In this episode of the the parable we see the rancher out on the fence line walking at a steady pace going up the first mountain. He comes to realize that this is tiring work and his care for the fence begins to be secondary as survival takes position #1 in his thinking. His water has not lasted and he is just about to empty the small bottle he took with him and he knows there is so much more ground to travel. Doubt begins to creep in as he looks at the top of the first mountain because he knows another, higher mountain is waiting for him after the first one. He begins to doubt his decision to walk the fence instead of taking the four wheeler. Physically his legs are starting to talk to him now and their conversation is not very encouraging. Finally he sits down and has a “I need God” moment. This moment draws him into a very frank discussion with God almighty. He cries out and says “God I can’t make it home without your help.” To his amazement God answers and says, “Keep walking and keep checking your fence. You will see your home before you know it. Just keep walking and I will give you strength.” He decides to take God at his word and keep walking. Tired and not very passionate about the walk, he keeps on walking one step at a time to the top of the first mountain. When he gets there he notices a big hole in his fence and stops to repair it. As he works on the fence he begins to feel a new vitality and his strength begins to come back, as well as his attitude about finishing the job. He actually doesn’t need to sit down and rest and he presses on one step at a time.
Here are some truths from this part of the parable.
1. When we set out to go up that distant mountain we hit reality when the long walk begins to tire us and we feel like we cannot go on. Psalm 142:3 says “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, you knew my path.” Our choice to call out to God is the best choice we can make. Our only strength as believers is found in God. Sometimes we realize that best when we get to the end of our strength and realize we don’t have enough to be in the race, much less finish it. Our hope is directed beyond our abilities to the ability of God and He is faithful. Overwhelmed (def) -bury or drown beneath a huge mass. We must go to the distant mountains in our walk with Jesus, but our only strength and hope when we go there is found in God and God alone. When our spirit is weak, our physical strength also weakens. But when we are energized by God’s spirit our physical body responds also.
2. God answers when we call. Coming to the end of ourselves is contrary to the “America way” of looking at life. We believe we should be able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and go on because we have great strength. Psalm 28:7 says it well, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.” It is true that when God gives us strength in our spirit that our physical body responds to that inner strength the Spirit supplies. The rancher was able to go on when God showed up and told him to go on one step at a step. When God shows up in any situation, all things are better!! It is a true lesson of our Christian faith that when we walk with God we want to be near to Him because without Him we have no strength, no guidance, no direction….nothing.
3. God told the rancher to keep walking one step at a time, but He also told him to keep doing his task of fixing fences. The rancher began to loosen his attitude about the strength and consistency of the fence he was fixing as he went along the way. God didn’t just tell him to finish, but to finish strong. Part of our walk as believers is repairing that which was broken and replacing it with God’s mending Spirit. When I accepted Jesus I immediately realized there were some things in my life that needed to change. My fences had holes and weak areas, and if not taken care of they would cause me to stray later on. As a baby believer I realized that I would need to become wise at life and that would only come when I dealt with issues that were hanging around my life. One of my fences was a very hot temper and I struggled with it for a long time, but God did a great work to help me mend that fence and strengthen me to be more long suffering and not hot tempered. I have to be very much aware that there can be holes in that fence, that if not watched, will get away from me. So I have to strengthen that fence from time to time. In 1 Peter 2:1 Peter says, “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you grow up into salvation.” One of the great joys of the faith is seeing God do repair work in our lives in the midst of us just trying to live life above the hustle and bustle of life. We are walking one step at a time, and He is showing the weak areas of our fences and showing us how to repair them.
4. The rancher saw the last mountain when he got to the top of the first one. He didn’t look at the approaching valley that connected these two mountains. He just looked at the top of the last mountain. He thought about the great view of his ranch he was going have at the top of that last mountain. His spirit soared and his paced quickened as he visualized the beauty of the view that was soon to be his and he continued on in God’s strength. Psalm 121:1 says, ” I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come?” If a person is tired from trying to get up one mountain he probably shouldn’t be happy to see an even bigger mountain still waiting to be topped. But when the Lord gives us strength mountains are not the problem anymore. As the psalmist asked the question, Where shall my help from? he wasn’t acting like there wasn’t going to be any help. He was reminding himself that God is his strength. Our true strength is when we realize that we are weak and God’s strength is our only hope. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul writes “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The rancher had come to a crisis of belief earlier when he felt his strength leaving him, but that was replaced with God’s strength and that strength had a lasting effect on him. No longer satisfied with human impressions of strength, he turned to God for the strength from on high. He was looking for the tall mountains to climb because he knew God was enabling him and he was going to reap the reward of seeing from the top of the mountain. What a vantage point, but not the only vantage point that is beautiful. Oh yes, the valley is part of this story and I will bring out the truth of the valley in my next blog. We will look at the 23rd Psalm and see how it applies in the ranchers walk.
The Pilgrimage continues…..