Sunday, June 1, 2014

Strangers and Pilgrims

"...but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." Hebrews 11:13

In our modern day, the vision of living as a stranger and pilgrim is dimming. Living the life God calls us to as a foreigner here on earth is living the life of faith. This means every day our eyes are fixed on the "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1  If our faith is built on genuine substance, that which stands forever in our lives, that which is unchanging in life, then our feet are firmly planted on the path toward heaven. 

As we stand on our foundation of faith, on our foundation of heavenly things, a foundation built upon the worlds longings, habits, and morals becomes one that cannot coexist. This is like putting on a "Christian seatbelt" of sorts. This is akin to going on a wild roller coaster ride, with it's twists, dips and turns and expecting that with our "christian seatbelt" we will not feel the drops in our stomach, the fright and the temporary thrill. The ride still affected us. So many are dabbling while putting on their seatbelt, because it feels good, it feels easier to participate in that which lacks foundation. The seatbelt of their faith exists, but the substance and foundation of faith has not been established. There is no discernment to weed out that which has no substance, no belonging in the life of faith.

Faith is knowing that while we plant our feet in earth, we may not see the end fruits of our labors here. Yet we know heaven is our place of rest, and that is where we know God makes all things complete. The life of faith is focused on what is unseen by our eyes here, yet known by our hearts of faith. Our heart is at rest as a stranger and pilgrim here on earth, and our eyes are focused on heavenly things.

"It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith- for he was like a foreigner, living in a tent." Hebrews 11:8-9

The earth is the land where we live by faith, where we are like a foreigner. Heaven is the land we receive as our inheritance if we walk the life of faith and obedience. Yet living as a foreigner means our set of values and our following of God will different than the culture around us.  A stranger and foreigner does not blend in, if they do, they have changed themselves and altered their values to conform to those around them. Like Abraham, we are to follow God on earth, not always knowing where we are going and not always seeing the end result in this "earthly" lifetime. We are like Abraham, living in a tent with great faith.

"Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God." Hebrews 11:10

Abraham is our example. To live like him is to look forward with confidence and joy to our heavenly city and to walk the steps of faith on our path each day, knowing this city (heaven) we cannot see with our eyes exists and was created by God.

"All these faithful ones died without receiving what God had promised them, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed the promises of God. They agreed that they were no more than foreigners and nomads here on earth. And obviously people who talk like that are looking forward to a country they can call there own. If hey had meant the country they came from, they would have found a way to go back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a heavenly city for them." Hebrews 11:13-16

Daily we are to see from a distance and welcome the promises of God in our hearts. We are to look forward to our heavenly city, while walking this dusty road as a pilgrim. Heaven is the reward for this earthly pilgrimage, where the dust is washed off of weary feet, where we are cleansed and enter into God's great rest. The promise He had planned for us before the world was formed.

"How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death." Hebrews 11: 32-35

"It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be treated as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to share in the oppression of God's people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was far better to suffer for the sake of the Messiah than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the great reward that God would give him. It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt. He was not afraid of the king. Moses kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible." Hebrews 11: 24-27 

Like Moses, do we share in being a stranger and pilgrim, one of God's chosen ones, one who may experience ridicule and oppression? Taking our eyes off the fleeting pleasures of sin, and looking forward to God's great reward. We are to keep right on going as Moses did, with our eyes fixed on God and heaven. This is God's path for his strangers and nomads. If the eyes are fixed on pleasures and ease, the heart cannot be focused on heavenly rewards. If Moses had been focused on his riches and power as the son of Pharaohs daughter, his eyes would not have been fixed on the one who is invisible.

God makes our choice clear to us. Will you be one who partakes in the pleasures and riches of Egypt, or one who is a pilgrim who lives for my heavenly promises? The choice is ours, and one must be chosen, two paths cannot be walked at the same time. Hearts and minds will become confused, we will become lukewarm and double minded.

"All of these people we have mentioned received God's approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can't receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race." Hebrews 11:39-40

The prize at the end of the race is God, Christ, heavenly pure things. Our hearts must be willing to faithfully walk the path to holiness, our eyes fixed on the end of the race. The life of a faithful Christian is like a nomad, wandering a place that is not our permanent home, yet knowing the permanent land exists and we will reach it with the substance of our faith. And the substance of our faith will be shown in the way we live our lives. The way we look as strangers and pilgrims.

"So you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek Him." Hebrews 11:6

Let us use worldly things as wise pilgrims do their staves and other necessaries convenient for their journey. So long as they help us forward in our way, let us make use of them, and accordingly esteem them. But if they become troublesome hindrances and cumbersome burdens, let us leave them behind us, or cast them away.
—George Downame

Let none of us be content to tarry down below in the marshland of the poor poverty-stricken religion of this present day—but let us climb the high mountains where the sun of God's grace is shining brightest—and stand there enjoying communion with Him, leaving the world.
—Charles Spurgeon

Prayer: "Lord, show me how to live as your pilgrim. As one called out by you to walk the life of faith, and to live it and build a foundation upon it. Give me discernment and your holy wisdom to not live double minded and to conform to the modern and new ways each time they present themselves. Give me joy in being a stranger and pilgrim and show my heart your unspeakable rest that awaits. Make your rest and heavenly reward the focus of my heart. Amen."  


No comments:

Post a Comment