Every year religious folks around the world make a trip to their holy land. They save, plan, prepare and look forward to visiting a place that is sacred to them. Some travel because they feel they have to make the trip to keep their god happy. Others do it to plead for healing. Others believe a significant spiritual experience awaits them if they take the trek. They make the trip, do what they do, spend lots of money and return home.
Other folks travel yearly to the same spots as the religious folks. They save, plan, prepare and look forward to visiting a place that is of interest to them. Some travel because they have to make the trip to keep a relative happy. Others do it in hopes of an emotional healing from the change in scenery. Others believe a significant physical experience awaits them if they take the trek. They make the trip, do what they do, spend lots of money and then return home.
Do you know what the first group of people are called? Pilgrims. (And you thought that was something John Wayne made up.)
Do you know what the second group of people are called? Tourists.
Is there a difference? Yes, and it is HUGE!
So, what does that have to do with you? Oh…. everything.
Every year thousands of people reach the destination they’ve been traveling toward all their lives. It is the same spot for all. It is called eternity in heaven or hell. You get there by leaving this life through a door called death. Now, don’t look around like this doesn’t apply to you. Everyone is on the journey, and everyone reaches the destination.
So let me ask, How are you traveling? As a tourist or a pilgrim? Is life a journey or are you trying to make it a vacation? It makes ALL the difference in the world.
A tourist is on the trip for what he can get. He wants the ride to be smooth, the food to be good, the sights to be awe inspiring, the service to be wonderful, the weather to be grand, the natives to be cooperative, and the tour guide to take care of all problems. A tourist feels he has the right to complain when travel plans have to be adjusted, or when he gets bitten by bugs, or he has to wait for another tourist. His goal is to see the sights in comfort, take some photos, make some memories and get back home on time. All in total safety. With guarantees.
A pilgrim is on the trip to reach an important destination. All that matters is reaching the goal and accomplishing the intended purpose. He does not care if the ride is rough. He eats food that others would discard. He appreciates the sights but does not stay long. He expects good and bad weather. He is pleasantly surprised when there is service by others or a tour guide to help him. And he knows that sometimes the natives may try to hurt him. Instead of being irritated by other pilgrims, he will do all he can to help them along. He complains about nothing because he expects difficulty and is mentally, emotionally and physically prepared for it. His goal is reaching his destination and knows he may never return home. There are no guarantees. There is much danger. But he travels because of a higher purpose and nothing will deter him.
Let me ask you again, How are you traveling? As a tourist or a pilgrim? Look at the Apostle Paul’s words.
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me." Philippians 1:21-26 (NIV)
Life is not the destination, our purpose, our end. Heaven is what we were created for. So life was never meant to be a vacation. It is a pilgrimage. When we make that mental shift we will stop complaining, appreciate the blessings along the way as bonuses and pursue heaven’s rewards with perseverance, grit, focus and God’s power. Let’s enjoy the wonderful places along life’s journey while maintaining our pilgrim status. That’s how I’m going to travel. I invite you to come along. In the words of John Wayne, “Will you join me, pilgrim?” (I’m sure he said that sometime.)