I like to walk. I enjoy it. Flat is good, undulations are OK, and mountains are still on my list, despite my age. The climb to a mountain top can be daunting but the views keep me coming back. Most walkers recognise the feeling we get when we aim for a peak, only to discover as we reach it that there’s a higher summit still to come. That’s how I felt when I tackled Kinder Scout in the Derbyshire ‘High Peak’ area. Kinder Scout isn’t very high. At 636 metres (2087 feet) it’s scarcely big enough to be called a mountain, but it has huge historical significance in Britain. This was the place where, in 1932, a crowd of ramblers staged a “mass trespass”, facing down a bunch of armed gamekeepers. Their bravery led to legal changes that opened up the countryside to ordinary people. The knowledge of that event drew me there.
The lower slopes aren’t especially steep, but they can feel relentless. As I climbed, Kinder’s long ridge was hidden from view but, passing through another stile, I saw the steep slope of the “Swine’s Back” at one end of the looming ridge, and I rather hoped that the path would skirt around it. I noticed a shallower slope up to the ridge, but the path didn’t go that way. It led straight up the steeper peak (now I knew why they called it the Swine’s Back). I told myself “This is gonna be tough!”’, but as I got closer, I was relieved to find a flight of steps cut into the rock face. Whoever built those steps – thank you! [i]
As I started to climb, the phrase “one step at a time” came into my head. That’s a lesson for life. Steps don’t make hills less steep, but they make climbing more achievable. The phrase was a reminder of my spiritual journey. Being a Christian means accepting God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, but it’s much more than that. It means becoming one of his close followers, his disciples, which can involve some difficult pathways. In his “Sermon on the mount”, Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” [ii] It’s a familiar saying, but climbing was a good context to recall it! Being a disciple of Christ doesn’t guarantee us an easy life, but it does offer the chance to experience great beauty. It’s not an easy pathway, but it’s worth every effort.
Christians are not called to leap into instant sainthood, but we are called to follow the way of righteousness. No matter how determined we may be, this is a lifetime journey. We make mistakes. We come across challenges that we fear may overwhelm us. We encounter doubts, fears, and temptations. We come across false disciples who say the right words but don’t follow up with right actions. We meet weaker folk who need our help to make the journey. We face doubts and discouragements. But there’s always a source of strength to take the next step – and each step counts.
The way of righteousness is often challenging but, in the words of John Bunyan’s old hymn, “no discouragement will make me once relent” my “first avowed intent to be a pilgrim” [iii]. I’ll keep pressing onwards, but I don’t expect to reach the ultimate goal in one bound. I’ll take it one step at a time.
© Derrick Phillips 2022
[i] N.B. I was already some way up the steps before I took the photo that heads this blog. The Swine’s Back is higher than that!
[ii] Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
[iii] From John Bunyan’s hymn, “He who would valiant be” (originally quoted in his book “The Pilgrim’s Progress“
Since the pathway is challenging, would you like a guidebook? The Bible is just that, but maybe a shorter book would help unpack its lessons? My Goodness! Reasonable Holiness is just that. It’s a straightforward, reasonable study of the Bible’s teaching about personal holiness, with practical guidance on how to follow that path, step-by-step. I wrote it out of my own up-and-down experience during over 60 years of discipleship, and my cover-to-cover readings of the Bible each year of that journey. We don’t know what trials we may face in the future, or even what challenges may come our way in the next 24 hours. But we are reassured by the last words Jesus uttered when he was on earth – I am with you always.
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Search for My Goodness! Reasonable Holiness