A few years ago, my wife and I went to Bear Sleeping Sand Dunes in northern Michigan. As we stood at the base of the area known as the “Ascent”, we felt the birth of a challenge to conquer the “Sand Mountain”. When we looked at each other starting another upward movement, we jointly agreed to climb together. After what seemed to be an endless endeavor, we reached the summit! Finally, we can look down on Lake Michigan and its grandeur. Instead of seeing the lake, all we saw was a sand desert that stretched further up than we did! Our cries of joy soon became the moment of decision. Do we continue on our way or retreat to where we started? We were actually more than half a mile away from “care”. As we looked at our path of fatigue, we saw groups of people scattered on the ground. Some were sitting tired on the sand, while others were climbing the unknown ground ahead. The others ran, rolled, and hurried back to the “base camp.” Also, a group of people were sitting on benches at the bottom of the hill and decided to tell others that they were climbing.
The “Mountain” Sleeping Bear Challenge reminds me of our spiritual journey. There are those who believe in Mount Calvary, but are content to be spectators rather than participants in the Christian faith. There are those who start with biblical energy, but because of the challenges of life, “go out” and only make progress in faith. Another group of people are those who just do not have the commitment to continue and return to their comfort zones. Finally, there are those who continue to ascend in search of the “view” of the kingdom of God. No matter what challenges they face, they will not give up. They decide to be more like Jesus, no matter how hard it is to “climb”.
The Christian movement is progressing! It is a faith that is always moving forward and up. There is no mirror for the back, but waiting for the things that God has for those who love him to remain constant. The Holy Spirit guides us on the ascent. He seeks the deep things of God and then reveals them to us. (1 Corinthians 2: 10-12) He opens the Bible to our understanding. Every step we take in our ascent is a learning experience. We will never reach our growth level, because every day is a progressive journey. It will be difficult days. There are times when we feel our efforts are not enough. There will be challenges in our efforts to rest, but the Holy Spirit encourages us. There will be temptations to return to the spectator state. We should never despair, but should be encouraged by those evangelical saints who pushed the heights. Listen to Paul tell his supporter Timothy that everything he did in his service was worth the effort: “… I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, henceforth for me the crown “The righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me in that day” (2 Timothy 4: 7, 8).
Our spiritual journey is always a progressive one. We may not see the “finish line”, but it is waiting for us there. When we reach the heights, we hear Jesus say, “Blessed are you, good and faithful servant.”