Reaching for the Mountain Splendors

by J. R. Miller, 1912

Christ clearly stated the purpose of his mission to the world when he said: "I came that they may have life—and may have it abundantly." We do not begin to understand the possibilities of our lives in the hands of Christ—what he will make of us if we truly submit ourselves to him. There are enemies about us. The thief comes to kill, to destroy. Christ comes to give life and to give it in fullness. When the English laureate was asked what Christ was to him, he replied by pointing to a rose-bush, full of glorious roses, and said: "What the sun is to this rose bush, Christ is to me!"

Think what Christ was to John, the disciple, whom he found resentful and virulent—whom he made into a disciple of love, and whose influence fills the world today like a holy fragrance. Think what Christ has been to believers in all the Christian centuries, what he is to the saints who today are living in the world. Think what it is to have the life of Christ in you. One of Paul's remarkable words is, "Christ lives in me," and the words mean a literal indwelling of Christ. That is what it is to be a Christian.

Christ wants us to live richly, abundantly. He is ever calling us to something larger and better. Looking back over our life at the close of a year, we see how often we have failed. But failures, if we are faithfully following Christ—are not final. They are but beginnings which are left for completion in the future.

We say that we find these high things unattainable, and that we never can reach them. No—we shall reach them if we continue to strive. We are at school, only learning, and learning is always slow. We try to get the lesson, and we fail—but that is not defeat. We will try again and again, and at last we shall master the hard lessons. Nothing we can think of, is beyond ultimate possible attaining. Last year's failures were not final; they were only things we tried to do—and did not quite master. Some day we shall finish them. We are immortal. Our failures now are only immaturities; some day they will reach maturity.

Paul gives us a good lesson for progress, when he counsels us to leave the things that are behind, and to stretch toward the things that are ahead. Some things, of course, we are not to forget. It would be a sin to forget our mercies—the kindnesses we receive, the self-denials and sacrifices others have made for us. We should cherish with most sacred regard and gratitude, the memory of friendships that have meant so much to us. But there are some things which we should resolutely and determinedly forget and leave behind.

We should forget our worries. We see afterward how foolish they were, and how useless. Some of the things we fretted about a year ago, and allowed to vex and harry us—we now thank God for! They were among the best things of the whole year.

We should forget our sorrows. "No," we say, "we never can. They were too bitter." Yes—but they brought blessing in their bitterness. It may be too soon yet for us to give thanks for them—but some day we shall. At last we shall see that the greatest good to our lives—has come out of the things which at the time, seemed disastrous.

We should forget the sins of our past. Should we indeed? Should we ever forget our sins? Not until we have confessed them and given them up. But when they have been forgiven, we should forget them in the love and praise of our hearts. We must not make light of sin—it is an exceedingly bitter thing. Sin has filled the world with ruin. It blots and stains and spoils, everything which it touches. We need to make very sure that we have repented of our sins—and that they have been forgiven. It will never do merely to forget them, to cover them up and pass them by. Only God can safely cover sins. Sins which only men themselves cover, will plague them afterward. But the sins which God has blotted out and ceased to remember—we may forget while we go on in the joy of our new life.

We should not drag our old habits with us. There are habits which marred last year—which we should leave behind amid the rubbish.

There are companionships which we should give up today. Only at our soul's peril—can we continue them. Our friendships, if they are pure and good and uplifting, we should nourish—they are making our lives rich, strong, true, beautiful. But if they are unholy, if they are corrupt in their influence, if they are hurting us in our character, drawing us toward evil—the only true thing to do is to break them off, not to carry them with us into the new, bright, clean life of the new days.

One is grieving over a lost friendship. Once it was everything to you. It was in all your thoughts. You built no dream fabric—but this friendship was in it. You made no plans for the future—but this friend and you were close, side by side. How can you go on without this friendship but of your life? How can you begin the new year and know that it has forever passed away? Let Christ answer your questions. Let him take your life, and he will give you a joy that will fill your heart. He will be better to you than all the earth. You ask "How? "I do not know. Trust the way with him. He came to give you life abundantly.

Another class of things we should not carry forward into a new life is our quarrels, our angers, our resentments, our grudges. "Do not let the sun go down upon your anger," says the inspired teaching. We may not live over night, and we may never have a chance to ask forgiveness, if we do not do it before we sleep. Most positive is the Master's teaching—that we must forgive, if we would be forgiven. "When you stand praying, forgive." The prayer the Master taught us is, "forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us." If it was wrong to carry the unforgiveness for one day, and through the night—it must be still worse to carry the resentments, the quarrels, the angers, over into the new year.

We should carry nothing but love with us into any tomorrow. Bitterness is most undivine; only love is divine. If any one has wronged you, and a bitter feeling has lingered in your heart toward him—forgive the wrong and let love wipe out the bitterness! If you remember before God, that you have done an injury to another, spoken some angry word, spoken anything unloving, hurt a life by anything you have done—do not enter the new year without seeking forgiveness.

These are suggestions of what Christ means by abundant life. He came that we may have life—and that we may have it abundantly. Have you noticed that to live and to love seem to be parts of the same verb? To live is to love. Loved is the perfect of live. Christ is love. Abundant life is abundant love. A new year calls us to better life, that is, to love better. When Jesus bids us to be perfect, he means perfect in living. " If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that." The Pagans go that far. "But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." You say, "I never can be perfect." True, the lesson is hard, and it will take you a long time to learn it. It is hard to learn to love unreasonable people. It is hard to love your enemies. It is a long lesson to become perfect in loving; nevertheless, there the lesson stands —"But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." And it must be learned—not in a day, or in a year—but like all great lessons, slowly, today a little, and tomorrow a little.

Someone writes among New Year's resolutions: "Speak a shade more kindly. Pray a little oftener. Love a little more. Cling a little closer to the Father's love." This is the way in all our learning and growing. It is thread by thread—that makes the spider's web. It is note by note—that makes the thrilling music of the great oratorio. It is block by block—that builds the majestic temple. It is touch by touch of the brush—that paints a marvelous picture. It is line by line—that makes the beautiful life.

"Speak a shade more kindly" until you have learned always to speak kindly. "Pray a little oftener," until your whole life becomes a prayer. "Love a little more," until you have learned to love every sort of person, and can give your life in loving, serving the worst.

We must remember that it is not in any easy or self-indulgent life—which Christ will lead us to greatness. The easy life leads not upward—but downward. Heaven always is above us, and we must ever be reaching up toward it. There are some people who always avoid things which are costly, which require self-denial or self-restraint and sacrifice. But toil and hardship are the only way to nobleness. Greatness comes not by having a flowery path made for you through the meadows—but by being sent to hew out a roadway by your own hands.

Are you going to reach the mountain splendors?