What does that word conjure up in your mind? Having now moved more than two dozen times in my preaching career, I think I can appreciate to some degree the meaning of the word. The word ‘sojourn’ means “a temporary stay” (Webster Online). So, a sojourner would be someone who does not stay very long in any one place. I have known people who have never left their immediate surroundings. I had the opportunity to speak at a university in Volgada, Russia, a mid-sized town inside the arctic circle. Out of the two dozen or so students in my class, there was a small handful who had never left that city; all they knew was the cold weather and social isolation that comes with living in that part of the world. In the first segment of ‘The Lord of The Rings’, Frodo’s friend Sam, had never ventured outside his little area of the Shire. Early in their journey, as they arrived at the extent of Sam’s travels, Frodo’s companion noted that with one more step he would have gone further than he had ever been—and he was not even out of the Shire at that point.
So it is with men and their relationship to any given point on this globe. Some are ‘home bodies,” while others become sojourners. I must admit that I have been privileged to visit places that I never dreamed my feet would trod. My four year stint in the Coast Guard took me, for the first time in my life, outside the boarders of the continental 48 states. That prepared me for extensive travel for the Lord; mission efforts that would take me to South Africa, Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, Ethiopia, Nepal, the Philippines, and India. With each and every trip I am reminded that my life is, truly, a sojourn.
Actually, every one of us are sojourners, whether we stay close to home, or whether we travel far beyond the city or state of our nativity. Consider the following.
First we are sojourners with regard to time and eternity. Each of us enters this life and immediately we begin the journey toward death and the grave. The Hebrews writer reminds us that “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). James reminds us that life is “a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (Jas. 4:14). From the standpoint of eternity, the journey is swift, short, and sure. No man can avoid the journey, though few make proper preparation for its ultimate end.
Second, we are sojourners with regard to our relationship to those things that are temporal. Consider the words of Paul in this regard: “Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18). It remains a mystery to me why men place so much importance on the things you can see with the physical eye and touch with the physical hand, “all which things are to perish with the using” (Col. 2:22a), while ignoring the eternal. We should heed the advice that Joseph gave to his father Jacob when he invited him to join him in Egypt: “Regard not your stuff” (Ex. 45:20). All of us have our “stuff,” much of which sits on the shelve collecting dust, or is stored away in some box in the attic where spiders and moths destroy their once-intrinsic value. The past 50 years has seen a dramatic increase in the personal possessions of the average American. In the 1950’s, the average family lived in a 900 square foot house, with a single bathroom, two bedrooms, a small but adequate living area for family entertainment, and a single car garage for the one and only automobile that the family owned. With each passing decade the standard of living has increased. Today the average house contains 2500 square feet of living space, four bedrooms, two and half baths, a den (or family room), a living room, and a two car garage. In the 1950’s those seldom used items were stored in the attic. In the 1970’s our possessions increased and along with it the need for more space. So we backed our cars out of the garage and filled up the garage with our “stuff.” The 1980’s introduced us to the “storage shed” at some remote area – and for a modest monthly fee we could store all that unwanted “stuff” that cluttered up our attics and garages. Now we have attics, garages, and storage sheds full of “stuff.” Meanwhile we forget that we are but sojourners and that someday all this “stuff” will be burned up.
Third, in view of the undeniable fact that all of us are sojourners, it seems that the realization of that truth should have a dramatic impact on our life. Peter had this to say about our sojourn in this life: “Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your behavior seemly among the Gentiles; that, wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-13). The child of God should appreciate the fact that he is, indeed, a sojourner. He knows this world is only temporary, and in view of that fact, he prepares for the eternal. He abstains from fleshly lusts. Why? Because he knows they “war against the soul” and eventually rob him of the goal that awaits at the end of his sojourn. His behavior is different because he is different. He knows there is a day coming when God shall once again visit His creation with the distinct purpose of bringing the journey for all men to an end. At that time our sojourn will be over, and along with the saints of every age, we will sit at the feet of our Father and enjoy the end of the journey.
A couple of years ago I included the following quote by T.B. Larimore in one of my articles. It is a fitting conclusion to this week’s column: “All time is insignificant in comparison with eternity. Time with all its rolling ages is scarcely a tiny bubble rocked upon the bosom of the sighing sea of eternity. Of course there may be many reasons why God has not furnished us in the Bible an illustration that would perfectly explain eternity. One reason – one that should be sufficient to satisfy us perfectly – is that we could never comprehend such an illustration. It is beyond the power of finite minds to understand it. All the mental power of earth could not comprehend an illustration that would fitly portray eternity.”
By Tom Wacaster