When we step out of our comfort zones in faith and into God’s calling, he’s there to help push the pedals to climb the mountain.
My husband and I celebrated 15 years of marriage last month. Being the active couple that we are, we opted out of an anniversary trip and instead chose a pair of electric mountain bikes.
Before we had e-bikes (as they are commonly called), we mountain biked short, familiar trails, unsure of how far our always-sore legs (thank you gym!) would take us.
But this new addition of e-bikes to our arsenal has given us the chance to try new trails and explore what always felt just out of reach. They’ve given us the confidence to conquer steep ascents and paths four times the length of our normal rides.
As we were exploring a new-to-us 16-mile forest service road loop this spring, it hit me.
Taking in the new landscape around me as we climbed uphill for miles, I realized that God is a lot like our e-bikes.
We may ride for years on an easy flat trail in life, not needing the help of anyone else, but reliant on our own strength. But as we become more attune to God’s will and his voice, he may ask us to step out on faith.
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”Philippians 2:13
And it’s at this point when our easy, flat, comfortable path may change. It’s at this point when God may ask us to step out of our comfort zones for His purposes. This is when He begins to shift our desires to align with his desires.
We may question this new path, as Moses did when God first asked him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. We will likely think of a dozen reasons why we’re unsuited to carry out His will in this way. We will likely think of a dozen people more capable than us who would thrive at the task God has given us.
But that’s just it: God isn’t asking us for perfection; He’s asking us for obedience. He is sovereign and His purposes will always be carried out, with or without us. But He wants us to be participants in His story, as all believers are called to be “partakers of grace” (Phil. 1:7).
Face the Mountain
Where we see a steep impending mountain in front of us, God sees an obstacle that will refine us as we are forced to depend more on him.
Maybe this mountain is a new calling or a new skill.
Maybe it’s the putting to death of a bad habit, an ongoing distraction or a particular sin.
Maybe it’s a relational struggle or a financial strain.
Maybe it’s the release of saying “yes” too often, of overloading our schedules constantly, of clinging to control.
Maybe it’s the burden of sickness or chronic pain or infertility.
Maybe it’s a change in our calling or a shift in our season of life.
Regardless of the obstacle, God calls us to face the mountain He’s put in front of us. How do we know this? Just look at all the examples He’s given us in the Bible.
Abraham and Mount Moriah
Abraham faced Mount Moriah as he made the ascent to obediently sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22). Not only did Abraham face an unthinkable mountain, but he passed the test because of his faith in God. Hebrews 11:17-19 says: “It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, ‘Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.’ Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.”
Abraham stepped out on faith to climb a mountain unimaginable. But remembering God’s initial promise to him—what we call the Abrahamic Covenant—he trusted that God would do what he said he would do. Abraham believed that God would provide him a son who would be the beginning of many offspring, more than the stars in the sky (Gen. 15:4-5). And “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6).
Moses and Mount Sinai
Moses climbed Mount Sinai multiple times to meet with God on behalf of the nation of Israel after their exodus from Egypt. During his ascents up Mount Sinai, God made a covenant with the Israelites (Ex. 19), which we call the Mosaic Covenant, where He set apart His people as a holy nation and they, in turn, vowed to obey him. Of course, the Bible tells us they faltered time and time again with their obedience.
On Mount Sinai, God also gave Moses the 10 Commandments (Ex. 20) and the Mosaic Law, which revealed to the Israelites their sinfulness and pointed them ahead to the need for a Savior. From the mountain, Moses also received instructions for the building of the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 24-31).
And one of Moses’ hardest ascents was likely after he found the Israelites worshiping a golden calf idol (Ex. 32) they had constructed in their impatience while he was up on the mountain. Moses then climbed Mount Sinai again to plead with God for mercy as he interceded for the Israelites, even offering his own life in exchange for theirs (Ex. 32:32).
Elijah and Mount Carmel
At God’s prompting, Elijah set out to confront King Ahab during a drought in the land and to deliver the message that God would send rain soon (1 Kings 18). As requested by Elijah, Ahab summoned all of Israel to join him at Mount Carmel, along with the prophets of Baal and Asherah. At Mount Carmel, Elijah called out the people and their wavering allegiances between God and their idols.
Despite their crazed dancing and self cutting, their gods didn’t show up that day. But guess who did? The Lord—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Not only did he flash down fire from heaven, but he sent the rain he promised. That day, Elijah killed all the prophets of Baal and God continued to use this obedient messenger before he was carried up to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2).
Jesus and the Mount of Olives
Jesus visited the Mount of Olives on multiple occasions when he was near Jerusalem. But in the last week of his life, beginning with what we call Palm Sunday, he visited the Mount of Olives three times.
First, the donkey that Jesus rode for his triumphal entry into Jerusalem was secured from the area of Bethany and Bethphage, which was located on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives. So Jesus rode down the mountain into Jerusalem as the crowds were praising him.
During Jesus’ second trip up the Mount of Olives, he delivered the Olivet Discourse, which spoke of the future, tribulation and his second coming.
Jesus’ third visit to the Mount of Olives was on the night He was betrayed and arrested. After the Last Supper in Jerusalem, he traveled with his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. There, Jesus wept, prayed and mourned over the sinfulness of humanity as He considered the cross before Him, saying: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42).
It was Jesus’ obedience to the Father—climbing this unimaginable figurative mountain before him—that paid for our sins and paved the pathway to heaven. Fittingly, it was also at the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended to heaven after the resurrection, as described in Acts 1.
It’s interesting to note that as early as Genesis 8, the olive tree or branch was used to symbolize new life and reconciliation. Remember how Noah released a dove from the ark and it brought back a plucked olive leaf? This signified peace and a new beginning for humanity after the flood. Similarly, it was Jesus’ submission on this mountain in a grove of olive trees that ushered in a new beginning for humanity by reconciling us to God and also solidified his title as Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
When we reflect on what the Bible says, sometimes God will choose to move mountains (Matt. 17:20), and other times, He’ll ask us to climb mountains for Him and his purposes.
What Mountain are You Called to Climb?
When I rewind my life—even a year ago—and think back to my spiritual and emotional state, it’s easy to see how God began to shape and prepare me for a mountain. Last summer, I felt a calling to start the spiritual discipline of memorizing scripture. Since then, I’ve memorized verses on the importance of God’s word, on his power over evil, on his amazing attributes and more.
And just as discipline breeds discipline, so obedience produces more obedience. Obeying this calling to memorize scripture began the process of being obedient to other callings in my life. It reminded me of the joy I find in acting in God’s will, even when it’s hard and uncomfortable. It’s increased my faith in God’s sovereignty and given me a resting point for my trust.
As with the idea of the snowball effect, that initial act of obedience last summer has slowly built up over time, increasing not only in size, but in influence. What began as a small act of obedience that only affected me has snowballed into an act of obedience affecting a group of people.
Facing My Own Mountains
One of my biggest fears has always been public speaking. Ask me to write something for a large group? No problem. Ask me to speak to a large group? Yikes.
When I write, I can think and communicate much clearer, thanks to the editing process. There is much security in knowing I can go back later to change a word, phrase or even an idea if needed.
But when I speak, I have a tendency to talk really fast (to keep up with my thoughts), stutter, forget to breathe adequately and lose my voice if I talk too long. When I rehearse something in my mind, I sound cool, calm and collected, but reality never plays out the same.
That’s why it’s quite curious that last fall I said yes to giving church announcements at two services one Sunday morning (literally shaking in my boots the whole time). But I was passionate about the local mentoring program that I volunteer with and wanted others in my church to consider mentoring as well. You see, the cause outweighed my butterflies (just barely!).
And though I’ve realized that delivering church announcements is not my calling, that act of obedience—of saying yes despite the discomfort it created—made me realize that God often uses small steps to get us up the mountain he’s called us to climb.
Through that initial simple act of obedience, he showed me that his plans are bigger than my plans and his ways are higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Since that day of presenting church announcements, God has asked me to do other hard things, but he prepped my heart for them in advance through a pattern of obedience.
Before the New Year, he prompted me to ask a group of women at church to read the Bible with me in a year. Then, he prompted me to blog about my spiritual journey over the past couple decades, even though it made me vulnerable to be so honest. Then, he prompted me to say yes when asked to lead a women’s Bible study at church, even though I have no experience in teaching anything. Then, he prompted me to say yes when requested to teach more than 100 students at a conference about how to start a blog.
Even though I’m much more comfortable behind the keyboard, God called me into a place of small-scale public exposure for a short season. Besides the huge task of learning how to speak clearly in front of people (which I’m still very much learning), I’m convinced these new callings have a far greater purpose.
As someone who is a “get-‘er-done” girl, these new mountains have humbled me as I’ve realized they aren’t something I can do in my own strength. I truly believe that one of the main reasons God gave me these tasks is so that I remain humble and rely on him and not my own strength.
And even in the midst of my teaching this past spring, God continued to refine me and show me the word lived out in my own life. As I taught through the book of Philippians, highlighting the humility of Jesus and Paul, I was personally humbled time and time again.
I learned that:
Sometimes, the mountain we face is saying yes to hard things, and, other times, the mountain looks like the hard task of saying no to good things.
But regardless of our yesses and our nos, we must consider our lives in light of eternity, orienting ourselves to God as we consider the mountains we face.
So as I’ve climbed these new mountains that God has put before me, I’m realizing that the steepest ascents to the human eye aren’t always the hardest ones. In fact, as I climbed one of life’s mountains recently, I later realized that I’d overlooked the possibility of second and third ascents with different, but related obstacles. As with Moses, whose hardest ascents were not first, I’m learning similar lessons in my own life.
Climbing a mountain and making it to the peak doesn’t mean life will be easy afterwards. From the viewpoint of the top, it’s easier to see the rugged topography all around us. Sometimes, continuing on our journey means we must travel down the mountain and up another one in the name of progress—or sanctification. Undoubtedly, life is littered with divine mountain ranges that we must be prepared to face for God’s glory and his purposes.
In the same way, the Christian life is not a “one-and-done” approach. After that initial point of justification—that gift of salvation—we are called to follow Jesus up the road of sanctification. As you might have guessed, this isn’t always a smooth clear pathway. In fact, the Bible tells us we will encounter tribulation (John 16:33), adversity (Proverbs 24:10), evil (Eph. 6:12), trials (James 1:2-3), sufferings (Romans 8:18) and more.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.Romans 5:3-5
God is Like an E-Bike
After all these swirling thoughts about mountains and climbing, it’s hard not to see how God is like my e-bike when it comes to the steep ascents of life.
When I see a promising yet looming peak he’s set in front of me, I have to remember that he’s the one powering me up the mountain. When I push the pedal on my e-bike up an incline, the pedal-assist function immediately kicks in and I get a much-needed boost to make it up the toughest slopes.
In the same way, when I step out of my comfort zone in faith and into God’s calling, he’s there to help push the pedals to move me along the path up the mountain—not my path, but His path; not in my strength, but in his strength.
I listened to a podcast recently that said if you initially feel fully equipped and confident in your calling, there’s a good chance it’s not your calling. You see, our calling from God is a path that leads us to places unimaginable as we learn to rely on his strength and guidance and not our own.
Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.Ephesians 3:20-21
Without my e-bike, I would never be able to ascend miles and miles up a winding forest service road. My muscles would never last 16 miles over the course of the trail. And because of this, I would never be able to see the blessings at the top of the mountain or gain an eternal viewpoint of my life or bask in the glory of God and his provision.
Climbing Mountains Changes Us
On Moses’ last-recorded ascent up Mount Sinai, he carried another set of stone tablets (since he broke the first set out of anger for witnessing the idolatry of the Israelites in Ex. 32:19). But before God commands Moses to chisel out the words of the 10 Commandments on the stone, the Lord passes in front of him (Ex. 34). The preceding chapter gives us more detail when Moses asks God to show him his glory:
And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”Exodus 33:21-23
From the mountain, safe within the rock, God reveals to Moses his radiant glory, the glory that Moses confidently requests as he converses openly with God.
In the same way, as we are cresting mountains secure within the cleft of our Rock, God is revealing the rays of his glory to those of us who step out in faith for him.
But we must ask ourselves these questions:
Are we intentionally seeking out God’s glory the way Moses did, despite our circumstances or the mountains we’re facing in life?
Are we conversing with God as we ascend life’s mountains, asking him for help, for guidance, for a glimpse of his glory, for the security of his sovereignty?
Seeing just a rear glimpse of God’s glory, Moses came down the mountain from his time spent with God changed. His face shone with radiance—and this brightness impacted the Israelites. Moses’ life shows us that you can’t be in the presence of the Almighty God and not be changed.
Change is Necessary
Though change is often hard and our flesh would beckon us to remain set in our stubborn ways, change is also where growth happens.
When we climb the mountains God puts before us, when we walk (or bike!) humbly with our God (Micah 6:8), when we submit to his will even when it’s hard, when we pursue obedience even when it costs us, God is there teaching us, training us, loving us and sustaining us. In this way, he’s leading us along the path of sanctification as he changes us, conforming us to Christ.
So climb the mountain God has placed in front of you. Rest in the assurance that he is the one strengthening you and propelling you up even the hardest ascents. Remember his promises and the new covenant. And ask boldly to be changed by him for his glory.