"The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the upright, but ruin to the workers of iniquity." Proverbs 10:29
In August 0f 1973 I was privileged to be a part of a team who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, East Africa. Suzi and Char Martin, two MKs (missionary kids) from Arusha had put the trip together, and did most of the planning and assembling of gear. The climb was a five day, 85 mile round trip journey that took us from 7,000 ft. elevation to Uhuru Peak at 19,500 ft. We were accompanied by guides for the entire trip, but did not take much notice of them until the last night of the climb. After all, the snow capped peak was pretty easy to see. We knew we were heading in the right direction.
The first night we spent at 10,000 ft. elevation, the second night at 15,000 feet, and the third day in the late afternoon we arrived at a small cabin at the base of the scree at 17,000 feet elevation. This is where the prolonged effects of altitude sickness began to impact us. We had started out with 14 climbers, and now we were down to 13. One of our most athletic members of the team had dropped out somewhere between 10,000-15,000 feet. He was from the seacoast city of Mombasa and the intensifying change in elevation was too much for his body to accommodate. One of our guides had to take him down the mountain, and we were left with one to help us finish the climb. If anyone else had trouble, the climb would be over and we would all have to head down the mountain. Suddenly the guide took on new importance to us.
The guide gathered us at midnight for the final ascent. We all gathered together and pledged that we would all make it to the top. This began a seven hour ordeal of three steps forward and two steps back on the sandy soil called the scree. The guide traversed us back and forth up the mountain. He began with baby steps that left us frustrated. Taking three steps and resting over and over again for the first hour was frustrating. We were climbing under a full moon, and we could see clearly where we wanted to go, but he would not let us get ahead of him. He knew more than we knew. He was letting our bodies slowly adjust to the ever increasing altitude. After the first hour, we were begging him to slow down. The pace was grueling. It was still only three steps, but now we would collapse in exhaustion and then get up and take three more. The cold was intense. Water froze in our canteens, and the dust from the scree coated our tongues. We would break off ice from the mountain to try and get moisture, but it refused to melt in our mouths. A couple members of the team began to weaken, and that meant we had to carry them on our backs or abandon the climb. One of the team members began to hallucinate and started back down the mountain. I tackled him, and then carried him back up to the rest of the team. It was a very long night.
The guide said very little to us, but he stayed with us every step of the way. If we followed him and the sound of his voice we would make it to the top. If we lost contact with him, we were in trouble. No words can describe the joy we felt at reaching the lower summit at dawn. The bright morning sun rising up out of the clouds on the horizon was spectacular. The guide said he would take us farther if we wanted to go to Uhuru peak. It was only another 500 feet high. Six of us went with him, but we discovered the next few hundred feet would take us over five hours. The path took us across the glacier, and with the warming of the snow cap, we would collapse up to our waists and have to dig out of the ice over and over and over again. Finally, we reached the highest point in Africa. We rested a few minutes and headed back down to the valley below. Interestingly, once we had been to the top of the mountain, the relatively low elevation that had bothered us the night before was not a factor. That story will have to wait.
Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 30:21)that a time would come when God would personally guide and direct their paths: "And your ears will hear a word behind you, 'This is the way, walk in it.' " Acts 9: 2 records one of the earliest references to Christ-followers as people of "The Way." This word for way can be translated journey, manner, path, or road. Proverbs describes the way of the Lord as a path leading to a mountain stronghold.
The first three chapters of Revelation reveal what Jesus spoke to His churches. He told them that the way would be rough. Seven times He warned His churches that they would have to overcome obstacles. There would be different challenges for each church. He promised each one that He knew exactly what they were going through, and offered them the overcoming power of His Spirit.
Upright reminds me of what Solomon said in his last will and testament. "God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices." Ecclesiastes 7:29 This word is often contrasted with the word "crooked." An upright person walks a straight, and honest road. A morally erect person is not constantly seeking a detour that will lead to destruction. Paul puts it in great company, "devoutly, and uprightly and blamelessly." I Thess. 2:10
David, Solomon's father, used the word "stronghold" (fortress or refuge) as a favorite theme. "For God is my stronghold." Psalm 59:9,17 David was driven more than once to the high ground that God wanted him to take in order to find victory over his enemies.
Only the foolish person would disregard the voice of God guiding them to a place of strength and security. With God as our guide, there is no need to get ahead of Him or to drag our feet behind Him. His pace for the race is always right for us. What may seem like a delay is meant to prepare us to receive His best. Listen to His voice today and let the sun rise on a new adventure in your walk with Him.