longings, or aspirations. One is seeking God; the other is seeking self-satisfaction. One is a true pilgrim; the other is false and fading.“
― John Bunyan,
Some of you may remember the post I did back in April titled “Mr. Worldly Wiseman” which was about a character from the book Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it, and if you go here you can read more about it. In Pilgrim’s Progress, we meet several characters like Pliable, Evangelist, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, and so on. The main character is a man named Christian who has started his journey towards Celestial City (Heaven. “That which is to come.) after making the decision to leave the City of Destruction. (Which represents this world.) He had read a book, the Bible, and realized that he was a sinner in need of deliverance, and through the book we read about his journey to the Wicket Gate, AKA the narrow gate. He leaves behind his family and friends, although he did plead for them to come but they refused. Two men begin the journey with him, originally planning on getting him to change his mind and go back home. These two men are named Obstinate and Pliable. Christian refuses to end his journey, and eventually, Obstinate leaves Pliable and Christian, disgusted with Christian’s decision to go, and with Pliable’s decision to accompany Christian.
I could make a post about Christian and his race to the wicket gate, about the trials and tribulations he faced, about the persecution that arose from his friends and family, about how he must’ve felt meeting people like Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Evangelist, Help, Goodwill, and the list of people goes on. But today, I feel as though it would be better for us to think a bit more about Pliable, the man who was so dedicated to the journey, so ready to become a Christian and forsake his sin and the sinful city that he’d been living in, the man who had gone to Christian with Obstinate, originally planning on telling him not to go, but ended up going with him. If you’ve read the book, you know what happened to Pliable. You see, the moment trouble came, Pliable ran. He ran back to his sin, his old city, and he left Christian. He turned away. He was an insecure man, he had no confidence, and he was full of fear. Pliable reminds me of so many people, of myself.
When Obstinate and Pliable first came to Christian, fighting to bring him back home, the book says that they overtook him, and began to argue with him. How could they leave their homes, their friends, their families? They did not want to leave the comforts of their home, they could not see that God had a greater inheritance in store for them if they made the journey with Christian. Christian says to them, in page 18, “I seek an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away and it is laid up in Heaven and safe there to be bestowed, at the time appointed, on them that diligently seek it!”He attempts to hand them his book, the Bible, but Obstinate pushes it away. “Away with your book!” He exclaims. But Christian boldly told him, I refuse to go back, I have laid my hand to the plow. But Pliable, as Obstinate urges them to leave Christian behind and has given up hope on him, says that his heart is inclined to go with his neighbor. And so, their short journey together begins.
Christian shares the gospel with him as they begin to walk together, and Pliable is excited to begin. The book says that he feels glad after hearing the words from the Bible.
There are many people out there who have heard the good news of the Bible; Christ has loved us, Christ has died for us, Christ offers us salvation and a home in Heaven. As Christian said in Pilgrim’s Progress, He has many things in store for us in Heaven, it is an endless kingdom that we are allowed to inhabit, we will have eternity to enjoy it, we will be in the presence of the saints, of angels.There will be no hurt, no anger, no hatred. It will be full of God’s love, everyone walking in the sight of God. Like Pliable, they are excited about this, they want nothing more than to see Heaven and God’s glory, to experience His love and power firsthand, but how much are they willing to give up for it? How much are they willing to trust Him? What are they willing to go through in order to get there?
Pliable began this journey with great excitement, he begged Christian to go faster, but Christian could not because of the burden on his back. He was determined to get to Heaven and make this journey with his friend…but we see that he greatly changes when they get to The Slough of Despond. Let us read about this place.
“Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk, they drew nigh to a very miry Slough that was in the midst of the plain; and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the Slough was Despond. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.” Pilgrim’s Progress, page 21.
And Pliable begins to change. He is furious with Christian, saying, “Is this the happiness you have told me all this while of? If we have such ill speed at our first setting out, what may we except between this and our journey’s end? May I get out again with my life, you shall possess the brave country for me!” And with that, Pliable manages to get out of the bog and runs off, and he abandons Christian.
There are many people out there who want the good news but they don’t want to carry their cross. I know we’ve talked a lot about this recently, but I feel like this is a very timely topic in the time we’re living in. It is hard to be a Christian, this journey is not an easy one. When we are making our way to the narrow gate, to Heaven, we will face trials. We will face persecution. And sometimes, it will feel as though we’re stuck in the bog at the Slough of Despond. My question for you is this, are you in it for the glory or are you in it for Jesus? Pliable didn’t stay on the right track because he wanted God’s glory, God’s power, God’s grace, God’s love, and God’s riches without having to work for it. He was in it for the glory, and when he decided that the glory was not worth the work he had to do it get it, he left. He didn’t have nor want a relationship with God like what we see Christian seeking. He relied on his own strength, which was lacking, and didn’t think to rely on God or wait for His help to arrive. And we know that God did send help for Christian just moments after Pliable had left. A man named Help arrived, and Christian was saved.
So I don’t get a flood of comments written by angry people saying that God has already paid the price and we don’t have to work for the rewards, I want to share some scripture with you. 1st Corinthians 15:58 says, Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. God commands us to be steadfast, immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord and working for Him and not for our own personal gain! Pliable wasn’t any of these things. He was certainly not steadfast or immovable. The first trial he faced was enough for him to run away because he wasn’t working for God, he was working for himself.
We need to be firm, we need to be steadfast, we need to know God personally and know why He is calling us, and where He is calling us to. If we don’t, we’re not going to trust Him, and we’re going to end up running away, too. We need to be fighting this fight for Him. Being a Christian doesn’t mean seeking out our own rewards, it means seeking out glory for God. When we face a trial, we should know that it is there for a reason and that God is with us and we won’t fail when God is with us. We should continue on because we are so devoted to Him and seeing Him get the glory.
Sometimes, we won’t get what we want as quickly as we’d like. We may be praying for something in particular and we’re growing upset because we aren’t getting it. We may be trying our best to live for God but we’re getting disappointed because it has turned out harder than we originally thought it would be, but we have to stay grounded in our faith, always abounding in the work of the Lord. We have a duty to do for Christ, not for ourselves, not for our own gain, but for His.
“Then said Good-Will, “Alas, poor Pliable! Is the celestial glory of so little value to him that he considers it unworthy of his hazarding a few difficulties to obtain it?”
― John Bunyan,
Do we find God worthy of some difficulties? Is He worth facing trials for? I suppose the ultimate question is…do we love Him enough?
Are we like Pliable? Does our faith vanish the moment something bad happens? Or are we striving to be a better Christian, having full assurance that God will send help and He will rescue us out of the bog and deliver us safely to Heaven?
2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.