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

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