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The Mountain and the Valley

I heard an awesome message at church yesterday. Listen here if you like. In it, my Pastor spoke briefly about the story in Matthew 17 in which Jesus took Peter, James and John up onto a mountain and was transfigured before them. What I never realized before, was how this story overlapped with another familiar story – one in which Jesus’ disciples were unable to cast out a demon.

Here’s the short version:

Jesus took three of his disciples up onto the mountain, and left the other nine behind. While on the mountain, Peter, James and John had the most significant experience with God I’m sure they ever had. God’s glory descended in a cloud, Elijah and Moses appeared, talking with Jesus, and God’s voice boomed out, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him!”

Meanwhile in the valley, the other nine were approached by a man needing a miracle for his son who was demon possessed. Though they did their best, they were unable to cast the demon out. After Jesus had come back down and cast the demon out, his disciples asked why they were unable, and He said, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Here’s the thought that occurred to me: maybe the nine would have been more equipped to meet the need had they been up on the mountain and seen the glory of God. Maybe their faith would have been stronger after such an experience. But then, had they been up on the mountain, would they have even known about the need?

This is where it all hit me – we need the mountain, and we need the valley. Many Christians, understandably, want to remain up on the mountain, just like Peter who suggested they pitch a couple of tents and camp out up there. Though I think every Christian who has experienced God’s glory, His manifest presence, would similarly be inclined to camp out wherever the glory falls, it must be understood that we are not given such experiences solely for our own benefit. As tempting as it may be to stay on the mountain, soaking up God’s presence, eventually we are called to take that glory from the mountain down into the valley where it is needed.

In this story, there was a boy with a need – a need only God’s glory could meet. This boy needed a miracle, and for whatever reason, those nine disciples didn’t have enough–of whatever–to meet the boy’s need. However, had they been up on the mountain with the others, who knows if they would have ever known about the need?! Here’s my point, as Christians, we need the glory of God in our lives. We need to have, both personally and corporately, experiences in which the presence of God overwhelms us and we are filled anew with the Spirit of God. But we need to take those experiences, and go find a need and meet it, then come back to be filled again.

Some people labor, admirably and honorably, in ministry, serving others, but rarely find their way into God’s presence to be filled and strengthened. Such people toil much, strain and push in ministry, meeting every need they can. Often, such people are only minimally successful. They try, but accomplish little. Their efforts are commendable, but not their results. These are like the nine in the valley. They see the need and are willing, but unable to find the necessary spiritual strength.

There are others who become so addicted to the experience of God’s presence, that they are never motivated to do anything but worship or pray. I’ve known such people. Ever eager to gather in someone’s living room with a guitar, ever eager to attend a meeting, often able to spend hours in prayer and worship before God. Though their spiritual focus is commendable, even enviable, I have found that such are often unconcerned with reaching the lost, and sense no responsibility to anyone but themselves, they know no ministry except to the Lord. Such are like the three on the mountain, rightly amazed and in awe of God’s presence, and willing to camp there forever.

The wisdom of Jesus prevails, however. The Master went up onto the mountain, and He came back down from the mountain, bringing the glory and the power with Him. It is in the valley, not on the mountain, where the need is. But it is on the mountain, not in the valley, where the power is.

So my question to you is simple – which are you? Are you a mountain climber, or a valley dweller? And what are you going to do to find the proper balance?

Blessings.

Jeff

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