By John F. Hughbanks
One of my favorite songs is “Here We are but Straying Pilgrims.” This song lends much encouragement and strength as we go on our road in this life, looking for the promised home for the faithful. The New Testament teaches that we are pilgrims and strangers in this land of ours. We are here only a short time and we are to influence as many as we can while living a godly life and while waiting for the promised reward.
Our path is sometimes dim and fearful as we go on our pilgrimage toward heaven. In. our journey, we often become weary and discouraged, but God has promised to defend us and he cheers us by his word. Hope and reassurance awaits the faithful of His number. Soon His number will have a home forever and God’s smile will gladden all our longing eyes, never again to see or feel pain and sorrow. It is a great blessing and privilege to be a pilgrim and sojourner in this life for our Lord.
We need to take heart that we aren’t the only sojourners in this land. The Bible speaks of many pilgrims in both the Old Testament and New Testament. Consider Genesis 12:10, when God told Abram to leave Haran and go to Canaan and sojourn there. In Hebrews 11:9 we see the New Testament record of it. Other examples are numerous in the Old Testament: Gen. 20:1; 21:34; 47:4; Lev. 18:26; 20:2; Lev. 25:40; Num. 15:15; Deut. 26:5; Judges 17:7; Ruth 1:1 ff. We might recall Exodus 6:1-5 when God spoke to Moses and said that He would deliver His people out of bondage and establish His covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, “the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers (v. 4).”
In John chapter 17, Jesus says that He had given His disciples the same words that the Father had given the Son. Jesus said, “. . . and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me (v. 8).” Jesus was a sojourner in a land that was predominantly unfriendly to him.
Since the Bible teaches that we are pilgrims and sojourners, let us consider how our lives ought to be. Some traits have to be in us so that we can be pleasing to God.
In 2 Peter 3:1, Peter said he wrote this epistle to stir up by way of remembrance their pure minds. So we must have a pure mind and not have it filled with ungodly thoughts and trash. You can’t flirt with the world and stay pure. A rather crude example, but one that illustrates the point is: “You run with goats, eventually you’ll smell like them.”
Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” In the first letter to Timothy, Paul says the goal of their instruction is to love out of a pure heart (mind) (1 Tim. 1:5). Also, in 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul told Timothy to flee youthful lusts with a pure heart. In Titus 1:15, we are told nothing is pure to the undefiled but to pure people all things are pure. How many times have we seen people who only think filthy thoughts and curse God. Nothing to them is pure or honest. (Consider James 1:27; Hebrews 10:22.)
1 Peter 1:22 says, “Love one another with a pure heart.” Even if others hate and misuse you, you’re to love them anyway, because it is commanded of you (Matt. 5:10-12). A lot of problems in the church today wouldn’t be as bad as they are if brethren truly practiced love in the way Jesus describes it.
Another trait of a pilgrim is honesty. Romans 12:17 says to provide things honest in the sight of all men. Brethren, we can’t cheat or steal from our employer or the government and expect to be pleasing in the sight of God. When we are engaged in these sort of things we are cheating God and man, and lying to ourselves. In Philippians 4:8, Paul said, “Whatsoever things are honest; think on these things.” Again, how can you think on honest and pure things when you are involved in loose living, adultery, fornication, idolatry, hatred, envyings, drunkenness, backbiting, and other sins. As pilgrims, we need to be pure and honest and live for God or our pilgrimage will come to ruin at the judgment (Rev. 22:11-15; Rom. 13:13; 2 Cor. 13:7; 1 Thess. 4:12; Heb. 13:18; Luke 8:15).
Yet another trait of a pilgrim is that he is a working pilgrim. In I Cor. 15:58 we are told to be “steadfast, unmoveable always abounding in the work of the Lord as you know your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Also consider 2 Thess. 3:13 which says, “But ye brethren, be not weary in well doing.”
Jesus gives us an example to good works. John 10:32 says that He did many good works. Again in Acts 10:38 we are told that Jesus healed those oppressed of the devil and went about doing good. Paul instructed the young evangelist Timothy to tell others to be rich in good works (1 Tim. 6:17-18). Jesus taught many parables about the importance of activity for pilgrims in this life. Some parables are the Talents and Pounds (Matt. 25:14-29; Luke 19:12-27), Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt. 20:11-15), Parable of two. Sons (Matt. 21:28-31), and the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9).
Notice in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, that work was involved there. Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the increase.” There was a degree of work involved there. God will reward each by the work of each person’s labor. Man will not be rewarded by another man’s work. We as Christian pilgrims need to be active to reach as many souls as possible, it is our responsibility. It is something we can accomplish with God’s help and guidance.
Yet a final point to be considered is that life is a vapor and that life is short. There will be trials and tribulations and we need to face them and expect them. Job 14:1 says, “Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” Some people think Christians are above trials because they are children of God. (Read Acts 28 and 2 Cor. 11:24-28.)
Christians are taught to expect hardships! Peter made the statement, “When you do well, and suffer for it ye take it patiently this is acceptable with God.” James said in chapter 1 and verses 2 and 3 that hardships are for our benefit. Also the apostle Paul told Timothy, “You all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” That persecution could come in either the physical or mental realm today. But we must always remember that it’s only temporary and can’t be compared with the eternity of heaven (Rom. 8:17-18; Phil. 1:29).
We surely have fears today as Christians but God has given us His word to strengthen us by the examples of past pilgrims who have gone down the same paths. Since we’re pilgrims, let us keep our lives pure and honest and be a working people who look for that blessed hope (Tit. 2:13).
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 3, pp. 80-81
February 3, 1983