The Pilgrims: Laying America’s Foundations, Part 6

Phil Jensen


At the close of Part Five of the Pilgrim Series, after describing the first trial to beset the Pilgrims upon landing in the New World, I said that trials come to reveal what is in our hearts.  It reveals the kind of people we truly are, whether we will be the kind of people God wants us to be or not.  This is why in Deuteronomy 8:2, as the Israelites were on the verge of entering the promised land after having spent forty years in the wilderness, Moses says to them: And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble and to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments not.—Deuteronomy 8:2

From : History of the Pilgrims and Puritans, their ancestry and descendants; basis of Americanization

From : History of the Pilgrims and Puritans, their ancestry and descendants; basis of Americanization

If you think that this is strange or even uncaring, understand we must be tested to see what we are able to endure. A great writer from a past century gives us a good illustration of why this is necessary: I stood once in the test room of a great steel mill. All around me were little partitions and compartments. Steel had been tested to the limit and marked with figures that showed its breaking point. Some pieces had been twisted until they broke, and the strength of torsion was marked on them. Some had been stretched to the breaking point, and their tensile strength indicated. Some had been compressed to the crushing point, and also marked. The master of the steel mill knew just what these pieces of steel would stand under strain.  He knew just what they would bear if placed in a great ship, a building or a bridge. He knew because his testing room revealed it.[1]

This is why the Israelites were tested in the wilderness.

Rick Kriebel 2016


God knew how He wanted to use them. This is why the Pilgrims were tested.  God wanted to use them.  But before God uses us, He needs to see if we are serious about our commitment, or if we are going to give up at the first sign of trouble. The Pilgrims showed they were serious.  They wanted to be a beacon of light.  It showed in the way they treated each other and in the way they treated the sailors; they were committed to being that beacon of life.

Also there is the question of readiness.  Are we ready for the purpose God would like to give us?  Just as a child is not ready for certain responsibilities, neither are we until we have been refined.  The impurities in our life have to be removed.  Therefore another reason God brings trials into our life is to get us ready, for they help change us into better people: The story is told about a visitor watching a silversmith heating the silver in his crucible. Hotter and hotter grew the fires.  All the while the smith was closely scanning the crucible. Presently, the visitor asked,  “Why do you watch the silver so closely?  What are you looking for?” “I am looking for my face,” was the answer. When I see my own image in the silver, then I stop. The work is done.”[2]

If you want to do great things, keep this in mind.  God needs to get you ready.  One of things this means is He is going to change you.  For Romans 8:29 says,

Woodrow Wilcox


For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.—Romans 8:29a

As for the Pilgrims, they had been called to a great purpose. But the greater the purpose, the greater the troubles:

“When the worst was finally over, they had lost forty-seven people, nearly half their original number. Thirteen out of eighteen wives died; only three families remained unbroken.  Of all the first comers, the children fared the best: of seven daughters, none died; of thirteen sons, only three.  And the colony, which was young to begin with, was even younger now.” [3]

One would think after such a great trial, the Pilgrims would have totally lost their faith and would have been on the first ship back to England, but such was not the case.  Marshall and Manuel say: “And through it all, their hearts remained soft towards God. Whether they knew that they were being tested, as Bradford later suspected, the high point of their week remained Sunday worship, when the beat of a field drum would summon them to the morning and afternoon services.  The service was held in the blockhouse at the top of  the hill. Inside, on rough-hewn log benches, the men would sit on the left, the women on the right.”

William Brewster would preach, and he had a gift for teaching “both powerfully and profitably, to the great contentment of the hearers, and their comfortable edification; yea many were brought to God by his ministry.”[4]

This here was the amazing thing.  Even the worst that was thrown at them could not move them from their faith in God.  In doing so, they epitomized the faith expressed in Psalm 62:  My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.—Psalm 62:5-6  Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.—Psalm 62:8

This is where the Pilgrims found themselves, determined to hold on to God as their refuge, determined not to be moved from where God had brought them, determined to stay in New England, and be the light in a spiritually dark land, determined to advance the Christian faith and live for the glory of God.

Let me ask you something.  When you have to give up almost everything in this world, when you have to lose loved ones and go through horrible trials, what is there left in you?  What do you still have in the very core of your belief, that you are willing to live for? This was the question the Pilgrims answered.  And the answer was God.

It is also important to understand that when we live for God, it is not unusual for God to bring trials into our lives so the people around us can see how we are different in the way we react to the trials.  This is what some of the sailors saw when they were sick and the Pilgrims helped them.

[1] Taken from (Streams in the Desert) by (Mrs. Charles Cowman) Copyright © (1925, 1953, 1965, 1996) by (Cowman Publications, Inc.) use by permission of Zondervan.  p. 259.

[2] James H. McConkey, Life Talks (Harrisburg, PA: Fred Kelker, 1911), p. 7

[3]  Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory, (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 1977), p. 127. Used by permission.

[4] Ibid., p. 128



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Bob Wittstruck was a pastor for 33 years, was the associate director of the Black Hills Creation Science Association, and is a supporter of both Christian schooling and home schooling. His latest book, The Forgotten Factor of History God Rules, is being printed in February or March of 2016. His email address is [email protected]
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