Courage for the Journey

Charles Knowlton (1927-2013)
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In 1839, a want ad appeared in a New York newspaper: “Wanted: a few good men to train for a dangerous, low pay, weather exposed assignment.” Applicants would need to leave behind their former walks of life and become expert horsemen. The agency that placed the ad was swamped with replies, but not every applicant proved to be up to the challenge. Many were called, but ultimately—as the ad indicated—relatively few were chosen. Thus the Pony Express was formed.

The job was tough, and much of the Western territory was unsettled and dangerous. Pony Express riders could find themselves alone in the wilderness, cut off from everything familiar. When they signed up, many riders surely had no idea what they would be in for.

In a like manner, God has been calling a few people to train for positions in His coming Kingdom. These people are to be converted from their carnal human nature. As part of that process, they must face trials and build in their own lives the holy and righteous character of God. Christian life becomes for them a duty and a journey, and those who take to the path become pilgrims—travelers who are often in danger, and who are often alone but for the few others on the path. Their journey requires time and effort, and “riders” often need many years to reach their goal.

But what exactly is the meaning of conversion? What kind of change was Christ looking for? Physical, mental or spiritual?

Pony Express riders had to work hard, which for many meant a great deal of physical strength was needed. Christian conversion, too, requires the development of strength—spiritual strength. Pony Express riders developed the dedication to do their jobs even in the most difficult circumstances. So, too, must Christians pursue their calling.

Christian life requires certain physical changes—keeping God’s commandments, arranging our lifestyles in harmony with God’s commands—but those changes are only the beginning. Jesus Christ required mental and spiritual change (Matthew 5:21-30; Philippians 4:2-6)! Pony Express riders took an oath to do their duties faithfully, and Christians similarly make a covenant with God to give up their lives to follow Christ (Luke 14:26-33). That covenant, once taken at baptism, is binding. And, just as a Pony Express rider made the commitment to finish his route, Christians must remain faithful to the end. And the effort is worth it! “I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

The lives of Pony Express riders depended on knowing their business in all kinds of conditions. They were expected to display professionalism and courage, because of how many lives their deliveries could affect. The Christian calling requires even greater commitment, in preparation for an even greater responsibility. Those who overcome in this life will, in the soon-coming Millennium, rule in the Kingdom of God under Jesus Christ—a reward that will accompany the gift of eternal life (Revelation 5:9-10; 14:4). And in order to persist faithfully on route to this reward, Christians need courage: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9). The Christian life requires self-examination: “Am I thinking like God, or am I trying to make God think like me?” Just as a Pony Express rider needed to stay on the right path to reach the destination, Christians need to be sure they are truly in the faith (1 Corinthians 11:28).

Did the Pony Express riders sometimes wonder whether their job was worth the risks? Perhaps, but for many the answer was a resounding “yes”—and their hard work and dedication made the organization famous. Is God calling you to take a journey?  Find out by reading our free booklets, What Is a True Christian? and Christian Baptism: Its Real Meaning. And watch our Tomorrow’s World telecast, “Your Incredible Future!

  Originally Published: 02nd August 2012