August 5, 2013

“These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 2:23-3:2

I completed the 4 Summit Challenge.  It was not what I had expected.  This past summer my friends and I have been ride everything with a vertical grade to prepare us for this challenge.  I felt confident in my level of fitness to complete the ride.  However, that confidence was quickly consumed at the base of the vertiginous second summit.

040914CornersI was riding with a friend as we began our ascent but we soon separated into our little worlds of endurance as we sought our individual climbing cadence.  I knew early on that this was going to be a new and unpleasant experience.  I had already surrendered into my lowest gear when I caught a glimpse of the road miles ahead.  The road crossed from one side of the mountain to the other and then gouged itself upward in the form of three switch-backs.  It was like my own personal l’alpe d’huez.

71472755_0Miles of unrelenting slope were ahead of me, without the relief of a lower gear.  Therefore, I had to grind it out.  The resistance of the mountain was too great for me to keep a high cadence on my pedal stroke.  So, every turn of the pedal required more power than I wanted to expend.  My muscles burned from the constant tension on the pedal.  My heart pounded against the pride of falling below 5 mph.  The sweat poured off of me as I struggled to keep cycling in a straight line.

It was a rather pathetic display.  A display that was made more irritating by other cyclists passing me while carrying on a conversation.  I was not capable of conversation.  How could these freaks be talking so calmly while I am gasping for every ounce of oxygen I can suck through the gaping hole that was my mouth?

Cassette Replacement 020

Cassette Replacement 020 (Photo credit: QuietDangst)

The answer to that question came over the following days.  A friend had stopped in a bike shop after the 4 Summit Challenge and had discussed our struggles on that day.  The owner commiserated with our plight and explained that he always changed out his gear cassette for that climb.  He recommended that we use a 12-30 gear cassette.  The numbers refer to the amount of teeth on each gear.  The more teeth a gear has the easier it is to push on a climb.

That bike shop owner had stated something that I knew but had not occurred to me.  The cassette on my bike is 11-21.  The difference between 21 teeth and 30 may not sound like much but it is a huge difference.  It would have allowed my ascent to have included conversation and an appreciation of the view rather than a miserable grind that tempted me to quit.

I see a lot of folks grinding through their Christian existence.  Like many, I have ground through my faith trying to climb a virtuous ascent to holiness.  I have employed all sorts of aids.  I know the grind of self-discipline.  I know the temptation to follow the practices of mature believers and the wonder when I did not get same results from their method.  It all has the appearance of wisdom but I have found that these methods have not stopped the indulgence of my flesh.  The severity of self-imposed discipline can be so grinding that it has always made me want to quit after a period of time.

The virtuous ascent to holiness always reveals our method.

We cannot gracefully ascend in obedience when we are relying upon our self-discipline.  One can grind it out for a while but it will be miserable.  Those who make the Christian life look easy have learned how to ascend in joy by setting their minds on the things above, not on things that are on earth.  They know how to seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Ascending is all about having the right gear.

Effort has to be expended in every believer’s ascent but the right practice will make the difference between a pathetic display that few will want to emulate and an enjoyable, peaceful, glorifying, ascent to new heights.

I cannot control my flesh.  I have never been able to permanently grind it into submission.  However, I do control what I set my mind upon.  I end up doing what I want to do.  By setting my mind of the Spirit and the things above, the desires of my mind are changed by the Spirit.  I don’t need grinding self-discipline when my desires have changed.  I can allow myself to do what I love when my mind has the right gear.

Let’s set the only gear we need into place and seek our Lord.  Let’s ascend to new heights of holiness to the glory of God.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for giving us a path of obedience that can be joyful.  Forgive me for so often trying to follow You in my strength.  I can be so foolish in my thinking that all that appears to be wisdom will somehow work.  Thank you for giving me your Spirit to teach and guide me.  Teach me how to set my mind on you in all circumstances.  Help me to recognize when I am failing to set my mind on the things above.  Lord, you are so good to me.  Fill me with a joy in obedience that will be a pleasing fragrance to you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.


  1. […] members.  I rode with many them at several of the events that I have blogged about ( PACK RIDING, CLIMBING METHODS).  The conversations at these interactions always ended with the same exhortation, “you should […]

  2. Something I have begun to notice in recent times is that when I truly submit in obedience to the Lord he helps me “achieve” something significant I couldn’t do on my own. For example, I quit smoking three months ago, just before my baptism. I had been praying for help for over a year, and to be honest had quit about 20 times (secretly hoping that God would fix the problem for me)! I finally just made a decision to quit and suffer, however difficult it would be, as something I wanted to do to thank the Lord for all he had done for me.

    I feel like the Holy Spirit has helped me greatly in resisting the occasional but fierce temptation to take it up again. However, I also can feel those times when I am joining him in the effort. A weak contribution it may be, but it feels like a way I can honour the Lord through making an ongoing difficult choice. I am not really sure I understand it completely, but I can see the Holy Spirit helping me to act in ways are focussed on glorifying the Lord yet do not lead to self-sufficiency or pride. I guess my point is there have been occasions when it seems like the Lord is waiting for me to take a difficult step to show I am actually serious. But I am willing to concede that even that prompting and the ability to take that step also comes from him. Amazing to ponder!

  3. Oh, this is SO good! Yes, I lost about 10 years in the self help world after struggling with various addictions, including a life-threatening eating disorder.

    I was a Christian, but I knew nothing about how the Holy Spirit worked. I thought the fruit of the spirit (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control) were my Christian to do list.

    I tried to be patient. Fail. I tried to be joyful. Never visited that land. I tried, tried, tried but I could never attain the attributes I wanted to possess. And then I had my breakdown 7 years ago and Jesus walked right into my messy life and cleaned it all out with one big swoop of his love. And then I started to learn about living in the power of the Holy Spirit, not my own power, and it all started to click for me.

    I love that you wrote about this important topic. I don’t think it’s covered enough, and sadly, many of us learn the hard way that we were never intended to live in our own power. It was planned dependency from the start.

    blessings to you!

  4. Great imagery from your bike-challenge experience, making memorable a valuable lesson: “Those who make the Christian life look easy have learned how to ascend in joy by setting their minds on the things above, not on things that are on earth.” I, too, want to set my gears on JOY–those things Paul highlighted in Philippians 4:8. Thank you, JD, for another thought-provoking post!

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