Christianity Isn’t Your Usual Mountain Hike

Christianity Isn’t Your Usual Mountain Hike

Yes, the hike may wear us out. And yes, on the way up the mountain, we’ll stumble. We’ll fall. But because of both God’s call to holiness and God’s gift of grace, we keep going. We press on, determined to take hold of that which has already taken hold of us. We’re always moving forward and always repenting of our failures at the same time.

Every good story includes conflict. For the journey to be an adventure, not simply a mindless stroll, we must encounter obstacles and challenges. To persevere on our quest, we must be inspired by the promise of reaching our destination.

That’s why, as we hike up the side of a mountain, we keep our focus on the summit—the place we’re headed—because that vision motivates us when we grow weary. Imagining what the top of the mountain will be like—the views we’ll take in, the air we’ll breathe, the sense of satisfaction that will settle over us—inspires us to continue the quest when we’re exhausted.

Always in Pursuit

Humans are, by nature, driven toward a goal. We have a destination in mind. There are thousands of apps on our phones intended to help us grow in certain skills and knowledge. Video games hook us by leading us through levels of increasing difficulty. Communities form around fitness goals and workout routines, with coaches who inspire us, in the words of the apostle Paul, to discipline our bodies into submission (1 Cor. 9:27).

At the start of a new year, we make resolutions we hope will improve our lives and ourselves. Teachers, instructors, and coaches help students master a field of knowledge, learn a new language, pick up a musical instrument, or grow in athletic prowess. We’re always in pursuit of something.

We look with pity on people who slip into a settled state of apathy regarding the betterment of their lives, when there’s no longer any desire to grow in their character, try out a new hobby, or even beautify their home and yard. It’s sad to see someone lose their sense of purpose and abandon ambition. Why? Because we recognize that humanity at its best is always pressing forward, straining toward a goal. Something’s gone awry when a person no longer cares about his or her destination.

On the other hand, something goes wrong whenever, in pursuing success, we begin to base our identity on our achievements. If we find our worth and value in the small steps we’ve made up the side of the mountain, we’ll eventually burn out, with restless hearts driven toward perfection yet ever restless when lived without reference to the God who made us for himself.

Different Quest

Sometimes, religious people picture life as a pathway up a mountain toward a summit, a reward for achieving spiritual growth and excellence. But Christianity is different. The Christian story is not about humanity ascending but about God descending. The Son of God comes down the mountain to save us, for we cannot save ourselves. 

Still, the purpose of God’s gracious descent is to raise us to be with him. We do ascend, by the power of the Spirit. And so it’s true that, on the other side of the cross, the Christian life does resemble a pathway up the mountain toward the summit, and if this journey is to be an adventure we should expect difficulties. The New Testament describes the race of faith as one with hindrances (Gal. 5:71 Thess. 2:18Heb. 12:1). The path to the summit is exciting precisely because it’s perilous. Without the possibility of setbacks, without real and ever-present dangers on all sides waiting to trip us up or distract us from the quest, we’d settle into a mindless walk that doesn’t go anywhere.

Any worthwhile goal requires devotion and effort. Whether learning a language, earning a doctoral degree, or training to run a marathon—the demands are intense. If we want to see success and transform our minds and bodies, we must be devoted to a vision of our future selves.

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