Recently, my wife and I traveled down south of Perth to what is called the Stirling Range National Park (about 5-6 hour’s drive away). Now our part of Australia cannot really boast of high mountain ranges but by our humble standards some of the mountains in this park are worth a visit. The most famous is Bluff Knoll which is about 1100 metres high to its summit and is a very popular place for climbers because the National Park people have provided a path all the way (see picture above).
But this path goes for around 3 Km and on the way up, it can be tempting to turn back. I spoke to one trekker who made an “interesting” (i.e., strange) comment concerning the walk to the summit and back. He said, “If this is the road to heaven give me the escalator to hell anytime!” Although I am sure he was not serious and wasn’t thinking theologically at the time (just about his aching legs), the concept does suggest that just maybe the “road to heaven” may not always be the easy path in life.
The words of today’s stanza from Psalm 119 also suggest this as well. The psalmist writes:
153 Look on my suffering and deliver me,
for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me;
preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion, Lord, is great;
preserve my life according to your laws.
157 Many are the foes who persecute me,
but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing,
for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts;
preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love.
160 All your words are true;
all your righteous laws are eternal.
I guess one could ask, is it worth it? All this suffering even despite faithfulness to God and His Word? Well, the psalmist seems to think it is. This being related to the joy of knowing that Your compassion, Lord, is great (v. 156) and All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal (v. 160), and to be honest, this is just the beginning! The psalmist here is just mentioning a couple of all the magnificent wonders of knowing God and the blessings of his salvation, even in the midst of difficulties.
Back to the climb up Bluff Knoll; the view from the car park is pretty good and even the view half way up is great, but nothing compares to the 360 degree view from the summit! I think most climbers would agree that this view is worth all the pain endured on the climb (and even the pain from sore muscles for a day or two later!). Enduring to the end is well worth the effort.
Jesus taught a very similar truth. He said:
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14)
And James adds:
Blessed is the man/woman who perseveres under trial, because when he/she has stood the test, he/she will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
Concerning enduring to the end, Amy Carmichael of India wrote the following prayer-poem:
God of Heights, austere, inspiring,
Thy word hath come to me,
O let no selfish aims, conspiring,
Distract my soul from Thee.
Loosen me from Things of Time:
Strengthen me for a steadfast climb.
Now by Thy grace my spirit chooseth
Treasure that shall abide.
The great unseen I know, endureth,
My footsteps shall not slide.
Not for me the Things of Time;
God of mountains, I will climb.
(Though the Mountains Shake by Amy Carmichael, published by Loizeaux 1946)
So, keep climbing, and God, in accordance with his promises and his love will strengthen you for a steadfast climb.