There are moments in our lives, when we are tempted to believe that we have arrived—that we’ve reached the top. Coming to faith can feel like one such moment. It is freeing, liberating, empowering, when you realize that Jesus Christ has taken your sin to the cross and restored you to the family of God. It is a mountaintop moment, the world finally makes sense, but there is more to be said.
In 1977, Doug Scott, Chris Bonington, Mo Anthoine, Clive Rowland, Nick Estcourt, and Tut Braithwaite set out to climb Baintha Brakk, an infamous peak in the Karakoram mountain range in Northern Pakistan. Baintha Brakk is better known to mountain climbers by its nickname—“the Ogre.” A hideous man-eating giant, the Ogre is one of the deadliest mountains in the world. It is steep, covered in crags, loaded with sharp rocks, and boasts one of the most difficult peaks to summit in all the world. In fact, until 1977 Baintha Brakk had never been summited, and after this expedition it would be another 24 years before someone would do it again.
Shortly after the attempt began, Braithwaite was injured by falling rock. Anthoine, Rowland, and Estcourt all reached the lower west summit but made the decision not to go on, while Scott and Bonington pushed forward. They navigated the crags by driving in anchors, and maneuvering from the left and to the right, until finally, they reached the summit. They were the first two men to see the world from the top of the Ogre—the man-eater. But this is where Scott says he made a critical error. As he looked out over the world, he says, “I lost respect for the mountain.” He forgot how dangerous it could be.
Christian, do not lose respect for the mountain. Do not forget how dangerous the world can be.
Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
It is common for believers to become discouraged in their walk of faith. They have been to the mountain top, but now see the chaos raging in our world. They have felt the love of Christ, but now see the evil that dwells in humankind. They stand at a distance, judging God for his silence, but forgetting he has already spoken. The Lord said, “I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.”
You see, Christian, you are the hands and feet of God, sent to bear fruit that will last. You speak the Word of God, but it isn’t easy, because the Word of God is something the world doesn’t want to hear.
As Doug Scott and Chris Bonington began to descend Baintha Brakk—the man-eater, tragedy struck. Scott lost his footing and went tumbling across the face of the mountain—breaking both of his legs above the ankles. That night he and Bonington slept on a ledge on the face of the mountain. The following day, they lowered themselves down to the rest of the group and began the long hike back to base camp. The high altitude and low oxygen made it impossible for Bonington and the others to carry Scott, so he had to crawl. For twelve days, he crawled over rocks, through snow, and on ice, until finally he reached the camp.
When asked how he made it off the mountain, Scott said, “One feature at a time.” To think of the whole journey, all that lay before him, was overwhelming. So Scott would pick one feature—one rock, and he would crawl to it. When he reached that rock, he would do it again, over and over, until he was off the mountain.
Christian, if you are to continue in your journey of faith, if you are to make it off the mountain, it will be because you have kept your focus on the Rock—Jesus Christ. When you see chaos raging in our world, crawl to the Rock. When you are persecuted for speaking truth to those who are lost in darkness, crawl to the Rock. When you have failed to be the light that you were created to be, crawl to the Rock. There is forgiveness at the Rock, for you, and for the world. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).
When Doug Scott crawled off Baintha Brakk, his name was written in the record books, and his story continues to be told today. Christian, that is probably not how your story will end. The world will most likely not remember your name, nor would you want it to, for you do not belong to the world. You were chosen by the One who did not come to condemn, but to save, and he’s the One who will remember your name. So hear his command: “Love each other.” Love the Lord your God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself, and whatever comes your way, crawl to the Rock.
Rev. Troy Tysdal is Director of Communications and Prayer for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and serves as editor in chief of Faith & Fellowship magazine.