Summary: It is in the wilderness that God meets us.
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘mountains’? If you’ve been through Vermont, or out to Lake Louise, you probably think of majestic beauty. The image I used for the slide you see on the screen right now was taken just down the road from where we stayed in Quartzsite AZ. The mountains in this part of Arizona are rugged. They are skeletal, with no vegetation on them to hide their bare-bone beauty. But mountains aren’t always beautiful. For example, if you’re flying a plane, and it’s snowing, and your instruments just went out, mountains are nasty.
For some, mountains are objects to climb and conquer. To others, they are obstacles that cut us off from where we want to go. If you’re in a valley surrounded by them, mountains can make you feel claustrophobic. If you’ve just climbed to the summit, they can make you feel alive and free.
Well, if you look in God’s Word, you will find that God likes mountains. In fact, a lot of God's dealings with people happen on, or beside, or near mountains. For example, Abraham learned about God’s provision on a mountain when he interrupted Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. Moses met God, for the first time, on a mountain. God’s covenant with Israel was established at the base of a mountain. Both Aaron and Moses were buried on mountains. Jesus’ most famous teaching happened on a mountain and His transfiguration happened on a mountain. I could keep going, but you get the idea.
So today we are going to begin a series of sermons based on some of those mountain moments found in Scripture. As we look at these moments, I want you to consider the mountains you’ve faced, or you will face, or perhaps are even presently facing right now.
But before we begin, perhaps we should define what we mean by mountains. What is a mountain? A mountain is anything that is between you and your goals, your dreams, your hopes, your calling, or even your faith. Everyone faces mountains. Some mountains are challenges that are obviously good. Some mountains are difficulties that isolate us and seem too daunting to climb.
When Conley Holbrook called out "Momma" on the morning of February 25, 1991, it was a sound his family had long been waiting and praying to hear. Eight years had come and gone. Eight Christmases, eight birthdays had slipped away while Conley had been lying in a semi comatose state, unable to speak or interact with anyone.
Doctors were stumped. They couldn’t say with any certainty what caused Holbrook's startling return to the land of the living. Holbrook, then 26, was in Lexington Memorial Hospital, having been admitted for a minor case of pneumonia he had unexpectedly slipped into a coma. Just as unexpectedly, he returned to consciousness. His mother Effie said that nothing unusual happened to wake him that Monday morning. "I guess it was just Jesus," she said.
Amazingly, during those eight years, Effie Holbrook had remained convinced that her son would wake up one day. But, the long years of waiting took their toll on the family. Still, the family said the hardships and the waiting seem insignificant now that Conley was awake. "It's just a different world," John Holbrook, Conley’s father said. "It's just amazing. It's hard to believe."
“It’s just a different world!” What a wonderful way to describe Conley’s walk out of an eight-year-long journey through the wilderness! “It’s just a different world,” that’s how you feel when you’ve scaled the summit of your mountain and you first see the vistas on the other side.
Imagine what it was like waiting, expecting, anticipating, the day when Conley would wake up. How would it have felt, after 3 months, after 6 months, after a year, after three years, after seven? When is it time to give up? When is it time to stop praying? When is it time to stop waiting? Is there a time to stop waiting?
How many people enjoy waiting? No one enjoys waiting! I’ve been known to leave a store without buying what I went in for because I wasn’t willing to enduring the wait. Unfortunately waiting is a big part of life! We wait to grow up. We wait to get that first licence, that first date, we wait to finish school. We wait for that job, that promotion, that raise. We wait for holidays, and trips, and then some of us get married and spend the rest of our lives waiting for our wives and our children!
We wait for good news. We wait for doctor’s results. We wait to retire. Just think about all the waiting we do. How much of our lives seem like wasted time because we are unable to enjoy the “now” because we’re waiting for the “then”? Who likes to spin their wheels when there are needs to be met, things to get done, places we want to go? Who wants to feel like life is passing them by while they wait for that one thing to happen? Who likes to wait for this incredibly long introduction to be done so we can get on with the sermon?