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August 29, 2010

Session 8 | Day 8b

Session 8 | Day 8b

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
“Do you not know that all those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body that and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
If mountain climbing were considered a sport in Biblical times by anyone other than Moses, then I am fairly sure Paul would have added a few paragraphs on it right after talking about running in a race.

The Summit students climbed Pike’s Peak this beautiful Sunday morning, and it was an experience.  When I finally reached the summit where they were selling t-shirts that said: “Got Oxygen? Pikes Peak, Elevation: 14,110’,” I realized I live in Texas for a reason!

But besides the fact that not every state can be perfect, the hike to Pike’s Peak was a definite humbling experience, in more than one way. The more enjoyable of the two experiences was hiking through God’s magnificent creation and standing in awe of His handiwork, realizing that not only is there no one on earth that can duplicate it, but that He created it! The less enjoyable of the experiences was when my legs turned to jelly at the first incline, my hands swelled to twice their size—which is normal for high altitudes—the six and a half mile hike took me four and a half hours to complete, and the oxygen above the tree line is fairly non-existent. I sat on a rock attempting—and failing—to close my zip-lock baggy of trail mix and was humbled by the thought of how out of shape I am, but also by the realization of how puny and finite my body is.

Then, to keep my mind off my freezing nose and fingers and burning calves, I thought of Paul and tried to think of how I could compare something so commonplace as scaling a mountain to the Christian life, using the things we discussed in the Summit lectures so far.

To begin, you have to know where you are going and establish a goal. For Christians, the goal is Jesus and the unfailing love and presence of God. For hikers, the goal was the top of Pike’s Peak. Not really much of a goal compared with the former, but a difficult goal nonetheless.

Next is a guide, a map, a trail. For hikers it is self explanatory, without a trail, a map, or a guide, you could become lost very quickly and never make it to the goal. In the Christian walk, all three can be found in one source: the Bible. Also as a guide in a Christian’s life is the Holy Spirit. Even unbelievers have “God’s laws written in their hearts.” (Romans 2)

Then there is the energy and sustenance needed to reach the goal. Hikers: trail mix, Gatorade/water, fruit. Christians: the ever-renewable energy in Christ Jesus. “Come, all who are weary and I will give you rest.”  There is steady refreshment and sustenance for your walk in the form of the Word.

One of the vital aspects of the hike was encouragement. If it weren’t for encouragement along the way, I would have stopped hiking when I felt weary. It is similar in a Christian walk. Without encouragement, either by the Church—those who have surrendered everything to Jesus—or by the inspired Word of God, there are times when we would be tempted to give up.

The beginning was easy. It wasn’t until after the tree line ended and oxygen went scarce, and not until looking at the huge rocks that made the Devil’s Playground did I really understand the perseverance Paul was talking about in the race. Paul would not have had to tell them to persevere if it were easy.

That also went hand-in-hand with hardships. The hike to Pike’s Peak was one of the most physically challenging experiences I have had. In the Christian faith, the only thing we are guaranteed is a sure source of Heaven and hardships. But press on!

One thought that kept reoccurring through the hike is that it is only the insane that need this. Humanity is, since the fall of Adam and Eve, incapable of conceiving a sane thought. Therefore, by definition, all of humanity is in need of Christ. Those who hike the mountain, for fun, are definitely crazy, including me.

The final comparison is in reward. There is the indescribable feeling of standing over the valleys, rocks, and mountain ranges when you finally reach the top and say, “I did it! I am here!” It is a feeling of relief and knowing it is over as you look over the struggles, pain, hardship, and miles you have trudged. You persevered and finally reached your goal. And if that is just what happens at the end of Pike’s Peak, how much more rewarding will it be when your Savior looks you in the eye and says, “Well done, good and faithful servant, great is your reward in Heaven!”

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