Perhaps I should introduce myself. My name is Pilgrim Watcher. My God-fearing parents gave me that name as an expression of the faith that lived in them, and in order to express to me what my life must be.
You see, I had God-fearing parents. I say, I had God-fearing parents. God received them unto Himself a long time ago. But I still remember them. I can vividly remember what they looked like. I have their picture on my shelf. I can remember how they loved each other. Not with the love of this world, you understand, but with the love of Christ. I did not really appreciate when I was small what that love of Christ which united them together was all about. But now that I am married to a wonderful wife and have children of my own, I do.
In fact, I should tell you that when I was small I appreciated very little of my parents. I looked at them as though they would always be, that there would never come a time when they would not be there to provide for me. I learned from them, of course, that there was appointed unto every man a time to die. But the reality of that fact never really hit home until one at a time their appointed time to die came.
I remember those days very well. I stood in the funeral home and later at the grave and all kinds of thoughts went through my mind. Some of those thoughts were not very good. I began to think to myself: why? Why did their time to die appointed by God come now? They did not live very long, so I thought. It did not seem quite fair. Not only the fact that they did not live as long as I thought they should have, but the kind of life they lived—what they experienced in their life—did not seem quite fair. I thought of the fact that they never had very much of the world’s goods. I have much more than they ever did. They did not have an expensive house. Their furniture was always tattered and worn. They did not have money to buy what they maybe would have liked. My father worked long hours every day, and the paychecks he brought home were scarcely sufficient to pay the bills. At that time I did not know what bills were. Now I do. But not then. And with whatever money was left my mother used to buy the food that she would prepare for our meals. I used to complain about what my mother placed on the table at supper time. Little did I appreciate the struggle my parents went through to provide what I so foolishly disliked.
No, I have misspoken myself. It is not really correct to say that with whatever money was left after the bills were paid, my mother would buy food. I remember very distinctly that something always came first even before the paying of the bills and the buying of food. The kingdom causes came first. I remember on Saturday night every week my parents would set aside the church budget; and school tuition was high on my parents’ list of priorities. They used to quote the words, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” But as a result of their obedience to that Word, they had to sacrifice all their life.
And I thought to myself, why? Why did they have to sacrifice all the time? Why could they never have what they maybe wanted? And why did they never complain about the fact that they did not have what they maybe wanted? Oh, that does not mean that my parents were perfect in this regard. But they never really complained. In fact they never really even considered what I have called sacrifice a sacrifice. They used to say to me when I complained about the meals or about the hand-me-down clothes that I wore, that all of those things were good things, a good gift of God. They used to tell me that all that they were they owed to God, and all that they received came from God. God gives us these things, and what He gives He commands that we use to praise Him in His service. And so although not always perfectly, nevertheless, at least in principle they used whatever God gave them in their God’s faithful service.
And they taught me to do the same. From the beginning they did this. Some of the very first things that I can remember have to do with the sound, biblical, spiritual instruction that my parents gave to me. They taught me God’s Word in our home. The Word of God was central to our family life. My father would read the Word at the supper table and would often stop at various appropriate places while he was reading to explain what the passage was about. My father always insisted that the reading of God’s Word at mealtimes was essential to the life of the covenant family. And in that connection he always insisted that the family always be together at least at supper time, so that we as a covenant family could read and study God’s Word together. He used to say that if a family did not at least read and study God’s Word at meal times the temptation was that it would never do it. In that connection my parents impressed upon me the importance of my own personal Bible study. I can remember that on my tenth birthday my parents gave me my own Bible. I still have it. It is tattered and worn but still the same Word of God that is ever dear. When I use it I think of my God Who gave me parents that impressed upon me the importance of God’s Word.
In addition to this I will never forget the importance that my parents placed upon covenant Christian education—the importance of sending me to Christian schools, as much as possible our own Protestant Reformed Christian Schools. They taught me that this was but their solemn obligation before the face of God to train me to the utmost of their power; that this they promised God they would do when they brought me to baptism. You see, they always considered me to be a gift of God that was really not their own but God’s. God gave me to them not to do with as they wanted, but to use and train and instruct to the glory of God, that when I grew older I would not depart from it.
But above all, they instructed me in the truth of God’s Word by bringing me to the great Teacher Himself, Christ Jesus, in His church. Sunday was a special day for our family. It was different from every other day of the week. My parents used to tell me that it was a day of rest. God had given the Sabbath Day for a day of rest. And I assure you that rest in our home did not mean doing nothing, taking Sunday afternoon naps. The rest of the Sabbath Day meant busying ourselves in the study of God’s Word, reading good books, and especially the periodicals published by our churches. But most of all the rest of the Sabbath Day meant frequenting God’s church: attending the preaching of God’s Word, hearing our minister preach sermons that for awhile I did not appreciate. When I was very small I would often sleep through the sermons. When my parents would wake me up, I sat there wondering when the minister was going to say “Amen.” I did not know what the word “Amen” meant at that time, but this much I did know, the sermon was finished. They used to tell me that this attitude was wrong on my part because it was a very wonderful thing to hear the preacher, for in hearing the preacher I heard Jesus. Jesus spoke to me through the preaching. The words that He spoke were the words of eternal life. They were words that spoke to every one concerning the greatness and glory of God. They taught me the unspeakable gift of my salvation, for they spoke of the cross. They instructed me concerning my calling to live a holy life in harmony with God’s law. They taught me to live my life as a pilgrim: what it meant to be a pilgrim. They taught me to watch for the return of the great and glorious God of my salvation upon the clouds of glory.
Indeed, as I think about my parents, that is the one thing that I remember most and cherish above all. They taught me to be a pilgrim watcher. In fact, as I said, they gave me that name. As a pilgrim I am a child of God that walks through this life always seeking my home other than this life. I have a home. It is a nice home, much better than the one my parents had. But I know that that home is not an end in itself. It is, rather, just a temporary abiding place on my pilgrim’s journey to my real home in glory. On my way to that home I walk. I live my life forsaking the world’s corruptions, fighting against the corruptions of this world, against the devil, and against my own sinful flesh. I am a watcher. I watch for Him Who will drive away all my night and take me from this valley of the shadow of death—not just my parents, but me, to glory. I live in hope: a certainty I possess that He Who shall come will come and will not tarry. This is not easy to do. This is impossible apart from the free and sovereign grace of God which I need to fight against my own sinful flesh and this wicked world that seeks to destroy me every day. It is a constant battle that is waged, a never-ceasing vigil that is undertaken. But I know that to me belongs the victory.
I know that now. And I appreciate that now. I appreciate the fact that I am a pilgrim watcher; that that is my name; that that name expresses who I am; and that I am that as a result of, not what my parents did for me, but what my Father Who is in heaven did for me and also in me. I have nothing to boast of myself. My boast is in my faithful covenant God. This appreciation for what I am I seek to impress upon my own children. I breathe a silent prayer every day that even as my parents named me and taught me, so I may teach my children. I pray that also in my home I and my family may seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; that in my home the Word of God will always be central; that we may appreciate the Christian schools God has given to a home such as mine; that the Sabbath Day and the preaching of God’s Word may be always cherished as a precious gift, more precious than any other.
But I am troubled. I see much sin in myself. I see what for a long time characterized myself to be characteristic of my own family, and not just my own family but also families in the church of Jesus Christ in general. I see more and more, as the evil day draws nigh, a general lack of appreciation for what we have. We have so much. I do not refer merely to the abundance of material things that we have—which things we often like to complain about, that even they are not good enough. But I refer to the abundance of spiritual blessings and benefits that God has so graciously given to us. May we never fail to appreciate these things is my prayer; that when our Lord Jesus Christ returns at the end of the ages, He will not find a church faithless, but believing, walking as pilgrims, watching and waiting to be received unto Himself.