The stoke is high, the gear is bought, the alarm went off way too early, and there you are: you and a couple friends with you, standing at the trailhead of a path that will guide you to the top of a lofty peak in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Even with the most detailed planning and preparation, you’re not sure you will have the stamina to make it. You may wonder if it’s more sensible to jump back in your car, drive home, and do something more relaxing with your day! But then you remember WHY you came to the trailhead. You are most likely there because of one driving goal that has motivated the plans and efforts so far… the goal of getting to the TOP. Making it to the summit!
I’d like to consider a few proverbial “summits” we may be considering or even facing – these summits are the longings in our lives that have been birthed by God Himself, through His indwelling Spirit, to involve us in His Kingdom purposes. These deep burdens that grow in our hearts usually come from the ongoing practices of interacting with the truth of God’s Word, hearing His voice, and growing into how He has uniquely gifted and wired us. Often, a telling characteristic of a God-given burden or goal is that it’s much too lofty for us to consider pursuing on our own.
I’ve been studying the book of Nehemiah in the mornings for a while now, guided in thought by the Bible study Nehemiah Rebuilt and Rebuilding by Kathleen Nielson. One of the first things about this extraordinary man’s life that shook me was the way he came to be standing at the trailhead God had planned for him. Nehemiah’s words and actions show how much his desire was to honor God in all things instead of build his life around plans that would bring personal comfort and prestige. When he heard news of God’s people in despair and God’s city in ruins, he wept for days, “fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Neh. 1:4). This burden to see the walls and faith of Jerusalem rebuilt, in order to rightly demonstrate the greatness of His God, became his single focus and goal. We have to ask ourselves, “Would bringing God honor be my heart’s first concern?”
Our family has been serving at Timberline Lodge for over 11 years now, and our affection and excitement for the work of God in this place has only grown. Timberline’s purpose has been: to cultivate Christ-centered identity, Christ-led community, and Christ-empowered ministry. In other words, we long to equip young adults to live the whole of their lives abiding in Christ. While we enjoy watching life-change in our students every year, we are freshly burdened to see the ministry’s weak places grow stronger, our own “walls” repaired, and God’s Name magnified even more as Timberline starts operating in full strength and in complete health.
If you’ve been tracking with Timberline, and the start of the “Roots and Branches” campaign a couple years ago, we witnessed the incredible provision of God as we put our hands to the work of building a $500,000 septic system to meet the needs of the ministry – these “digestion” requirements are expensive in the mountains! The next steps of the campaign are being carefully planned by our board and our department-heads, but will likely include the development of staff housing, as well as land procurement and the updating of our current facilities. This is a mountainous goal, but one that is weighing heavily on our hearts, and we firmly believe God has asked us to take the first steps toward this summit.
When Nehemiah was burdened with a new goal, he first-of-all sought the Lord: admitting his weakness, and confessing God’s faithfulness (Neh. 1:5-11). He remains absolutely reliant throughout the upward climb of this story, even asking for God’s help in the middle of a conversation with the King (Neh. 2:4)! However, while depending on God, he pours himself out with the work of planning, strategizing, and putting his hands to reconstructing the 4.5-mile stone wall around Jerusalem. (Always needing God’s help and trusting he would get it, yet continually planning and working toward the goal!) Nehemiah was convinced that his burden was in line with God’s heart and plan (Neh. 2:12), and therefore he trusted that “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” (1 Thess. 5:24)
What an adventure faith can be! However, there must have been many moments in Nehemiah’s journey when he felt oppressing discouragement, as we should all expect in our own God-given pursuits. Many ridiculed, and even threatened the people as they worked (chapters 4 and 6); but, by God’s grace, the work continued. When the end goal is made clear and our minds become resolute about what God is asking us to do, we can more readily combat the challenges, doubt, fear, and frustration we will encounter along the trail. Hudson Taylor once said, “There are three stages to every great work of God; first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”
What is the Lord urging you to put your hands to, as you trust He will accomplish it through you? What tiny or monstrous summit would He want you to take the first step toward this week? Is it the “summit” of reconciliation with a distanced friend, the “summit” of joining a small group at your church, the “summit” of a change in daily habits, or the “summit” of starting a Bible study? God lacks nothing, and will never call us to something without providing everything we need to accomplish His purposes. I encourage you to use a morning this next week to fill out this worksheet to think, pray, and process through what God might be asking you to pursue for Him. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
As Nehemiah encouraged his people, so I want to encourage us in whatever trailhead we are approaching, and especially those who are well into an adventure of faith: “Do not be afraid… remember the Lord who is great and awesome.” (Neh. 4:14) I pray we are all hit with fresh and growing “burdens” to summit God-sized peaks that will bring honor to His Name through the pouring out of our lives. Let’s “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)
Where are the broken places in your life that God wants to fix and strengthen in order to show off His greatness? I’d LOVE to hear your heart about this, and pray with you as you put one foot in front of the other to reach these summits. Focused on the goal He’s given us, no matter what circumstances come our way, may we continue plodding upward in His strength.
We’re in this together!