“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
After a two hour hike, a full bottle of water, plenty of sunscreen, and a couple of rests, I found myself at the top of Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak) in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Suffice it to say, as an eleven year old, my breath was taken away not just by the hike, but by the view as well. As I looked out I saw beautiful, rolling hills, cities dotting the landscape, winding rivers, and the huge expanse of blue sky with picturesque clouds. The moment was so amazing, I felt like I could stay there forever and never exhaust the awe of what I was seeing.
Thinking about faith as a journey has been one of the most helpful analogies for me to process the world around me. Journey imagery is found throughout Scripture:
“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)
“…in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:6)
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
At one point in his ministry, Jesus invited Peter, James, and John to get away from the crowds and journey up a mountain with him. While they were at the summit, Jesus began glowing and transformed before their eyes. Moses and Elijah, prophets who were very dead, showed up standing beside Jesus and began talking with him. GOD HIMSELF SPOKE OUT LOUD, AND THE DISCIPLES HEARD IT! They saw Jesus in a powerful, new way.
Peter’s response was “This is AMAZING! IT’S SO GOOD! Let’s just build tents and stay here. I don’t want to leave this moment.” Jesus responded “Get up. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36; my paraphrasing) Then he led them back down the mountain, and they continued the work Jesus had for them – healing, teaching, and preaching.
Scripture contains other examples of times when people experienced God in His glory on a mountain top. Elijah hearing God’s still small voice, and Moses witnessing God’s glory on Mount Sinai are just a couple of examples. In each circumstance, the mountaintop experience is only temporary. These experiences served as an opportunity for God’s people to see him in a powerful new way, increasing their understanding of who God really is.
Along our journey of faith, we have moments where we experience God in powerful ways which define and shape our faith. It might be a week or weekend at Bible Camp, a retreat or conference with great speakers, a service of worship which really reaches your heart, a miraculous healing, or a breathtaking sunset.
For me, a key experience of God occurred the summer after ninth grade while at camp. I was a part of a camp which worked on a musical during the week to perform it on Friday. Then we took the musical on the road and performed it at four different churches over the weekend. On Sunday afternoon, in the home church of the choir director, I stood on the stage staring out at the crowd as our musical hit the climax of the drama and music.
Suddenly, it was almost as if I a bird’s eye view of the situation. While I was singing, God showed me that, out the 500 people gathered, half of them had an expression of pure awe on their face. The other half had watery eyes or tears trickling down their cheeks. I felt God speaking to me saying, “Dan, do you see what’s happening here? I am using you, and the other campers, to speak to these people and make a difference in their lives. I want to do that in you and through you long after you leave camp. Will you let me?”
As I pondered my answer, the final words of the song barely escaped my mouth. “Down any road, at any cost, wherever you lead I will follow. Because we know that you’ve called us to take up our cross, down any road, at any cost.” At that moment I knew this mountaintop experience was not meant to last forever. Rather, it was meant for me to see more of who God is and more of what he wants for me.
Mountaintop experiences are meant to equip, empower, and encourage us to keep pressing on in our journey of faith. The best part, is that Jesus walks “down the mountain” with us. He is the one leading us into the work he has set before us, namely, the work of loving others and proclaiming the good news to world.
To read more about these mountaintop encounters with God in Scripture check out the following passages:
Exodus 3:1-4:17 – Moses and the Burning Bush
Exodus 19, 24, 34 – Moses on Mount Sinai
1 Kings 19 – God speaks to Elijah
Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, Luke 9:28-26 – The Transfiguration of Christ
We have put this verse to music and added actions! It's a great way to help kids of all ages memorize scripture. Click on the video below to have some of our summer staff teach it to you!
Think about a few of the defining mountaintop experiences in your own life; times when you experienced God in a powerful way. Write them down where you will be reminded of them in the future.
Find a way to share your mountaintop experiences with someone. It could be with a friend over coffee, with your kids at a mealtime, or with an aging loved one. Ask them to share a mountaintop experience with you. Sharing about Jesus can be intimidating, but sharing personal stories about God can be an easier and often powerful way to spark conversations about faith.
Just like Jesus often did, schedule some time into your calendar year for an intentional getaway with God. Maybe it is a week at Bible camp or a cruise put on by a Christian ministry. Maybe it’s a church mission trip or an Alpha course with a retreat weekend. Additionally, schedule some time into each day/week for a quick trip up the mountain with God. This could include Scripture reading, prayer, listening to a podcast, or reading a book. Let these experiences propel you forward in your faith journey.
Thanks to Dan Antoine, IOLBC Director of Programs for being our guest author today!