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The highest mountain on earth, Mt. Everest, has challenged thousands of mountain climbers. As they prepare to make their final assault on the summit, they cope with sub-zero temperatures, unexpected 100-mph wind storms, and altitude sickness. So, why climb? When George Mallory was interviewed in 1924 about his ambition to reach the top of the world, the question was: "Why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?" He replied, "Because it's there." (1)

In October 2012, Felix Baumgartner jumped from an airplane 24 miles above the earth to establish a new record for high parachute jumps. (2) He probably was asked a similar question, "Why did you do it?" He might have answered, "Because no one else ever did!"

These two men represent the few who crave achieving what no other human has achieved. They differ, as far as the east is from the west, from almost all others, who are content to live in a quiet valley, where little changes from day to day.

History has recorded the lives of "great" Christians, some known for their utter dependence upon God through prayer, others for their great missionary achievements, and still others for lives of faith and solid witness in imitation of Christ. Through God's special gifts of faith and perseverance, they have stood where no one else has stood, calling others to follow their examples. All believers, great and small, may be recorded in the history books of heaven as having fulfilled their calling to press on the upward way. But we mournfully admit that many-very many-have not even left the valley. They subsist on the rim of death valley-aimless, poorly nourished and naked. Don't they long for the foothills and the soaring heights? Don't they know there's a Mt. Zion to climb?

Some Don't Feel Like Climbing

These believers are described in shocking detail in Revelation 3:15, 16: "'I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.'" Could it be that some who have believed in the redemptive work of Christ and entered the pathway to eternal life, have no desire to reward their Redeemer by letting Him lead them to higher ground?

If only all Christians were singing this hymn as a personal mission statement:

"My heart has no desire to stay

Where doubts arise and fears dismay;

Though some may dwell where these abound,

My prayer, my aim is higher ground." (3)

The entrance to higher ground is daily commitment and dedication. It's the territory where we allow Christ to transform and mold our thinking to become like His. Day by day it's loving the Lord our God with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds and with all our strength until no love of self is left.

We Choose to Climb With Jesus

In answer to the question, then, "Why are you pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus?" we have a grander answer than "Because it's there!" Yes, it is there. Yes, we want to plant our feet on higher ground. But above all, we want to reward our Savior, who laid out this upward path, by choosing Him as our mountain guide and climbing with Him all the way.

For the climbers on Mt. Everest it's reaching the summit that counts. For us as disciples of the Lord Jesus, it's not being at the summit that develops character. It's the climb. Standing on the peak does not strengthen our muscles, nor does it enlarge our lung capacity. It's the climb. It's meeting temptation in the power of Christ. It's proving gracious in trying situations. It's developing the attitudes of our Master little by little, step by step.

It's the climb.

Paul described this climb: "Endurance produces character, and character produces hope" (Rom. 5:4). A commentator explains that Paul warned "the Philippians against a type of religion which rested, like Judaism, on outward performance. He has shown that through Christ they have access to a higher world, they rely on spiritual motives and seek a new kind of righteousness. So as Christians they have before them an endless field of endeavor, and can never assume, while they live on earth, that their task is finished. All that talk of 'perfection,' in which many of them were indulging, must therefore be meaningless, for it belongs to the very nature of a spiritual religion that there is always a height which has not yet been attained." (4)

Our responding to the upward call is not God's way for us to achieve perfection, that is, goodness or sinlessness. It is designed to make us strong and attractive for Him. It asks, Have we allowed the Holy Spirit to incorporate His gifts into our characters? Have we learned how to call on the strength of Heaven when tempted to sin? Are we constantly keeping our eyes on our Guide?

And then there's endurance training. For success in such sports as basketball, mountain bicycling, long-distance running, and the triathlon, athletes engage in long-short, fast-slow, hard-easy training. Some are preparing for an event; others desire to build and maintain stamina. James wrote as though every Christian should have a regular endurance-training program: "My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance" (chap. 1:2, 3).

Let us remember always that Jesus responded to our downward call, humbling Himself at our feet and taking on human nature. In awe, we respond to His upward call, humbling ourselves at His feet and becoming partakers of His divine nature. For us and our loving Lord, this is a win-win relationship. We win strength and divinely formed character traits. The Divine Trio lead us into the safety of the fold, thereby winning another victory over Satan.

Consecration and Joy Are Twins

Another reason we should continue climbing is that unrestricted dedication to the Lord leads to great joy. We know that chasing happiness is futile. Tinsel-town pleasures burst like soap bubbles. But attitudes of generosity and the unselfish actions that follow produce fragrant and lasting joy.

Everybody (almost) is looking for happiness. AARP the Magazine carried an article "Give Yourself a Happiness Makeover," which listed ten ways to experience more happiness. They ranged from choosing the right neighborhood to becoming a pet owner-"gaining peace with a pooch." Among the ten were some that are also found in the Bible: "Stop shopping; start saving" (stewardship); "Meet, pray, love" (being part of a faith community); and "Ignite your passion for compassion" (generosity). (5)

Becoming fully devoted to Christ puts us on the Bible's pathway to joy. In describing a perfect city of Zion, Isaiah called this pathway the Highway of Holiness (chap. 35:8-10, NASB). He wrote:

"A highway will be there, a roadway,

And it will be called the Highway of Holiness.

The unclean will not travel on it, . . .

But the redeemed will walk there,

And the ransomed of the Lord will return

And come with joyful shouting to Zion,

With everlasting joy upon their heads.

They will find gladness and joy,

And sorrow and sighing will flee away."

We Are Growing in Contentment

Yes, it's true. Holiness and joy are twins. Climbing upward along the Highway of Holiness transforms our patterns of life, our ways of thinking. We attain peace and contentment by gaining a fuller knowledge of the heart of the Lord and giving Him full control of our lives. "The unclean will not travel on it," he wrote. In the beatitudes Jesus revealed that when our motives are pure, happiness follows: "Happy are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8, GNT). Certainly "the redeemed," "the ransomed," will progress along this highway "with everlasting joy"!

Could we say that David and the Lord were close friends? Here's an example of how he described his bonding with his Maker and how this closeness delighted him:

"I keep the Lord always before me;

because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;

my body also rests secure. . . .

You show me the path of life.

In your presence there is fullness of joy;

in your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:8-11).

Doesn't David's "path of life" sound like Isaiah's "Highway of Holiness"? There's a simple explanation why being totally devoted to the Lord brings joy and peace and contentment. If in your inner sanctuary you have surrendered fully to the Lord, there is peace. But if you try to keep control-even a little control-tension develops. The Lord is eager to guide you and minister to your every need. But when you see Him guiding you in a way you don't want to go, you-like a child-begin to pout. You're unhappy. The joy of fellowship and the peace of surrender have melted away.

Joy in the Christian walk won't fade with time. Whether at the beginning, when we're first accepted as righteous by our faith in Christ's perfect life, or as we put into practice His character traits, joy and peace are ours. Let's claim what Paul promised: "Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1).

Our gracious Father has given us many, many appealing reasons for consecrating ourselves fully to Him. Here are some of them:

Holiness brings peace, peace that passes all understanding.

Holiness is attractive because our Father is attractive.

Holiness is satisfying just as climbing a mountain is satisfying.

Holiness is essential in helping God end the reign of sin in the world.

Holiness is our way of asking, "Father, what can I do for You?"

Holiness glorifies God and enhances His image as a just and loving Ruler.