Montserrat is a beautiful mountain range not far from Barcelona. The name stands for “serrated mountain” which is very descriptive of its physical form. During a Christmas vacation, my entire family (except for me) went on a hike to one of its peaks. While I was standing at the base where the train dropped us off to visit the monastery and museum, I briefly looked at the height of this enormous mountain in front of me, and quickly decided that a snack of chocolate y churros at the nearby cafe was more appealing. Unfortunately for me, I missed a once in a lifetime experience I could have shared with the people I love the most.
“This hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend.
For I perceive the way to life lies here.
Come, pluck up, heart; let’s neither faint nor fear.
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”
― John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
What motivates us to climb our mountains? What compels us to choose to do something even though it’s hard or risky? Some would take up a challenge to satisfy a sense of adventure. For others, it’s a response to the call of duty and even heroism. Many would take risks and sacrifice comfort when there are significant benefits to be gained in return.
The apostle Paul who undoubtedly took great risks to follow Jesus, gave us his reason when he wrote to the Corinthians: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
The love of Christ and gospel truth equipped Paul to endure everything from illness to imprisonment, from shipwrecks to snakebites; he was in danger with his own people and in danger with the Gentiles; he faced danger in the wilderness and danger at sea; he would go days without food and nights without sleep. We only need to read 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 to realize that there was absolutely no physical place of safety in his life and ministry. But that never stopped him. Why? It’s the love of Christ and gospel truth. He was willing to risk it all. “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Phil 1:20-21
In his book Risk is Right, John Piper wrote this about Paul’s sufferings: “Affliction raised his sword to cut off the head of Paul’s faith. But instead the hand of faith snatched the arm of affliction and forced it to cut off part of Paul’s worldliness. Affliction is made the servant of godliness and humility and love. Satan meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. The enemy became Paul’s slave and worked for him an even greater weight of glory than he would have ever had without the fight. In that way Paul— and every follower of Christ—is more than a conqueror.”
To this day, followers of Christ who suffer great persecution pray for faithful obedience, more than they pray for a change of circumstances. No, it’s not a sense of adventure or a sense of heroism that sustains the people of God. It is only the love of Christ and the grace he provides that can crush the idols of safety and security, and free us to live courageously for His glory. Some of us are being prompted by the Holy Spirit to take a step of faith in a certain direction and haven’t done so because we’re still counting the potential losses of doing so. We may have been procrastinating and sitting on the fence because choosing one way or the other would entail significant risks. I pray we may have faith that Christ has indeed freed us to no longer live for ourselves and that we may find strength in the truth that nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ who is worth our all.
” Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation,or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35,38-39
Yes, Jesus is worth it all….
Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot