by Rayola Kelley
As we approach the holidays, we must consider the attitude we possess towards the world. After all, how we approach the upcoming celebrations will hinge on how much the world is influencing our perception or preferences. Today, many of the celebrations have lost their true spirit or meaning. In our worldly preferences, we fail to recognize how much we try to celebrate ourselves in some way. However, true celebration is based on recognizing in what way God has blessed us. We are to celebrate our life in God according to the numerous seen and unseen blessings we have been entrusted with as individuals and a nation.
As we approach Thanksgiving, we must see if the worldly attitude of selfishness will keep us from understanding that we are celebrating a particular lifestyle that was entrusted to us by those who were inspired by an incredible vision of liberty. This lifestyle reminds us of what America was founded upon. Some of the initial settlers who first came from Europe to America were the pilgrims. These people were looking for the Promised Land where they had the freedom to worship God according to scriptural principles.
The purpose for Thanksgiving is to remind us that we are blessed as a bountiful nation. This nation was founded upon the blood, hard work and sacrifice of many who had a vision worth risking everything to secure. We enjoy the fruits of their labor and sacrifice.
Christmas reminds us that a tremendous journey took place. This odyssey involved a miracle and signs in the sky that guided others. As we consider humanity, we can recognize an element within mankind that will cause many to wander through this present world. It is as though man is on the move to discover or find something. Sadly, most people fail to realize what they are looking for. They fail to understand that we are all passing through this present world. We are all on some journey to discover the real purpose and meaning of life. Sadly, for many the real purpose for their existence will elude them.
As we consider the people of the Bible, it is clear that each one was truly a traveler. The first traveler in the Bible became a fugitive before God and a wanderer in this world. This man was not lost, but he became lost because of sin. His name was Cain (Genesis 4:12-17). His parents had been driven out of Paradise because of sin. Cain went one step further. He actually left the presence of God to wander through this present world. We know he did settle down and build the first city.
Cain teaches us that God is the one who gives us a sense of our identity in this world. If we do not come to rest in a relationship with Him, we will simply become wanderers, fugitives in this world. We may discover areas of paradise to only realize that they will fade. We may establish a place where we rule, to only find out there is corruption and destruction. We may build a city, but we might be removed from the presence and reality of God.
It is important to realize that wanderers have no real destination. They are just roaming about, trying to find some place that will catch their fancy or interest. In most cases, they will never find such a place because there is no rest in their souls.
This reminds me of another wanderer, the man who dwelled among the tombs (Mark 5:1-20). This man wandered among that which was dead. He was tormented in his soul, driven by darkness, aimless in his despair, and hopeless in his state of destruction. One day, he met a man who set him free from the demonic clutches that were gripping his life. The man, Christ Jesus, rebuked the dark influences in this man’s life, so he could come to rest at His feet. What a sight that must have been to those who knew this tormented man! He was in his right mind, ready to find his place in the liberty and the life that had been imparted to him.
Today, many people are wandering among the tombs of that which is lifeless. They pursue dead ends, seek after lifeless objects, are devoid of any life, and on constant detours that leave them empty. Darkness has invaded their souls with torment and despair. They wander from one fantasy to another in hope of finding meaning or rest for their souls. Each pursuit marks another tomb that speaks of the ways of death.
We can see other wanderers throughout the Bible. The greatest examples of wanderers were the children of Israel. They have a history of being wanderers. Because of sin, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Because of idolatry, they became captives and foreigners in other countries. Even though they had the physical inheritance of the Promised Land, each one would remain a wanderer until he or she came back to Jehovah God as their real inheritance.
This brings us back to the subject of our attitude towards the world. Our attitude towards the world hinges on our attitude towards God. It is vital to realize that as believers we are not of this world. We have no point of agreement with it. We already know that those who are friends with the world are enemies of God. In fact, they are committing spiritual adultery or fornication (James 4:4). Ephesians 2:2 tells us that the spirit of the world works disobedience in those who serve the god of this world (Satan). The Apostle Paul talks about the god of this present world blinding people to the light (Christ) of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). The Apostle John instructs us to not love the world for it will pass away with its lust, while those who do the will of God abide forever (1John 2:15-17).
Clearly, those who belong to this present world are wanderers and fugitives to God. These individuals will either be victims, entrapped by the world’s lusts; associates with it who prey on the victims of the world for personal gain; or prostitutes with the world, always seeking its pleasures. They may wander from one type of affection of the world to another, but they will be void of any real destination. They may pursue the things of the world as they ramble from one attraction to another only to find it offers a false security. In summation, the world represents that which is temporary, doomed by the fires of destruction.
The Apostle Peter speaks of the attitude that Christians must possess in this world: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). As Christians, we will not be wanderers in this present world, but strangers and pilgrims.
It is vital that we understand what it means to be a stranger and pilgrim in this present age. Clearly, we are meant to pass through this world to find our real inheritance and destination. First of all, we are to be strangers in disposition in regards to this present world. In other words, the world must become foreign to us in its customs and ways. Our affections or loyalties must be elsewhere. Therefore, our stay here is temporary. Philippians 3:20reminds us that our conversation or citizenship is in heaven.
As strangers, we will sojourn through this world towards our ultimate destination—to be present with our Lord. When we consider the saints of the Bible, we can see that they had the same disposition of a stranger. They were simply passing through to a greater destination. One of the first men to show this disposition was Abraham. Hebrews 11:9 tells us that by faith he sojourned in the land of promise. Being a sojourner points to him actually being a stranger in the Promised Land. Although God promised the land to Abraham and his descendants, this great patriarch was still a stranger in it. In other words, he did not belong.
The reason Abraham did not belong is because his ultimate inheritance was not land, but Jehovah God Himself. He was passing through until he was brought to the city made by the hands of God. Therefore, Abraham’s focus was not on the land, but on God. He knew he belonged to God and clearly understood his purpose and destination.
Pilgrims are different than strangers or sojourners. Strangers are on their way to a destination, while pilgrims are in search of a place that allows them to pursue and worship their God. Being a stranger represents the disposition of the Christian towards the world, but being pilgrims point to their attitude.
The pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving were a grateful people. They had suffered many hardships to come to America. Their greatest joy was that they could now establish the place where God would be the center of their lives without the interference of the present world. When you read about the pilgrims’ journey here, you can see the hand of God upon them. Without His intervention they would have not been able to establish the testimony of His faithfulness in this country.
It is clear that the godless people in America today are downplaying these first pilgrims’ testimony of God’s intervention and faithfulness. However, as Christians, we need to recognize and rejoice over it. It reminds us that without God being the center of our lives, we have nothing to rejoice in. As Christians, we should stand distinct with our disposition as strangers and our attitude as pilgrims. We should celebrate Thanksgiving with the reality that our greatest inheritance is the Lord Jesus Christ.
This Thanksgiving, as you sit down to eat, remind yourself that you are passing through this world. Your greatest celebration has to do with the fact that you have been found by our Lord. As a result, an abundant and eternal life is now your promise, with the future hope of celebrating in the presence of our Lord’s glory for the eternal ages to come.