Surpassing Your Vertical Limit
by Steve Bacon
The vertical limit is a term that describes the highest altitude the human body can survive which most agree is 18,000 feet above sea level. It is the point where normal, life sustaining functions such as breathing and blood circulation are affected by the lack of oxygen combined with low barometric pressure. Reaching the vertical limit does not prevent climbers from continuing to summit the world’s highest mountain peaks. It will, however slow their progress, requiring shorter steps, frequent rests and the aid of a portable supply of oxygen to complete their ascent.
I’ve been a Christian long enough to see a resemblance between the challenges experienced by mountain climbers and walking the path of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Every step is not without risk. Often there is an apprehension when setting out on unfamiliar terrain. Conditions can change without warning. Knowing your limitations and following your instincts can mean the difference between success and failure or even life and death.
The motivation behind each of these activities is probably the same as well for who can resist the exhilaration of pushing oneself to reach new heights. For the mountain climber there is personal satisfaction and a great story to tell. For the disciple of Jesus, there is the reward of bestowing honor and glory to the Savior not to mention the sheer joy of reaching back to guide others along the way, so they can join you at the grandest summit of all. Heaven!
Reaching the summit as you overcome obstacles in the Christian life is one thing. Remaining there is quite another. Because of the propensity to fall back into sinful habits, there must be a determination to stay focused and hold one’s ground as the enemy plots your demise.
I’m often surprised and ashamed at how easily I can abandon the joy of the summit only to slip back into a pattern of behavior or an attitude that I thought I’d long overcome. The words of Hebrews 12:1-2 come to mind.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
If I suddenly become awakened by the revelation that I’ve allowed myself to fall from my place on the summit, only to discover, I’m back on a lower level stranded on a plateau in my Christian walk; I must act immediately! The first step is always toward genuine repentance followed by a humble admission that I need the help of the Holy Spirit and perhaps another godly person to hold me accountable (Gal 6:1).
So much is at stake because people are watching, waiting at times for months on end to see if your life choices match the religion stuff you’re always trying to sell them. Likewise, there may be young believers traveling close behind you that may need your help and guidance as they encounter the dangerous slopes you’ve already passed.
Reaching the destination is priceless and the joy is limitless. When I’m fortunate enough to make it there, I never regret making the sacrifices needed to surpass the obstacles in order to arrive where my Lord has called me to be.
May the Lord never cease to call His people up from lower levels so they might enjoy the sweetness of fellowship with Him at the summit.
- What are the first words that come to mind when you feel you are being called to a higher level in your Christian walk?
- Climbers who surpass the vertical limit and refuse to use oxygen, when they should, are flirting with danger to their own health and are putting the success of the expedition at risk.
- Christians take similar risks when they refuse godly counsel or dull their senses to the warnings issued by the Holy Spirit.
Has there been a time this has played out in your life?
What would you do differently at this point in your life?
- Those closest to the Lord can become a hindrance to what God’s ultimate plan is as Peter discovered in Matthew 16:21-23.
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
Have your actions caused others to stumble or fall in their attempt to reach a higher level in their walk with Christ?
Do you need to reconcile with another person who at one time took a great risk in pointing out your sinfulness only to be met with your rejection which severed the friendship?
- Have you ever considered discipling a new believer?
Sermons with Boats in Them #2: ‘Dark Night was the Night and the Sea was a Fury – Tempestuous, Turbulent and Threatening.’
March 29, 2020