The Journey of Faith

“The Christian experience, from start to finish, is a journey of faith.” ~Watchman Nee

The original idea behind this blog was to blog about journeys–whether they be physical journeys or spiritual journeys or journeys through time or over great distances. For the Christian, the most important journey is the journey of faith. It is a spiritual journey that also leads to many physical journeys, whether it is a walk to the local grocery store or flying half way around the world to stand atop the Eiffel Towel in Paris. However, the journey itself is much more than just arriving at a physical destination.

In an article titled, Our Faith Journey,” from The United Methodist Member’s Handbook, revised and expanded by George E. Koehler, (pp. 62-63), he states:

What’s the bedrock of life for Christians? Is it Bible reading? Church participation? Prayer? Is it a belief that Jesus is God’s Son?

The foundation of Christian living is faith in Christ. Faith is the central loyalty that gives purpose and direction to our lives. Christian faith is grounding our lives in the living God as revealed especially in Jesus Christ.

This faith does not happen overnight. It’s a journey. From birth to death we’re growing in faith. There are ups and downs — and sometimes long flat stretches where we seem to be stalled in our journey. But little by little, most of us deepen our relationship with God.

In part, this growth in faith is a gift. Through our participation in the community of faith, through our openness to God’s love, we receive this marvelous treasure. But faith is also a choice we make, an often difficult decision to put God and God’s reign first in our lives, no matter what the cost.

We cannot say that some people are “ahead” in the journey of faith and others “behind.” Faith is not something we possess by degrees. The journey is complex, different for each traveler and involving at least four intertwined pathways:

Trusting

First and foremost, faith is trusting. To be a person of faith is to rely on God, to know that “the Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23). It’s to rest confidently in the power and care of the living, loving Lord who’s revealed in the Bible and in our own experience. Faith is to give ourselves to the movement of God’s Spirit in our lives and in our times, not knowing where it will lead….

Believing

Faith is also believing in someone. In the Apostle’s Creed, for example, we say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” This is not the same as saying, “I believe that God the Father Almighty exists.” Rather, we’re confessing our confidence in God, our devoted loyalty, and our allegiance. Such belief may involve going beyond what we’re sure of and taking a “leap of faith.”

Following

There’s more to faith than trusting and believing. Faith is more active, a matter of doing as well as being. So Jesus said to his first disciples, “Follow me.” To be faithful is to follow Jesus Christ. It is to be one of his disciples, seeking to understand his will and his way — and to do it. Such discipleship is not an easy matter. Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25)….

Hoping

Christian faith is also a matter of hoping, of leaning into the future that God has promised. It’s living with the assurance that God is bringing in the time of shalom, God’s reign here on earth. As Easter people, we have a hope born of the Resurrection: God has already conquered sin and death, and the kingdom of love, righteousness, peace and justice is even now breaking in. To abide in hope is to watch and pray for God’s future and to join in the ministries through which it will be realized.

Surrounded by the love and encouragement of the community of believers, we persevere on the journey of faith, ever trusting, believing, following and hoping. (Quote source here.)

Perseverance is the major component in our journey of faith. In James 1:2-12, James makes this point very, very clear:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2-12)

In a 2011 article titled, The Spiritual Marathon: The Two Sides of Perseverance,” by Mike McKinley, senior pastor at Sterling Park Baptist Church, he states:

Perseverance is hard. As one who has fought a losing battle with the practice of running, I can only gape in slack-jawed awe at those who have the spirit and endurance to run a 10k, let alone a marathon. Hence, it is a sobering comparison for me to acknowledge that our  journey of faith is a spiritual marathon, not a sprint. The exhaustion of life can easily weigh us down, tempting us to throw in the towel and give up the race. Thankfully, Scripture does not leave us in the dark about how to endure these struggles. In the book of Jude, we find two realities about perseverance that we must keep in tension if we are to persevere in faith.

Perseverance is the Believer’s Responsibility. If we as believers do not take the time and energy to remain faithful, we will fall away. It is not feasible to simply float along for a lifetime on the euphoria of a conversion experience and early faith. It takes hard work on our part to avoid falling away. This is mentioned several times in the New Testament. 1 Tim. 6:12 calls us to “fight the good fight of faith,” and Heb. 10:35-36 confirms that we “have need of endurance.”

Perseverance is God’s Work. We cannot live a full life of faith on our own. God plays a huge role in our perseverance. Jude reminds us that the Lord is able to “keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24). God does not foist the entire responsibility of faith onto our shoulders. “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

Believers can’t expect to sail effortlessly through life’s spiritual marathon. Life gets exhausting and gritty even for the most faithful followers. We have to make a conscious and painful effort to keep running after Christ and not collapse. But if we seek diligently to endure, God will provide us with the strength to persevere and keep running onward toward the goal. (Quote source here.)

As Christians, our journey in life may include some very scenic views from landscapes all over this world, but the journey of faith is about perseverance, so that we may become mature and complete. . . . not lacking anything, as James noted above in James 1:2-12. Let us strive (as in persevere) to be found faithful. And let us also remember, as Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) states . . .

We can make our plans . . .

But the Lord . . .

Directs our steps . . . .

YouTube Video: “I’ll Take You There” (1972) by The Staple Singers:

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Photo #2 credit here

 

The Road to Pentecost

“One of the great metaphors of the Bible is “the journey.” The Bible is filled with journey upon journey. From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture is full of people on the move”. . . .

The quote above is taken from a Holy Week sermon in 2009 titled, Three Journeys,” given by The Reverend Michael Seiler, Managing Associate Rector, at The Parish of Saint Matthew in Pacific Palisades, California. Here is more from that sermon:

In the beginning of the Old Testament, Abraham journeys from Ur of the Chaldees to the Promised Land. Many generations later, Abraham’s descendants journey from slavery and oppression in Egypt into the land of Israel. Many generations after that, they journey back to their Promised Land after the tragic downfall of their civilization and their forced exile in Babylon. In the New Testament, Jesus himself journeys through Palestine, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God. As he journeys, he shows people what that Kingdom looks like by his deeds of love and power. After the Resurrection, Paul and the apostles journey all over the Roman Empire, and their message reaches to the ends of the earth – and here we are, millennia later, with our journeys touching theirs.

It makes sense that the concept of “the journey” would be so central to Scripture, because we human beings are journeying people. We make sense of our lives by understanding them as journeys, as the unfolding story of who we are and what we do in the world. We think and talk and worry about our career arcs, or our family histories, or our financial forecasts, or our estate plans. In our better moments we think and talk and pray about our spiritual journeys – all ways of thinking about our lives, our stories, about the journey that has been, and the journey that will be. In some deep way, journeying is an elemental part of who we are as human beings.

This image, this metaphor of the journey has been very helpful to me over the past week or so, as I’ve tried to understand the deeper meaning of this morning’s reading from the twelfth chapter of John’s Gospel. John tells us in this passage about the moment when several different journeys intersect, and he tells us something about what it means that those journeys come together.

The first journeyer in John’s Gospel is, of course, Jesus himself. From its very first words, John’s Gospel makes it clear that Jesus is on a journey – a journey that is far more than just a walking tour of Palestine. The pre-eternal Word of God, who is with God and who is God, has journeyed into this world, has chosen to be with us, to become flesh, to reveal his divine being and nature and love to us by becoming a human person in the man Jesus of Nazareth. For John’s Gospel, this is the first and greatest journey – the cosmic journey of Christ from the Father into this world, through suffering and death and then back to the glory of the Father. Every other journey in John’s Gospel, all of the lives and experiences of all the other people in John’s Gospel, only make sense in the light of that great journey of Christ. John’s Gospel wants to tell us that apart from the great journey of Christ, our lives don’t really get anywhere.

Apart from the grace and power and love of Christ, our lives are just a kind of going in circles. But, John wants to tell us, in the light of the great journey of Christ, our lives can be a journey into God.

There are other journeyers in this morning’s Gospel. John doesn’t tell us their names – all we know about them is that they are “some Greeks.” They are the only Greeks – the only non-Jews, that is – in John’s Gospel [see John 12:20-33] who encounter Jesus during his ministry. They have somehow heard of Jesus, they have learned something about him, and what they’ve learned has given them a desire to be with him. They have journeyed to be with Jesus, perhaps over a very long distance. That distance may be geographical, or spiritual, or both. They seek out the follower of Jesus who has the most Greek-sounding name – Philip – and they ask Philip to arrange a meeting with Jesus. And in this moment, their lives, their journeys, and the cosmic journey of Christ from God and to God, suddenly and dramatically intersect.

And that, Jesus says, is precisely the point. The journey of Jesus, the journey of destiny and salvation and healing that he is traveling, now starts to touch not just Jews but non-Jews. The Greeks have arrived. “The hour,” Jesus’ decisive moment of glory and revelation that will climax in the Cross, has come. This is the moment, in John’s Gospel, when the full meaning and power of Jesus’ journey begins to be revealed. This is the moment when the saving journey of Christ begins to be revealed as the work of God that will heal and save and transform not just the covenant people of Israel, but the whole human race. “The hour has come,” Jesus says, “and when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”

These mysterious, unnamed Greeks become the sign that all human journeys, all human lives, find their meaning in Christ. These mysterious, unnamed Greeks are the people through whom Jesus demonstrates that he is drawing every person, bending every journey, toward himself. Christ, now that he is lifted up from the earth by his crucifixion and his resurrection, has become the pole star, the magnetic north, for every journey, for every person, for the meaning and destiny of every individual and of the whole human race. All our journeys are destined to find their meaning by intersecting his great journey. Until our journeys are caught up in the journey of Christ from God and to God, we really are just going around in circles of our own making. Once we make Christ’s journey our own – or rather, once Christ makes our journey his own – then and only then are we are safely on the road to God. . . .

But there is one last detail about this Gospel passage that has puzzled me for years. What happened to the Greeks? Do they get to see Jesus? Doesn’t Jesus ever talk to them? Do they ever get what they came for? John’s Gospel doesn’t say. It just leaves them – and us – hanging. And for years, that loose end in the story drove me crazy.

But now I think I am starting to understand. I think the Greeks did see Jesus. I think John’s Gospel is suggesting to us that the Greeks did see everything they needed to see of Jesus – because they had come to Jerusalem, and they were going to see his suffering and his death and perhaps even be eyewitnesses of his Resurrection. It’s as if they came seeking an interview, but what they got was to SEE the cataclysmic, earthshaking events that were going to unfold in Jerusalem over the next few days. If they showed up, they would see. If they saw, and let the cosmic journey of Christ fully intersect theirs – if they saw, and understood what they were seeing, and if they believed – they would find what they were seeking. They just needed to show up for the next few days. They needed to show up – for Holy Week. They had to be brave enough to take it all in, and to believe what they heard and saw. (Quote source here.)

This coming Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, and it marks the end of the seven week Easter Season also known as Eastertide which is the time between the resurrection of Jesus Christ celebrated on Easter Sunday and the filling of the Holy Spirit in his disciples and followers in the Upper Room fifty days later (known as Pentecost–see Acts 2). In an article titled, What is Pentecost? Why Does It Matter?” by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts, pastor, author, leader, speaker, blogger, and Executive Director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Seminary, he states:

On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon those followers of Jesus who had gathered together in Jerusalem. What happened on the first Pentecost continues to happen to Christians throughout the world today, though usually not in such a dramatic fashion. We rarely get a heavenly wind and tongues of fire anymore. Nevertheless, God pours out the Spirit upon all who put their faith in Jesus Christ and become his disciples (see Romans 8:1-11).

Christians are meant to live in the presence and power of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit helps us to confess Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3), empowers us to serve God with supernatural power (1 Cor 12:4-11), binds us together as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-13), helps us to pray (Rom 8:26), and even intercedes for us with God the Father (Rom 8:27). The Spirit guides us (Gal 5:25), helping us to live like Jesus (Gal 5:22-23).

Personal Implications: Pentecost presents us with an opportunity to consider how we are living each day. Are we relying on the power of God’s Spirit? Are we an open channel for the Spirit’s gifts? Are we attentive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Is the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.) growing in our lives? Most Christians I know, including me, live in the presence and power of the Spirit, but only to an extent. We are limited by our fear, our sin, our low expectations, not to mention our tendency to be distracted from God’s work in us. Pentecost offers a chance to confess our failure to live by the Spirit and to ask the Lord to fill us afresh with his power.

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on individual followers of Jesus as they were gathered together in Jerusalem. This gathering became the first Christian church. New believers in Jesus were baptized as they joined this church. They, along with the first followers of Jesus, shared life together, focusing on teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. They shared their belongings so that no one was hungry or needy. As these first Christians lived out their new faith together, “the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Thus we speak of Pentecost as the birthday of the church.

In theory, the Spirit could have been poured out on the followers of Jesus when they were not gathered together. There are surely times when the Holy Spirit touches an individual who is alone in prayer, worship, or ministry to others. But the fact that the Spirit was given to a gathering of believers is not incidental. It underscores the centrality of the church in God’s work in the world. The actions of the earliest Christians put all of this in boldface. The Holy Spirit is not only given to individuals, but also, in a sense to the gathered people of God. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul observes that the church is God’s temple and that the Spirit dwells in the midst of the church (3:16-17; in 1 Cor 6:19-20 we find a complementary emphasis on the dwelling of the Spirit in individual Christians). (Quote source here.)

GotQuestion.org adds the following information on Pentecost Sunday:

Today, in many Christian churches, Pentecost Sunday is celebrated to recognize the gift of the Holy Spirit, realizing that God’s very life, breath and energy live in believers. During this service, John 20:19-23 may be the core of the message about our risen Savior supernaturally appearing to the fear-laden disciples. Their fear gave way to joy when the Lord showed them His hands and side. He assured them peace and repeated the command given in Matthew 28:19-20, saying, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-23).

The celebration of Pentecost Sunday reminds us of the reality that we all have the unifying Spirit that was poured out upon the first-century church in Acts 2:1-4. It is a reminder that we are co-heirs with Christ, to suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him; that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7); that we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13); and that the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives inside believers (Romans 8:9-11). This gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised and given to all believers on the first Pentecost is promised for you and your children and for all who are far off whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:39). (Quote source here.)

The road from Easter to Pentecost is one of the many roads we as Christians take in our journey of faith. It is crucial that we remember what Jesus said in John 15:5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit . . .

For apart from me . . .

You can do . . .

Nothing . . . .

YouTube Video: “Which Way the Winds Blows” by the 2nd Chapter of Acts (1974):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

A New Journey Begins

“A new journey in life is often the beginning of new and exciting adventures. It may include traveling to other places, and it is an opportunity for a fresh start.” ~Karla Hawkins

These two sentences open a blog post titled, Top 7 Bible Verses for a New Journey,” by Karla Hawkins, a pastor’s wife, mother of four grown children, and grandmother to a “precious three-year-old grandson” at the time of the publishing of her blog post on July 20, 2015, on Patheos.com. She’s written several blog posts on the topic of Top 7 Bible Verses on a variety of topics, and you can access her other blog posts at this link.

Since this blog of mine (Reflections) is specifically focused on the topic of “journeys,” I thought I’d include Karla Hawkins’ post, Top 7 Bible Verses for a New Journey,” on this particular blog post. Here is the rest of her blog post available at this link on Patheos.com

Journeys usually require planning, and it begins with the first step–sometimes not a physical step but a step of faith that occurs when we overcome what may be stopping us from fulfilling our destiny. With this in mind, here are my top 7 Bible verses for a new journey.

Exodus 40:36“Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out.” 

The story of the Israelites in the desert after leaving Egypt is a good place to start a discussion on new journeys. They had been enslaved for 400 years, and now they were finally able to travel and start on a fresh time in their lives and in their history. The exciting part is that God was leading them every step of the way, and all they needed to do was follow the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Unfortunately, we don’t always have a literal “cloud” to guide us, but as Christians we can pray, read God’s word, and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in the direction that he would direct.

Judges 18:5 “And they said to him, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.” 

This is another great verse to look at in the discussion of new journeys, as it brings up a very important point. It refers to the idea of praying and asking God about whether we should embark on a new expedition or not. We should always want to seek his will for our lives, as he has our best interests in mind. This was certainly the case here in Judges, as the tribe of Dan wanted to know if they should move forward in taking over some land as their inheritance. After asking the Lord if they should move forward, they were blessed with success in their excursions.

Judges 18:6 “And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.” 

Whenever inquiring of the Lord about a new adventure or journey, it is important to be obedient in listening to his directions. We shouldn’t want to do our own will but rather follow the Lord’s leading. In this case, the priest blessed the Danites with an encouraging word from the Lord. He told them to go in peace, and that God would bless them in their journey. That is an exciting way to start a new trip in my opinion.

Ezra 8:21 “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.” 

In the book of Ezra, we see the Jews fasting and humbling themselves before the Lord, as they asked him to bless their trip. They wanted to be assured of his protection before they even began their journey. They knew that they did not even want to attempt to travel with their children and their possessions if God was not going before them. This is certainly a great example for us as well.

Psalm 91:11 “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” 

David’s Psalm 91 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, because it is full of wonderful promises of protection and blessings for his people. This verse says that he will command his angels to guard us in all of our ways, and I take that to mean even when we are traveling. He is the one that places us under the shadow of his wings and that keeps us from being harmed or overcome by our enemies.

Psalm 146:9 “The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.” 

God loves everyone, but I believe that he has a special place in his heart for widows and orphans and travelers. It says here in this verse that he watches over them all, and he upholds them. In other words, he blesses and protects them, while in the meantime he brings ruin to the wicked. The Jews had strict laws about hospitality, and it is also mentioned numerous times in the New Testament. So the Lord truly cares about the fatherless, the widows, and the sojourners.

3 John 1:6 “…who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.” 

The apostle John is reminding the Christians of his day to bless any travelers, missionaries, or pastors in a manner worthy of the Lord. In other words, if they were stepping out in faith to go where God was leading them to go, then the church should also show their love by blessing them on their journey. Their voyage requires planning and faith, and they should be encouraged to take those steps of faith directed by God.

CONCLUSION

A destination is usually implied when referring to a journey, otherwise it’s just wandering aimlessly. It also indicates knowing that no matter how well we plan, the unknown still exists and we are required to move in faith. Therefore, it is imperative that we seek God’s favor, blessings and protection over any new journeys we begin. We should also be grateful and excited about all of the new adventures we will experience in our walk with him. New beginnings are a great time to start something you’ve always dreamed about or desired, and with God’s leading all things are possible. (Quote source here.)

It’s never to late for a new beginning no matter what your age and/or your circumstance might happen to be. A 2016 article titled, 10 Bible Verses for a Fresh Start,” by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), states the following:

Looking for a fresh start? No matter what season you’re in, a new beginning is possible.

Summer is usually a time for vacations and getting away from it all. Taking time off for rest and relaxation is necessary, but it’s not always easy getting “back into the swing of things.” Whether you’re tired of the same routine or having a hard time starting one, these 10 Bible verses can remind you of God’s ability to “make all things new.” Share them with someone today.

“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”
Revelation 21:5 (ESV)

“No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.”
Luke 5:36-38 (NASB)

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.”
Isaiah 55:6 (ESV)

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

“Though your beginning was insignificant, yet your end will increase greatly.”
Job 8:7 (NASB)

“For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.”
Hebrews 3:4 (NASB)

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.”
Isaiah 40:28 (NKJV)

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Romans 6:4 (ESV)

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.”
Joel 2:25 (ESV) (Quote/article source here).

I don’t know where you might be on your journey through life, but if you’re looking for a fresh start and a new beginning, I hope these two articles give you some inspiration to get you moving in the right direction if you’re feeling like you are “stuck on hold” and have been for a very long time. I know that feeling, too. And remember that . . .

With God . . .

All things . . .

Are possible . . . .

YouTube Video: “Nothing is Impossible” by Planetshakers ft. Israel Houghton:

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Photo #2 credit here

Enjoying the Journey

“A journey–whether it’s to the corner grocery or through life–is supposed to have a beginning, middle, and end, right? Well, the road is not like that at all. It’s the very illogic and the juxtaposed difference of the road–combined with our search for meaning–that make travel so addictive.” ~Gloria Steinem in My Life on the Road 

For the Christian, this life is both a physical journey and a spiritual journey. On the spiritual side of the journey, GotQuestions.org states the following:

“Spiritual journey” is a phrase used by many different religions to mean the natural progression of a person as they grow in understanding of God, the world, and himself. It is an intentional lifestyle of growing deeper in knowledge and wisdom. But what is meant by a spiritual journey toward Christlikeness is vastly different from a journey toward some kind of “spirituality” that does not include, and is not based upon, the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There are several differences between the Christian spiritual journey and the New Age version. New Agers say to chant mantras for several hours a day. The Bible says to have daily conversations with God through prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). New Agers believe that people can choose their own path in their journey and that all paths lead to the same destination. The Bible says that there is only one path—Christ (John 14:6). New Agers believe a spiritual journey will result in harmony with the universe. The Bible teaches that the universe is at war (Ephesians 6:12) and part of the journey is fighting for other souls and our own walk (1 Timothy 6:12).

Another difference is that the Bible actually talks about a spiritual journey and the steps through it. A Christian starts as a child (1 Corinthians 13:11), still seeing the world through naïve eyes, still influenced by the flesh, and in need of basic education about God and their position with God (1 Corinthians 3:1–21 Peter 2:2). And new Christians are given work in the church appropriate to their position as young in the faith (1 Timothy 3:6). As Christians grow in understanding about God and the world, they learn more about how to act and how to relate to the world (Titus 2:5–8). A person further along in his spiritual journey becomes an example to the younger (Titus 2:3–4) and, sometimes, a leader in the church (1 Timothy 3).

At the heart of the spiritual journey is the understanding that it is a journey. None of us are perfect. Once we become believers, we are not expected to achieve instant spiritual maturity. Rather, the Christian life is a process involving both our attention (2 Corinthians 7:1) and God’s work in us (Philippians 1:6). And it has more to do with opportunity and intentionality than with age (1 Timothy 4:12). Author John Bunyan, in his book The Pilgrim’s Progress, pictured the spiritual journey as a road full of trials, dangers, and blessings, starting with the cross and ending at the Celestial City.

A spiritual journey filled with empty chanting will only lead to an empty heart. A journey filled with studying the Bible, obedience to what it says, and trusting God is a lifelong adventure that will bring true understanding of the world and a deep love for its Creator. (Quote source here.)

In The Pilgrim’s Progress,” originally published in two parts in 1678 and 1684, both the spiritual side and the physical side of Christian’s (the main character) journey through life are described in an allegory. SparkNotes.com notes the following knowledge that is gained through travel in The Pilgrim’s Progress:

“The Pilgrim’s Progress” demonstrates that knowledge is gained through travel by portraying Christian and his companions learning from their mistakes on their journey. Pilgrimage depends on travel, and so a pilgrim must be a voyager prepared to go far and wide. Yet in Bunyan’s book, voyage in itself does not make a traveler a pilgrim. The pilgrim must advance spiritually as he or she advances geographically. The key factor is knowledge, which must increase as the pilgrim proceeds forward. Christian never makes the same mistake twice or meets the same foe twice, because he learns from his experiences. Once he experiences the “Slough of Despond,” he never needs to be despondent again. Other pilgrims who lack understanding may advance fairly far, like “Heedless and Too-bold,” who almost get to the Celestial City; however, they do not understand what they undergo, and so they only babble nonsense and talk in their sleep. They are travelers but are not pilgrims because they cannot verbalize or spiritually grasp what they have been through. (Quote source here.)

On the physical side of the journey (which also includes spiritual elements), Derek W.H. Thomas, PhD, senior minister of First Presbyterian Church, Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow and dean, and author of numerous articles and books, states the following in his article, The Christian Life as Pilgrimage,” published on Ligonier.org:

The Christian life is a road trip, a journey of the most exhilarating kind. It has a starting point and a terminus. It is a metaphor of movement. Christians do not stay in one place too long, for they are set for another location. Early Christians were referred to as the followers of “the Way”—a reflection that they seemed determined to follow a different path (Acts 9:224:14).

Several issues arise. First, there is the idea of an adventure. Yes, adventure. If Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit initially shunned adventure because it upset the equilibrium of his routine way of life in the Shire, he would later record his extraordinary journey in a breathless tale bearing the subtitle, “There and Back Again.”

Christians explore a somewhat different journey—Here to There perhaps. But it is nevertheless a journey equally as exciting, fraught with tales of valor and danger. There is something exciting about the Christian life. New glimpses of God’s provision, intervention, and rescue await at every turn. We have no idea what a day may bring forth (Prov. 27:1), but we may be assured that nothing happens without our heavenly Father willing it to happen. We are called to follow our Master wherever He leads us—in green pastures beside still waters, as well as in the presence of enemies and a valley of shadow and death (Psalm 23)….

Second, pilgrimage is evocative of the transitory nature of this life. “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). “The things that are seen are transient” (2 Cor. 4:18). What does it mean to refer to this life as “transient”? The answer lies in the tension evoked in the New Testament between the “now” and the “not yet.” Christians are those upon whom “the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11). Something of the world to come has already perforated our space time existence and has claimed us as citizens of another realm (Phil. 3:20).

This perspective raises fundamental tensions. In one sense, we live here with a variety of responsibilities as citizens of this world. The reclusive life of withdrawal and abstinence is not a biblical worldview. . . . Christians get involved in society. Christians reshape society. They are lights in dark places. A new affection has overtaken Christians that makes everything else seem paltry and trite. In the words of Thomas Chalmers, the Christian life is ignited by the “expulsive power of a new affection.”

A third aspect of pilgrimage is a sense of direction, a goal, an end point. The journey has a destination. Christianity provides a shalom, a sense of wholeness and completeness. Christians know who they are and where they are going. Aimlessness and drift characterize so much of life without the embrace of Christ.

Christians “look” for “things unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18, where the Greek verb “to look” suggests an intense, steady gaze). It sounds like a paradox: we look for something that cannot be seen. Glory awaits, and Christian pilgrims maintain a steady but determined discipline of facing forward. What lies ahead fills our vision and keeps us expectant. What awaits steady pilgrims surpasses expectation and defies explanation. (Quote source here.)

In a sermon titled, We Are On a Journey with God,” preached on a Sunday morning in June 1997 by David Chadwell, retired pastor (since 2010) at West Ark Church of Christ, he ended his sermon with the following words:

We become Christians to begin that journey. We continue to be Christians because we refuse to abandon God or the journey. We understand that this journey with God has no earthly destination. We are not traveling with God only until we find a place to homestead on earth. The destination is God’s house. When we become Christians, only God’s house is home.

I appreciate the words of Paul in Philippians 3:13, 14: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

We can always quit the journey. We can always homestead on earth. But the person who walks with God continues the journey and continues to be changed because of the journey.

Are you still walking with God? (Quote source here.)

To stay on the journey requires perseverance. Various trials big and small, long and short, come our way throughout this life and are very much a part of the journey. James 1:2-8 (NIV) states: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

Our journey as Christians through this life isn’t about what we want; it is about the “testing of our faith which produces perseverance.” And the finished work of perseverance is that we “may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” No matter where our journey takes us through life, that is the end result. So . . . .

Stay the course . . .

No matter the test . . . .

And enjoy the journey . . . .

YouTube Video: “Stay the Course” by Megan Hamilton Morgan:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here