How many of you have done mountain climbing?
I don’t mean Mount Faber or Mount Sophia or Mount Vernon (places in Singapore). Those don’t count. Real mountain climbing is the kind that takes you almost an entire day or more to reach the summit.
Many people don’t mountain climb because they imagine it is too challenging and beyond their ability. So they just watch other people do it. They are quite happy to remain where they are on the plains commuting everyday on train to their workplaces. The only altitude experience they have is taking the elevators and the escalators. They have never gone any higher.
Yet the Word of the Lord calls out:
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths” (Micah 4:2).
The call is for us to go up to the mountain of the Lord. Don’t remain in the plains of mediocrity. Don’t stay at the level of status quo. Don’t be satisfied with doing the usual and mundane. Go higher. Climb the mountain of the Lord.
Mountain represents the majesty of God. Ascent to it. Reach for the height of His splendor, greatness and power. Don’t stay put below and miss out on what could be your mountaintop experience.
In the Bible, mountains are often the places where God encounters people, changes their lives and sends them back with a prophetic message.
Back 2006, I went with a group of friends to climb Mount Rinjani in the island of Lombok.
Mount Rinjani is the second highest volcanic mountain in Indonesia. It is 3,726m high. It is deemed by many to be notoriously challenging. Our goal was to reach the Crater Rim and spend a night there.
I can never forget the important lessons that mountain climbing adventure has taught me.
#1 Need for Preparation
Mountain climbing is not for anyone who had not made any preparation to train for a long and exhausting climb.
Running on the treadmill is never enough. You need to build a different set of climbing muscles. The group met every week for 6 months to develop climbing stamina. We walked up Bukit Timah Hill (164m). We walked up 20-storey buildings. We were disciplined in our prep training.
Just so, if you want to climb up the mountain of the Lord to behold His majestic glory, you need to train for it.
“Train yourself to be godly” (I Timothy 4:7).
To be sure, our guide and porters are trained to walk up and down the mountains several times a week. Their bodies are conditioned to carry the heavy loaded wicker baskets placed on their heads. They are accustomed in walking up the mountain.
#2 Wise to Travel Light
As we began our climb up the mountain, I was bit gung-ho. While the others gladly let the porters (some are women) carry their backpacks, I wanted to carry my own. My buddies were wise. I was being heroic. My backpack weighed about 8 kg with two 1.5L water bottles.
About halfway into our climb, I was trailing right behind the rest. I was feeling the fatigue. I was experiencing muscle crams. Eventually the guide mercifully took the burden off me. It was a great relief.
Just so, you cannot go up to the mountain of the Lord carrying the cumbersome weight of sin, strife and selfish interests. You need to lay aside every weight. You need to travel light.
“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
#3 Go In A Group
Never go alone. A few did. They added to the statistics of missing persons. According to our guide, they broke away from the party, veered off the path, got lost and were not found in spite of search and rescue efforts.
There is safety in a group. The wisdom of Proverbs 24:6 tells us, “And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.”
John Wesley made this clear: “No one goes to heaven alone.”
#4 Encourage Each Other
The journey is long. We need to encourage one another not to give up but to press on. It is when you are together in a small group that you are able to encourage each other along the way.
Encourage is a compound word, which is made up of En (meaning “in”) + Courage. That is to say, “I pour ‘in’ courage.” To encourage is to infuse courage. It is to fortify that person with courage otherwise he might give up.
All of us need encouragement in our long journey of ascend to the mountain of our Lord.
“Encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
#5 Take Intermittent Rest
Rest Stops along the trail up the mountain are crucial. We took our 20 minutes rest whenever we came to it. There was a group that skipped the rest stops. They kept pushing themselves ahead. Eventually they were exhausted. They became slow. And we overtook them along the way.
Intermittent rests are necessary and important for the long journey. We need to re-charge, re-fuel and refresh our exhausted body, mind and spirit. Even racing cars need pit stops.
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)
#6 Better to have Walking Stick
I had thought that a good pair of hiking shoes would be enough for this mountain climbing trip. We were told to buy a hiking stick. I didn’t. It was huge mistake. In the end I had to borrow a friend’s hiking stick. It saved my life. I would not have lasted without it. There was no way I could navigate down the steep paths of loose stones and gravels. I learned the lesson – better to have a walking stick. Never underestimate the power of the stick.
Just so we should never underestimate and underutilize the power of the Spirit whom Jesus have give us. He is our Helper in this mountainous journey of our Christian life.
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:15).
We finally reached the rim of the crater. The view at the top of the crater rim was simply breathtaking. It is grand and awe-inspiring. It was worth the long and exhausting climb.
None of us were thinking of our tiredness. No one was complaining of the aching pain, soreness and exhaustion. Everyone was busy clicking away with his or her hand phone and camera. We were totally mesmerized and absorbed in the grandeur of the summit.
Suddenly, the perspective of the suffering and afflictions we had on the way up changes. Those endless mountain trails, those notorious rocky slopes, those unforgiving gravels, those foreboding steep ascents, those unbearable heat, intolerable discomfort and stinging muscular crams – all seem to fade away in the light of the majestic view.
It is exactly what the Bible tells us.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (II Corinthians 4:17).
That was my mountaintop experience!