Sojourning and suffering

March 22, 2012

From about age 9 until my early teen years I remember looking forward to camping in the woods of New England with my church's youth group. We would pack our provisions and drive several hours to set up our camp with the basics - shelter, food, and fire. We learned essential wilderness survival skills, knots, safe food storage, and water purification. The older ones taught the younger ones, and everyone learned and grew together. We were far from the comforts of running water, furnaces, air conditioning, and home cooking. We were in the wilderness.

Yet all of us knew that in just a few days we would be back in our comfortable beds with an easily accessible refrigerator and microwave oven. In other words, we knew that our setup at camp was just transient and temporary. We did not use brick and mortar to build our shelters, we patched holes in our tents and tarps with duct tape. We did not construct the fire pit to last for years of harsh winters. We did not bring enough food and water for more than a week. Though we were extremely grateful that we had protection from the rain, food for our bellies, and soap to clean our hands, we did not seek to overhaul our camp into our permanent home. As we camped, we let our small "delicacies" remind us of home cooking. We let our lawn chair remind us of our dad's plush lounge chair and blanket back home. Even just a day or two into our trip, we would all be longing for the comforts of home again.

Though the analogy is not perfect, my camping story can have significant application to our lives as believers in Jesus as we wait patiently for His return. Like campers, the Bible calls us "sojourners", "pilgrims", and "strangers" (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13) in this present evil age as we earnestly look for new clothes (a resurrected body - 2 Corinthians 5:2) and a new plot of land (a renewed earth without sin and death where Jesus reigns in Jerusalem - 2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 65:17-25; Isaiah 2:1-4) where we can live in our Father's house again here on the earth forever (Revelation 21).

Just as the children of Israel "camped" in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land, so we are wanderers in exile until the age to come, free from the bondage of sin and sealed by the Holy Spirit as ones who will inherit that promise (Ephesians 1:13-14) if we remain faithful in our sojourn. Though the wicked are prospering, though unrighteousness is reaching new heights, and though death abounds because of God's curse (Genesis 3:19), we must have confidence in God's promise to restore everything (Acts 3:21) and bring justice on the Day of the LORD. Through the suffering witness of the cross we boldly declare to the wicked that God is restraining in amnesty before He judges the world through Jesus (Acts 17:31) on a fixed day in the future (Acts 1:6-7) when this age of unrighteousness passes away (1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 John 2:8,17; 2 Peter 3:13). This is our hope and joy in suffering as "campers" in this age, knowing that everything will change when He returns.

So don't make this age your home, and don't seek to remodel it so that others can feel comfortable here either. Take up your cross daily, imitate Christ in suffering, misunderstanding, and reproach as you bear witness to His glory, and fix your hope completely on the rich welcome you will receive into your home on this earth in the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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About the author

Joshua Hawkins is a pastor, Bible teacher, and content creator for disciples of Jesus from College Station, Texas. He co-hosts The Apocalyptic Gospel Podcast, a weekly audio show exploring how a first century Jew would have understood the Gospel. He's also an all-around tech nerd and enjoys road cycling.

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