What are you pursuing most earnestly in your life at the moment? The US Declaration of Independence enshrines the right to the pursuit of happiness, and I suspect this is what most of us think of as most important—or at least we live like that’s true.
The more worthy and joyful pursuit is to strive to know Jesus Christ more and more. While in prison, Paul writes that he is willing to lose everything if only he “may know [Christ] and the power of his resurrection…” (Philippians 3:10).
We will never know Jesus fully until he returns are we see him face-to-face (1 Corinthians 13:12). Until then, we must seek continually to draw closer to him. Charles Spurgeon compares this pursuit to climbing a mountain:
“When we first believe in Christ we see but little of him. The higher we climb the more we discover of his beauties. But who has ever gained the summit? Who has known all the heights and depths of the love of Christ which passes knowledge?”1
This mountain metaphor is helpful because it emphasises that knowing Christ will require toil. When the way is easy, we are probably walking along a plateau rather than climbing any higher. Suffering affords us a better view; the glimpse of a new vista.
Spurgeon references 2 Timothy 1:12, another one of Paul’s letters from prison:
“Paul, when grown old, sitting grey-haired, shivering in a dungeon in Rome, could say with greater emphasis than we can, “I know whom I have believed,” for each experience had been like the climbing of a hill, each trial had been like ascending another summit, and his death seemed like gaining the top of the mountain, from which he could see the whole of the faithfulness and the love of him to whom he had committed his soul.”
For many people, the gradual decline towards death is something to be feared. We delay it as long as possible. But from Spurgeon’s perspective, this is actually the well-trodden path to ultimate joy. Whatever good things we see and experience in this life, we only reach that magnificent summit at death.
So with all the energy God gives us today, let’s pursue knowledge of Jesus Christ. Strap on your hiking boots and heed Spurgeon’s advice: “Get thee up, dear friend, into the high mountain.”
How can we do this? In the passage Spurgeon quoted previously, Paul goes on to urge Timothy to know and preserve the gospel: “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 2:13–14)
Keep pressing into that blessed mystery of the gospel. You can know Jesus by reading the Scriptures and digging deeper into its jewels. Our knowledge becomes deeper with suffering, as it strips away the pride and self-sufficiency in our hearts so we can more clearly see the truth.
When I am weary of the climb, I find encouragement in this poem by Amy Carmichael and pray it to God:
Make us Thy mountaineers—
We would not linger on the lower slope.
Fill us afresh with hope, O God of Hope,
That undefeated we may climb the hill
As seeing Him who is invisible.
Let us die climbing. When this little while
Lies far behind us, and the last defile
Is all alight, and in that light we see
Our Leader and our Lord—what will it be?
Let the stern array
Of the forbidding be a constant call
To fling into the climb my will, my all.
Teach me to climb.2