Yes, it will take your whole life to get to heaven, and yes, your life may last longer than most, and yes, the Christian life will be a challenging journey from start to finish. But it’s worth it. Not only will heaven itself vastly outweigh the difficulties you knew in getting there, but the life you lived here will have been richer for the sense of pilgrimage you brought to it. You tell me, which is the more satisfying way to spend a day: sitting relatively motionless on a bench, or successfully hiking a challenging climb? Which is the more satisfying way to conceive of your Christian life?
We Christians are heaven-bound pilgrims. The question is, do we see ourselves that way? Have we fostered this kind of pilgrim mentality in our own lives?
If not, impatience may be the culprit. In this respect, many of us have been shaped by our culture more than we care to admit. To put it mildly, our culture is not long on patience. Today conversations are short, commercials are short, meals are short, marriages are short. In short, our collective patience has run short. Even sentences can be cut sh
But the Christian life is long. Yes it looks short next to eternity, but the Christian life is still long in the sense that it is, literally, ‘lifelong’, which makes it longer than many other things. It outlasts many careers and relationships and governments and institutions and sports dynasties. Thus understanding the Christian life as a pilgrimage requires us to think and live in terms of a long, arduous journey.
Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon on the Hebrews 11 passage we just looked at. The sermon was entitled ‘The Christian Pilgrim, or The True Christian’s Life a Journey Towards Heaven’. Edwards said this:
Long journeys are attended with toil and fatigue, especially if through a wilderness. Persons in such a case expect no other than to suffer hardships and weariness.—So we should travel in this way of holiness, improving our time and strength, to surmount the difficulties and obstacles that are in the way. The land we have to travel through, is a wilderness; there are many mountains, rocks, and rough places that we must go over, and therefore there is a necessity that we should lay out our strength.
This is no easy journey. This pilgrimage takes patience. And it is precisely there that we struggle so much.
Children are notorious for pestering their parents from the back seat of the car during long drives. ‘Are we there yet? (No.) Are we there yet? (No!) Are we there yet? (NO!)’ For the parents this makes the long drive seem even longer. (Of course, when the grandparents hear about this they recognize it for what it is: payback. Years ago, those who are now the tormented were the tormentors. The torch has been passed to a new generation.) The parent who has been asked several times ‘Are we there yet?’ may reply (calmly, or not so calmly), ‘If we were there, we wouldn’t still be driving sixty-five miles per hour on the interstate, now would we?’ But that reply only has the effect of changing the question to ‘Are we almost there? Are we almost there? Are we almost there?’
We sinners are an impatient lot.
Sometimes when Christians recite Scripture passages from memory, they succumb to the temptation to recite so quickly they appear to be racing someone else who got a head start.