One of the things I often do for exercise is run up and down stairs in a high rise building. My goal has been 7 flights 7 times, as I pray for Christians who are persecuted here in the dark corner of the world where God has called us, and for the millions who have yet to hear Jesus’ name. But a few days ago, as I prayed for a Christian brother struggling with sin, I stopped a flight too low. When I hurriedly turned around to go back up, I tripped and nearly fell! I heard the Lord saying to my heart, “Tell him he must not stop. He must go all the way with Me. If he stops too soon, he’ll fall again. Tell him, ‘You must go all the way to win the prize.‘” Galatians 5:1, Hebrews 12:1-3.
Actually, the Lord is telling me that now. What about you? Where have you fallen back? When did you stop pressing forward in the Lord for freedom from that stronghold that controls your thoughts and reactions instead of the Holy Spirit?
Recently, I climbed the stairs again, and got so caught up in worship and prayer, I didn’t focus on how far I went. Sometimes I stopped at 7 floors, sometimes 6, sometimes 8. When at last I finished my seventh round and was ready to head home, I felt the Lord whisper, “Press on.”
He became the air in my lungs, the beat of my heart, the energy that flowed through my body.
I ran higher and faster, past floors I’d never seen before, each with new discoveries unavailable on the lower levels I had frequented.
A soft bed, tucked in the stairwell somewhere around floor 15, reminded me of the peace and rest that overtook my frazzled heart when I learned to surrender my every moment to Christ to make it His. Isaiah 30:15a.
A writing desk, somewhere around floor 23, reminded me that, before God anointed me to write together with Him books that make a difference, I first had to let Him re-write the pages of my own heart and mind, knocking down lies with His truth, and setting me free to flow in His Spirit.
Somewhere around the 25th floor, a human-sized vase, gilded with intricate flowers of gold, surprised me. What such an exquisitely detailed masterpiece was doing in a dank stairwell, hiding its beauty from the world, I have no idea. But it brought to mind 2 Timothy 2:20: The Lord wants to make us vessels for His glory. So, what on earth are we, His masterpieces, doing hanging out in dark corners?
“Wasting His grace.” That’s what a dear local brother here calls it when we veer from God’s plans to chase our own, when we trade in the golden vase to become stinky pots used for unholy purposes.
Upward and upward we climbed, the Lord and I, and not once did I think of quitting, for His Spirit empowered me.
He gave me instructions along the way, like to walk across certain floors, and then pick up the climb at a different stairwell. But never did we stop moving upward.
That’s what this life with Him is supposed to look like. Not 7 steps up, 7 steps back. Not mountain highs, and valley lows.
Once you truly fix your eyes on Jesus, you can’t help but keep climbing. Getting closer and closer to Him is all you ever want.
Even if you stumble, there’s no retreating. Even if He keeps you on a plateau until you learn whatever He’s teaching you, you don’t dive off the cliff. There’s no rock-bottom when you go through trials in Jesus’ arms. Every difficulty becomes a chance to press in all the harder, hear Him all the louder, obey Him all the more, and draw all the nearer to the One you love.
I know what it’s like to ride that spiritual roller coaster you might feel you’re on, because I used to waver up and down, and sideways, even. But, then … Jesus … He stole into my quiet times, toppled my lies with His truth, and set me free. Each time a stronghold fell, I could hear His voice louder, feel His presence stronger. Why would I throw away LIFE — for He is the very air I breathe — and go back to snuffing up vomit, as 2 Peter 2:22 so graphically puts it? Galatians 5:1.
You get the point. Anyway, I continued to climb that stairwell with the Lord, until we reached the topmost floor anyone who rides the elevator knows about — anyone who takes the easy way up.
But there was one more secret floor above that one, for those who refuse to stop with “I’ve finally arrived.” And above that highest level reached a ladder up, up, up to an open portal to the heavens.
There comes a point in drawing near to God, when our hearts are so surrendered that His Spirit overtakes us. HE is the One Who empowers us to climb higher and higher, uncovering mysteries and treasures of His love we never found at lower levels of faith.
If we press on in Him, He will open up a portal above us, where we can touch the things of Heaven even here on earth. Then, not even the sky will be the limit of what He will do in us, through us, and all around us.