In the summer of 2000, my family and I embarked on a cross-country trip from middle Tennessee to the west coast and southern California. This was truly one of the most epic trips we have taken as a family over the years. We had so much fun...my wife, our daughter, and my mom and stepfather.
We packed up our 1995 Ford Aerostar van and set out across the wild, wild west. It was amazing to view the broad variety of terrain and foliage along the way. We passed through Arkansas, Oklahoma, northern Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, on our 2000-mile, 29-hour trek. We reveled in the beauty as I cranked up "Nothing to Say" by Andrew Peterson and cruised down I-40, closely following the path of old Route 66. Because our destination was a conference in Anaheim, we planned to make the trip out to the coast, a hard drive, stopping at night to sleep and getting on the road bright and early the next morning...three days travel. Our first stop was in Amarillo, TX. Our second, was Albuquerque, NM. All was going well...until...we came upon the Rocky Mountains. Somewhere between Winslow and Flagstaff, we began to experience an unusual loss of power with our van. It was as if it was struggling to pull the incline and there was no apparent cause. We stopped to check out the engine and transmission. All appeared to be normal.
Finally, when we reached Flagstaff, we stopped at a dealership and talked to the service department technician to explain our problem. He had a slight grin as he explained that he gets this type of issue all the time with people traveling through. The altitude plays havoc with the ignition/fuel delivery system and the result is loss of power. He said that they could add a component that would improve the performance. We would just have to wait a few hours while they completed the work. While this would delay us several hours, at least we had found the solution. So, we made the best of it and strolled through some shops in Flagstaff and had lunch. A few hours later, we were on our way once again. A simple reminder...crossing mountains is challenging, but there is always a way to get to the top.
Got Any Mountains to Cross?
Back in my college days, I attended a small Christian College where I had many valuable experiences. Among those was the frequent opportunities of small group gatherings for worship and prayer. Whether it was in a dorm room, a classroom, or in the chapel, we would get together with fellow students to read God's Word, share our lives, worship and pray. These gatherings often included singing worship choruses that were popular in the day. One of those choruses was a reminder to ourselves, of how God can work in our lives and situations to accomplish things far beyond our imagination and ability. The words were...
Got any rivers you think are un-crossable?
Got any mountains you cannot tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible.
He can do what no other power can do.
© 1945 Oscar C. Eliason. 1973 Assigned New Spring
I've had a number of mountains to cross in my lifetime, I'm sure you have as well. If we live much longer, we will have more to come. Some mountains are more difficult than others, to traverse. Some, like the one described by Whitney Lane Ward, in the Purposed365 Podcast (9/6/22), may appear utterly overwhelming and seemingly impossible to ascend. But, like Whitney says, "When your strength comes from the right source, there's not a mountain you can't climb."
My Help Comes from the Lord
A Song of Ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
If I may, indulge me to share with you 3 things I've learned about climbing those mountains.
Having a Companion Makes a Difference
This is true of life, in general. It is especially true when we are climbing the steep slopes of the mountain that lies before us. A few years ago, while in Los Angeles for a conference I was attending, I visited with my friend Won Lee. One morning he asked if I'd like to take a run with him. I gladly accepted the invitation, as I had been running for a while...marathons and half marathons. I thought it would be a great leisurely morning run.
That morning, we took off, out of his apartment and a block up the hill. We entered a trail called Runyon Canyon. It soon became apparent, this was no leisurely run. The hill was steep and, before long, I was struggling to keep up. However, Won realized that I was having difficulty keeping up, so he slowed his pace and dropped back to run alongside me. He encouraged and challenged me all the way to the top. I made it...because he was there to keep me going and support me each step of the way.
You will be able to tackle that mountain climb in your life, if you seek out a person whom God has brought to walk alongside you. God uses others in our lives to support, encourage and struggle alongside us to overcome whatever obstacles are in our path. Sometimes, the purpose in our journey through the struggles of life may be to deepen our connections to the people God has placed in our lives so that we experience the true community of faith that He intends for us.
Realize Your Victory Impacts Others
If you don't know it already, your life makes a difference. Your living footprint leaves a pathway for others to follow. Your connections influence others to believe, to try, to care, to keep going...you get the picture. This should be both a challenge and an encouragement to us. Knowing the decisions we make, the efforts we put forth, the faith we live out, will influence those around us, should lead us to care about how we do those things...so that those who walk with us, or who follow us, will find the path that leads to life...abundant, full and peace-giving. It should also encourage us that we can allow God to work through us in the lives of others to impact them eternally. Even if we have made a bad choice, how we handle it in repentance and confession, will help others find that path as well, when needed. I'll be the first to confess that I've made some bad decisions in my life, but I hope that my desire to let God forgive and heal those places of pain and failure will let others know that He wants to do that for them as well, when they come to him with humble hearts. Climbing those mountains of repentance and restoration may be difficult, but it is an opportunity for God to work in us and, through us, in others as well.
Keep the Perspective of God Getting the Glory
Climbing the mountains in life is an endeavor that requires our complete reliance upon the strength and miraculous power of our Heavenly Father. We can't hope to scale the heights and enjoy the victory of the view from the summit without God's help each step of the way.
In 2017, I had the enormous privilege of participating in a mission to Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras. Our work there was a humanitarian mission in which we provided vision screening and prescription glasses, dental services, medical exams and minor procedures and medication, children's classes, evangelism conversations and home improvement projects. It was an amazing week that was challenging to each of us on the team. In some of the areas we worked, we had to have security on duty to guard against gangs in the community. We had to deal with difficult conditions of carrying equipment up steep hillside streets, overcoming language barriers, safety risks, heat and humidity, long days of rising early and sleeping late.
This brief mountain climb was a challenge, but nothing in comparison to the lives that were touched and the opportunity for God to work. Ours were no challenges at all when we consider the daily challenges with which the citizens of this city of over 1 million live. I remember one particular teenage girl with whom I had a gospel conversation. She made a decision to trust Christ as her Savior. She was involved with a gang member. A decision, for her, meant separating herself from the gang life and the drugs with which she was surrounded. While that seems to be an insurmountable mountain to overcome, it is no challenge for the God we serve. My hope and prayer is that she followed through with her decision through the support and help of the local church there.
At one point that week, I sat at the top of the mountain (Parque El Picacho) overlooking the city. Thinking about the million+ people living there, many in very desperate situations, I realized that my sacrifice was minor and that any good that had been accomplished by our team, was because He had worked to impact their lives through His Word and His Holy Spirit.
At the end of the day...our journey needs to come back to this point. No matter what mountain we climb...our progress and victory to reach the summit we owe entirely to the God who loves us...who gives us the strength to overcome. Our purpose, at its core, is to bring glory to the God who has created us and who desires to redeem all who will come to Him. That makes any mountain climb worth it!
What mountain are you currently climbing? How has God strengthened you to ascend a summit in your life? Maybe it is a lifelong climb, perhaps it was only a season...either way, God's strength is sufficient for the climb. We would love for you to share in the comments, your experiences in the climb!
With over forty years of ministry experience, Randy Kinnick continues to live a life of pursuing the purpose for which he was created. Whether teaching God's Word to adults, coaching youth and young adults in finding their purpose, or caring for the hurting and abused in Southeast Asia, the adventure has taken him around the world in ways he could have never dreamed. The adventure continues!