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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Hemingway

Life is Just the Journey

In a few weeks’ time we’ll be going on holiday. This year we’re heading to the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland, staying in the alpine town of Kandersteg. I’m not very well travelled but it is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait.

I’m sure we can all relate to that feeling of excited anticipation as the day approaches when we will be in that place we long to be, the place we are not now. For the psalmist who wrote psalm 84 it was the temple of God in Jerusalem. And what made it desirable wasn’t the beautiful scenery or the great food, or the weather – or even the people - it was because it was where GOD was. Verse 2:

“My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God”.

Yes, the temple was beautiful, but it wasn’t the building that produced these feelings of yearning, fainting, longing. It was God Himself. It was HIS presence that made it “lovely” verse 1, HIS influence that made it safe, and open even to the weakest and most vulnerable, verse 3.

I know a couple, recently married, who met online in 2020 as the pandemic took hold. They could talk on the phone, even facetime, but with her in America and him in England, they couldn’t meet face to face. Were they content with that situation? His actions speak for themselves: on the very day that the restrictions on travel to America lifted in November last year, he flew out to see her. Of course they weren’t content with the situation! With being in love and being on different continents. Never having been in each other’s presence. Of course it wasn’t enough. There was a longing, there was a yearning to be in each other’s physical company.

For the Christian, who has trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation, and loves Him with heart, soul and mind, there is a similar anticipation, a similar longing. In this life we know Him through his word, we have His Spirit in us. We pray and we know His answering power in our circumstances. But the experience is not complete. We have not seen Him. We have not been in His presence. Saved from the power of sin we are still plagued by it. We are engaged in a battle that is not yet finally won, we are running a race that is not yet finished.

But one day. One day the battle will be won, the race will be complete. One day we will be with Him. One day we will see Him. In Heaven, in perfect sinless joy, praising Him and beholding Him forever. Verse 4:

“Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising You”

The Apostle Paul sums it up perfectly in 1 Corinthians 15:19 when he says: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Without a hope of eternal life with Christ in Heaven, the Christian life becomes pointless, futile and pitiable. All the self-denial, all the striving to be like Christ, renouncing the World and its temptations, and for what? Loving Jesus without a hope of ever seeing Him. Who would want that!? No one. But we have hope. We have a destination. It’s glorious. We yearn to be there. And the feeling is mutual. Jesus prayed “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory” (John 17:24). Do you feel as insignificant as the sparrow in Psalm 84 verse 3? You can find a welcome in Heaven because Jesus wants His people there.

So, I’m really looking forward to my holiday. But in order to be in Kandersteg, that most desirable destination, we will need to make a journey. In fact, we’re going to drive there, and it will take a long time. While I’m sure there will be some good moments on that journey, I think that for the most part it will probably be tedious, hard and tiring. There’ll be squabbles and sniping, there’ll be moaning and grumbling… and that’s not even the children!!

The journey is not the holiday. We will make the journey – get through the journey – because we know the destination will be worth it. Imagine if we fell under the impression that the journey represented the best that our holiday could offer, and decided to spend two weeks in a service station on the M1! That would be utter lunacy. Think of what we would miss!

So it is with the one who wants to be where God is. Verse 5 describes those ‘whose hearts are set on pilgrimage’. They are prepared to make a difficult journey for the sake of arriving at the house of the Lord. And for the Christian, who is anticipating Heaven, this life becomes the journey and not the destination. We do not settle in this life, we do not live for what we can gain in this life. We are passing through on the way to somewhere far better. This changes our outlook, it changes the way we live. Verse 6:

“As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs, the autumn rains also cover it with pools”

In the arid, difficult places of our life’s journey we can find blessing – and we can be a blessing also. We can bless the World around us because we are not holding onto or storing up wealth for this life. We can be generous with our time and resources – and produce springs of joy, springs of love and compassion. We can encourage others to join us on our journey and find true purpose and peace.

It isn’t an easy journey, we will need strength. This comes from the Lord, and it is a constant supply. As we grow in the knowledge of the One we are going to see, so our love for Him increases, our desire to be with Him grows. We go from strength to strength, verse 7, by His grace working in us.

Until we arrive. Verse 10 says that one day in the courts of the Lord is better than a thousand elsewhere. When we get to Heaven, surely a moment there in pure, perfect joy will be better than an eternity spent anywhere else. All the difficulties of the journey made up for in an instant. The Lord will be our Sun and shield, He will bestow favour and honour, and not withhold any good thing from us (verse 11). Forever.

But hang on. Verse 11 isn’t finished. It says “no good thing does he withhold…from those whose walk is blameless.”

My walk isn’t blameless. Is yours? Is anyone’s? How can we gain admission into this incredible, eternal destination if we don’t fulfil the criteria?

Well, the residents of Kandersteg are Swiss. I’m not Swiss. Does this present a problem? No it doesn’t, because the authorities have provided a way for me to travel abroad. I need to obtain a passport. This passport allows me to enter a country of which I’m not a natural citizen. And there isn’t an alternative. I can’t turn myself into a Swiss citizen, and therefore the only way I’m going to be allowed in is to fill in a form, pay some money and obtain the passport.

Is this unfair? Why do I have to jump through these hoops? No one asked me if I liked the idea of applying for a passport. Why can’t anyone just travel wherever they want?

We don’t hear people arguing like this very often do we? Why? Because it’s pointless. Arguing won’t help, it won’t change things. If you don’t want to get a passport, fine- but then you can’t travel abroad. If you want to travel, you’re just going to have to get the passport.

In His incredible mercy, God has made a way for us to get into Heaven even without a blameless walk. ONE way. Only one. It’s in verse 12;

Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Jesus came into the World on a mission: to live a blameless life and die as a substitute for His people. To take all their sin onto Himself and be punished for it- and then transfer His blamelessness to them, giving them the ‘right to become sons of God” (John 1:12) and gain access to Heaven – not with a passport, but by granting full citizenship as heirs of Glory with Christ (Romans 8:17, Philippians 3:20). We do not become blameless in action – not until we arrive in Heaven – but we become legally blameless, in the eyes of God. No sin credited to us, only perfection. When we arrive at the gates of Heaven, we will be welcomed as rightful citizens, because of Jesus’ blamelessness transferred to our account.

What will we do in the light of this? Argue? “It isn’t fair, I don’t like this way, I didn’t get a choice in this – why can’t everyone just go to Heaven if they do their best to be good?”

I’ve heard these and many similar arguments, and there’s much I could say about them. But suffice it to say, if you want to reject God’s way of salvation and argue with Him, you can do that. But it won’t change anything. You can’t get into Heaven. The options are: be blameless (which you aren’t); or trust in Jesus Christ to take away your sins and make you blameless in the sight of God. So why not trust Him? The way of salvation is free, and it is open to everyone.

As wonderful as my holiday should be, it won’t be perfect. It may rain, there may be illness or disappointment. And even if it is the most amazing holiday possible, it will end. But Heaven - Heaven is forever, it never ends. It is guaranteed to be perfect and glorious. We will be with Jesus, no good thing withheld. I Corinthians 2:9:

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived - the things God has prepared for those who love him”

Trust in Jesus, make the journey of this life with your eyes fixed on Him and you will be truly blessed – blessed along the journey, but supremely blessed when you appear before Him where He is and are welcomed as a rightful citizen of eternal glory.


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