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Are you Climbing the Right Mountain?

To allow Pastor Rick time to enjoy the Christmas season, we are re-publishing some of his most popular blog posts of 2013. (Originally published on April 4, 2013) 

I meet every Wednesday morning with a group of men for Bible study, prayer and accountability. We're currently using Patrick Morley's Devotions for the Man in the Mirror as a guide, and a few weeks ago we discussed a very relevant topic for us--ambition. Our small group consists of men who have reached some of the highest peaks of their particular fields. From the world's perspective, these men would be considered ambitious and quite "successful." But one of my observations as I meet with people from all walks of life is that regardless of successes, accomplishments, or a lack thereof, people are people. We all have our joys and struggles. We all long for a meaningful existence, and we all have certain ambitions.

For some of us, we have ambitions to achieve, succeed, and excel. Morley tells the story about Edmund Hillary and his guide, Tenzing Norgay, who led the first successful climb to the top of Mount Everest, towering five and one-half miles high. They overcame what appeared to be insurmountable obstacles of avalanches, high winds, thin air, fatigue, and dwindling supplies. Hillary wrote about the exhilaration of becoming the first man to reach the pinnacle at 11:45 am on May 20, 1953. Hillary and Norgay stood on top of the world for all of … fifteen minutes. That's right. Fifteen minutes after they arrived, the high winds and sub-freezing temperatures forced them to begin their descent. If they delayed their retreat, nightfall would overtake them, and they would die on their downward trek.

Think about it. All of that sacrifice, training, and hard work to scale to the top of the world for fifteen minutes.

Most of us have some type of Mt. Everest we want to climb. Athletes want to compete at the highest level. This weekend is the Final Four in the Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament, and only one team will be left standing at the pinnacle of college basketball success. Business people want to reach their Everest of success. Pastors often look to their Everest as more crowds, bigger buildings, and expanding budgets. We all are tempted to cave in to the pressures of allowing worldly ambition determine our drive, value and identity.

Most of us climb the wrong mountain. As the old cliché says, "I climbed my ladder to the top only to find out it was leaning against the wrong wall." Is the mountain you're climbing worth it? Is your fifteen minutes at the top worth the sacrifice you must make to get there? When we make our Everest a temporal mountain, we only find temporary elation in making it to the top. If our mountain top is simply to fuel the engine of selfish ambition, we may make it, but we will often make it alone and discover that the momentary thrill is just that, momentary. We are still left with an emptiness and longing, because, as Solomon put it, all we're doing is "chasing after the wind" (Ecclesiastes 1:14).

Ambition can be a good thing, if it leads us to climbing the right mountain. And the only mountain worth climbing is one that leads us to our heavenly Father. Psalm 43:3 says, "Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling." The goal of the Christian life is to climb the holy hill, the one that leads to the dwelling place of God. Morley writes, "The independent spirit wants Everest. The surrendered spirit wants the holy hill."

So what mountain are you climbing? Are you seeking your fifteen minutes at the top or an ascent that will last into eternity filled with a joy that's inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8)? The choice is yours: fifteen minutes or forever.