We can learn a lot of lessons by studying mountains in the bible. It is amazing how many of the lessons of life can be observed in the lives of others as well. Today we are going to look at the life of Tommy Caldwell. Tommy Caldwell is a tremendous mountain climber. This article will use the movie “The Dawn Wall” for illustrative purposes. His life and this movie reveal some powerful kingdom lessons.
The first thing that you need to understand is that mountains have a lot of spiritual significance in the Word of God. It was on a mountain, that Moses had his encounters with Jehovah God and received the Law. It was on a mountain, when Abraham was going to sacrifice his son, and God provided a ram in the bush. It was to a mountain that Elijah fled and God spoke to him in a still small voice. It was on mount Calvary where Jesus died. And so mountains in the bible have spiritual significance.
And the bible also speaks of our life as well, as a journey, as a trek. And as we go down life’s journey, the path sometimes seems uphill. Sometimes a mountain is in our path. You may be reading this article and feel like you are climbing a mountain. It may not have been a physical mountain, but you are facing some mountains in your life. They may be financial. They may be physical. They may be relational. They may be ministry mountains. In the kingdom of God, we are told that mountains would stand in our path.
Matthew 21:21 “So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.”
I love this verse because it tells me this phrase. If you have faith and do not doubt. I want you to understand it takes faith to live your life. It takes faith to overcome. Now the verse also tells us to speak the mountain. I believe in that. Faith is demonstrated by what comes out of your mouth. But there will be mountains in life that will move when you pray and that’s it. I have prayed about some things, spoke to it, and bam God moves them. There are other mountains that you will not only have to pray about, but you will have to overcome them one painstaking step at a time.
So let me read to you about this movie as this movie brings to us some important lessons. In January, 2015, American rock climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson captivated the world with their effort to climb the Dawn Wall, a seemingly impossible 3,000 foot rock face in Yosemite National Park, California. The pair lived on the sheer vertical cliff for weeks, igniting a frenzy of global media attention. But for Tommy Caldwell, the Dawn Wall was much more than just a climb. It was the culmination of a lifetime defined by overcoming obstacles. At the age of 22, the climbing prodigy was taken hostage by rebels in Kyrgyzstan. Shortly after, he lost his index finger in an accident, but resolved to come back stronger. When his marriage fell apart, he escaped the pain by fixating on the extraordinary goal of free climbing the Dawn Wall. Blurring the line between dedication and obsession, Caldwell and his partner Jorgeson spend six years meticulously plotting and practicing their route.
Clip 1 – Introduction to the Dawn Wall – 16:25-20:36
Like Tommy and Kevin, as believers we want to reach the summit. I hope you that you are able to see yourself in this movie. Not that you are going to climb the Dawn wall next week. But believe it or not, this movie is really a movie about all of us as believers. Our goal is to reach the summit, to make heaven. We don’t do it all at once. We make that climb, that journey, one day at a time.
Tommy felt an urge that could be described as a calling to climb that wall. And I want to call Tommy Caldwell a hero, because he had a vision to do something no one else had ever done. And all adventure movies, or good stories are about people who feel called. Whether its Frodo Baggins or anyone else, they are on a journey, and it is the mountains they climb that make a good story.
Now very few us are going to do anything at all like what these guys did. But all of us, you and me, we are attempting our own journey and race. God has a heroes’ journey set out for you. You may not realize it, but you are a hero. The truth is that as God looks at each one of our lives and sees what we go through and sees the things we conquer. He sees us as winners, how should I put it in fact, he even declares it, we are more than a conqueror. More than a hero. But the truth is that so many times we can’t win by ourselves.
In fact, there is an interesting switch that comes between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, there were singular heroes. We have David fighting Goliath. We have Elijah calling down fire from heaven against 450 prophets of Baal. We have Moses and his mountain experiences. We have Jeremiah standing alone against the wickedness in the world. But when you get to the New Testament. There are heroes, sure. There are guys like Paul the apostle who did great things for God, but interestingly enough they are not singular heroes. It becomes more of Paul and Silas. Or Paul and Timothy. In fact, as kingdom brothers we are commissioned to go two by two.
So, it is with the story of our lives. We think we start out on a heroes journey to be more than a conqueror, but we find out that we really do better if we are not alone. So there are kingdom lessons, I want to show you today, as you are on your journey, your trek, your climb.
Kingdom Lessons about Mountains in the Bible
- Don’t be Dissuaded by a Slow Start.
Tommy Caldwell had a slow start. He didn’t even crawl until he was two years of age. He was not a strong physical child, he was even slow in school. But his Father mentored him and challenged him a great deal.
Clip 2- A Slow Start 2:33-4:15
You may think, I don’t really have what it takes to climb the challenge of life. Here is the thing. The way you start doesn’t have to be the way you end up. We have in our culture a system. And we say, “Do the system and if you do the system you will be okay.” There is a large percentage of people who do well inside that system. There is another group of people who just don’t do well in that system.
Here is a kid named Tommy, who is a prodigy, a mean a world class talent, at something. His teachers think he is mentally challenged. He is an athlete that can be put up alongside any professional athlete in the world, and the system is not designed to do anything with that, but they say, you are slow. This guy is amazing. He is going to do a feat that nobody in the world has done before and he can’t crawl until he is past two years of age. That would cause a lot of us if we were his parents to say, hopefully he will be smart because physically he is not going to go too far. Isn’t that a crazy thing? Most of us would have figured out his whole life by age 2.
God doesn’t put such limits on people. God enjoys taking people with slow starts or those who are disadvantaged in some way. This is such a pattern with God. This is such a God story because God can raise up people in spite of their weakness, disadvantages, brokenness, or what have you. In fact, the truth is that he delights in it.
1 Corinthians 1:27 “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;”
There is this pattern that God has of focusing and kind of showing off his glory through people that might have a disadvantage in some way. If you have your eyes opened up to this truth, you will never read the bible the same. Because it is almost like you can just shout out a famous person in the bible and you will see that that person was disadvantaged in some way.
Almost all of them are slow starters in some way. Take Abraham for example. He was chosen by God to be the starter of God’s special nation. His name at first was Abram means Exalted Father. And yet Abraham is completely past the age of ever having kids. And his wife, if we could put it like this, she is the past the change. So, God tells him. Look Abram, I am going to change your name from exalted Father to Father of many nations. And guess what, by faith, he and Sarah did have a son.
David was the same way. The prophet comes into Jessie’s house and says, one of your sons is going to be the new anointed king. And Jessie brings in seven of his sons, and lines them all up, and the prophet goes, no, no, nope, nope. He says, “Don’t you have any more sons?” His dad, oh yeah, there is David, he is out taking care of the sheep. Can you imagine how rough would that be on your self-esteem? It never even occurred to him that David should be brought into the house. His dad obviously never considered that it would be David that would be the next king.
And the list goes on and on. They may not have been slow starters. But each one had something in his life that said, you will never amount to anything.
Jacob was a cheater,
Peter had a temper,
Noah got drunk.
Jonah ran from God,
Paul was a murderer,
Gideon was insecure,
Miriam was a gossiper,
Martha was a worrier,
Thomas was a doubter,
Sara was impatient,
Elijah was moody,
Zacheus was too short,
and Lazarus was dead.
God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called!
So don’t be dissuaded by a slow start. Don’t be dissuaded by your kids slow start. You have to see yourself the way God sees you! He didn’t see your limitations, he sees your possibilities. He doesn’t look at how you began, he knows how you could end. He knows that his empowerment is greater. You can’t climb a mountain if you allow your disadvantage to hinder you.
And then there is a second lesson we learn. One of the big mountains in the bible we have to get past is our past.
- Figure out How to Get Past Your Past.
Some of you might be thinking, Bob, you know that whole heroes journey thing where God has something special for us. Maybe that would have been true, but I have done some things and made some mistakes that I am pretty sure would have disqualified me. I mean, I am sure God had a plan, and it used to be WOW!! But now that I have blown it is just like… well okay whatever.
Tommy had some things that he had to overcome in his past. While serving in the military in Afghanistan, he and several of his comrades were captured. Tommy made a decision to push the captor off of the mountain and cause his death to free his captors. This bothered him greatly. Immediately after, he started to weep.
Clip 3 Haunted by the Past 12:46-16:26
Part of our journey is figuring out how to get past our past. You can’t climb a mountain if you have images of people in your mind falling off the mountain. Tommy didn’t need to be focused on feeling guilty if he was going to climb a mountain. And neither do you.
And actually, this sports documentary goes about as deep as you can go. It brings up this fundamental human existential need every person has to justify themselves. Humans have this. It used to be that we had better mental ways to think about these things…but I feel like we are losing that. This is why we do certain things. Humans are so quick to do this. Why do we compare ourselves to each other? Why do we always trying to impress each other? Why do we always try to improve ourselves? Why it is so hard for us to admit that we screwed up and that we messed up, and its really hard to admit that especially when it’s real. We need to feel like we are okay. We need to feel like we are not condemned.
And this sometimes transfers into those 3:00 in the morning times when you wake up and you feel like things are bad. Have you ever woken up at 3:00 in the morning and just thinking everything is just going perfect for me right now? Probably not! No, at 3:00 I am a loser. At 3:00 its dark. At 3:00 it difficult. Actually, we live with this feeling like we are floating in a sea of condemnation. And that is why people are so quick to condemn each other and judge each other, because it is the very water that we are swimming in.
We have a need to get out of that. And this is so interesting and human. And the first thought we have is usually, some means of self-justification. We tell our friends. What do you feel bad about, you did what you had to do! Or you are human, you did what you did and it couldn’t be helped. And sometimes that helps. As we think about what Tommy did to save his fellow soldiers, I am sure that immediately his friends said, hey you saved our lives. I am sure his dad said to him, “Hey, it was you or him…you did the right thing.” But sometimes those words can’t get down into that part of us, that bothers us.
This is one of the things that the Bible is all about. That feeling of being justified. That feeling of being set free from the burden of the past. This is what I know about God. God has a good future for you. He has good plans for you. But you can’t climb the mountain, until you get past your past. That is why one of the most important mountains in the bible is Mount Calvary where Christ died, because on that mountain, he paid the penalty for our sinful pasts.
I want to tell you that I have things in my past, I would be very embarrassed to put up on this screen. But, I want you to know, I don’t feel guilty. I don’t feel condemned. Why? Because Jesus paid my price. I have been justified. I have been made just as if I’d never sinned. That is what the blood of Jesus does for us
Romans 5:1-2 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Once we find that internal peace. Once we are justified. Once that weight is lifted. Hope comes. You can’t climb a mountain without hope.
- Endurance -Persistence and Perseverance – Don’t Get Discouraged.
Now everyone knows that every movie needs a bad guy. Well, if there is a bad guy to this movie, it is pitch 15. It is that part of the climb that is most difficult. While Tommy made it through pitch 15, Kevin was struggling and could not seem to make it through. After many attempts he was about to give up.
Clip 4 – Pitch 15 – 1:03:15-1:06
The obvious lesson in this, is that we have to choose in our lives. We choose endurance. We choose persistence. We choose to persevere. And the truth is that it is sometimes not easy to stay encouraged. That is why one of the most important mountains in the bible was Mount Carmel where Elijah fled after being confronted by Jezebel. It was on the mountain he found hope as God spoke to him to continue his ministry.
Is there anyone who has ever felt discouraged about your progress in life? What is your pitch 15? What is the thing that gets you discouraged? Because you know what Kevin is going to decide. He is going to tell Tommy. Look, I can’t do this. I am going to be that guy who spent six years on this climb, and I got this far and couldn’t do it. But you go ahead. You go all the way to the top. And I will cheer you on. But I just can’t.
And there is definitely a battle there. So, let’s talk about what happens when we factor God into our lives. Because the truth is all of have a pitch 15. We all have something we need to overcome. We have something we struggle with. We have something that tests our faith.
James 1:3-4 NASB “knowing that the testing of your faith produce endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
You see, endurance has a result that God is going for. The result is that you are perfect and complete. In the Greek that doesn’t mean that you are without fault. It means is that you are who you are supposed to be. You are mature. You are complete. You are whole. Here is the key. We know that when we are in a season where we have to exercise endurance, there is something going on. God is actually using our setbacks, and our frustrations, and our disappointments to do something in us. We have our mountain to climb, we have our goals. But God has his project. And his project is us.
So, we have the thing that is causing us to have to persevere and endure. And we have the good thing that God is doing in us. And all of us have our pitch 15. But we know that God is saying, yeah, you will complete your pitch. But in the process, I am making you more into my image. Every time you slip off the rock. Every time you keep battling the same sin. Every time your relationships struggle. Every time you get frustrated. God is doing something.
All our prayers seem to be about the pitch, but what God is doing in you I am doing in you is actually the bigger point.
Where this movie goes to the nest level is in the next lesson. So Tommy has gone on, and every day he is getting farther and farther ahead. And so Tommy is going to finish, and Kevin is going to be the guy that came along and was just not able to do it. And there is this point in the movie where the movie takes a whole awesome turn. Tommy decides to come down and go into “full support mode” to help Kevin across pitch 15.
Clip 4 -Finish Together 1:19:00 – 1:22;30
And so here is the obvious point.
- Let’s Finish Together –
That was a powerful decision that Tommy made. I mean, wow! And there are a lot of verses in the bible that talk about our faith. That talk about our lives. Probably one of the most famous verses is Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”
When we see that verse, most of us have this mental image of ourselves, and we are running in a race, and we are competing against others, and we are in that race alone. The finish line is out there and our goal is to cross that line. And we come across the line, and we throw our hands up in victory, and we are getting cheered. We go alone to get our prize.
We envision that as something we do alone, individually. But I don’t think that is what really the author of Hebrews had in mind. In this movie and in our lives, what starts out as a heroes’ journey ends up being about friendship. Look at this verse.
Hebrews 12:12-13 “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God;”
The mountains in the bible that we have to conquer often require that we work together. No one makes it to heaven on their own. We need each other. We are to strengthen the hands that hang down, the feeble knees. We are to look carefully that no one would fall short of the grace of God. It is critical that we decide that we are going to finish together.
And did you hear what Tommy said as he made that decision. He said, It is time for me to go into full on support mode. There are times in life and seasons in life where your calling is going to be that you go into full on support mode. Why? So your brother can make the climb. So that somebody else can have a victory. And maybe you will never ever get recognized as far as this earth goes. But I can assure you that God sees.
On that day, God will say, Do you see that victory that you got? That is because of you. Well done, good and faithful servant. It is not always about us being on the metal stand or us crossing the tape first. Sometimes it is about us being in full on support mode. Do you want to see them reach the top?
Clip 5 – the Finish – 1:27;05 -1:31:08
The rejoicing that day on the top of the dawn wall is going to be insignificant in comparison to the rejoicing that will take place in heaven. There is a reference to the mountain of the Lord. That is heaven my friend. The mountains in the bible are conquered together and one day we will rejoice with each other on that mountain referred to as “the side of the North.”