Commencement of the Christian's Journey- Difficulties in the Way

"...where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that they must enter into the Kingdom of God through many tribulations." Acts 14:22

"Let us adore the grace that seeks
To draw our hearts above!
Attend, 'tis God the Savior speaks,
And every word is love."

No man begins the journey to the heavenly home, until by the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, his soul is attracted to Christ, the Living Way, the Truth, and the Life. At that happy hour when the heart is opened, and the understanding enlightened to discern spiritual things, the Savior's love is the first to beam in mild, sweet, constraining influence upon the soul of the renewed man. He wonders that he was not able before to discern the beauty, the excellence and glory of Immanuel. Now, Jesus appears to him as the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. Now, he is ready to exclaim, "My beloved is mine, and I his. Whom have I in heaven but you? There is none upon earth that I desire besides you."

Thus enlightened by divine grace, the pilgrim turns from the City of Destruction to the Heavenly Mansions. He leaves the crowded road which leads to eternal darkness and woe, and enters on the narrow pathway that conducts the weary traveler to realms of light and bliss. The star of Bethlehem is his guide; the promises of God's word, his rod and staff; and heaven, his everlasting, happy home. His views are now elevated above the decaying objects around him. His affections are placed upon things above. He contemplates with rapturous delight the bleeding glories of Immanuel, and the shining abode of Zion's pilgrims in the celestial kingdom. He is risen with Jesus.

He has become a spiritually minded man. He lives and walks by faith in the Son of God. Though in the world, he is no longer of it; but belongs to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. As an heir of glory, as a traveler to the skies, as an expectant of eternal bliss, he looks above and beyond the troublesome scenes of a fleeting pilgrimage. He enjoys the charming and sublime prospect beyond the precincts of time! He beholds in that brighter world, an ocean of glory, without a shore, and without a storm! As the Christian pursues his journey, with his eye fixed on the solemn realities of eternity, earth and sublunary grandeur appear to him as transitory as the morning cloud and early morning dew, compared with those immeasurable ages of bliss, which roll before his transported vision.

A traveler on his journey, loves to cherish the endearing thoughts of home and domestic happiness. Nothing is so dear to him in all his wanderings as the fireside of his fathers– the land of his birth. In like manner, he who has been constrained, by the Savior's love, to begin the blessed journey from the wilderness of this world to the heavenly Canaan, will delight to meditate on the riches and glory of his Father's house, in the pure, unclouded realms of eternal day. The Jerusalem above will be dearer to him than any earthly object. His language will be: "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill upon the harp. May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I fail to remember you, if I don't make Jerusalem my highest joy." In every stage of his pilgrimage, the Christian loves to think of that better land, his true, abiding home, where he shall sing triumphant songs of praise to his Redeemer, and his God.

We have thus hinted at the pleasing view which opens to him from whose eyes the scales of unbelief leave fallen- who is enabled to look at eternal things in the light of God's word; and who has set out upon the Christian's journey, to the celestial city. We shall now notice a few of the difficulties which lie in the way to glory; for no sooner does the pilgrim enter on the path of the just, than he meets with obstacles. We mention three sources from which the Christian may expect to meet with great opposition in fighting the good fight of faith.

The world with its sinful pleasures and enjoyments is calculated to captivate the affections, enchain the heart, and impede the pilgrim's progress to the heavenly rest. A thousand fascinating charms are thrown around his pathway through this bewildering world. In city and in country; on land and on sea- everywhere, the soldier of the cross is surrounded by spiritual dangers and difficulties.

"Yet, the clear path to your abode,
Lies through this horrid land;
Lord, we would trace the dangerous road,
And run at your command."

Love of the world is one great means of retarding our journey to the skies. O, how many have turned aside from following the blessed Jesus by placing all their affections upon this present, fleeting scene, which in a very few years at most, will profit them nothing! "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world."

See to it, Christian, that you do not love the world. By faith in the cross of Christ, and the bleeding glories of Calvary; this world with all its riches and honors will become a dim and dying object in your view.
"Then, pilgrim, let your joys and fears
On time no longer lean;
But henceforth all your hopes and fears
From earth's affections wean."

Obey the warning voice of mercy if you would reach the blissful shore: "Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you." Notwithstanding the Christian's endeavors to live above the world, and near to God, how often is he compelled to cry out with the Psalmist: "My soul cleaves unto the dust: quicken me according to your word."
"From earth, and all its empty joys,
Blest Jesus, set Me free;
How vain the worldling's gilded toys,
Compared with heaven and thee!
You are my hope, my way, my bliss;
My glory, and my crown;
Descend, O blessed Prince of Peace,
And make my heart your throne."

We must expect to meet with OPPOSITION FROM AN UNBELIEVING WORLD. Those who have their part and portion here do not love those who have chosen a better inheritance above. The world hates a true follower of the Lamb! Jesus was himself the object of their hatred. No wonder then that his followers should meet with the same reception from unbelievers. The Savior says to his disciples: "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." It has been truly said that if we are faithful, we must indeed expect reproach; if we boldly confess Christ before men, and steadily maintain that marked distinction which forms the line of separation between the church and the world, we must submit to have our names cast out as evil.

The Christian pilgrim will meet with opposition from Satan. "For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms." The inspired writers give us directions how we are to meet and vanquish this arch enemy of souls. "Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour. Take a firm stand against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that Christians all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are." "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you". "A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. Use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. " Let us follow this advice, and we shall win a glorious victory, and receive an immortal crown. The God of peace shall bruise Satan under our feet shortly.

In the arms of Jesus we shall be safe, eternally safe from the attacks of our subtle adversary. Satan will never be able to pluck a single believing soul from the hands of an Almighty Savior! Animated by such a consideration, let us press forward in our pilgrimage, armed with the panoply of Heaven; and in a little while the Satanic conflict will be over; then we shall take up sweet, unending songs of triumph in that happy place, where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest.

Another enemy, with which the Christian will have to contend until this mortal life shall have put on immortality, is the flesh. As the believer is never perfectly sanctified in this life, the remains of corruption in his heart must be a source of continual annoyance to him in coming up from the wilderness to the land of perfection and bliss. Here, the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. The Canaanites are still in the land; and the soldier of the cross must be always on his guard, lest they surprise and overcome him.

"The remainders of corruption require continual watchfulness and caution, lest they increase and regain their former possession of the heart. Sin still dwelling in the believer, causes that warfare, which must never cease until this body is laid in the grave, never more to harm the disembodied spirit, encircled with heavenly glory." How often has the remaining depravity of the human heart made the good man weep and bend, as under an unendurable load, and long to be freed from the bitter thraldom of sinful flesh! This made Paul cry out in the bitterness of his soul, "Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?" But almost with the same breath he exclaims, as he sees the Great Deliverer, "Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord."

Here, then, is our strength and deliverance. Jesus is the salvation of Israel. In Him we shall obtain complete dominion over the corruptions of our nature. How reanimating to hear that sweet promise whispered in our ears, while we are still in an enemy's land," My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me."

Then, if we would overcome all the difficulties which lie in our pathway to immortal bliss- if we would reach the happy shores of Immanuel's Land- let us follow the advice of the Apostle. "The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature."

What a glorious reward is held forth to him who is true to the cause of Christ throughout his pilgrimage on earth! "Remain faithful even when facing death, and I will give you the crown of life." O what unutterable bliss awaits the faithful follower of Jesus in that eternal, glorious world toward which they are daily advancing!

And how much is there in the Holy Scriptures to animate us in struggling amid the sorrows and conflicts of the Christian course! They tell us that all the riches and glories of the heavenly Canaan are to be enjoyed through the ceaseless ages of eternity, by those who have overcome by the blood of the Lamb. The cheering language of the Savior is– "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." "He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death." "To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." "He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels." "Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name." "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne." "He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son."

"Oft as I look upon the road
That leads to yonder blest abode,
I feel distressed and fearful;
So many foes the passage throng,
I am so weak and they so strong,
How can my soul be cheerful?
But when I think of him whose power,
Can save me in a trying hour,
And place on Him reliance,
My soul is then ashamed of fear;
And though ten thousand foes appear,
I'll bid them all defiance.
The dangerous road I then pursue,
And keep the glorious prize in view,
With joyful hope elated;
Strong in the Lord, in Him alone,
Where he conducts, I follow on,
With ardor unabated.
O Lord, each day renew my strength,
And let me see your face at length,
With all your people yonder;
With them in heaven your love declare,
And sing your praise forever there,
With gratitude and wonder."