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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Pilgrim Life

We're just a-passin' through.

Guardian of Time (6)

Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84.5-7

The journey of faith
In his sermon, “The Christian Pilgrim,” Jonathan Edwards elaborated the idea of the Christian life as a journey. There is an end to the journey, and they travel most efficiently as we keep that end in sight, so as not to become distracted along the way. We are travelers, pilgrims, and we must neither dawdle nor delay in making progress toward the vision of Christ and His Kingdom. Our conscience functions as it should, to bring heart and mind together for action, as we hold fast to this view of our life in the Lord.

This message of Edwards dovetails nicely with his sermon on “The Preciousness of Time” and provides a framework for thinking about the life of faith that can help us in redeeming the time of our lives.

The idea of the life of faith as a journey has solid Biblical roots, for example, in Psalm 84. In this psalm, the sons of Korah anticipated the preaching of Jonathan Edwards by teaching us how to look at our lives in the Kingdom of God so that we don’t squander our time but use it as God intends.

The psalm begins with a joyous exclamation concerning the destination of our journey: the courts of the living God (vv. 1, 2). The place where God dwells is exceedingly lovely, so much so that the psalmists’ souls long and even faint to be there with the Lord in His glory. The vision of that great, eternal destination, stamped indelibly on their souls, fills the psalmists with joy and leads them to sing to the Lord with all their strength and to turn even the hardships in their journey to opportunities for growth and progress.

Their vision of life as a journey can be ours as well. As we take up our daily journey, focused on the eternal Presence of the Lord, we realize more of His with-us-always Presence for the challenges we encounter along the way.

What vision?

Which begs the question: What vision guides us in this life?

Television commercials can give us the idea that, of course, everyone is longing and fainting to be one of the beautiful people, own a new car, be fit and healthy, have an occasional exotic getaway, and enjoy a prosperous and entertaining retirement. Such happiness is related to material things and pleasant circumstances. We are bombarded by this message daily, from advertising, pop culture, education, politicians, the media, and more. If this is the commanding vision of our life, the defining priority of our conscience, the way we use our time will follow that secular, sensual, and ultimately unsatisfying scenario.

If our vision, however, is that we are pilgrims journeying to eternal glory, along a path fraught with struggle, sacrifice, suffering, setbacks, as well as successes, we might expect our time to be employed somewhat differently.

Psalm 84 envisions the journey of life as a kind of living sacrifice, not unlike the way Paul describes our lives in Romans 12.1, 2 (cf. Ps. 84.3, 4). Every day we offer ourselves up like birds on an altar, so that our lives, in all their facets, may be pleasing to God, because they are lived in a manner agreeable to His Kingdom purposes. Every day we take up our cross and prepare for a day of self-denial, sacrifice, and giving for the sake of others, as Jesus taught (Matt. 16.24, 25), fully expecting to have some success, albeit small, in realizing here and now more of the presence, promise, and power of the then-and-there Kingdom of God.

Drawing on the strength of the Lord
But to live this way, we will need to draw on the strength of the Lord (v. 5). The highways that lead to eternal Zion can be difficult to travel. Temptations and trials arise; we experience hardships and opposition; and it can be difficult to keep the vision of our destination in mind.

Indeed, our journey in life can often feel more like a Vale of Tears than Happy Valley (v. 6). But, knowing that we’re on a journey to eternal glory, that we have devoted ourselves to serve the living God, and that we journey every moment in the strength of His Word and Spirit, we turn our trials to rejoicing and our setbacks to renewal, using our time to “go from strength to strength” (v. 7) as we prepare to appear before the Lord at the end of our lives (cf. 2 Pet. 3.11-14).

So we hang our lives on prayer (v. 8) and shield ourselves under the Word of the Lord (v. 9; cf. Ps. 12), as we strain to improve our vision of and progress towards the heavenly courts of the Lord (v. 10). Set it as a priority of your conscience to seek and be guided by the vision of Jesus, and all other priorities and values will click on all cylinders for a strong soul.

Every day we walk according to the good and upright Law of the Lord (v. 11; cf. Rom. 7.12), in the light of Christ’s resurrection and the promise of blessing He holds out to us (vv. 11, 12). Such a framework or template for living each day fills our lives with anticipation, rejoicing, strength, and hope – a hope which can become visible and infectious to those around us (1 Pet. 3.15).

Seeing our lives this way, as pilgrims on a journey to eternal glory and bliss, can help us in making the most of the time of our lives, as we invest each moment for the glory of God and His Kingdom. As we purify our consciences from every material burden, doubt, or fear, taking up the values and priorities of Christ and His Kingdom, we may expect to travel this life in the wisdom and righteousness of the Lord, knowing His peace and joy in every situation.

For reflection
1.  Do you find that the idea of life as a journey describes your own walk with the Lord? Explain.

2.  Why should we expect this journey to take us through a valley of tears? How can we prepare ourselves – mind, heart, and conscience – for such daily cross-bearing?

3.  The end of our journey is the joy that was set down before our Lord Jesus (Heb. 12.1, 2). How would you describe that joy to one just beginning this journey? How do you experience this joy each day?

Next steps – Conversation: As you think of your life as a journey toward eternal glory, what would be some of the highlights of your journey thus far? Bring these before the Lord with thanksgiving.

T. M. Moore

Paul guides us through the ongoing struggle of growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Our book, The Know Him, unpacks the apostle’s teaching to help you make daily progress in the Lord. Learn more and order your free copy by clicking here. If you’re not sure what it means to enter and seek the Kingdom of God, order a free copy of our book, The Kingdom Turn, by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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