How is it that Christians are able to comfort each other, to encourage each other, and to stir up one another to love and good works? The answer is, to a large degree, because we share the same perspective on life. Spiritual friends are friends who are traveling according to the same itinerary. The circumstances of each life might differ, but the overall pattern is the same. Clarity, which is another name for seeing this pattern, is a glue that binds the heart of one believer to that of another.
Imagine for a moment that Pilgrim’s Progress abruptly ended with Christian and Hopeful trapped in the net of the Flatterer. You turn the page and there is no more writing. The story concludes in a dark moment of bewilderment without any answers regarding whether or not the difficulties of the journey had ultimate purpose or whether the arguous road did in fact lead to a destination.
Motivationally, the Christian life is impossible without an eternal perspective. We will never forgo the praise of earthly men until we believe in the praise of a Heavenly Father. We will never relinquish temporary reward until we are convinced of eternal treasure. We will never submit to injustice until we believe in final justice. We will never sacrifice our bodies in painful service to God until we believe that God will resurrect our bodies to everlasting joy.
Once we appreciate the dangerous journey of faith, and the perils that inevitably will be encountered on route, a man will falter unless he is convinced that God has adequately resourced him for the road ahead. To step onto a battlefield without first taking stock of what weapons are at hand is foolishness. To enter into a dark and deceitful world unschooled in the armor of God is madness.
Men, never forget that we live in hostile territory and the only way to get through Vanity Fair unscathed is to be ‘wise as serpents and innocent as doves.’ To live for money and success is no better than to live for sex and drugs. To build a lifestyle on materialism is no more virtuous than to build a lifestyle on pillaging. Satan is indifferent what door men choose to enter Hell. Endless amusement or the gore of violence: one road might be more respectable than the other, but neither leads to the gates of heaven (c.f. I Jn. 2:15-17).
Do men need to hear about the glories, and privileges, and honors of following Jesus? Of course they do. Yet, from most pulpits these jewels are brought out and put on public display every Sunday. What is left hidden in the back closet is the sword and the trowel, the reminders that only by fighting and toil is maturity won.
Captivation without clarity, deep emotion without knowledge, is dangerous. This is true in everyday life; it is also true in spiritual life. Ignorance is a grave threat to spirituality. If men do not have a clear and true perspective of the Christian life, they will not understand what they are attempting, and thus the attempt itself will be naive and ill-measured.