I don’t believe the Bible is a book of heroes. The Bible does have heroes in it, but that is not what it is about. It is a book about the Hero. Nonetheless, I do believe in having heroes, and I believe it is Biblical to have them.
Heroes are not perfect, and thus they point us to Christ in three ways. Their faults (weaknesses and sins) point us to the Savior that they, and we, all need. With this foundation we learn two further truths concerning their strengths. First, they are a result of God’s gifting and working in them such that He gets all the glory. Second, their strengths also point us to Jesus by whom they are graded – Jesus is the ultimate curve breaker. All heroes are judged in relation to Him.
Every year I single out one hero to study in particular. This year I will study the life and works of John Bunyan.
Every week I will post some gleanings from Bunyan. All such posts will be marked, “The Pilgrim,” a name easily understood by many as a reference to his famous Pilgrims Progress. The life of John Bunyan simply makes no sense unless He was living for another land in loyalty to a higher King.
Bunyan was born in 1628 at Elstow near Bedford. His father was a brazier. Though convicted at times, he was a foul-mouthed blasphemous youth. As a young man he joined Cromwell’s army. A year or two after being discharged from the army he married an unknown God-fearing woman. By her books and devotion he was convicted and attempted to stop swearing and attend church. Under the influence of his pastor, John Gifford, Christ called John Bunyan out of darkness, and into a kingdom of light.
In 1655 he began preaching. He was arrested in 1660 on the charges of preaching without official rights from the king. He was offered freedom if he promised not to preach. He refused and spent 12 years in prison. His second wife, Elizabeth, pled boldly and much before authorities for his release. These years were especially hard as one of his four children was blind. When released he enjoyed only a few years of freedom before he was arrested again. John Owen, known as the Prince of the Puritans, successfully pled for his release.
Bunyan was like Paul in prison. The prison confinement did not contain his influence, but multiplied as he wrote prolifically. But unlike Paul he had no formal education, no degrees, and knew nothing of Hebrew or Greek, and yet the Banner of Truth edition of his collected works is comprised of three large volumes in double-columned format with small print spanning 2,319 pages. His works are rich with the Word of God; as Spurgeon said, his blood was “Bibline.” These bible-saturated works show us his sustaining meditations during his imprisonments and trials. He, like father Abraham and the rest of the saints of Hebrews 11, lived upon the promises of another world.