Last week I climbed a mountain. It was Mt. Quandary with a total elevation of 14,265 feet. It was physically the hardest thing I've ever done. I expected that. I probably underestimated how difficult it would be. I did know that it would be hard, especially in light of my current exercise routines (few and far between). What I didn't expect is to be emotionally and spiritually drained as well. On that mountain I gained a new appreciation for Jesus and His Church in my life. Here are three things I wanted to share from that experience.Perseverence
Here's a shot from near the bottom of the trail. We were just getting the point where we could see the peak of Mt. Quandary. Still below tree line. Still many feet in elevation to go. Still feeling good.
What was most deceiving about this view was that it was possible to see some people up near the top. It made it feel like it really wasn't that far. Like it wouldn't be as hard as I had psyched myself up for. (Boy was I wrong!) This reminded me of our view of Jesus and the holy life He calls us to when we put our faith in Him. We see Jesus out in the distance and don't really think we're that far off. Yeah, I lie once in a while, no biggie. I'm not arrogant, I just speak my mind. I may lose my temper, but I use words, never get physical. In essence, we think, "I'm not that bad. I haven't killed anyone!"
So we follow Jesus. We stick with it and hope that He'll iron out those few wrinkles in our life. Or we'll just follow Him and He'll be OK with the way I am. That's what grace is for, right?
Jesus doesn't do that though. He shows us who He really is as we walk with Him. He reveals more and more of His character, His love, His righteousness, His holiness. As we are exposed to Him in those ways, we start seeing how truly far we are from Him on on our own and how terribly difficult it is to do it all on our own. We can easily see hard and rocky ground that is keeping us from Him.
This spot on the trail to the top of the mountain was hard. Not the hardest, but since I'd never been here I didn't know that. The thing I realized is that there was very few places of level ground. There were places that the trail sort just disappeared and you just had climb through rocky terrain. The easy part was that you knew where to go, up.
But as I was huffing and puffing through this I knew I needed to keep at it. If I stopped, I would lose momentem and morale. If I turned around, I would not get the reward. Hebrews 12:1-2 says
"...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverence the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus..."
-- Hebrews 12:1b-2a (NIV)
Following Jesus requires perseverence. As we truly see how far we are from His perfection, we must push to keep our eyes on Him. That's what I had to do climbing this mountain. Keep looking up. Look at the top. Look at where I want to be. Look at where I can be if I persevere. If we keep our eyes on Jesus and persevere, we will get closer to Him. We will experience His great love. We will be shaped into His likeness. But all those promises do not negate the fact that there will be difficulty and trials along the way. Pastor Ruben has said before that following Jesus is not for wimps. He's right! There is much struggle and working hard. But we aren't on our own in this walk...Community
I could not have made it up to the top of that mountain if it hadn't been for the men that were with me. We weren't all at the same level physically to climb, but we encouraged and helped each other along. In my case, I was in the middle crew. Some men were able to push forward and lead the way. They were the inspiration that we could do it. Some were behind and we encouraged them to keep going and push as far as they could.
We banded together and tackled this moutain together. We had to. We needed each other. God created us to live in community. He is relational, and since we are created in His image, we are relational. Yes, even the introverts! (We just need alone time to charge back up.)
"All the believers were together and had everything in common."
--Acts 2:44 (NIV)
I was reminded on this mountain, that I am not alone, nor should I really ever be. We all need a small group of people who we share our lives with, our struggles with, our victories with, who we get encouragement from, who we encourage.
We also need a Jonathan in our life. David and Jonathan were best of friends and accounabile to each other. They had the type of relationship where there was encouraging and truth telling (a.k.a Dude, you need to check your attitude) that everyone needs.
We need big, small, and personal community in our lives.Weakness
As I stated before, this was physically the hardest thing I've done. The part that really showed my weakness was the false summits that we encountered. Everytime you'd hit one, there was this excitement next followed by a rush of disappointment that we are not there yet.
This directly ties back to the perseverence and community. Because our own strength to push on towards Jesus and the help of our brothers and sisters in Christ, at times, only goes so far. Some of us reach a place where just taking one more step takes all the strength we have and at some point we can't even do that.
I would not have made it up the mountain if it hadn't been for the men with me and the strength of Jesus. In the last half mile there is a 1000 foot verticle climb. My legs were dead. They had been pushed to their limit. Every step used every bit of my strength to move forward. I seriously feared falling down and tumbling to a painful stop.
Through all of it, I kept remembering 2 Corinthians 12...
"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'"
--2 Corinthians 12:9a
I prayed for strength. I prayed that Jesus would get me up this mountian. I reminded myself that Jesus is my strength. And He was faithful!
I don't know what your "mountain" is today, but Jesus is ready to help you climb it. Keep your eyes on Him and push through. Find a group of people you can grow deeper in Christ with. Have an accountibility relationship with someone of the same sex.
If you surrender completely (all aspects of your life) to Jesus, He will work in and through you. He will take you up those mountains. And unlike this physical mountain that I was on, you won't have to come back down. Jesus will just take you to the next higher peak. There is always more to this amazing relationship with our Savior!