Several years ago a friend of mine and I got the idea to summit one of Colorado’s 14’ers—Long’s Peak. We were both Midwesterners with little experience in high altitude, so we did not really know what we were getting ourselves into.
We began our climb at 3am. Before we knew it, we fell into a line of hikers winding our way through the pine and aspen, following the trail by the light of the moon. It was beautiful.
The thrill of the adventure and the beauty of the mountains got us out of our tent that morning, but as we climbed higher and higher, something happened that neither of us was prepared for—oxygen deprivation. The air is thin up there. And when it gets hard to breathe, it becomes difficult to keep moving. I remember catching a glimpse of the summit way up ahead and thinking, “I can’t do this.”
Do you ever feel this way? You have some path to walk or some task to perform, and when you consider the discipline it will take, you fall into despair. What happens then?
The Christian life is a climb—it is a journey of constant growth, maturing, sacrifice, and trusting God for things we cannot see. God, in His wisdom, has made the path difficult. When we reach the challenging parts of the climb, the parts that make the summit seem forever away, what do we do?
Here’s what my friend and I did. We put our dreams of the summit aside for the moment and set up a series of small but manageable objectives: “Let’s walk up to that rock 50 feet away.” “See that bend in the trail? Let’s make it to that point and then rest.” This we could do. And we did. And then we did it again. And again. We reached the summit this way—not by climbing a mountain, but by focusing on a series of observable, true objectives.
We weren’t just pilgrims that day. We were also disciples—people who had to learn how to make the journey up that mountain. We were students engaging the art of discipline.
Look at how the writer of Hebrews 12:1-13 describes the Christian life as a journey of discipline, modeled after the devotion of Christ. We are pilgrims and disciples, never just one or the other. We are not merely pilgrims meandering with no one to follow, nor are we just disciples, simply studying a subject. We are both—pilgrim disciples following our Lord and Master in both His counsel and His way.
Devotion to Christ, and to the people He puts with us, helps us walk this road. We lean on each other in good times and bad. What we need when the air gets thin and the road gets long are fellow disciples who will remind us that we are following a Master we can trust.
May the Lord engage our hearts during our difficult seasons. And may He free us from the burden of feeling like we need to summit great mountains in one burst of energy. Instead, may He train our hearts to walk with devotion to what’s next, and then to what follows after that. The path can be hard, but it is good. When we follow Christ, we’re walking on the road that leads us home.
written by Russ Ramsey