Flying is a great way to travel when you need to go long distances fast. A trip that would take a good 24 hours in a car can be done in just four or five on a plane. This week, I had the opportunity to fly to another state to visit my daughter. I experienced all the stress that goes with airports, layovers, and flights. It occurred to me that, for Christians, air travel is much like life itself. After all, 1 Peter 2:11 calls us strangers and pilgrims. We have a clear destination, and we are just passing through on our way to it.
Travel Is About the Destination
For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”Hebrews 13:14
Nobody just plans a trip to the airport. We don’t sign up for hectic airport parking, stressful security processes, long waits, and cramped, often bumpy flights without the great reward of the destination when it’s all done. Traveling is simply the means to an end. You start at one place and seek for another. And even though it might not feel like it when you’re going through it, traveling doesn’t last forever. Soon enough, the hassle is over, and you are free to enjoy the purpose for your trip.
Strangers, Pilgrims, and Sojourners
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”1 Peter 2:11
The Bible is filled with contrasts between the temporal world and the eternal Kingdom of God. But the distinction isn’t just for the locations themselves. It’s also for the people. Both the Old and New Testaments use the same idea of God’s people as travelers passing through this temporary land on the way to their forever home.
In the New Testament, the word for “pilgrim” is “parepidemos.” It’s Strong’s Concordance number 3927, and it means “one who comes from a foreign country into a city or land to reside there by the side of the natives.” In the Old Testament, we see a similar concept in Hebrew with the word “sojourner” which is “toshab.” That one is Strong’s Concordance number 8453 and means “a dweller, as distinguished from a native citizen; a temporary inmate or mere lodger.”
Testing and Hard Times
Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”Acts 14:22
Anyone who has ever been through a TSA checkpoint will tell you that there are lots of rules. You must stand at a certain place, come when you are called, place all your belongings in a bin, and take off your shoes. Sometimes agents will ask you to step into a circular chamber and put your feet on the footprints with your hands up. Then the outer edge will spin around, taking your picture with magnetic imaging. Sometimes the agents have wands and will pass them over your body before you are allowed to collect your belongings and continue on your way. In the meantime, everything you are taking with you goes through the X-ray machine. It’s all inspected to make sure that you don’t have anything inappropriate with you past that point.
In life, we also go through tests and trials. There are times when the Lord will inspect us thoroughly, separating us from things that cannot travel with us on our journey. Sometimes, we will feel like we are being put through the ringer, wondering when our ordeal will end. Situations and circumstances can weary and stress us, but TSA checkpoints don’t last forever, and neither do earthy tests and trials. As soon as the inspection is finished, travelers are free to continue their journeys.
Temptations on All Sides. Keep Moving!
Airport shops and restaurants are all so dazzling and inviting. But because they have a “captive audience,” prices are extremely high. Plus, taking too much time in these areas can also cost you precious time and distract you from your purpose: to get to the gate on time.
In life, the price of getting too involved with this world is also high. 2 Timothy 2:4 says, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” We must set our eyes forward to our destination without getting lost in the things of the world on the way.
In fact, some airports have “people movers” to get travelers through the airport faster. Choosing to step onto one of these conveyers means that your forward progress is set. Even if you stop walking, you are still moving, and it is extremely important to keep your eyes focused forward for that all-important moment when you must step off the moving belt to the stationary floor. If you don’t, you might stumble and fall. Proverbs 4:25-27 says, “Let thine eyes look right on and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”
Lots of Active Waiting
If I had to pick a theme for air travel, I would have to say either “Hurry up and wait” or even “Waiting can be difficult.” Since there are so many variables with airport traffic, parking, security, and gates, airlines encourage passengers to be two hours early for flights. Once you check in at the kiosk, get through security, and find the correct gate, sometimes there will still be an hour or more to wait.
It’s not a passive waiting, either. You must watch just in case the gate is changed last minute or the flight is delayed or even cancelled. You must listen for your ticket’s group number to be called for boarding, and you must always keep control over any carry-on bags. In the case of a flight layover, sometimes these waits can be several hours as you exit one connecting flight and wait to enter another.
In life, we also do a lot of waiting on the Lord. Prayers can be answered in a moment, but God often chooses to allow a period in between the ask and answer. That kind of waiting isn’t passive, either. We must listen for the Lord’s leading and watch for Him to show us our next move. Getting frustrated with waiting doesn’t help in either scenario. Whether it is a flight delay or a prayer delay, we don’t have control over either one. We must simply trust the Lord and His timing.
Highs and Lows of Air Travel
Once you have passed security, waited for the flight, flashed your boarding pass, and made your way down the long tunnel to the doors of the airplane, then your travel really begins. Some airplane seats are cramped with little space, but some seats have plenty of room to move around. Sometimes seatmates are polite and keep to themselves. Sometimes they might encroach on your space, bother you with chatter or unfortunate smells, or even scream for the duration of the trip (usually in the case of babies).
There is still more waiting in this phase too, but airlines try to help with the boredom by offering free movies and music on the way. Soon enough, the flight will be over and the captain will turn off the seatbelt sign. Then people will be up and collecting belongings once again to exit the aircraft.
Day to day life can be the same. There are highs and lows. Easy times and hard times. While no two flights may be the same – and even no two seats on the same flight — we as individuals also go through different seasons in our lives. Like in-flight entertainment, the Christian must occupy him/herself with the business of seeking the Lord. Regular prayer times, Bible reading, and worship must occupy our minds as we go about our lives. Again, flights don’t last forever. Whatever situation you are in, whether fortunate or unfortunate, it just won’t last. Jesus is our Captain. He is in complete control, and we can trust Him to to land us safely.
If you have ever checked a bag at the airport, you know what it’s like to experience the baggage carrousel. Suitcases from everyone on the airplane are placed onto a circular conveyer. Passengers then wait until their own bag comes around, sometimes watching many other passengers get theirs first. When you finally see your suitcase, you must check the tag to make sure it’s your own. Then you can grab it. It’s satisfying because it’s the last hurdle of the trip before exiting the airport and heading off to your fabulous destination.
Ministries can be like luggage. In life, we all have a job to do for the Lord. Sometimes there is a little bit of a wait for your opportunity as you watch others fulfilling their calls. Once your turn comes around, you double check with the Lord that it’s His will, and then grab for it. To me, ministry is one of the most satisfying parts of the trip. It’s gratifying when you finally lay hold of the one thing you can take with you (service for the Lord) and move forward with it toward eternity.
Strangers and Pilgrims
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.”Hebrews 11:13-15
Saints of all times are but strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Just like the airport isn’t anybody’s true destination, this world is not our home. We are simply passing through. While we are on our journey, we may experience tests and trials, temptations, and plenty of waiting, but none of it lasts forever. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” There will be an end to this tiresome trip. We can expect it. While we are traveling, we must keep our eyes focused forward to the day we will bring our labors with us to our forever home.
Enjoy analogies? Try 3 Last Days Object Lessons From Shopping or Strike the Ground According to Your Faith. Please sign up to receive my blog in your email in-box. You can find that at the upper right of your screen (or at the bottom on a phone). Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.