By Denzil Holman
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God (Hebrews 6:1).
The Christian life is intended to be a journey of growth and maturity as we strive to become more like Jesus Christ. It is a pilgrimage that is likened unto climbing a mountain into new spiritual heights. This sermon is about climbing a mountain and the analogies concerning it.
There are other applications in relating our walk with the Lord and the subject of mountains. A mountain can be an obstacle to overcome. It can be a besetting sin or a time of trial and testing. We have the assurance of victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. We can conquer the mountains and stand on the summit with the enemy under our feet. The symbol of a mountain climber posing on the top of a mountain peak speaks volumes, proclaiming, “I conquered the mountain.”
We don’t do it on our own, because we depend upon the power and providence of God to achieve victories. However, we must do our part, and there are some attitudes and actions that we can have and do in a joint effort with the Spirit of God. His supernatural power is the larger part of the equation, for our human efforts are small in comparison with God.
The other application of climbing a mountain is the hunger in our hearts to be all that we can be for God. The pursuit of excellence is commendable as long as we give God the glory for whatever is accomplished through our efforts. Our efforts are like a dung pile unless we keep the proper perspectives and give God all of the glory. The apostle Paul didn’t assume that he had arrived, but he was goal minded and was pressing on for the prize.
There are many who desire to rise above the status quo and mediocrity to do things for the Lord. An old poet wrote, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps he hears the sound of a different drummer.” Growing in God is conforming to the image of Christ and becoming more like Him as we strive toward perfection. It is climbing the mountain to be more effective in evangelizing our world and to have our lives radiate His light in a dark world.
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
My father had a dream that he related many years ago about a group of people who were climbing a mountain. On top of the mountain was a church that represented Zion, and they started in the valley to climb. Because it was steep, they had to stop to rest often to keep climbing. When they would stop, they would look at their goal and be encouraged to climb higher.
Some are fearful of beginning to climb. We are creatures of habit and enjoy living in our comfort zones. We may even choose to enjoy the view of the mountain from a distance because we don’t want to tackle the mountain. The lack of desire and fear of the unknown cause some to be content to be perpetual babes in Christ. The price of commitment may be too costly for some, so they gaze with longing at the heights but are reluctant to climb higher. They resign themselves to living in the valley and the status quo. The tragedies of wasted lives are staggering in lost potential.
Climbing a mountain is an uphill experience. Mountains will test us and expose our weaknesses. We learn much about ourselves through these experiences, and they teach us about changes that we need to make. Mountains change our vision in that we look at the overall picture from a different vantage point. It may be a place of solitude at times when we are separated from crowds. We are above the pollution of the lowlands and live where the atmosphere is pristine and clear.
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him (Hebrews 10:38).
Oftentimes God will allow circumstances to rattle our cages and, like the mother eagle, stir up the nest to make us uncomfortable. He may choose affliction, life changes, or trials to goad us to search our hearts and motives.
As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him (Deuteronomy 32:11-12).
A spiritual restlessness may be necessary to motivate us to begin climbing. If we look for perfect conditions to begin, it may never happen. Some even intend to do something about changing their lives, but fear and apathy have to be overcome. We can’t fall back on the excuse, “If only!”
Joe average was an interesting person who blended well in society. He didn’t have much drive or incentive to affect the world around him. If someone discussed the pursuit of excellence, it did not interest him at all. He was content to not make waves but to just get along as best as he could. In elementary school he was just average, so he went through those years easily without rocking the boat. He made average grades, so when it came time for high school, he didn’t choose difficult subjects that would stretch his potential because he was happy to be average. He made average grades, and his knowledge of various subjects was average also. He graduated with a C average and found a job in the steel factory in town because that was the extent of his skills.
He bought an average-sized automobile that was one of the more average colors that people chose in his town. He had average good looks and fell in love with a neighbor girl who liked average people. They bought a typical tract home in an average neighborhood because he made an average paycheck and that was all they could afford. They eventually had two children because they couldn’t afford to have more children on his income. They had an average life because they couldn’t afford some of the nicer things of life. He worked until retirement and lived on an average pension because all of his life he had been Joe average. When he died, he had an average funeral, and the number of people at his service was average.
We all start in the lowlands on this climbing expedition. We are admonished to not despise the day of small things. Whatsoever our hands find to do, we must do it with all our strength. We understand that God has a purpose in our lives, and we seek to grow and to expand our potential. We ask ourselves, “Who am I?” and “What am I doing here?” The mountains loom before us as a challenge to grow in God.
Before we get into the higher elevation with its beauty, we will be learning lessons about living at the lower elevations. The foothills aren’t as picturesque, and at times our progress seems painfully slow. But when discouragement strikes, look to the mountain and keep climbing. The summit may seem far away, but look behind you for a quick glance and be amazed how far you have already come on your quest. The adversity of the climb only makes us stronger. We are gaining in knowledge and experience each and every day. We encounter cuts and bruises because the lower elevations have heat, dust, sharp rocks, briars, and cactus. Remember, God does not place us where we cannot grow.
Good climbers follow some guidelines to help them on the ascent up the mountain. Don’t try to climb alone. We need climbing companions and friends so that we may encourage one another. Of course, it is understood that we always want to have Jesus with us. Travel light by laying aside weights and hindrances. Lay aside your burdens, and allow the Lord to carry some of your burdens. Leave grudges and unforgiving attitudes along the trail.
We need to have a teachable spirit. We can take some instruction from the elders because they can teach us lessons about life. Remember to let each day unfold as the will of God leads you. You are going through uncharted territory; you have never passed this way before. You will need proper nourishment for the climb. We must refresh ourselves often, or we will grow weak from the energy expended on the mountain. Rest and renewal are keys to survival. There are times to pause momentarily and reflect on your position and examine yourself. You’ll need a compass for direction. This spiritual climbing expedition is too serious to attempt without a map and a compass to direct your steps. You haven’t been here before and can get lost.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105). It is our map to heaven.
Don’t stop to rest too long. You may be tempted to stop climbing and decide to take up residence short of your goal. A short respite from the climb will refresh you, but don’t linger for too long. Climbing takes much desire and determination that come from within you. No one else but you can prod yourself that much. Set a steady pace that you can maintain without killing yourself. We live for God one day at a time. Each day is a gift from God and is a new adventure.
Our attitudes have as much to do with climbing as our physical condition does because the battles are won because of our inward strengths also. We know the prize is worth the climb, so we must not get discouraged. Don’t get lifted up with pride over progress, because we can slip and fall. Mountains have a way of keeping us humble. It is easier to fall than it is to climb higher. The higher that we climb, the greater is the risk of falling and we have more to lose.
At times, the gradual climb becomes a steep ascent and the footing is precarious. It may require more consecration and commitment to keep climbing. We may encounter unplanned detours and have to change our course and take a different approach on the mountain. The will of God sometimes takes us through unexpected twists and turns. We may have to backtrack and go around obstacles in our pathway.
Climbing injuries are common on this spiritual road to perfection. We may trip and stumble, but when we fall, we shall arise and keep climbing. Mountains are prone to sudden storms, rock slides, and lightning strikes. The storms only last awhile, and it won’t rain always. How we handle the various adversities speaks volumes about our level of spiritual maturity. Some climbing injuries are self-inflicted because of neglect and carelessness. Other wounds are because we are human and we are exposed to the elements on the mountain. Don’t take the mountain and the journey for granted. Respect them and don’t take daring risks. Learn the value of patience in climbing. Learn to watch your footing. You don’t want to slip and fall.
At various times, we will find respite from the arduous journey in lush green meadows for times of rest and relaxation. David said, He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places (Psalm 18:33). I know of such a place on a favorite mountain of mine in Arizona. It is a beautiful place, high on the side of a mountain, and it is named, “Hospital Flat.” It is a place for healing.
After resting, don’t let apathy and complacency settle in and talk you out of continuing the climb. The summit still beckons to you. There are still heights to reach that you don’t want to miss. Some get satisfied and quit climbing at the site of lush meadows. Don’t sell yourself short. You’re in the heights now and clouds will cover the mountain more often, but you will find the summit. You still have your compass and map. There are more storms near the summit, so be more cautious. The air is thin, and you can get lightheaded and lose your equilibrium. Your mind may play tricks, and you wonder if you will ever reach the top.
You find yourself weary, and you’re temporarily winded. You feel like you have had it and want to quit, but you don’t allow those negative thoughts to stay too long. You don’t even consider burnout. Instead of “retire,” you “refire” and get your enthusiasm again for the climb.
And let us not be not weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not (Galatians 6:9).
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).
You reach a smaller peak, but then you realize you are not at the top yet. The mountain has several smaller peaks, but the summit is still up there. Finally, you reach the top and you have made it. You ask the question, “When will that happen?” It will happen on that glorious day when we meet Jesus in the rapture of the church. Until that day, we will keep climbing.
On the top of Mount Zion is a city
And the earth with glory it doth fill;
I shall look on its beauty in the morning
When I reach that city on the hill.
This article “Give Me This Mountain” by Denzil Holman was excerpted from the book Hot Coals from the Altar. It may be used for study & research purposes only.