The Thrill Of The Climb

Now, I don’t want to brag, but there is very little I’m afraid of. Seriously. In fact, I would more accurately describe myself as “nearly fearless with a healthy tint of caution”. From bungee jumping to rock-climbing, anything that speeds and anything tall (the taller the better), I seek the thrill of flirting with danger. But I’m at least sensible about it! Well… usually.

I remember a canoeing trip some years back when some friends and I grew amazed at both the depth of the water we had just paddled into, and the incredible height of the cliffs that surrounded us. It was as if we had just been swallowed up by enormous jaws of rock and dirt, with just a sliver of blue sky above and quiet water beneath. My canoe partner and I looked around us and noticed some evenly-spaced rocks and crevices along one of the faces of the walls that surrounded us, disappearing toward the top. Looking at each other, we knew in an instant… a challenge was on! We steered the boat over to the shore, and began climbing the steep wall. It was a strenuous climb, but we were on a mission. Half-way to the top, we paused to catch our breath and strength, and then continued to scale this obstacle.

It took quite some time to make it to the top, but the climb was well worth it. Surrounding us now were luscious trees and beauty. It almost looked as if the scene had leaped off the pages of a fairy-tale book… it was just incredible. We took in the sight for a minute or two, and then walked over to the edge of the cliff to peer over the edge. I remember the feeling in my knees distinctly. It was nearly dizzying to see how high we had climbed, and the canoe below us looked so small. For just a moment, I felt a flutter in my stomach, and then I composed myself, remembering why I had just climbed this cliff. I turned to my friend and said, “This is it… we have to jump!”

“Are you crazy?” He asked.

I stood up with a mischievous smile on my face and walked back from the edge about ten paces, turned around to face the nothingness before me.

“Jay, are you serious?”

“I’m dead serious.”

You see, I didn’t just climb that cliff to see what was at the top. I didn’t just climb to take in the beauty of the wilderness around me. I didn’t scale that wall to say, “Wow, look how high I climbed!” No. I scaled that wall because I knew beyond it laid another challenge… another obstacle… another adventure.

Often in our walk with God, we climb incredible heights in our adventurous journey only to be paralyzed with fear at the next obstacle or fight. Fresh from the victory of our last battle, we shrink at the challenge ahead, and allow fear to glaze us over… numbing us to the idea of another accomplishment.

In Mark chapter 6, we find Jesus and the disciples responding to a tremendous problem. More than five thousand men, women and children had followed them into the mountainside to hear Jesus teach, but had grown hungry. With no food, and the market too far away, Jesus blessed five loaves of bread and two fish, and gave them to his disciples to dispense to the multitude. Miraculously, as the disciples broke the food apart, it grew and multiplied, feeding every one of the people, and leaving twelve baskets of leftovers! This was an incredible miracle, and the disciples themselves were part of it!

Just a few hours later, however, we find the disciples pushed off from shore in a boat while Jesus stayed behind to pray alone. There in the water a storm arose, and the twelve men became afraid as they rowed for all their might to get back to shore. You may remember this part of the story, as it’s taught regularly as one of Christ’s great miracles… Jesus came walking on the water to them in the middle of their storm! Often, we focus on this nature-defying act of Jesus when we relay the story, but have you ever considered what it was that caused the disciples to fear and be, “amazed in themselves beyond measure”? Verse 52 states the reason plainly for us…

” 52 For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.”

They had just come fresh off one of the greatest miracles of a lifetime, and were personally involved in the feeding of thousands of hungry people, yet they had forgotten all about that victory and became fearful in the middle of their next trial.

What would have happened if the disciples gave up rowing? What would the outcome be if they had just surrendered to the fear and despair of their moment and quit the fight? With the encouragement they received from Jesus, they went from “undermining fear” to “unfathomable revival”.

Verses 54-56 of Mark chapter 6 records the actual results like this:

54 And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him,
55 And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was.
56 And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.

If the disciples had quit rowing… if they had quit believing… if they had given up, they would have stifled a great revival in the land of Gennesaret! What great revival; what great blessing is waiting for you to push beyond your latest victory and into a new realm of the miraculous?

Thank God they kept “climbing”!

I sucked the cool air around me deep into my lungs as my heart raced faster and faster. Adrenaline was rushing through me, and an invincible feeling began to build up in my chest. The hair along my neck and arms stood on end, and it seemed every fiber of my body was surging with anticipation as the muscles in my legs engaged.

With a jolt, I took five or six strides as the astonished face of my friend passed by my in my peripheral vision and the ground beneath me disappeared in a solitary flash.

As my right toes left the edge of the cliff, I let out a thunderous, “WHOOOoooooo!!!!!!” that surely echoed for a mile up the river. I have no idea about the height of that cliff, but I recall that midway in the fall, I ran out breath, sucked in more air and let out one more whoop as my arms and legs flailed in the open sky!

The crash into the deep, refreshing water of the Rifle River was itself a thrill, and the swim back to the surface had me gasping for air. Exploding to the surface, I couldn’t contain myself… I let out another yell just in time hear my friend plunge into the water next to me.

We did it.

And we were on to our next adventure.