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  • Claiming a Mountain November 3, 2017

    Header Mountain

    My father, Henry Blackaby, always seemed to be called to difficult places. Each time he moved to a new assignment, his situation became more difficult. His first church was in a crime-riddled neighborhood of San Francisco. God helped him turn it around. He was then called to a church in Los Angeles that had suffered a traumatic three-way split. God transformed that broken church into a thriving congregation. My father then undertook a church in Saskatoon, Canada, that had dwindled to only ten members. The bestselling book, Experiencing God, tells some of what God did there. My mother used to joke that every time my father was called to a new church, he took a cut in pay and she had a baby. She claimed that eventually, for both reasons, it seemed prudent not to take another church!

    Unsurprisingly, when I began looking at churches I might pastor, my father steered me to the most difficult one. One church that contacted me was a steady congregation that appeared to be devoid of major issues. Another church, however, seemed plagued with every imaginable ailment that could befall a congregation. I had no doubt which congregation my father thought I should take! Looking back on that time, it clearly was the best decision I could have made.

    I have always been inspired by the story of Caleb. He was chosen by Moses to be one of the twelve spies who reconnoitered Canaan. When ten of the spies succumbed to doubt and fear, Caleb and Joshua boldly declared that God would give them victory (Num. 13:30). Nevertheless, Caleb spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness because his colleagues failed to believe. He then spent the next five years serving under Joshua’s generalship as the Israelites conquered Canaan. As Joshua grew older, it became clear that there was still much land to conquer, yet it would not be the renowned general who would obtain those victories (Josh. 13:1).

    It was at that point that Caleb approached his good friend Joshua with a spectacular request. “Give me this mountain,” he asked. This was not just any mountain. It was one he had spied on 45 years earlier. It was allegedly inhabited by fierce giants called Anakim. These giants had sent ten of the spies into spasms of fear and weeping. Everyone knew that mountains were the most difficult places to conquer. Fortresses could be built atop them. Attackers would have to advance uphill while the defenders rained arrows and spears down on their heads. No one wants to fight uphill battles.

    Caleb, as one of the two most prominent leaders in Israel, could have claimed a fertile valley or lush plain for his inheritance. No one would blame him for settling beside a quiet stream or a tranquil lake. Instead, Caleb chose a hard place. Thousands of years later we are still inspired by his courage and character.

    Modern society craves the easy life. Students search for classes that are taught by “easy” professors. People don’t want to pay the price of reading in order to become informed, yet they insist on expressing their opinions. Employees look for jobs that pay well and ask for little. We all have dealt with service professionals who sought to make as little effort as possible to meet your need. The growing problem is that society is filled with people who want to do as little work as possible, yet feel entitled to maximum benefits.

    Such attitudes are creating a crisis in character. Laziness deadens the soul. Easy lives are not praiseworthy. There is no nobility in doing the least possible. Hence, we have large segments of society who have no pride in their efforts or their work. They merely live for Friday.

    Oh that there were more Calebs in today’s world! Society needs people who look for problems to solve rather than people to blame.

    I recently spoke at a conference at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. My associate had shipped several boxes of books to the Fed Ex office at the hotel to sell before and after my 7:30 a.m. presentation. My associate had been told the FedEx office would open at 6:30 a.m. for him to retrieve the boxes. When we arrived at 6:45, we met a young FedEx employee. We told her we had come to retrieve our boxes. She checked her computer and discovered that the boxes were still in their warehouse. Someone had failed to bring them to her office the evening before. We asked where the warehouse was so we could go and get our boxes. She apologized and said that only official personnel could enter. She told us the warehouse would not begin delivering boxes to the hotel until 7:30. By that time, the 7,000 people attending my lecture would already have walked by our empty resource table without purchasing anything.

    At that point, I prepared myself for the young lady to shrug her shoulders and tell me there was nothing she could do. Rules were rules. A mistake had been made, but it was not her fault. Then she surprised me. She realized we were in a difficult position because of the neglect of one of her colleagues. She mentioned that she was not very busy at that hour and that she would temporarily close her office and go to the warehouse to retrieve our boxes. Sure enough, she soon returned with our boxes, and we were able to sell numerous books to that morning’s audience.

    I was impressed. Sadly, I was also surprised. The young lady had not made the mistake. She might have been reprimanded by her boss for closing the store without permission. It would have been easier to say it was not her problem and leave us to deal with the consequences. But she chose to do the hard thing. To embrace a problem and to solve it. Oh that more people would choose that approach in conducting their business!

    This issue is particularly poignant for me right now. I have had the pleasure of attending the same church as all three of my adult children, as well as my four grandchildren. My oldest son, Mike, is the single adult minister. We get to see him and his family at church every week. But not for much longer. He has accepted a call to plant a church in Victoria, Canada. Victoria is an extremely secular, unchurched region of North America. Mike has never planted a church before. In his current job, Mike is paid well. He owns his own house and enjoys a comfortable lifestyle. But that will change. The cost of living in Victoria is much higher than in Atlanta, Georgia. His salary will be much more tenuous as well. Mike has chosen to leave a comfortable assignment, surrounded by friends and family, to undertake a difficult assignment with no guarantee of success.

    As his father, it is painful to watch him pack up his possessions and my two grandsons to move 2,000 miles away. But on another level, I could not be more proud. I don’t want to have a son who constantly brags about getting something for nothing. I want my children to launch out and conquer mountains for God. I want them to charge toward giants when everyone else is fleeing in fear. Better to invest your life in conquering mountains than to squander it vainly searching for comfort and ease.

    What mountain are you currently claiming?