Climb On

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived 
what God has prepared for those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9

No team from our organization had ever made it to the top of Mt. Fuji with every member in the group. We made a pact to be the first. I was fairly certain I was considered the weakest link. If my fellow team members thought so, they were accurate in my physical assessment. Generally picked "last" for any sport in PE, physical prowess was not my claim to fame.

We began our climb as night fell over the island. Our goal was climb all night, reaching the top to the glorious reward of sunrise. As we ascended, weariness overtook me. It became more tempting at each successive rest area to claim it as my final destination. Two things pressed me forward - the prize awaiting me at dawn and my sincere desire to not let my team down. What my teammates didn't know standing at the bottom of Mt. Fuji is that what I lacked in natural ability, I would supplement with determination.

The climb was excruciating but far worth the final payment. As a mixture of the joy of accomplishment and the awe of God's creation filled my heart, I surveyed the grandest sight I'd ever taken in before or since. I drank in the scene, willing my mind to remember the coolness of snow in late July, the smell of air free from pollution and a sight beyond description.

This morning's reading is 1 Corinthians 9. The beginning of this chapter discusses the rightness of a church financially supporting its' ministry staff. This concept has taken deep root in the American church and most serving in ministry are truly well taken care of. My family is one who is extraordinarily thankful for the generosity of God's people to allow us to use our gifts for the kingdom on a full-time basis.

As Paul ends this chapter, he highlights two additional concepts:
  1. Be Relatable - Paul makes the point that as he ministered, he made a an effort to relate to his audience. This does not mean Paul was insincere or wore a mask, but rather that he chose to be engaged in the interests, habits and culture of his listeners. Today I'd like to issue a challenge to each of us. The next time we find ourselves in a group setting whether it's church, a PTA meeting or our monthly MOPS group, would join me in scanning the room for the person most different from you? That person may don a sour expression, have unapproachable body language or just look nothing like the folks where we grew up, but that person is likely crumbling inside just waiting for someone to care enough to notice them. Now let's cross the room. The short distance that separates us can bridge the gap of a lifetime of hurt and lead a heart to Jesus' healing hands.
  2. Remember the Prize - Paul kept his eye on the prize. Every day he lived intentionally to complete well what God had set before him. Sometimes my view of the prize is blocked by mounds of laundry, testy people or my own insecurity. To see the prize, I first have to unobscure my view by identifying what's preventing me from carrying out God's purpose for me. Than I have to walk steadily forward without allowing myself to turn aside to the multitude of temptations awaiting me on the side of the road. Easier said than done.
One of these or each of these may seem as insurmountable to you as climbing Mt. Fuji was for me. For one the opening of their finances to give generously to others seems improbable. To another the thought of reaching out to the unapproachable seems terrifying. To another the idea of living a life of purpose seem ludicrous. Yet God dreams all of this for our lives and more.

Today, Jesus, I will once again climb the mountain with you. I will give when it feels like a sacrifice. I will reach out despite the frightened feeling I have inside. I will live a life of purpose even when my moments seem meaningless. I will climb because I remember the view up there and know it's only a speck compared to the wonders You have prepared for me.

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