As the song is starting: 1 Peter 2:11-Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
Chorus One of Temporary Home-James 4:13-14-Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Chorus Two of Temporary Home-Psalm 39:5-You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.
Chorus Three of Temporary Home-1 Chronicles 29:15-We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow . . .
As the song is finishing-Psalm 84:5-Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
How many times have you said about a situation that was less than desirable, “We can get through this?” “We can make this work.” “It is only temporary!” I know Kelly and Brenda Kraft moved into a new home this summer that they have been remodeling and working on since they moved in. That has to be like one of the most stressful things ever, but they know there is coming a day when they can actually put their furniture where it goes because it is temporary! There is something helpful about reminding ourselves that the difficult, stressful and painful parts of life are temporary, right?
Scripture tells us this is our temporary home. We are just passing through. We are headed away from time and into eternity. The older I get the more I understand how temporary life and the things of life are. Things I thought I wanted and needed and had to have as a child gave me satisfaction for a Christmas or a Birthday or a season, but their ability to give me joy or to produce contentment in me lasted but a short time as I grew bored with the Barbie, the Easy Bake Oven, the bicycle or whatever else it was I thought would be the ultimate to possess. As we grow hopefully we learn more about what really does and doesn’t matter. While something may have mattered in the moment, it often doesn’t matter long-term because we weren’t made for time. We were made for eternity.
The older I get the faster time seems to go as well. Someone once said: When as a child, I laughed and wept: TIME CREPT. When as a youth, I dreamed and talked: TIME WALKED. When I became a full-grown man: TIME RAN. Soon I shall be passing on: TIME GONE!
Even time is temporary. One day time will be NO MORE! Everything you have acquired in time is only temporary. You can’t take it with you. Enjoying life is important, but it isn’t our highest priority. How we view our time on earth really needs to be viewed in the light of eternity because that is where we are headed. How do we process the reality that we are really spiritual beings in a physical body, and we are headed for another dimension? What we think about the brevity of life and the passing of time will greatly impact the way we live.
a. If you think life is a party, your primary value in life will be having fun.
b. If you see life as a race, you will value speed and will probably be in a hurry much of the time.
c. If you view life as a marathon, your will value endurance.
d. If you view life as a battle or a game, winning will be very important to you.
But what should we value? What is supposed to be important? In order to see your life clearly, the way God sees it, you need to see your life and live your life in the light of Eternity. Life is not all there is. The truth is, we are strangers here on earth-Psalm 119:19. We are pilgrims just passing through.
Using Psalm 84 I want us to consider what God might say about our pilgrimage through life. On what should we be focused as we embrace the reality that we are just living in a temporary home? What should fuel our journey? The Apostle Paul lived a “high octane” spiritual life. He lived with a spiritual mindset. He talked about pressing on. He talked about looking forward to the day when he would step out of time and into eternity. He said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21. What does that look like?
Paul was eager for eternity. He was looking forward to his last breath on earth and his first breath in eternity. How many of us woke up hoping today could be the day we leave this life and enter God’s presence in Heaven? But that fueled Paul. He got excited about that. He said in Philippians 1:23 that he desired to depart and be with Christ. He didn’t have a death wish. He wasn’t suicidal. He was just so focused on how good it would be in eternity that he was looking forward to it. He was looking forward to putting an end to the temporary life. He was ready to be established in his heavenly home. And each one of us is moving toward that reality. As we are, how should we live? Look at Psalm 84 with me.
We should live with a passion for God’s presence.
Psalm 84:1-12 1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young– a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.
Passion is something that is cultivated in our lives as we pursue an interest, as we become a part of a team, as we educate ourselves, as we immerse ourselves in that activity, and as we put ourselves in certain atmospheres.
Listen, your relationship with God is the only part of your earthly existence that will follow you into Heaven. Do you know why Paul was eager for heaven? Do you know why he wasn’t afraid to die? It was because his passion for the Lord, the passion in his relationship with the Lord was like a fuel that propelled him forward. His desire to be with God in eternity was nurtured because of the way he developed his passion for the Lord while he was on earth.
To live life disconnected from God’s presence is to then live for that which is only temporary. To live life disconnected from God’s presence is to live for things which will never satisfy you long-term. To live disconnected from God’s presence is to wander through life and come up empty. Everything is meaningless apart from a relationship with God. Everything. It is our connection with God that gives us a sense of identity, purpose, and passion for life.
I often say, “I don’t know how people live without the Lord in their lives.” His presence makes all the difference. We cannot succeed without His presence. We cannot be truly satisfied without His presence. As we pilgrim our way through this life, we need to cherish and seek the presence of God in our daily activities. The Israelites in the OT knew what the Presence of God meant as they journeyed through the wilderness. They were led by the presence of God. They were fed by the presence of God. They were protected by the presence of God. Isaiah 63:9 says, “In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” There is rescue in God’s presence. There is an uplift in God’s presence. There is security to be found as we are carried along by the Presence of God. There is an exhilaration, a high higher than any other earthly high, when we are in the presence of the Most High God!
No wonder the writer of Psalm 84 wrote, “My soul years for the presence of God.” “My heart and flesh cry out for the presence of God.” “Blessed are those who dwell in your house.” Why were they blessed? Because they were connecting with the presence of God.
This concept of the Presence of God was huge to the OT pilgrims who were making their way to the Promised Land. In Exodus 33, Moses had a conversation with God about their pilgrimage to the new place. He begged God not to leave them. He said that there was no way they could make the trip without Him. He said in verse 15, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”
Do we have that kind of passion for God’s presence in our lives? Does it matter to us if we know that God is with us on this pilgrimage? Do we acknowledge and seek His manifested presence in our lives? Moses didn’t just want to sign up for the protection and the favor and the guidance of God, but he asked of God in the same passage that God would teach Him his ways. He also sought the instruction that came from close fellowship with God. He wanted an intimate relationship with God. Later in Exodus 33 has asked God to show Him His glory. He knew nothing could compare to seeing the glory of God, the manifested presence of God.
Listen, It is the presence of God in our lives that distinguishes Christian people from any other pilgrim on this planet! Pursue the presence of God. That is the priority of a Christian pilgrim. Put everything else on hold if you have to in order to engage with Him. That pursuit will give you the perspective you need to make the journey.
Well, not only should Christian pilgrims live with a passion for the presence of God, but we should also live with a reliance on God’s power. True pilgrims who are pursing God’s presence and who are living with eternity in mind can make the pilgrimage and not lose strength, not lose heart.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. Let’s stop for a minute there. What is this Valley of Baca. It isn’t a geographical site. It isn’t an actual place, but it is a common human experience. “Baca” is a Hebrew word meaning “balsam tree.” What you need to know about the balsam tree is that it has sap that oozes from it like tears.
The Valley of Baca is a name for any difficult and painful place in life where everything seems hopeless. It is the valley where you feel helpless. It is the pit of despair where there is a constant pit in your stomach and a dread for tomorrow. Listen to me this morning, for God’s people who are living with a passion for His presence and who are counting on His power to see them through, the Valley of Baca isn’t wanted or welcomed, but it is walked through with an expectation that we will walk through it, get through it, overcome it and celebrate victory on the other site.
God’s people are the only people who can claim that “all things will work together for their good” (Romans 8:28). Notice again what verse 6 says: As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. For Christian pilgrims, the Valley is a place of transformation.
I have found that when God strengthens you to get through the valley He is also working on your heart at the same time. God is an awesome multi-tasker, church. He is accomplishing something for us. We are undergoing a surgery, and He isn’t even putting us to sleep. He just keeps telling us to breathe in Him, and as we walk through the valley He starts pointing things out. He teaches us about fully relying on Him. Things start to look beautiful even in the valley. There can even be rejoicing in the valley.
God can take us through the wilderness, through the thorns and thistles, and cause us to come out smelling like a rose with more strength, more courage, and more passion than ever. Only God’s people know what it is like to be infused with strength when you think you can’t go on. Only God’s people know what it is like to find real peace in the midst of the storm. Only God’s people can possess joy in the journey even when it takes what some may think is a detour through the valley. We’re the only ones who can truly say, “It’s all good,” and not be lying.
Usually a walk through a valley or even around the block would take energy from us, but that isn’t what happens when we walk through the valley in the power of the Lord. Look at verse 7: They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. Remember Crazy Paul? The guy who couldn’t wait for heaven? He experienced this going from strength to strength business. He said, “2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Paul was a pilgrim whose eyes were on his eternal destiny at all times.
But listen, none of this empowering is possible if we are relying on ourselves to get us out of the valley. Our tears will overtake us. Our depression will defeat us. Our doubters will discourage us. We will be valley focused rather than be focused on our destiny.
Notice again what verse 5 says: Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. Notice the Psalmist wasn’t encouraging that we set our hearts on the valley and that we give our emotional selves to the valley. He said we will be blessed if we live with that eternal perspective and remind our hearts that we are just passing through.
God didn’t create us for us to die in the valley. He didn’t make us to leave us in the desert. We are headed somewhere. We are always moving toward an eternal reality. The Bible says that God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11). There is a sense that we will be on the other side of everything that holds us back and tries to hold us down one day. We are moving towards a reality with no more tears! There will be no oozing sap in heaven! Hallelujah! There might be some people there who you thought were saps, but there won’t be any tears in heaven! (Bad joke, but wonderful thought!)
I love this thought about our pilgrimage: “A vagabond has no home; a fugitive is running from home; a stranger is away from home; a pilgrim is heading home.” Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament
We need to set our hearts on home, especially when we are walking through the valley.
Finally, as we move toward this temporary existence towards our eternal home, let us look to God for protection and provision.
9 Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. 12 O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.
I’ve only been white water rafting once. Strange that I have never had the desire to do it again. J I will say, however, that having a guide in my boat was the only convincing factor to make me get in the boat when I was tempted to back out. Rough waters and lots of physical exertion have never remotely sounded like a good time, but in the company of friends and with a guide who reassured me he would get me safely through the waters and eventually back on land, I agreed.
Listen, God has done everything necessary to ensure we are going to make it. He will protect us and take us safely to our eternal home, and I am willing to get into any boat that He says He will guide. He has provided salvation for us in Christ and will provide for our daily needs as we trust in Him. The blessing of God doesn’t wait for us to die and go to heaven, but verse 12 reminds us we are already blessed if we are trusting in God.
I am not talking about a one-time trust, but a moment by moment trust, a walk of trust, an unbroken commitment to follow where He leads and reliance on Him to provide. But what happens sometimes is when we go through the Valley and want something to make us feel better immediately, something to divert our hearts and minds from the pain, something to take the edge off of our suffering we stop trusting in God and look to those earthly, temporary things to satisfy us. Whether it is a relationship, a drug, a bottle of alcohol, a sexual fantasy, a gambling escapade or a credit card shopping binge, we shift our minds and hearts from our eternal Provider in an effort to guide our own lives out of the valley. It never works. It just takes our strength and keeps us in the valley longer than we would have been had we not taken charge.
Our trust in God, moment by moment, will dictate the quality of our walk as pilgrims in this land. Rather than rely on our own understanding let’s seek the presence of God. It will sustain us. Let’s rely on His power. It will transform us. Let’s allow Him to protect and provide for us. It will satisfy us! Let’s place our hand in His hand and not let go. Something greater. Something beautiful is waiting for us. Live in the light of eternity and the reality that this is just our temporary home.