Just a handful of times I have had the intense pleasure of hiking up a mountain. If you have ever done it you will never forget the crisp air, the staggering views, and the joy of having made the trek to the top. And once you have been there once, you will never forget the feeling of wanting to set up camp and stay forever. It is moments like these that have coined the phrase “mountaintop experience.”
Once a month, I have a standing day off that I have begun calling my “Mountain Time.” It is a day of solitude that is meant to refocus my spiritual life, as well as my work life. Many days I plan a time outdoors and get rained out, but just recently I was able to get outside and hike through our local nature preserve. At the climax of the hike, I stopped on the peak of a hill, set up a hammock, and sat in silence. As I met with God over the course of the day, I began to pick apart this idea of mountain time, and dug into the scriptural stories of this experience. In each story, I found another reason why it is crucial for every Christian to have a “Mountain Time.”
- Noah – Outlived the flood by God’s mercy and was set upon a mountain as the waters receded, there sacrificing and receiving a promise from God. (Genesis 8 & 9)
- Abraham – Took his son to the mountain in faithfulness, with the intention to sacrifice him. Instead, he is met by God’s grace and favor in the form of a stuck ram and is blessed. (Genesis 22)
- Moses – Went up on the mountain to speak face to face with God and receive direction from Him for the people. So intimate was the conversation that his face took on a new look when he returned. (Exodus 19 & 34)
- Elijah – Went up to go toe-to-toe with the pagans in a winner take all battle and his prayer was answered with a fire bolt from heaven. Becomes headhunted and flees to the mountain in fear. Stood on the mountain as God passed by, receiving strength and guidance. (1 Kings 18 & 19)
- Peter, James, and John – Joined Jesus and witnessed the miraculous encounter of God’s power and glory. So overwhelmed by the experience that Peter wants to set up homes to live in so they never have to leave. (Matthew 17)
- Jesus – Met with His Father in prayer and received strength and directions. (Luke 22)
In each case, think about the details. They had to sacrifice something, time, energy, attention, work, et cetera, in order to make the climb up the mountain; they did not live there, they had to travel. All left the mountain with something they did not arrive at the peak with: a promise, a blessing, direction, new strength and determination, new understanding and awe, and a confirmation of purpose and God’s will. And they all spent time in purposeful connection with God while on the mountain.
While only Peter voices the feeling, and maybe with the exception of Jesus on the Mount of Olives, the experience was probably something that left them longing for more. I can attest, that my intentional time in solitude on a monthly basis always leaves me wishing I could stay forever. It is spiritually deep, freeing, energizing, challenging, and always encouraging. But, it takes work. Just like a long trek up a mountain would take some planning, maybe some training, and definitely effort, forcing yourself away from your email, phone, and other work distractions will take some intentionality on your part. But look at the outcomes from scripture.
When we bring our all to God, we never leave empty-handed. He loves to bless His children. He loves to bless our faithfulness.
As I thought about the importance of my Mountain Time on my recent hike, I came across this phrase that made the whole journey recalibrate in my mind: I need M.T. (Mountain Time), because I am EMPTY. Go back to the stories. How many of them begin with the subject(s) being in need of God’s touch, or a filling of the spirit that only their Father could provide? That’s me! I follow the instructions of Paul who challenged me to “beat my body and make it my slave” through “strict training” (1 Corinthians 9:27, 9:25). So go into training. Find your “mountain.” Create time to spend in M.T. so you can be filled.
SCOTT OSBORNE is the Student Ministries Pastor at Portage Free Methodist Church in Portage, MI. He lives with his wonderful wife and two sons and enjoys anything that gets him in the woods. He has been serving in ministry since college and is passionate about relationally engaging teens with the story of Jesus and walking with them in their journeys. You can follow him on Twitter@PFMCOREANDSOMA, and at his blog @ THOUGHTSFROMAROLLYCHAIR.WORDPRESS.COM.
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