Three men - Three Mountains
Intro: There’s something about men and mountains. As long as their have been mountains, there have been men who’ve tried to climb them, sometimes at great cost.
We all know the tallest mountain in the world is Mt. Everest. 28,000 feet of snow and ice and danger. Dozens of men have lost their lives trying to scale it. The first to do it was Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. Since then hundreds have made it. Not too long a go a blind man made it to the top and back!
I have my concerns about folks who find it necessary to risk so much to accomplish so little.
Christians don’t have to look for mountains to climb. If they are doing things right, living for the Lord, the mountains will come to them. Not mountains made of stone and dirt, but mountains made of difficulty and hardship. Just look at God’s Word. Can you find a single person who didn’t face some kind of major obstacle?
If you are doing things right, the mountains will come to you. Count on it. This morning I want you to understand that…
Mountains are the insurmountable obstacles God puts in our lives.
We’ll let the experiences of three men who faced three mountains teach us how to respond when a mountain gets in our way…
I. The biblical accounts
A. David’s mountain
You know this story, so I won’t go into great detail. The Israelites were at war with the Philistines. They gathered together for battle with one army on one mountain and one on the other. But they were at a standstill. The Philistines were so confident of their victory they challenged the Israelites to find one man who could defeat their greatest warrior. For forty days their greatest warrior would challenge them from the valley, mocking them and their God.
This warrior was a monster:
Then a champion named Goliath, from Gath, came out from the Philistine camp. He was nine feet, nine inches tall and wore a bronze helmet and bronze scale armor that weighed 125 pounds. There was bronze armor on his shins, and a bronze sword was slung between his shoulders. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s beam, and the iron point of his spear weighed 15 pounds. In addition, a shield-bearer was walking in front of him. 1 Samuel 17:4-7 (HCSB)
This guy was a mountain walking on two legs! He was also an obstacle in the way of the Israelites. And then little David, the shepherd boy came along to deliver cheese to his big strong brave brothers…
Then it happened when the Philistine rose and came and drew near to meet David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground. 1 Samuel 17:48-49 (NASB95)
All that drama ends in two simple verses. Bam! The mountain is gone in five seconds.
Now we go back to an earlier time in Israel’s history. The people of God are suffering under the thumb of the Midianites. This is their mountain at this time…
B. Gideon’s mountain
One day a nobody named Gideon is beating out the wheat in a winepress (hiding!) and the Angel of the Lord appears to him and says, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.” Huh?
God finally convinces Gideon that the Midianites can be defeated. He starts out with 32,000 men, but God says that’s too many. The scaredy cats are asked to leave and 22,000 scurry home. 10,000 is still too many. God culls it down to 300 of the best men. Just 300 men to take down a mountain of an army…
When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” Each stood in his place around the camp; and all the army ran, crying out as they fled. When they blew 300 trumpets, the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled … and they pursued Midian. Judges 7:20-23 (NASB95)
Three hundred men took on what the Scripture says was an army so vast it looked like a swarm of locusts. What a victory.
The last man we’ll look at this morning is way over in the NT. I know you’ve heard of him. His name is Paul…
C. Paul’s mountain
Paul waged a one-man campaign against the Christians and then he saw Jesus. Everything changed. As Paul heads to Damascus, the Lord speaks to Ananias and reveals the mountain in his life…
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; Acts 9:15 (NASB95)
There are twelve apostles to handle the Jews, yet God assigns one apostle to all the Gentiles! Gideon’s odds were better. But amazingly, during the lifetime of Paul it was said of him that he upset the world…
… they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; Acts 17:6 (NASB95)
All of us here this morning are the fruit of Paul’s ministry.
Three men, three mountains, one great big God! From their stories we learn…
II. A few things about mountains
Whenever we face a mountain in life, there are three choices available.
A. Walk away from it
If anyone had a reason to walk away from a mountain, it was Evelyn Husband. Her husband was killed in the Columbia space shuttle tragedy, leaving her with two small children and a broken heart. But she didn’t walk away, and in God’s strength she saw the mountain of living a life without Rick move. God has used her to help many people.
Another thing you can do is…
B. Go around it
You can try to find a way to avoid having to deal with it. David could have sought a compromise Goliath. Gideon could have sought a truce. Paul could have done just enough to get by and felt justified in that. But whenever we try to go around a mountain God has put in our life, we spend the rest of our days living with what if’s and deep regret.
In the late 1940s, Charles Templeton was a close friend and preaching associate of Billy Graham. He effectively preached the gospel to large crowds in major arenas. However, intellectual doubts began to nag at him. He questioned the truth of Scripture and other core Christian beliefs. He finally abandoned his faith and made an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Billy to do the same. He felt sorry for Billy and commented, "He committed intellectual suicide by closing his mind." Templeton resigned from the ministry and became a novelist and news commentator. He also wrote a critique of the Christian faith, Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith.
Journalist Lee Strobel interviewed him for his book, The Case for Faith. Templeton was 83 and suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He revealed some of the reasons he left the faith:
I started considering the plagues that sweep across parts of the planet and indiscriminately kill—more often than not, painfully—all kinds of people, the ordinary, the decent, and the rotten. And it just became crystal clear to me that it is not possible for an intelligent person to believe that there is a deity who loves.
Lee Strobel then asked him about Jesus and was surprised at the response. Templeton believed Jesus lived but never really considered himself to be God:
He was the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I've ever encountered in my life or in my readings. He's the most important thing in my life. I know it may sound strange, but I have to say I adore him! Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. He is the most important human being who has ever existed. And if I may put it this way, I miss Him.
Templeton's eyes filled with tears and he wept freely. He refused to say more. – Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith (Zondervan, 2000), pp. 7-23; submitted by Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Canada
Now some of you might be thinking: What about climbing over it?
No. The mountains God puts in our lives are too big and it would be too hard. And even if you could, you’d think you did something and it would still be there if you ever needed to pass that way again. The only option for the Christian is…
C. Move the whole of it
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt… even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. Matthew 21:21 (NASB95)
God puts the mountains in our lives and He also moves them. When we respond to the prospect of moving a mountain with faith and obedience, we are assured it they will come down. Note these two words…
David had to do more than just say he believed God could take down that mountain walking on two legs, he had to sling a stone. Gideon had to do more than just say he believed God could defeat the Midianites, he had to march an army. Paul had to do more than just say he believed God could save the Gentiles, he had to preach the Gospel one city at time enduring the most difficult of circumstances.
Sometimes it happens in a few seconds like David. Sometimes a few days like Gideon. And sometimes thousands of years like Paul. Sometimes God moves it all at once. Sometimes He moves it through us one shovel at a time. But when we respond with faith and obedience, God responds by moving the mountain.
Conclusion : Now one reason I’m preaching this message is that we, as a church, have a mountain before us: the mountain of paying for our new family life center. And hopefully you have prayed about doing your part. Today is the day we make our faith commitments to the Lord and begin seeing this mountain come down.
But another reason I’m preaching this message is that all of us are facing or will face a mountain on our lives. It may be the mountain of getting over the loss of a loved one, the mountain of being single when you want to be double, of experiencing a health problem, a financial problem, a relationship problem, and the list could go on.
Know this, folks, because you are a Christian all these things are obstacles God allowed to be there, and if He allowed them to be there, there’s a reason for it. He wants you to respond by faith and obedience to see those mountains come down.