Dr. Luder Whitlock
President's Column

Turning Adversity Into Opportunity

by Dr. Luder Whitlock















In attempting to use his time to honor the Lord rather than languish idly in his cell, he accomplished more than he might have dreamed. As a result he helped shape the history of the world.


     Bedford, England, like many other English towns and villages is a charming place, teeming with history. Strolling along the bank of the River Ouse on a spring afternoon amid spectacular, well-tended flower gardens while sculling crews smoothly skim back and forth is about as pleasant an experience as you could desire. No wonder Glen Miller, based there in World War II, liked Bedford.

     But Bedford's real appeal to me was John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim's Progress. The Bunyan Museum and his church next door are vivid reminders of how God so powerfully used an itinerant tinker.

     The story begins in 1668 when Bunyan and several other citizens were imprisoned for refusing to work at the parish church as directed by Parliament. His imprisonment lasted more than twelve years. It could easily have embittered him and robbed him of his greatest contribution to Christianity. Yet, it had the opposite effect. Why?

     The prisoners, in faithfulness to the Lord, worshipped Christ together every Sunday and rotated the responsibility of leading in worship. Preparing for that task one day, Bunyan began thumbing through the Bible, looking for a suitable text for their meditation. He happened upon a description of the Heavenly City and was captivated by it. He became so motivated by this fresh encounter with the new Jerusalem that he used his time in prison to study the Scriptures and write about it, producing one of the great Christian books of all time, Pilgrim 's Progress.

     Not only does Bunyan remind us that life is a spiritual pilgrimage and help chart the path to glory, giving us encouragement and guidance in our pilgrimage, he also provides a lasting example of how adversity can become opportunity. Not only was Bunyan a powerful witness to fellow prisoners, he had a huge influence on the jailer. He demonstrates the power of a godly life in difficult circumstances. In attempting to use his time to honor the Lord rather than languish idly in his cell, he accomplished more than he might have dreamed. As a result he helped shape the history of the world.

     God could use you that way, too. Just as the Apostle Paul saw the furtherance of the gospel through his suffering, so may you. That has been our experience, for RTS was born in the heat of opposition and persecution, yet God has blessed us immensely. Now as we face various new challenges we want to trust the Lord to bring us through and, in addition, do a mighty work. We pray that He will make RTS a great spiritual force to shape the 21st century.

- Dr. Luder G. Whitlock, Jr.




Reformed Quarterly, Volume 19, Number 2
© 2000 Reformed Theological Seminary
Articles may not be reprinted without permission.

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Last updated 7-13-2000.