of the flesh from my bones... I have often brought to mind the many hardships, miseries, and wants that my poor family would likely meet with should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lies nearer my heart than all besides. Oh the thoughts of the hardship I thought my blind one might go under would break my heart to pieces." (Bunyan, John. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. p 123 as quoted by Piper, John in The Hidden Smile of God. p.56) [I've updated the language to make it easier to read]
Yet, despite his concern for his family, John Bunyan refused to be silenced. He remained in jail until religious freedom once again broke out in England and he was freed to both be with his family and to preach. Bunyan would be imprisoned two more times during his lifetime. It was during one of these later imprisonments that he wrote the book Pilgrim's Progress for which he is still known. This book is worthy to be remembered but it's a shame that Bunyan isn't remembered more for his unyielding commitment to preach the Word and to live for Christ.
Bunyan's life illustrates a truth that I believe he understood better than most. The believer's life is not his own. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then your life is not yours to do with as you please. Not one second of one day of your life belongs to you. Listen to what Paul says in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." Jesus said, "I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me" (John 5:30). Jesus didn't live His life as He wished but according to the will of God the Father. May those who follow Jesus and call Him Lord take the same attitude! If every Christian were gripped by this truth, much of the lostness and pain in our world could be defeated
Who are you living for? Who would you say directs your life in the big decisions? And in all the small ones? Remember, "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Live like it!
Father, forgive me for living my life as if it were my own, selfishly assigning or witholding my time and resources based on my own preferences. Forgive me for not seeking Your will every day in the big decisions and in the small ones. Thank you for reminding me today that my very breath is a gift from You. My life is not my own, help me to spend it in service to You. Use me for your glory. In Jesus' name, Amen.