Hearts Set on Pilgrimage

This world is not my home,
I’m just ‘a passing through,
My treasure’s all laid up,
Somewhere beyond the blue.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

Psalm 84:5


The small church I attended as a child had regular meetings of a group called CYC.(Christian Youth Crusade)  Every meeting featured singing, which nearly always included the song from which the above phrase is taken.  It reminds us that our lives in this world are transient.  This world is not our permanent home.  This was Abrahams’ understanding who by faith “made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country.” (Hebrews 11:6)  It was likewise the position of those who followed him.  “And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)  The Lord Himself, in His high priestly prayer stated that “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:16)  We are admonished in I Peter 2:11 to “abstain from sinful desires,” because we are “aliens and strangers in the world.”  We, then, have had examples, reminders, and instruction to “set our hearts on pilgrimage,” rather than on permanence.

It seems like everywhere we look we see the hearts of mankind set on permanence.  They erect statues in their honor.  They name streets, cities and countries after themselves.  This even affects our Christian walk at times, so that we see what G. Campbell Morgan describes as the church “catching” the spirit of the age, rather than “correcting” the spirit of the age.   Psalm 84:5 tells us that “blessed are those who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.”  How do we know where our hearts are set?  How are we able to distinguish the pilgrimage which should characterize our lives from the permanence of those belonging to the world?

It may help us to distinguish between these by considering two areas in which seeking permanence differs from those seeking pilgrimage.   These are in their attitudes toward position and toward possessions.  Those seeking permanence in this life desire and seek positions of authority and power and may be envious of those who are in these positions.   They often praise themselves for their accomplishments, looking to self as the origin of what they regard as success.  The position of authority may be used to dominate, to control and to force their will or judgments on others.  Some may indeed be altruistic with a desire to help others, but with the development of pride in their hearts.  Our Lord characterized their position of authority as follows “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them. “ (Mark 10:42)

Those whose hearts are set on pilgrimage recall that they are where they are by God’s design.   Psalm 75:6-7 states “No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man, But it is God who judges; He brings one down, he exalts another.”  He also recognizes that his position does not exalt him above others.  James 1:9-11 states the following.

“The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.
But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will
pass away like a wild flower.  For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers
the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed.  In the same way, the
rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.”

In addition he realizes that the position that God has called us to is in order to serve others.  Mark 10:43-45 describes it this way.

“Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must
be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even
the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as
a ransom for many.”

II Corinthians 4:5 also tells us that “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus‘ sake.”

Those whose hearts are set on permanence regard possessions as their own, and to be used as they wish.  They often forget that their lives are transient and that possessions are not permanent.  Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 describes it in this way.

“I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them
to the one who comes after me.  And who knows whether he will be a wise man
or a fool?  Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my
effort and skill under the sun.  This too is meaningless.”

Those who hold on to riches as if they were their own are like the man described in Luke12:16-21.

“And he told them this parable:  ‘The ground of a certain rich man produced
a good crop.  He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, I have no place to store
my crops.‘  ‘Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do.  I will tear down my barns and
build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I’ll say
to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years.  Take life
easy; eat, drink and be merry.‘  But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night
your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared
for yourself?  This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself

but is not rich toward God.’”

If our hearts are set on pilgrimage, we recognize with David that what we have is not our own.  The following verses describe his attitude toward that which God had given him in I Chronicles 29:14-16.

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?  Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.  We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers.  Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.  O LORD our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.”

They also realize how riches are to be used as described in Matthew 6:19-21.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy
and thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

And also in Luke 16:9.

“I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is
gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

How, then, can we be assured that our hearts are set on pilgrimage?  By recognizing the hand of God in all that we have been given and using it according to His will.  Then the promises God has given to us in Psalm 84:5-7 will be realized in our lives.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.”

In Christ, Richard Spann

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