Walking with Christ and growing in him is not easy, especially in a cross-cultural context. We are called to the fight of faith. Last year I climbed the mountain Skiddaw in England with a friend. It was hard work! The final push is across loose rock at a 45 degree angle. Each step is agony. The calves are aching as you try to lift your body weight on tired legs. It feels like a form of torture. And this is what we do for leisure! So why do we do it? Why not just give up? Because we are confident that the view from the top will make all the effort seem worthwhile. And so it was for me and my friend.
It is a great picture of the way we are sanctified by faith. Sometimes it can be agony. Each step is hard work. It is painful. You feel like giving up or giving in. But you press on because faith tells you that the view from the top will be glorious. Legalism would make you climb the slope by berating you or beating you. And if you have ever tried climbing a mountain with reluctant children you will know that approach does not work very well. At best you might get them up one mountain, but you will not get them up a second. The gospel gets you up the mountain by promising you a glorious view from the top. The path is no less hard, but there is a spring in your step as you anticipate what is coming. Faith is fixing your eyes on the mountain top. Every now and then you can turn round and get a glimpse of the glorious view just as we experience more of God the more we know him and serve him. And those glimpses are a foretaste of what is to come: the mountain top of God’s eternal glory.