“And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear….” (I Peter 1:17) Brethren, we are sojourners! We are pilgrims! A sojourner is one who making a temporary stay. A pilgrim is one who journeys, especially a long distance, to some sacred place as an act of devotion; he is a traveler or wanderer, especially in foreign lands. I believe these definitions describe the right concept for the Christian.
The sojourner sees himself as a steward of things God has blessed him with. The child of God understands the temporary nature of the physical things of his pilgrimage. He views possessions as gifts from God to be used up in His service. And even when he uses them up to help others, he realizes that he is only able to do it because they first came from God. We would do well to read David’s praise to God in I Chronicles 29:6-17. Here is an excerpt, beginning in verse 13: “Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.”
The sojourner confesses in word and in deed that he is a stranger and a pilgrim. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.” (Heb. 11:13-14)
Enoch was a sojourner, and he prophesied to those of his day, preaching of God’s judgment of the ungodly (Jude 14-15). The pilgrim therefore sees this life in perspective with judgment, and teaches others to also. Abraham conducted himself as a pilgrim, obeying God in simple faith, leaving his homeland to dwell in tents in a foreign land in order that the promise might come. (Heb. 11:8-10) Perhaps before he was called, Abraham had decided on some things he wanted to accomplish back in his homeland. But he had to set these aside, behind God’s commands. You may have some physical things you think you must accomplish in this life, but as a sojourner you might find out they will not come about, and you must just accept that.
The sojourner sees things that can’t be seen. He sees things through the eye of faith. Like Moses, he endures as seeing Him who is invisible. (Heb. 11:27) The sojourner seeks a permanent home after this life. He believes the promises and looks to the reward. He cannot physically see the home that he is striving for, but he believes with all assurance that Jesus has gone to prepare that mansion, or permanent dwelling place, for the faithful. (John 14:2-3)
The sojourner stays clear of the lusts of the flesh. “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” (I Peter 2:11) He realizes that these things will only entangle him, damn him soul, and prevent him from reaching his destination. Paul admonishes Christians to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col. 3:2)
The sojourner realizes how short life is, that it is a time of work and suffering, and that after that comes judgment. He thus lives with purpose, in view of eternity
“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10) The sojourner will spend, use up, and even give his life to reach his goal. This life is not a time for resting. It is a time of sowing and toiling. “And let us not be wearing in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Gal. 6:9)
The sojourner will take “what comes his way” and not let that detract him from his one main goal of reaching eternal salvation in heaven. Because he realizes this life is only temporary, he can deal with difficulties and disappointments. Paul had every reason to be discouraged because of the difficulties he faced. Yet he said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Phil. 4:11)
Jacob said, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” (Gen. 47:9) Perhaps we, when asked our age, would do well to respond “the years of my pilgrimage thus far are ___.” (you fill in the blank) Are you sojourning as a pilgrim? Or is this life, your job, your career, your family, your friends, your money, your house, your hobbies, your physical goals etc. (you fill in the blanks), more dear to you than the home to which you are to be pilgrimaging? Let us be able to genuinely say as we many times sing, “This world is not my home — I’m just a passing through; my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”
– Larry Jones