At first, back in seventeenth-century England, Bunyan was just a tinker, an itinerant small businessman who sold and repaired metal utensils. He joined a nonconformist religious group in the town of Bedford, met Christ, and sensed the call to preach the gospel. He had no formal religious education and no license to preach, which the law required, but he didn’t let that stop him. He preached anyway. And he was arrested and imprisoned for it.
For twelve years, Bunyan languished in Bedford Jail, refusing either to be licensed or to stop preaching whenever he was released. Prisons in that day were notorious for their lack of concern for prisoners’ health or well-being. People believed that jail was a place of punishment and suffering, not rehabilitation, and Bunyan certainly suffered.
But Bunyan was not idle in jail; he was busy writing. During his imprisonment, he wrote A Discourse Touching Prayer (1662); Christian Behavior (1663); One Thing Is Needful (1664); and The Holy City, The Resurrection of the Dead and Eternal Judgment, and a poem “Prison Meditations” (1665, a very productive year!). He capped his imprisonment with his best-known publication from that period, Grace Abounding (1666).
Released in 1671, Bunyan returned immediately to preaching. He managed to avoid arrest, though, until 1675, when he was again arrested and imprisoned for another six months. It was during that time that he wrote his masterpiece, The Pilgrim’s Progress (1675). Look at a copy sometime, and remind yourself that Bunyan wrote it all in only six months!
John Bunyan produced all of these works in spite of his imprisonment and terrible conditions in a cold, dark, damp jail cell. He didn’t make excuses. He just wrote, and God blessed his efforts.
What’s our excuse?