The Lord has allowed me to travel to many amazing places, but there was one trip to Jamaica that really stands out in my mind because it taught me a valuable lesson about the Christian life. During my stay on that beautiful island, a local pastor invited me to accompany him up a mountain to meet an elderly deacon from his church. The road was so narrow and rugged that we had to travel at a snail’s pace.
As we ascended the mountain, we stopped at several little houses to ask for directions. Each person said the same thing: “Go higher!”
As we ascended the mountain, we stopped at several little houses to ask for directions. Each person said the same thing: “Go higher!” Finally at the top of the mountain, we found the elderly deacon sitting quietly on his porch. What an appropriate setting for this faithful servant who’d spent his life climbing upward in his relationship and service to Christ. Not long after that visit, I heard that the Lord had called him to go still “higher” into his heavenly home.
God created us to climb. That’s one of the reasons I love mountains so much—they remind me of our spiritual journey. As the apostle Paul said, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). The Lord has a purpose for each of us, but it will never be discovered in the lowlands of this world. To fulfill our calling, we must move ever upward in relationship with and obedience to Him. Our life’s goal should be to echo Paul, who said, “I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12).
David was another man who understood the concept of going higher spiritually. It was during one of the most difficult periods of his life that he reached a high point in his relationship with the Lord. For many years, he was on the run, hiding in the wilderness from King Saul. The psalms he wrote in those years are filled with imagery of his experiences in the strongholds of the mountains. In Psalm 18:33, David used these words to describe God’s care and provision: “He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me upon my high places.”
A hind is a small deer whose feet are specially designed to navigate mountains. In a similar way, the Lord has equipped every believer with spiritual feet that are perfectly suited for “higher living” in His presence and purpose. We’re all called to climb, but the question is, Will we risk leaving the comforts of the lowland?
We must move upward to fulfill the Lord’s purpose. All it takes to live in the valley is an unwillingness to surrender to God. Have you posted a “No Trespassing” sign over any area of your life? Are you living for your comfort, ease, and pleasure instead of the Lord’s purpose? The lowlands are filled with Christians who have settled for a safe existence rather than the challenges of following Christ up the mountain of His will. Others started to ascend but then stopped partway up. They’ve been living on a comfortable plateau ever since.
Once, when I visited the Lebanese mountains with about 40 other people, I witnessed what happens when we fail to press on. Twenty-six of us wanted to climb the mountain, but the rest of the people decided to stay at the bottom to enjoy some refreshments. As our group ascended, we paused at a rest area to gather our strength. At that point, 22 of the climbers decided they’d gone far enough. They wanted to stay on the plateau and rest. That left only four of us to journey to the top.
As we neared the summit, the dry desert landscape was replaced by refreshing snow. We laughed, threw snowballs, and took some great pictures. However, when we finally came down and rejoined the people on the plateau, we noticed they weren’t as excited about the expedition as we were. And the people at the bottom of the mountain showed no enthusiasm at all. They’d chosen comfort and missed the joy.
Abundant life comes only to those who move out of their comfort zone to climb higher with God. What is the Lord asking you to do? Is He leading you to surrender something you want to control, accept a situation you want changed, or do something you don’t want to do? These are all indications that He is calling you to move upward. There may be struggles, discomfort, and uncertainty, but the outcome will be worth it.
Climbing requires bold faith. One of the reasons many believers resist climbing higher with the Lord is because of the risks. For instance, suppose God asks you to give more generously to your church. From your perspective, being obedient might not be worth facing an uncertain financial future. Or maybe He’s calling you to serve in a particular area, but you feel inadequate and think, What if I fail or humiliate myself?
Climbing with God always stretches our faith. Have you ever watched professional mountain climbers tackle vertical rock cliffs? They anchor their ropes into the rock, push off, and swing out into midair to reach their next foothold. That’s sometimes how it feels when we obey the Lord in a challenging assignment. A leap of faith may look risky, but in reality, every act of obedience is firmly anchored in Him. Christ, the Rock, holds us and promises to bring us safely through.
Another problem we’ll face on the upward journey is that clouds descend and block our view. Then we can’t see where we are or figure out where to go. Sometimes the “clouds” are the result of our own sin, which keeps us from seeing God’s path, but there are also times that the Lord brings them to test us. When we can’t clearly see our way, we have to trust Him to guide us. That’s when He provides His Word to light our path one step at a time (Ps. 119:105).
Mountains are places of solitude with God. Growing in the Lord isn’t all about service. At times, we simply need to sit quietly and enjoy being in His presence. When I’m alone on a mountain, all distractions are left behind and I can hear what was previously inaudible to me—a breeze stirring the tree branches, the bubbling of water in a stream, or the birds singing. I also have a better perspective of my surroundings. I see the big picture instead of being closed in by the valley.
That’s exactly what happens to us spiritually when we leave the distractions of this world and ascend to a place of solitude with the Lord. As we read His Word and pray, we’ll be able to hear His still, small voice speaking directly to our hearts. He’ll help us see our circumstances from His eternal perspective and understand His path more clearly.
What I want you to realize is that traveling with God is the most valuable pursuit in this life. He’ll be with you every step of the way to encourage you, pick you up when you stumble, and provide strength in times of weakness. And one of these days, when you’ve finished your ascent and are finally home, you’ll stand before Him and hear these words from Matthew 25:23 (NIV): “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Adapted from the sermon “Made for the Mountains” by Charles F. Stanley.