Come up Higher!
That's the Word of the Lord for you today.
When I first got saved nearly 30 years ago and started going to church, I quickly learned that being a Christian mean you belonged to a blessed club of people. God loved us and wanted to bless us and answer our prayers. As long as we attended church, tithed, read our Bibles occasionally, prayed now and then, and avoided sinning too much, we would be good little Christians. I never really learned much about discipleship, growing in faith, or how difficult the Christian walk could be. In fact, most sermons I heard were directed toward non or new believers. Lots of fluff about how God loves and wants to bless them.
The Lord has shown me that there is a spiritual mountain of God set before each believer. When you first get saved, you are at the bottom of that mountain, thrilled, overjoyed, and happy to be going to heaven. However, most Christians, (and I would even venture to say over 80% of believers) remain at the bottom of that mountain. They do the basics of Christianity as I mentioned above, but they never venture up the mountain. Why? Maybe they are never taught there even is a mountain and therefore, they never realize there is so much more to walking with Jesus. Or maybe they know someone who is climbing that mountain and their life doesn't look so good. They are enduring hardships and having to give up comforts that the average Christian isn't willing to do.
That's fine. As long as these Christians maintain their faith and don't live in willful sin, they are saved. Sadly, they spend their entire Christian life wandering around the bottom of the mountain, never realizing how much they are missing.
So what is this mountain anyway? It is a journey filled with commitment, hardships, tests, trials, discipline, denying oneself, but also a journey filled with joy, peace, love, power, purpose, and excitement. It is the true walk of a Christian.
What is at the top? The ultimate fellowship with Jesus. Agape love, righteousness, the glory of God, and the fulfillment of your purpose here on Earth. And ultimately, the rapture into heaven.
Yet if you dare to stop playing church and take that first step up onto the mountain, you must be willing to count the cost. At first, there may be many people with you, excited about the journey, chattering about making it to the top, but soon the test and trials come, the hardships. You are asked to give up some of your idols, your comforts, your prize possessions. Your are asked to leave your comfort zone and venture into the unknown. Suddenly you find that most of the people who started with you are gone. Now, only a few remain, but you persist. You desperately want to finish the race, to do everything Jesus asks of you, to complete your mission, and most of all to know Him better. But more problems come, more struggles, more pain. God allows the enemy to afflict you, to steal your health, or take a loved one. Will you quit and give up? How invested are you in this walk? Many more Christians have dropped out of the race. Only a few remain with you now.
Yet, you notice something wonderful. Amid all the struggles, you sense the Lord's presence stronger and stronger. He begins to speak to you more clearly. The Word of God becomes sweeter than honey to you and you can't get enough of it. Prayer time becomes more a time of worship in which the presence of God floods your very soul and spirit. This inspires you to keep going, despite the pain and heartache.
The path grows narrower, the cliffs higher, and more and more people leave until you find yourself all alone. You can tell by how unworn the path is that very few have made it this far. The trials and tests get even harder the higher you go, the attacks from the enemy more viscous, and the risk of falling off the path greater as the road narrows even more. But the presence of Jesus surrounds you and the Words you remember from the Holy Scriptures give you hope and faith, so you continue on. Reaching the top is your sole goal now. Nothing on this earth, no pleasure, sin, comfort, or relationship is worth not knowing your Savior to the fullest and completing your race. Nothing else matters but knowing Jesus and finally seeing Him in person and hearing Him say. "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
But whatever former things were gains to me, these things once regarded as advancements in merit I have come to consider as loss absolutely worthless for the sake of Christ
But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him believing and relying on Him, not having any righteousness of my own derived from my obedience to the Law and its rituals, but possessing that genuine righteousness which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. And this, so that I may know Him experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely and in that same way experience the power of His resurrection which overflows and is active in believers, and that I may share the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed inwardly into His likeness even to His death dying as He did; so that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Paul was a man who chose to climb that mountain. He came to understand that nothing in life mattered but becoming more and more acquainted with Jesus. Nothing else mattered to him. Nothing. Paul gave up everything to climb that mountain with Jesus, and he never once regretted it.
But we must all count the cost. The higher you go up that mountain, the more lonelier you will become. The higher you go up that mountain, the harder the tests and trials become, and the easier it is to fall. That certainly isn't something you will hear in any sermon these days, is it? Jesus told us our path would be hard. He told us it would be narrow. He told us we would have to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him. Yes, there are trials, but the blessings along the way outdo any struggle or test that comes your way. Take it from someone who is still struggling up that mountain. But I will keep going. I will keep fighting. Why? Because each step brings me closer to Jesus, and there's no better place to be!