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Hill Climbing 101

It was the final afternoon of my national ride. We had crossed the border into Tennessee, stopped for lunch and got ready to get back on the bikes. “Seventy miles to go!” someone said and we took off down the road. Those final miles were a stretch of rolling hills. When I made it to the top of a hill, there was another waiting for me on the other side. This continued for miles. Once I made it to the top of a hill, I wanted to stop and stay up there. I had worked so hard to get up there and I knew if I went down the hill, I would have to work even harder to get up the next hill. However, I had to keep going to finish the ride with my teammates. This experience helped me begin to understand Peter’s words at the Transfiguration.

160px-TransfigurationblochThe experience of the Transfiguration was incredible even for Peter, James, and John who had been with Jesus since the beginning of his ministry. As they stood on a high mountain, in front of them stood Jesus in His glory along with Moses and Elijah, two of the most highly regarded prophets in Jewish history. We read in Mark 9:5, Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”. Peter did not want to leave that mountain, he wanted to stay in this incredible moment for as long as possible. To leave the mountain meant going back down to a life of constant traveling and the threat of the teachers of the law. However, Peter is only able to see the short term picture while God is thinking long term. Two verses later, in Mark 9:7-8, we read, “Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him! Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.. God has the eternal fate of the entire world in mind. Jesus did not come to reveal His glory on the mountain for his three closest friends, rather He had to continue His journey to the cross. That means leaving the mountain and heading back down to the others below.

God uses this common theme in other places as well. Noah lands on a mountain after many days in the Ark. He gets out and begins to praise God by building an altar to offer sacrifices as God displays a beautiful rainbow in the sky (Genesis 8). It’s an incredible experience but Noah has to go down from the mountain to restart the entire human race. That could not have been easy to face! Moses faced the same dilemma. He spent many days on top of Mount Sinai in the presence of God. However, God tells him he must descend in order to lead the Israelites who have complained to Moses constantly after being saved from Egypt and even set up a golden calf to worship! (Exodus 32,33). I think it’s safe to say that Moses preferred to stay on top of the mountain in the presence of his God. But God needed him to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land in order to continue His plan of salvation.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” –Psalm 121:1-2

Doesn’t this sound so much like us? We don’t want to leave our peaks either. When things are going well in life, we want God to keep us where we are at and to continue receiving His blessings. Our appreciation for God grows while on the peaks. But the ultimate goal God has for us is not to be happy all the time on Earth. It is to be with Him in Heaven for eternity and to do that we must continue on the journey of life. This just about guarantees we will come down from those peaks and experience low points. It’s in these valleys where our faith grows the most. God uses these low points to turn our focus back to Him and build our reliance on Him. He is the only one who can help us climb to the next peak in our life.

jesus-crossFinally, I’d like to end with what’s considered the most important peak in human history. It provides an inverse to the stories thus far. The death of Jesus involves our Savior climbing a hill as he is battered and bruised. He knows the whole way up what is about to happen to him when He reaches the top and it is not a high point in the human sense. Despite having the power to not go through with it, he sacrificed himself on the top of that hill for the souls of the entire world. More importantly, He came down from that hill and instead of experiencing a low point, He was raised from the dead three days later declaring victory over sin, death and the devil.

No matter what season of life you are in at this moment, whether you are experiencing God’s blessings and growing in appreciation or down in the valley just trying to get yourself to fully trust in God’s plan, remember you are a child of God through Jesus’ sacrifice. Nothing can take that away from you!