"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain." - 1 Corinthians 15:58
If you have ever been rock climbing, even on a climbing wall, you know that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. You have the harness and rope and the really important guy on the ground with the belay (aka the belayer). There’s the chalk so your hands can grip better and of course the secured anchor at the top. The purpose of all of this equipment is to help us with our goal of making it to the top, or better said, the equipment is actually what gets us to the top. I say this because we as humans have a problem: we are constrained by gravity and therefore bound to fall. Yes, everyone, even the best climbers, fall. Here’s where the importance of the climbing gear comes in: just one of those falls, without the gear, could kill us and keep us from ever being able to get to the top. But with the equipment to catch us, it is a different story. It is still hard, but now it is possible.
All humans have a climb to make, and that climb is over the terrain of Life. We all have to make the climb; it is just a matter of how. Everyone has a worldview (a framework for understanding reality). Our worldview totally changes the way we see the climb of life, how we make our plans to get over the humps and obstacles, what equipment we choose to use or not, where we decide to place our feet and secure our holds. Our worldview shapes what we think will be at the top, when we reach the end of life. Will there be a god there or just nothing? Will what I do on my climb matter once I make it to the top? What is the purpose of life, the perilous climb we are in? A person answers these questions based on their worldview and all totally change the outcome of this hard climb.
We as Christians hold to a Christian worldview based on God’s Word, the Bible. We understand that humans have a sin nature which pulls them down like gravity so that they are bound to fail. Some equipment is needed to make this climb of life, and as Christians we believe God provides all of it. We know that God is at the top, at the end of our climb, and that He is our firm and secure anchor (Hebrews 6:19). He has given us the Holy Spirit like a harness holding us. Ephesians 1:13 says, “And when you also were included in Christ when you heard about the message of truth, the gospel of salvation you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” Salvation is like our rope; it literally saves us from destruction. This salvation, by grace through faith, is true and certain throughout our whole lives. It connects us to God by making us right with Him (Ephesians 2:1-10). The Word of God is like our chalk. By keeping God’s Word always in our hearts and ever on our minds it provides us with the much-needed grip to resist temptation when the rock wall gets slippery. And now we come to that really important guy called the belayer. None of this other gear works without him. You see, He is the one with the belay that holds everything together, and our entire life is in his hands. This of course is Jesus.
Jesus Christ the provider of our salvation. He can sympathize with us and knows our struggles. He has used God’s Word, the same word we possess, like chalk, to resist the devil’s temptations and has kept His grip on doing the will of His Father (Matthew 4:1-11). He knows firsthand that God, our anchor, can be trusted and that the harness of the Holy Spirit really works (Matthew 3:16). He has done our climb of life and made it without falling. He has paved the way and overcame our obstacles. He is with us the whole time, instructing us from His position on the ground where He can see the whole picture. As Christians we are well equipped to make the climb of life. But be warned: if you decide to live with a biblical Christian worldview like this, your climb will still be hard. But it will be possible.
Jesus spoke in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart for I have overcome the world.”
Life is hard. The rocks get slippery, the slopes get steep, and we can lose our footing. Sometimes we do stumble and start to fall. We mess up, we make mistakes, and we sin. We lost our self-control and got angry again. We forgot to use our chalk, observing that we have not had quite time in over a week. We allow pride to take over our lives. We create idols, setting up other things, people and goals as more important than our relationship with God. We may go too far with that guy, struggle with depression and fear, and completely forget who God is. We can feel ourselves starting to slip away. But we are caught. No matter how badly we slip up, the Lord’s promise is found true, that “The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24 No matter what He catches us. The catch, it hurts at first as the rope suddenly tightens with our weight and the harness squeezes. We may even swing away from the wall just to hit it hard when we come back in. Returning to the Christian walk is sometimes hard at first and it is embarrassing to admit to mistakes. But we have been brought back to continue the climb and saved from a deadly fall.
More than just the expected struggle of the rock climb there are obstacles and falling stones, boulders and shrubbery, things that are intentionally there to get in our way. Throughout our whole lives we have had an enemy who has been trying to make us fall. The only difference is that now with our equipment on, we recognize him and the damage and destruction he tries to create on our climb. His attacks are hard to push against. We get tired, weak, our muscles get strained, we lose focus, and again we start to fall. But we won’t fall for even when “I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. The LORD is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation.” Psalm 118:13-14 Taking form the biblical example David gives us we can see that we don’t have to fall.
It is now, when we have run out of strength that we fall back and rest in our harness. We let God do the work of holding us up. We sway calmly, knowing that Christ can be trusted, our salvation is secure, and that God is in control (Psalm 46:10). Even though we must get back to our climb and fight our battles, we always have that rest and security holding us.
But what about those times when we have felt the sense of falling for way too long? It seems like we take one step forward and three steps back. When we are discouraged and just want to give up trying, we need to trust the eyes of our Belayer. He can see the whole picture: where we were, where we are now, and where we are going. He has been watching us the whole time. Maybe we are not listening to his voice telling us he’s holding us. For, “The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” Psalm 145:14 Despite our falls and past failures Proverbs 24:16a observes that “though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again . . .”
Jesus Christ, our Belayer, knows our climb. He has done it Himself (Hebrews 4:15). He notices our fall and yet tells us not to worry (Matthew 10:29-31). Best of all, in His grace, He works through our fall and uses its outcome for His good purpose (Romans 11:11). His perspective is the only one that matters; it is a complete picture. And from His point of view falling does not mean failure. He has the ropes, and the climb is still before us. And even more, He will give us the strength we need and make us stand firm.
"Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." - 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
So give the climb all you have, holding nothing back. You will make it to the summit as many saints before you have. It will be wonderful. You will finally see your Anchor, God, who you have trusted for so long. And you will no longer need your harness. Your rope will be gathered up, its purpose fulfilled. But all that will matter to you is that moment when your Belayer meets you face to face and He tells you the words you have lived to hear: Christ approval in “well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).