In 1911 Robert Falcon Scott attempted to be the first man to reach the South Pole. Scott knew that in order to reach the South Pole and return safely, the issue of supplies was going to be critical. And so as he and his men set out for the Pole, depots were made at regular intervals of roughly seventy miles, each containing food and fuel for a week for the returning parties. Unfortunately for Scott, when he arrived at the Pole he found that the Norwegian Explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten him to it. Crushed and dispirited he and his men turned around and began the difficult slog back to their base on the coast. The supply Depots that would have supplied their needs however, became harder and harder to reach as the weather closed in around them. In the end Scott and his men finally ran out of supplies and perished when a terrible blizzard finally made all further progress impossible.
The irony was that when they died, they were only 11 miles from the largest of the depots, where their friends were waiting for them with supplies and even dog sleds to carry them home. In the end, those supplies might just as well have been on the moon for all the good they did Scott and his party.
Believers in Jesus Christ are on a journey as well. But believers are on a far more important journey than merely a quest for earthly glory. Believers are Pilgrims on the way to the Celestial City, and they walk the narrow path, the true King’s Highway. As they make that journey, which is at times difficult, for they are constantly assailed by the world, the flesh, and the devil, they also require spiritual nourishment. And Christ has not left his children without supply, in fact in His great Love he has given them abundantly more than they need.
These supplies are called the means of grace, and they are neither few nor far between. Jesus knows how great the hardships and struggles of this life can be, and as the author of the epistle to the Hebrews assures us in Hebrews 4:14-16: “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Christ has given us the means that our faith might ever be strengthened and the benefits of his work as our mediator might be spiritually conveyed to believers. Those means are the word of God, Prayer, and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. While we should not fall into the serious error of assuming that the means themselves have the magical power to convey grace to all who receive them, we must remember that they are still the ordinary means by which God communicates His grace. The Westminster Confession makes this dynamic relationship between faith and the means clear, when it tells us “The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.” [WCF 14.1]
The saddest thing is that often believers spiritually end up in the same condition as Scott and his men did. Scott and his men had no way of reaching the resources they needed for their journey, but Christians will often choose to spiritually starve themselves when they are literally surrounded by the very means God has ordained to strengthen and protect them. They do not pray, they do not read their bibles, and often they will even fail to come to church to hear the word preached and take part in the Lord’s Supper. If they do this, should they be surprised when their faith weakens, or when they grow spiritually cold? And as they weaken, they will inevitably find that they are less capable of “standing against the wiles of the devil” for As William Gurnall warned “The Christian’s amour decays two ways: either by violent battery, when the Christian is overcome by temptation to sin; or else by neglecting to furbish and scour it with the use of those means which are as oil to keep it clean and bright.”
God has mercifully given Christians an abundance of spiritual food, and yet they too often choose to neglect it. Sadly, their pilgrimage is bound to be miserable if that is their choice.
Reader, don’t you make that bad decision, and leave yourself in a position where you are likely to fall into temptation. Attend regularly upon the preaching of the word, be often taken up with the duties of prayer and bible reading, and do not neglect the Lord’s Supper. They are ordained for your benefit, not God’s! And if you are too busy to do these things, then friend, you are too busy. Get your spiritual house in order before the roof caves in.
“The two blind men. . . . (Matthew 20:30), they could not open their own eyes; that was beyond their power, but they could get into the way where Jesus passed, and they could cry to Him for sight, who only could recover it. Those that are diligent in the use of means and ordinances they sit in the way where Jesus passes by.” – David Clarkson