Updated: Apr 10, 2020
A couple years ago, a friend of mine approached me at the recreational facility where we both regularly exercise and said, “Hey Sarah! Do you want to go mountain biking with me tomorrow?” I explained to her that I was open to trying it, but embarrassingly, having lived in the mountains for over ten years, I had never really gone! "Is it worth tracking down the gear to make this happen," I wondered? She assured me, “It’s 100% worth it. Riding is amazing! You have to EXPERIENCE it to know what I’m talking about.”
Before long, we were geared up and heading out. The challenge of pedaling up a trail while sucking in the thin mountain air became REAL to me that day. The thrills of navigating the winding downhill segments were FELT and TANGIBLE for the first time. This sport is something you cannot appreciate fully until you EXPERIENCE it yourself!
God manifests His reality and truth to us, all day every day, through His creation and through our very existence which is “held together” by Him in so many obvious ways. However, there are often times we can look back on when we watched God’s hand move – when He DID SOMETHING that we cannot deny – something supernatural that we had the privilege of experiencing first-hand. Can you think of a time in your life when you’ve EXPERIENCED Him or have SEEN Him move?
Six weeks ago, at Timberline Lodge, God did something BIG, and I was privileged to be an eyewitness. It’s miraculous moments like these, in real time, that bolster such confidence and excitement in the adventure of faith we are invited to experience as Christians.
Let me tell you what happened:
For 10 years, my husband and I have enjoyed walking a neighboring property to the ministry of Timberline. We’d often found ourselves marveling at the beauty and views of this stretch of land and had even felt prompted to ask God if He would be interested in providing it for the future sight of His work of discipleship here. Our current facilities have been sufficient, but will not be adequate for much longer as we continue to run up against space and structural limitations. Within a few years of these prayers starting, the land came up for sale.
Due to the recent growth of our tourist town next to Winter Park Ski Resort, land and houses have started selling off within hours of going on the market. Soon, this gorgeous piece of land next to our current ministry facility was attracting interested buyers, pushing our board of directors to make a decision about whether or not to pursue its purchase for the present and future health of Timberline. Although “out of our league” and financially “impossible,” the decision was made to begin reaching out to friends of the ministry to see if the Lord would move their hearts to support the purchase of this property. From our perspective, this was the best path toward a solution to the ministry’s long-term needs to continue in the vision God has given us: to “cultivate Christ-centered identity, Christ-led community, and Christ-empowered ministry” among young adults and soon-to-be leaders in the church and the world. However, the price tag on the land was $1.5M, and we had a mere couple of months to figure out where that money was going to come from.
I remember feeling a lot like Nehemiah who heard of the broken-down walls in Jerusalem. He had such a burden for God’s people to be safe and for God’s greatness to be represented well by this city. Nehemiah was unable to hear of this unfitting devastation, and not DO something about it. Our hearts have similarly ached for Timberline, which has been used mightily year after year to disciple young adults in the truths of God’s Word. However, even in powerful seasons of ministry, the needs to care for staff and function in appropriate spaces have continued to mount.
And so, “Roots and Branches: Growth Rings” began. All summer, moments of weariness and doubt were wrestled down into decisions to trust, both for our family and for our staff. If God wanted Timberline to have this property, HE would have to preserve it and provide it for us. We felt convinced of His leading to this point; so, until we heard otherwise, we would continue to ask Him for this seemingly impossible provision.
We sought the Lord, prayed and fasted with our staff, spoke to everyone who was willing to hear about the project, and, two days before the funds were needed, were about $900,000 short with no other leads to pursue.
Imagine yourself on your mountain bike. You start the journey strong, lowering your gear as the climb gets steeper and soon feel the sweat dripping down your face. The minutes and miles go by and you’re starting to have difficulty breathing. In your weariness, your bike gets caught on a root in the trail, and you’re forced to walk up the next few yards to find a place to get some traction to start again. (This was us so many times this summer!) Hopping back in the saddle, you continue the climb, legs starting to burn. What seems like hours later, after many thoughts of stopping or turning around, you arrive at the top. However, the trail you were expecting to find there to cruise down to your destination is not where you thought it would be. You look around a bit, search the trees for a hidden sign or trailhead, but find NOTHING. Ugh. What should you do now? All that climbing and toiling, for what? How will you get to where you had hoped to arrive?
Similar thoughts and concerns went through our heads and hearts that morning. Dan and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders, lacking almost one million dollars to purchase the land on which the rest of this long-term vision for Timberline hinged. We were not sure how to feel, yet quite certain that the Lord was saying “no” to our request for what seemed like a perfect “trail” to use for the goal of effective ministry at Timberline. It would be difficult to move forward from here – to continue to piece together short-term fixes for space and staff housing needs. We committed ourselves to continue trusting God; He had been and would continue to be faithful to our every need, both personally and as a ministry, even if the trail we were to go down was different than the one we had hoped and planned for. We knew that if He didn’t have that path for us, He would have a better one somewhere else, and that He works all things together for His glory and our good.
It was right then that a miracle started to take shape. Phone calls and texts poured in. People we hadn’t heard from in months let us know they would like to significantly donate toward the project. God was moving in the hearts of His people. As the minutes ticked by, the provisions kept coming and we stood with our mouths open, watching God work. By the end of the day, the need was under $100,000! It was crystal clear that this was GOD moving, and not the result of any work that Dan and I had done. The staff at Timberline Lodge, personally invested in this effort, saw first-hand God’s supernatural provision. I cannot describe it in words.
The rest of the money came in the next day, and what JOY and bolstering of faith we experienced as this cornerstone for the health and future of Timberline was put into place by God Himself in our presence.
The Apostle John, at the beginning of his letter to the church in 1 John 1:1-3 beefs up his authority and credibility by writing, “what we have HEARD, what we have SEEN with our eyes, what we BEHELD and our hands HANDLED, concerning the Word of Life… what we have SEEN and HEARD we proclaim to you also…” John had the rare privilege of seeing, hearing, touching, and experiencing THE WORD of LIFE – Jesus! John got to do life WITH HIM and wanted to share first-hand of the truths He knew from EXPERIENCE, longing for his audience (we, the church!) to experience Jesus first-hand, too.
It’s not every day that we get to watch God move in the hearts of people to donate their hard-earned money for a work of discipleship in the mountains of Colorado. But, do you know what experience IS available every day? John explains it further on in his letter (1 John 4:13) “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” Do you and I comprehend what an enormous gift this is to all who trust in Jesus? His very life – His Spirit – is available to live and move IN us; empowering, comforting, leading, reminding, and DOING the very works of God through our lives. He is in us to be KNOWN and to be EXPERIENCED. Anything less for the believer would be a shame and a waste; just like a perfect mountain bike, sitting in someone’s garage and never used!
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) Do you know about Him, or do you truly KNOW HIM experientially? Have you experienced His MOVING in and around your life? Are you willing to ask Him to reveal Himself powerfully as you make yourself available to Him? Hop in the saddle, expecting God to work in and through your life, and see what adventures await! I can’t tell you enough – it’s worth it!
It was amazing to see our eyes of faith widened as a staff in the days that followed this great work of God. It became natural to readily and expectantly ask Him for our needs, both great and small, and then awe-inspiring to see Him personally answer. From the international students whose VISAs were denied to join us for Bible school this year, to a lack of kayaks for an outdoor adventure, and even a request from one of our single staff members who longed to remember when and where she came to faith as a child; the Lord MIRACULOUSLY intervened, answered, and provided in each situation.
Two impossible denials for VISAs were reversed and kayaks were happily lent and donated to the ministry (18 of them!) the day before they were needed. Maybe the smallest and most miraculous moment, though, was when our staff member, Brynn, asked God to help her remember her initial salvation experience. That very evening, she was “randomly” contacted by an old youth pastor that she hadn’t heard from in 6 years. He was prompted by the Lord to send her a video of the bunk bed where she had written her name with a date next to it the night she gave her life to Jesus! As we EXPERIENCE His work around us, and ultimately experience HIM, we are encouraged and invited into more.
Many of you reading this have walked through this miracle with us at Timberline; you read the emails, invested in the project, and labored in prayer. (If you’d like to hop on our mailing list, let me know in the comments below!) I want to encourage especially you today that God is at work, and desires for you to be fully involved in His powerful work, no matter what your vocation, current challenges, or past mistakes. His life is fully available to His people, at Timberline and all around the world! Would you take up the challenge of a new adventure of faith, seeking the living God to do what only a living God can do? You may not be sure where the ride will take you, but following His lead is always worth it!
Whether you’re in the middle of a grueling climb of trusting through difficult circumstances, or enjoying the incredible thrills of faith while hanging on for a downhill ride, I pray His presence and very LIFE in you is REAL and tangible, and that you’re encouraged today to enjoy and experience Him more.