Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith…
The old proverb tells us that the way to the stars lay through difficulties. To reach high ground we must expect hard climbing. It is so in the life of the world. Look at the great soldier: the country honours him, crowds shout his praises. But to gain his position, he has endured hardness. Look at a famous painter at his work, How easily he seems to cover his canvas with almost living forms. But you forget the years of patient toil, and study, and self-denial.
I. IF WE ARE TO GAIN THE HIGH PLACES OF HEAVEN WE MUST EXPECT OBSTACLES IN OUR WAY.
1. But the true Christian will not be driven back by difficulties. Diogenes wished to become the pupil of a famous cynic philosopher, and was refused. Still Diogenes persisted, and the philosopher raised his staff to smite him. "Strike," said Diogenes, "you will not find a staff hard enough to conquer my perseverance." And so he had his wish. Let no blows be hard enough to drive us back from the kingdom of heaven.
2. For us all there is the Hill Difficulty to be climbed, and the Valley of Humiliation to be entered. We are proud of our schemes, and God sweeps them all away like a cobweb. We trust to our own righteousness, and God allows us to fall into a terrible temptation, like David. We thought, like St. Peter, that we could stand, and, behold, we have fallen. We trusted in our own strength, like Samson, and the Philistines, our sins, have bound us hand and foot in the prison.
3. Sometimes the difficulty lies right across our path like a rock, or like a baud of armed men. Once in battle an Austrian general was surrounded on all sides by the enemy. He sent a message to his commander asking whither he should retreat. And the answer came back in one word — "Forward!" That is the watchword of every true Christian man.
II. THE GREATEST OBSTACLES IN OUR PATH TO HEAVEN ARE —
1. The world which hinders us on our heavenly journey in the form of bad company. Many a pilgrim has lost his way by forming godless or careless acquaintances.
2. The flesh. Who has not the desire to go forward in the path of duty, and yet suffered himself to listen to the whisper, "A little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep"? Who has not found the bad thought, hated and unwelcome, yet forcing itself upon him at the holiest seasons? Well, if we are to continue our journey to heaven we must be masters of our flesh. It is better for us to enter into life maimed or blind, than to have two eyes, all that we desire or wish for, at the cost of our own soul.
3. The devil. Sometimes he comes as a roaring lion, openly attacking us; sometimes he comes as an angel of light, whispering soft, tempting promises in our ears.
III. THE WAY TO MEET THESE DIFFICULTIES.
1. Do not think too much of them beforehand; meet them bravely when they come, but do not meet them half way. When a man builds a house he does not stay to think what a long task it is; he just goes on day by day adding brick to brick, till the whole is finished. Let us day by day try to do our duty, to build up a little bit of a holy life, and the difficulties and obstacles will be overcome.
2. Then we must trust ourselves to our Guide. If you were to try to climb some of the Swiss mountains you would come to places where it would be impossible for you to proceed alone. Then your guide would bid you to trust entirely to him, to allow yourself to be bound to him, and to have no fear. In all the difficulties and dangers of our pilgrimage we must trust ourselves entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ.
(H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.