Over the course of the last two posts I have attacked the emergent position that we should be focused on the journey and not the destination in the Christian life. I have argued that this leads to meaningless statements about “the right thing” and “a better way,” particularly when combined with the emergent attack on identity. I have also discussed that I feel that it is that living-in-the-now approach which has caused for emergents to avoid standing on biblical truth when it comes to issues which are divisive and not popular among a majority of people.
However, the one thing I need to do is offer a defense from the Bible of why we should focus on the destination. Now, take note, I do not intend to argue that we shouldn’t focus on the journey, as I have already conceded the importance of doing so in the first post (and besides, only free grace theologians would argue for this position), but instead I wish to show that this is a “both-and” issue.
First, let’s look at Hebrews 11.13-16:
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
Now, in this passage, which is referring to the faith of the patriarchs, what does the author of Hebrews say? He says that the patriarchs made it “clear that they are seeking a homeland.” So, their focus was on the destination, on the homeland, the “things promised.” And what was the reaction to this? We’re they rebuked for having an improper focus? Far from it. Instead, we are told that “God is not ashamed to be called their God” and that per their expectation “he has prepared for them a city.” Then it seems as if God is actually rewarding their faith in him, their focus on the destination, with a “heavenly” country. Not bad, huh?
But then you may argue, “Well, that was the Jews and the promised land, not us.” To that I would say look two chapters later at Hebrews 13.13-14:
Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
This time it is certainly being directed at believers in Christ, as this comes just two verses after a commentary on what Christ did for us. Also, this passage parallels the image given in chapter 11 of the city that has been prepared. Thus, it seems pretty clear that it is a good thing for our focus to be on the destination, the completion of God’s promises.
Where else can we turn for support of this? How about Romans 8.18-25:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Where is our hope? What do we seek? It is the redemption that is to come. For this we wait, with patience yes, but wait for it nonetheless. Or take 1Corinthians 9.24-27:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
We run to obtain the prize. We train to receive the imperishable wreath. This is an excellent illustration for what we need do. Yes, it is important that we “discipline [our bodies],” but we do not do so aimlessly. We are to focus on the journey because we are striving for the destination. We also see this echoed in Philippians 3.13-14.
Therefore, I think we have adequately shown by the word of God that as much as we are to focus on executing the journey in a manner which is honoring to God, our reason to do so is because we are “eagerly [awaiting] adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” I don’t think it could be any clearer. If we lose the goal, then the journey, however good it might make us feel, is completely worthless.