John Bunyan lived a tumultuous life. He spent 12 years in prison for preaching the gospel without a license in England. All he had to do to be released was to agree not to preach. He had a wife and children, a daughter who was blind, and could not provide for them because of his imprisonment. He was wrought with grief over the impossible place of having to choose between preaching Christ and providing for his dependents. This is what he wrote regarding the Christian’s freedom to stay or flee danger:
“May we try to escape? Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly: if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Any thing but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Exodus 2:15; Moses stood, Hebrews 11:27. David fled, 1 Samuel 19:12; David stood, 1 Samuel 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jeremiah 37:11-12; Jeremiah stood, Jeremiah 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 9:10; Christ stood, John 18:1-8. Paul fled, 2 Corinthians 11:33; Paul stood, Acts 20:22-23…
“There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly…. Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance from God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word. Matthew 10:23…. If, therefore, when thou hast fled, thou art taken, be not offended at God or man: not at God, for thou art his servant, thy life an thy all are his; not at man, for he is but God’s rod, and is ordained, in this, to do thee good. Hast thou escaped? Laugh. Art thou taken? Laugh. I mean, be pleased which way soever things shall go, for that the scales are still in God’s hand.
– John Bunyan, in Seasonable Counsels, or Advice to Sufferers, quoted in John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life.
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