BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16 NKJV).
Chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews is devoted to the Bible characters who lived by faith. Before we get to verse 13, some of them have been mentioned and their acts of faith. Among them were Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah.
However, I want to talk about something significant about them all, as indicated in verse 13. That verse says they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. That means that these Bible characters knew that not everything ended on the earth. They knew the earth was not their home. They knew this earth was not their natural habitat. They knew that no matter how long they lived on the earth, their stay was temporary. That was why they, and the rest mentioned in that book, endured all the sufferings they went through.
Hebrews 11:35-39 says, “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented — of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise” (NKJV).
These Bible characters knew they were strangers and pilgrims on earth, and they lived as such. They knew what many people don’t know today. They knew and lived by what many people today know but pretentiously live as if it is not true. They’re living as permanent residents of this earth; they’re living as citizens of the earth and not as temporary sojourners.
All flesh is as grass
James 4:13-14 says, “Look here, you people who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog — it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (NLT). Throughout the Bible, the truth communicated to man is that his stay here on earth is temporary. Whether 120 years or 1,000 years, he’s here for a short period. He’s not a citizen of this earth, as it is at present. But the reality is that man deceives himself and goes about his life as if he’s going to be here forever. Those mentioned in Hebrews 11 didn’t have this kind of perspective of life. They knew they were strangers and pilgrims.
What is your perspective of life? Do you have the mentality of a stranger and pilgrim? On the other hand, do you think you’re here to stay forever? Hear what 1 Peter 1:24 says: “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever” (NKJV).
Isaiah 40:6b-8 says a similar thing: “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (NKJV). God’s concern in those two scriptures was not grass or flower. He was talking about human beings.
From these scriptures, you’ll see that human life is compared to grass and flower. No matter how beautiful the grass and flower are and how long they live, they’ll still wither. They don’t live forever. Psalm 103:15-16 says, “As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (NKJV). You’re not different from grass and flower in terms of the fact that there is an end to your life here on earth. You’ll die one day. Your glory, your beauty, and your life will come to an end.
What became of Solomon in spite of his glory and his vast wealth, wisdom, and honour? Take note that Luke 12:27 compares Solomon’s glory to that of the lilies, but goes on to say Solomon in all his glory was not even arrayed as one of the lilies – herbaceous flowering plants with beautiful flowers. Despite Solomon’s glory, which people would have been envious of, but which the Bible says was inferior to that of the lilies that don’t work or make their clothing, where is Solomon today? He’s passed away with all his glory just like the grass and the flower. That is the fate awaiting you whether or not you embrace the truth that you are a stranger and pilgrim and wisely live so. One day, like the grass and the flower, your glory will pass away. You will die one day. All you have and have amassed will pale into irrelevance.
Job described his life as a breath! (Job 7:7 NKJV). That is true. I’m sure you remember what the Bible says when God created man. He created man out of the dust. Psalm 103:14 says, “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (NKJV). However, God didn’t stop at that. He did something else. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7 NKJV). You shouldn’t forget that too. Constantly remember that God made you out of the dust and your life is as a breath. Once your breath ceases, you’re gone! It takes a miracle to bring you back to life. “For He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again” (Psalm 78:39 NKJV).
Job 14:1-2 says, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue” (NKJV). Also, David said a similar thing, describing his days as mere handbreadths and every man just like vapor. “LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor” (Psalm 39:4-5 NKJV).
Why live as if you’re going to be here permanently. Live as a stranger (sojourner) and pilgrim. That songwriter said it aptly: “This world is not my home, I am just passing through.” You’re just passing through, brother; you’re just passing through, sister. Stop pursuing vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:11).
The apostle Peter also referred to believers as strangers and pilgrims, who shouldn’t adopt the lifestyle of non-believers among whom they’re living, but their loyalty should be to God. “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12 NKJV).
If you’re born again, you should see yourself as an ambassador of Christ, posted here on earth; you’re on a foreign mission. You’re accountable to your home government where you got your letter of credence. You are not supposed to be affected or influenced by the policies, politics, attitudes, and behavior of the society you’re living. “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NKJV).
Pilgrims cannot afford to have the mentality of indigenous people, who think that they own their place of abode or the mentality of settlers, who think they’ve arrived at their permanent place of abode and integrate with their host community in their culture, behavior, etc. That is why Romans 13:11-14 warns, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (NKJV).
This earth is not forever
This earth is temporary, and it is already passing away. “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17 NKJV). The earth, as it is, will disappear completely one day when God will judge the earth. It will cease to exist. “But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7 NKJV).
Verses 10-13 say, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (NKJV).
So if this earth and the works that are in it will be burnt up, what wisdom is there in pursuing the things of this world as if this earth is permanent? Everything, no matter how magnificent it is, will be consumed with fire. Don’t hold on tightly to this earth as if it will exist forever. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17 NKJV). God shall make new heavens and the new earth (Isaiah 66:22). Also speaking about a new heaven and a new earth, Revelation 21:1 says the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Don’t live as a citizen of this earth. This earth will cease to exist one day, no matter how long you live. There is something beyond this earth.
That is why 1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (NKJV). If you will not pass away with the world, you must not love this present world; you must live as a stranger and pilgrim who is looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth. “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4 NKJV). Have a pilgrim’s mentality; you have a brief time to stay on earth.
How must you live your life?
1. Be born again. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3 NKJV). The devil should not continue to be your lord and master. Terminate his authority over your life by coming into a new relationship with Jesus. You need to give your life to Jesus Christ thereby becoming a new creature. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV). Towards the end of this message, I’ll show you how to be born again.
2. Be renewed in your mind. This comes with the help of the Spirit of God, as you continuously study and meditate in the Word of God. Ephesians 4:23-24 says, “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (NKJV). You cannot put on the new man and live a life of righteousness and holiness unless you daily renew your mind with the Word of God. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2 NKJV).
The key to life transformation is the renewing of the mind via the Word of God. Such transformation helps you to view life from God’s perspective contained in the Word of God. It takes a renewed mind to do what Ephesians 4:25-32 says and that’s what God wants you to do. “Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (NKJV). Doing what this scripture says is a mark of a truly transformed life. May you experience this in Jesus’ name.
3. Make the most of your time here on earth. Don’t live as if you won’t die or you’ll live forever on earth, as it is at present. Don’t congest your life with all manners of engagements, activities, projects, etc. that you have no time or enough time for what is most important. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom” (NLT). Appreciate the brevity of life. Grow in wisdom; don’t be foolish. “So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts. And you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:15-20 NLT).
Those who live their lives as strangers and pilgrims on the earth no longer live the rest of their time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God (1 Peter 4:2).
4. Lay up your treasures in heaven. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV). Those who see themselves as permanent residents of the earth don’t lay their treasures in heaven. They heap up wealth, live a selfish life, and delude themselves that they can continue to enjoy forever like that rich fool. But death will put an end to that when they least expect it. “So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:18-21 NKJV).
How do you lay up your treasures in heaven? By being generous to God and His causes on the earth such as paying your tithes, giving offerings, contributing financially and materially to God-related projects and programmes such as gospel advancement and church building. The other way of storing your treasures in heaven is by being generous to fellow human beings especially the needy, orphans, and widows. “If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD — and he will repay you!” (Proverbs 19:17 NLT). James 1:27 says, “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us” (NLT).
Those who don’t store their treasures in heaven are not involved in these types of giving. All their treasures are here on earth; they hoard their wealth, and though they’re rich while alive, they’re poor after death for they have no treasures stored ahead in heaven.
5. Don’t be attached to this world. That means you don’t get carried away by the activities of this world, your success, your progress, and all that this world offers because you know that it won’t last. “Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away” (1 Corinthians 7:31 NLT).
It’s not all that glitters that is gold. What this world offers could be deceptive, and you have to be careful that you’re not deceived. That’s why the Bible warns about the deceitfulness of riches. “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22 NKJV). Don’t hold tightly to the things of this world.
6. Set your mind on the things that are above. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4 NKJV). Carnal Christians and non-believers focus their minds on the things of this earth. They’re concerned about earthly things. Serious Christians set their minds on things above, and not on things on the earth. They know that just as Jesus told the Jewish leaders, they’re in this world but not of this world. “And He said to them, ‘You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world’” (John 8:23 NKJV).
Conclusion: Let your mentality not be like that of carnal Christians and non-believers who think and live as if this world is their home. Don’t be engrossed in and entangled in worldly things; don’t enjoy so much the good things this world offers that you forget about eternity.
I pray that you’ll live as a stranger and pilgrim on this earth, and not live to your life to pursue vanity, and lose your soul. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37 NKJV).
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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