For many years pop psychology pointed us away from the concepts of ultimate arrivals. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who is said to have coined what has become a cultural and even a spiritual cliche, "Life is a journey, not a destination". Yea verily, this idea has been engraved into the mission ideals of most churches too, the truth that discipleship is a life-long process and none of us reach the goal of being like Christ in this life. Eliminating arrival points in the spiritual journey addressed the deeper concern of the self-righteous legalism that so dominated church thought for a generation or two. People who thought they had arrived were smug, elite, and typically judgmental of others. De-emphasizing destinations in the Christian life was a way to level the playing field to some degree. We're all in the journey for a life time. Amen, and amen.
But, arrivals do matter. In the book of Acts alone Luke referenced arrivals on fourteen different occasions. Well, yes, that is partly because the Book of Acts is about the expansion of the church, missionary journeys, and the travels that took the Gospel to the end of the earth. A travelogue wouldn't be very effective if the travelers never reached the end point of their itinerary. Of course, however, that's the point. Faith has a starting point and an a destination. Many of them. Their journeys were a record of the extent of their travels and arriving at places along the way. These destinations provided some impetus in their journeys---
1. Destinations are mile markers of obedience.
Acts 1:8 gave the followers of Christ a template for their expansion of the early
church. You know the four circles---Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and finally, the
end of the earth. Luke's written account traces that destination pattern---Acts
1-7, the ministry in Jerusalem; Acts 8-12, expansion to Judea and Samaria; and,
Acts 13-28 further growth all the way to Rome. There were bumps in the road,
adjustments along the way, and some detours. Still, arrivals helped pace them
and indicate the level of their obedience to Christ's commands.
2. Destinations provide goals for life.
There's the tendency to assume that arrival points are always geographical
locations. But, many destinations are spiritual or emotional. A significant
theme of Scripture is the maturity of believers. It transitions us from re-birth
through infancy through young adulthood through maturity to the final stage
of being like Christ on what Scripture refer to as "That day". There are also
emotional markers too, the goals of personal growth, education, and
development. Those places out there give us something at which to aim.
3. Destinations move us beyond the moment.
Once again, Scripture addresses the ultimate finish line, that is, death in this
life and eternity in the next, in many texts. Because there's some morbidity in
the discussion we don't really talk about that destination too often. But,
reaching that finish line is a joyous anticipation for people of faith. Paul wrote
about it this way, "Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of
righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that
day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing"
(2 Timothy 4:8, ESV). When times are hard the remembrance of that final
destination brings hope, peace, and joy.
4. Destinations provide markers for the future.
Henry and Richard Blackaby called them spiritual markers, those places in life
where we have encountered God. Those places are often guideposts for where
we are going. This is because God leads us in consistent directions. Fulfilling his
purpose in life may involve at times connecting the dots of those destinations
to which he has previously guided us.
5. Destinations are often signals of life's calling.
The anonymous writer of Hebrews indicated that his readers were short of the
destination that they should have reached at that particular time. He wrote,
"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach
you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid
food" (Hebrews 5:12, ESV). Where they were at that moment was a re-dial for
God's calling over them. It reminded them to press on.
Life is a journey. But, destinations are significant in traveling it well.