Christian Living: Ordeal or Adventure?

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Ordeal or Adventure?

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Until 1953 no human being was on record as having set foot on the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. Several expeditions from various countries had tried, but all had failed to reach the top of the 29,028-foot Himalayan giant.

In the fall of 1952 some Swiss climbers made their second attempt at Everest with an impressive expedition that included some of the world’s best climbers. They had the finest and latest provisions-lightweight down parkas and mummy sleeping bags, equipment fashioned from aluminum alloys and canisters of oxygen.

Yet, in spite of the collective experience and sophisticated accoutrements, the Swiss team failed. The towering mountain, which sits on the border between Nepal and Tibet, was shrouded by inhospitable weather; light air starved the climbers’ lungs; and their footing was ever unpredictable.

Early in 1953 the British Everest Expedition completed plans to conquer the legendary peak. Could they succeed where others had failed?

Ascent to achievement

The expedition included climbers Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay and numerous porters. Before the climb came extensive training and preparation. The participants determined the best strategy and allowed for alternate courses of action. Everyone seemed ready and determined to succeed.

The climbers prepared for a dangerous journey, yet, as they began the ascent, the challenge grew much tougher than anyone had expected. Snow blindness, frostbite, exhaustion and other difficulties thinned the ranks. Discouragement crept in. Danger increased the closer they got to the top.

Then the expedition considered turning back en masse. After all, any step could give way to a hidden crevasse. A blinding snowstorm could mean the death of everyone. A few of the climbers, however, stayed optimistic. Their vision was to reach the summit, and they were determined that nothing would deter them.

Finally, on a May morning in 1953, climbers Hillary and Norgay set out alone from Camp 4 on the mountain’s south side. They were within several hundred steep yards of the summit. This was to be the most momentous day of their lives.

One by one those few last yards became the most demanding and risky steps of the climb. One wrong step or movement could bring about a disastrous, fatal fall. But, driven by a clear vision of victory, the two men persevered step by step over the slippery ice. Finally their dream burst into reality: They reached the summit. Exhilaration warmed their cold bodies. Their goal was accomplished. In a few days newspapers the world over would boldly proclaim their triumph.

What makes people go through such hardship and sacrifice? Hillary and Norgay, and subsequent successful climbers, endured agony in the name of high adventure.

The Christian life as high adventure

This magnitude of adventure parallels the Christian way of life. Yet some of God’s people see their calling as a burden to bear. For a few, God’s way of life looms as an ordeal to be endured rather than an adventure to take delight in.

The apostle James exhorts, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2 James 1:2My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;
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). What is there about a difficult situation to rejoice in? What kind of attitude finds joy in illness, family rejection or the loss of a job?

On the surface, little in such situations seems positive. No wonder James encourages us to look at our circumstances from a different perspective and always as a positive step in our continuing adventure, the Christian life. We should look forward to the exhilaration of victory at the end of our struggle, because that is exactly what awaits a true Christian.

We rarely picture great adventure as strolling down a country lane on a summer’s day. Could such an outing be pleasant? Yes, but could it also pose a challenge? Hardly, unless the country lane lies in a war zone or angles up the side of the world’s highest peak. The larger the potential danger and the greater the odds against accomplishment, the greater the thrill of victory.

In the same way, Christian living presents a challenge. We are locked in a struggle: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 Ephesians 6:12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
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).

Jesus Christ issues us this challenge: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 Matthew 7:13-14 13 Enter you in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it.
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).

The whole world, deceived by Satan, is opposed to the way of life God reveals (Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
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). We stand as a small army against great odds. The wrong influences of the world are everywhere, and we must battle against them as well as our own human nature. We must, with God’s help, fight the evil one himself-Satan the devil-who, with his legions of demons, determines to inspire us to forfeit the crown of life God has in store for us.

Certainly the Christian way of life, like any other adventure, demands resolute struggle against great obstacles.

Willing to endure

High adventure requires a willingness to undergo difficulties. Every mountain climber knows that an expedition demands physical sacrifice. Several days of dangling from ropes, sleeping and eating in cramped spaces, suffering frostbite and enduring bone-chilling cold go with the territory. These are but a few of the costs of heading for the top.

Paul’s Christian life was one of hardship. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 he enumerates some of his experiences: “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness-besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”

In Luke 14:28 Luke 14:28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
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Jesus cautions His followers to count the cost of living His way of life, even if the cost could include their very lives. Christians must be willing to undergo difficulties to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus warned that he who is not willing to “bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (verse 27).

Anticipation of victory

An adventure comes with the expectation of victory. No leader of an expedition of mountain climbers can afford to expect anything but success. Negativism erodes esprit de corps. The vision of victory can be lost.

Although the Christian’s way of life is no cakewalk, we must never lose sight of the attainability of our victory.

God reminds us to be confident of our triumph, that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 Philippians 1:6Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
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). We can go boldly before the throne of grace, knowing that our elder Brother has already reached the peak and holds the rope for us.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 25 And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: 27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
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, compares our struggle to a sportsman’s. Athletes, he writes, compete for “a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” Our reward is much greater than any we could win from any competition in this life, and knowledge of this certainty should motivate us. “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection . . .”

Paul expected victory. We should count on it as well. We have Jesus Christ on our side, and with Him everything is possible (Philippians 4:13 Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
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).

A Christian needs the attitude of an adventurer. View every inch and every foothold as progress. Consider each bruise and scrape a part of the price for our ultimate triumph. Continue the struggle for the supreme accomplishment: becoming a son of God.

No adventure is greater than the life of a Christian. See you at the top! GN

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