Caracas, Venezuela is nestled in a valley, surrounded by mountains. As a Boy Scout, I was involved in some physical training that included excursions in basic mountain climbing. At first, our adventures lasted a few hours and took us only up into the lower altitudes. That’s where we became acclimated to the terrain and to the lower oxygen concentration in the air. As we became stronger climbers, able to navigate more difficult landscapes and our bodies adapted to less oxygen, we were able to climb higher and higher. The summit on the coastal mountain range in Caracas, known as “The Avila,” is called “Pico de Naiguata,” and is situated on the border between the Venezuelan states of Miranda and Vargas.
I had no idea that what I was learning at that time in my life would play such a significant role later on. It seemed then that I was simply enjoying myself learning about nature and hanging out with my friends away from the immediate grasp of my parents. That was good enough for me! Think about it; it was an easy way to get outdoors, while at the same time having very little parental oversight. There was no way for me to know back then, at eleven years old, that God would use those experiences in nature, climbing mountains, to help craft a message decades later about the skills needed to do essential spiritual mountain climbing. The parallels are astounding!
When we read Matthew 17, it’s easy to zero in on the amazing and magnificent “transformation” moment on the mountain. “And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light.” Beyond any doubt, what this represents, and the conversation that ensues during and immediately afterwards, is the most critical topic in the chapter. Yet, don’t get so transfixed that you miss something significant, the climb up the mountain itself.
How does the “climb” play out in your life as a Christian today? Is there anything significant about the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual effort it takes to climb the mountain with our Blessed Savior? At minimum, we must assume there is some effort required. And borrowing from the words that Christ Himself used so often to preface a statement, “Most assuredly I say to you,” a significant effort is demanded. How significant you might fear?
Allow me to use a bit of an “artistic license” to reword and combine certain pre-existing biblical concepts. Maybe in this case we will call it a “pastoral license!” “If anyone chooses to climb up the mountain with Me, he must deny his own desires and self-interests, and make significant sacrifices every day in order to follow Me.”
And let’s acknowledge that more often than not, it is easier to achieve things in the natural realm than in the spiritual. Climbing to the top of the mountains in your spiritual life is significantly (there’s that word again for the seventh time!) harder than strapping on a pair of boots, loading a backpack, and heading out on the trail. Let’s sort out what is so significant about what it will take for you to be victorious as you “Climb Your Mountains!”
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