The Great Smokey Mountains is a great place to hike. My brother-in-law and I hiked up a mountain there several years ago. He and I were in great shape at the time, had some experience, and were prepared … so we thought. We began hiking in the afternoon and set up camp about halfway up the mountain. Everything was fine, until it started to rain … and rain, and rain. We were so “prepared” that we did not even check the weather. A little flooding in the tent, and worry of total saturation made for a long night, but we were fine.
The next day we set off for the peak. And it was cold. Did I mention it was mid-December? The view was fantastic, despite the frigid cold. On the peak, we built a huge fire—and probably violated all the regulations about building fires on the peak. But we were freezing. That night was worse. Our gear was not the best. We risked hypothermia. The water in our containers froze. In the morning, we were too busy trying to melt our frozen water to worry about breakfast. Finally, I said, “Let’s just get down off this cold mountain.”
My point is this—it’s not easy to take a mountain. It’s not easy to reach the peak, under any circumstances. There are some mountains that are worth the efforts! I don’t know if I would say this one in mid-December was worth our efforts… but spiritually speaking, there are some mountains that are worth it.
Joshua 14 records the story of Caleb, who at 85 years of age emphatically declares, “Give me this mountain.”
“Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said.” (Joshua 14:12)
To appreciate this passage we should look at Numbers 13. Moses selected 12 leaders to spy out the Promised Land. Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, was selected from the tribe of Judah. When the 12 men returned after 40 days of spying out the land, ten of them reported that the land could not be taken. But two, Joshua and Caleb, reported that God would help them take it.
Fear had paralyzed the people. Fear will always create a wedge between us and our God-given destiny. Caleb literally had to calm the people down. He looked doubt, fear, and panic straight in the eyes and said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num 13:30). Sadly, the people were so scared, so faithless, so unbelieving and rebellious, they answered back, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.” Too much negative talk!
Notice, after all the negative talk, the people “lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron…” (Num 14:1-2). It was the biggest pity-party of all time … the entire nation of Israel, in an all night cry baby extravaganza. Heads were hung low, faces down in their hands, and moaning and groaning continued all night (except Joshua and Caleb!).
Unbelief always leads to fear, which produces murmuring and complaining, which, if unchecked, will cause people to pick up stones to attack the man of God.
But wait! God took notice of Caleb. God calls him by name and pronounces a blessing over his life. “But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereunto he went; and his seed shall possess it” (Num 14:24).
Caleb had a spirit of victory—“Give me this mountain!” How will you face down your fears and “take the mountain?” Will we be like Caleb? Will we make war with that thing everyone else is afraid of? Or do we want the alternative? Acquiesce to our fears, cry about the giant obstacles in our life, play it safe, murmur and complain, stone the man of God, and even try to go back to Egypt.
I don’t want to get halfway up the mountain! The term mediocre describes a person or thing that has moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance. To be mediocre is to be ordinary. Mediocre comes from the Latin mediocris, from medius meaning “middle” plus the Old Latin ocris, which means “stony mountain.” Mediocre literally means “halfway up the mountain.” Caleb was not mediocre! I don’t think Caleb had any intentions on getting half of the mountain!
Lay aside every weight! On another occasion I was hiking up Grandfather Mountain with a friend of mine. We were both prepared, carrying our packs with sleeping bags, tents, and enough supplies for a few nights on the mountain. Less than two hours in I noticed my friend getting tired and frustrated. We rested.
He then begins going through his pack, and pulls out a 10-pound cast iron skillet! I said, “What in the world are you gonna do with that?” I didn’t know if he was going to cook eggs and bacon with it or hit a bear in self-defense. He decided to stash that skillet behind a tree and keep going up the mountain.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Some things in life are just weights slowing us down, wearing us out, and keeping us from obtaining higher heights in God!
The verse goes on to say, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
I can’t help but think that Jesus said in his spirit, “Give me this mountain! Give me Mount Calvary!” In Matthew 16 we hear Jesus telling his disciples about his coming suffering in Jerusalem. Peter, acting out from fear, says “No Lord… this will never happen.” Jesus says, ““Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (ESV).
“Give me this mountain! Stop hindering me. Give me Mt. Calvary!” Jesus was ready to submit to God’s will and plan. Jesus was ready to go up and “take Mt. Calvary,” because he knew… He would go up that mountain and come down to be raised from the dead. He would have victory over the “giants of the land:” death, hell, and the grave. He would take the mountain of sin, conquer it, and be able to offer forgiveness and eternal life to whoever will believe in him.
Caleb’s life is a witness to us. He refused to settle for second-rate, “halfway up the mountain” results. He endured the unimaginable to attain the unbelievable. He lived through 40+years in the wilderness with a whining, crying, and dying generation, but he won his mountain in the end.
I refuse to go “halfway up the mountain” living for God! What if Caleb only took half the mountain? What if Jesus only went halfway up Mount Calvary? What if Peter only got halfway through his preaching at Pentecost? What if Paul only made it halfway to Ephesus in his mission work? What if you and I only get halfway through the work God has for us?
Don’t allow excuses to keep you from taking the mountain? Caleb could have made excuses! Well, that mountain should have been mine 40 years ago! It’s everyone else’s fault! We could have already settled there. Now I’m 85, and I don’t have many years left to enjoy it. What’s the use? We need to get “It could have been…” out of our vocabulary!
When Alexander the Great had conquered the world, a philosopher came to him and said, “How did you do it?” He sharply replied, “By never turning back.” When Alexander the Great lay dying, he had no child, no heir, and his great generals standing by his bed said, “Alexander, whose is the kingdom?” The great Alexander replied, “It is for him who can take it!”
There was time when Jesus looked around and told all within the sound of his voice, “…the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt 11:12). It is for who ever will take it! It is for the soul willing to “lay aside every weight, and the sin” and set his face to the mountain with determination to “take it.”
Jesus also told his disciples, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you (Matt 17:20). Long before Jesus taught on the shores of Galilee, there was a man named Caleb who believed nothing shall be impossible to us. “We are well able…”
Give Me This Mountain! Don’t allow family to distract you. Don’t allow petty things to derail you. Like Caleb in his old age declaring, “Give me this mountain!” He was specific (viz. this mountain). He was not to be sold on some other mountain.
Some people are willing to trade “this mountain” for some “other thing” of lesser value. No! Give me this mountain!
Defy mediocrity. Demand the entire mountain. Don’t let distractions and naysayers keep you from the blessings God has prepared for you.