Climbing Higher

Climbing Higher: Or the Value of Spiritual Barbs

Has our vision become so stymied and myopic that we fail to see the much more the Lord wants to give us?

Berrien Springs, Michigan

"Lord, when thou seest me in danger of nestling, in pity—in tender pity—put a thorn in my nest to prevent me 
from it!" —George Whitefield

It is a lot of money—$87,420-7,539 pounds of pure silver. Even though Ama­ziah was not a treasurer he was worried about it. "But what shall we do," he la­mented, "for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel?" (2 Chron. 25:9). Amaziah was a careful ad­ministrator, a progressive leader. Planning for a big-scale crusade, he called "One hundred thousand mighty men of valour" (verse 6) and paid them in advance a hundred talents of silver. It represented a huge investment, a pretty big chunk out of Judah's budget for the year, and the king was anxious that it should not be in vain.

Just when he had finished paying it out to the mercenaries from Israel he received a warning from God, The prophet de­clared that the Lord was not with the army of Israel and that if they marched with the army of Judah His blessing would not attend them. Now Amaziah was in a real dilemma! Knowing his Hebrew cous­ins as he did, he knew he would not get a penny back; it would be a complete write-off! So he cried out to the man of God, "What shall we do?" The reply was sure and should cause responsive chords to vi­brate in the soul of every leader of today —"The Lord is able to give thee much more than this" (verse 9). That which loomed big in the eyes of Amaziah ap­peared insignificant in the eyes of God.

Could this same Amaziah tendency con­stitute a crippling bunion on the foot of denominational progress? Because we are dazzled by the sparks of our own "bril­liant" activities, has our vision become so stymied and myopic that we fail to see the much more the Lord wants to give us? As God's messenger warns, "Just as long as the church are satisfied [and occupied] with small things, they are disqualified to receive the great things of God."—Review and Herald, Nov. 15, 1892.

Are You Satisfied?

The danger becomes more insidious and deadly because of the natural bent of man's fallen nature. "The mind naturally learns to be satisfied with that which re­quires little care and effort, and to be con­tent with something cheap and inferior." —The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Prov. 22:29. Here in­spiration is warning us against the feeling of satisfaction, contentment, or the feeling of arrival. Those who think they have reached the peak and have started to level, off are in reality over the hump coasting down the other side!

Conscious of the natural man's mini-minded inclination, George Whitefield prayed: "Dear Lord, when thou seest me in danger of nestling [sitting satisfied with the paltry little eggs of status quo] in pity —in tender pity—put a thorn in my nest to prevent me from it."—C. WILLIAM FISHER, Don't Park Here, p. 70. No matter what our present position in God's service the "danger of nestling" is one of our greatest perils. We need to pray earnestly for the remedial thorns—spiritual barbs to lift us out of our complacency.

During a recent Congo Union council meeting the African publishing depart­ment secretaries were discussing the best Swahili name for a colporteur leader. Some suggested the usual name for over­seer—Msimamizi—one who supervises, stands over. Knowing that the origin of this word, kusimama, means "to stop" or "to stand," we immediately opposed this suggestion. We didn't want anything "standing" or "stopping" connected with the publishing ministry! Then someone suggested the word Mwendeshaji. This was better! Coming from the verb kuwenda, which means "to go," it literally means one who makes things go. Unfortunately, in nearly every phase of God's church program there are many of the Msimamizi type. Having already parked, they are sat­isfied to stand over the little they have now. The need of the hour is for more Mwendeshaji-type men—leaders who are never satisfied and who believe with all their heart "the Lord is able to give us much more than this!"

In Front of Undertaker's Office

This conviction, that there is always a better way, explains why Charles Kettering, the great automotive genius, invented the self-starter and so many other improve­ments for the modern automobile. He ex­presses his philosophy so that it cannot be misunderstood: "Change seems slow, but it is so fast that any big manufacturing company, however prosperous, which keeps on doing things as it is doing them now will be in trouble very shortly. . . . No business of any kind can keep on in­definitely doing what it is doing now. It must change or go under. And that ap­plies in a general way to individuals also. . . . If you refuse to change, if you just sit down and rest, the best place to sit down is in front of the undertaker's officer­--Ibid., p. 68. And so it is in God's service or in life, we never really come to a level­ing-off place. We must either keep climb­ing or, like a plane with the throttle jammed in landing position, begin losing altitude. There must be a constant stretch­ing of the wings toward the higher peaks, toward the much more, the much better, or the much bigger, or there will be the gradual, sometimes imperceptible, loss of altitude until we have nestled down "in the congregation of the dead."

Climbing Kilimanjaro

During a five-day venture to the tower­ing, 19,317-foot peak of Mount Kilimanjaro —the highest in Africa—four of us mis­sionaries sensed anew some of the great climbing lessons of life. The greater part of the first day we tramped along dark, tangled trails through the almost impene­trable jungle well known only on equa­torial slopes of volcanic mountains. Even during that first night in Peter's hut we began to feel the nauseating effects of lack of oxygen. The next day we trekked across barren rocky terrain to Kibo hut, situated at more than 15,000 feet. By this time the oxygen had become so thin our hearts were beating at about 130 beats per min­ute. With this double-the-normal heart­beat, the primitive hut, the hard crude bunks, and a bitterly cold temperature, we found sleep fitful, almost impossible. During those miserable hours I had time to contemplate and wonder about this business of climbing mountains. Remem­bering the statistics—that two out of three who try, fail to reach Kilimanjaro's elu­sive summit—I listened to voices nagging and clashing inside, "What will really be accomplished by reaching the top anyway? Is it worth the risk to your health?"

But there was an inner spiritual barb that insisted, "Don't stop now! Show your­self, a man! Keep climbing!"

So at 2:00 A.M. we trudged out of Kibo hut to begin that bitterly cold, final on­slaught on the bleak crater of Mount Kili­manjaro. Soon we were struggling through loose scree at a sharply steeper angle. It was a torturous process—seven or eight de­termined steps, then a gasping pause for more oxygen.

Five hours later, just after sunrise, we took the faltering yet triumphant final steps to the summit—to the very top of Africa! Awestruck by the sparkling ice for­mations, we blinked in the glories of Kili­manjaro's vast crater. The feeling of ex­hilaration, like Hillary must have sensed on Mount Everest's peak, plus the rugged grandeur of it all was reward enough for the rigors of the upward trail!

As our African guides, with appropriate acclamations, presented each one with a wreath of colorful everlastings—their sym­bol of successful conquest—the meaning was etched forever on our hearts: There won't really be any crowns for those who are content to stay down on the plains of mediocrity. The laurels are won by those who keep climbing, who press upward through the twisted jungles of life to the glorious higher heights.

When Is Life Over?

The famous philosopher and educator John Dewey listened patiently one day to a young doctor's low opinion of philosophy. "What's the good of such clap-trap?" he blurted out. "Where does it get you?"

Mr. Dewey answered quietly, "The good of it is that you climb mountains."

"Climb mountains!" snorted the youth, unimpressed. "And what's the point in do­ing that?"

Mr. Dewey looked the young doctor in the eye, gently placed his hand on his knee and replied, "When you climb one moun­tain you see other mountains to climb! And young man, when you are no longer interested in climbing mountains to find other mountains to climb, life is over!" Surely the leaders of God's people whose ideals are "higher than the highest hu­man thought,' should be the most inter­ested in climbing and looking ahead to God's higher peaks of achievement and blessing.

"The Congo Millionaire"

Publishing leader J. T. Knopper brought this spirit from Holland when he accepted our call to the Congo. He was one of the first missionaries to go in after the crossfire from UN and Katangese ar­mies had nearly destroyed the union office in Elisabethville. Finding the office in a real shambles, records destroyed, colpor­teurs scattered, and book supplies de­pleted, he could have used these legitimate excuses and cried like Amaziah. But he thought only of the "much more" possi­bilities, and in a little while he began sending us reports of sales from the Congo.

After two years of near-miraculous prog­ress when we thought he had just about reached the peak—all that was possible under the unstable circumstances—he sent us this brief message: "There are many dark clouds here in the Congo which make it impossible for us to see the higher peaks of the mountains. But we know that the peaks are there, and we are determined with God's help to keep on climbing up through the clouds to these higher accom­plishments!" Thus undaunted and facing almost overwhelming problems, this in­trepid leader challenged his men to scale the unseen heights. During the year that followed, sales soared to millions of Congo francs, so high that we dubbed Elder Knopper "the Congo millionaire."

The Master Himself set the pace during His earthly ministry. "Through long nights He bent in prayer for grace and endurance that He might do a larger work."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 500. (Italics sup­plied.) He suggests that our daily prayer should be, "Teach me how to do better work" (ibid., p. 474). (Italics supplied.) Brethren, there will always be clouds and problems and sometimes as Amaziah expe­rienced, losses and unwise investments. But may God help us to see beyond and above to the higher peaks He wants us to climb. May we never be satisfied, but ever believe that where He has given us hun­dreds in the past He is able to give us thousands, yea millions, in the future. The promise is sure: "The Lord is able to give thee much more than this." 

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Berrien Springs, Michigan

February 1968

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