In the spring of 1970, my parents took me to my first ever drive-in movie experience. There, we watched the John Wayne classic “True Grit.” In the movie, John Wayne played the rugged, cantankerous Rooster Cogburn. Although he was aging, ole Rooster was not afraid of a challenge. To this very day, I can still recall sitting absolutely spellbound as he placed the reigns of the horse between his teeth, a rifle in one hand and a revolver in the other, and raced across the open field taking on four bandits all by himself. To every kid that ever played “Cowboys and Indians,” this was the moment you always lived for. The chance to be a hero, or at least die courageous.
Jesus said some words in Matthew 11:12 that have intrigued me for years, “..the kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” On the surface of casual reading, one would wonder who are the violent, and how could the kingdom of Heaven ever be taken by force? A deeper study reveals it carries a meaning of “taking by storm.” The people had been eagerly striving and struggling while awaiting the promised one whom John the Baptist had preached. When Jesus arrived on the scene, not only was he thronged, but multitudes stormed the very doorway to Heaven. In this age of information, it is not difficult to find people who have knowledge of God, but where are the men and women willing to storm Heaven and charge the very mountain of God? Would we even if we had the opportunity before us?
The very principle and idea of taking something by storm implies an urgent pursuit. As David yields the throne to his rebellious son, David’s first action as a dethroned king was to charge Mount Olivet. During the ascent, David wept. He was stripped of his value and worth, and his pathway was cluttered with stones and thorns as he walked barefoot. Now, having lost everything of importance in his life, what do you think David was in urgent pursuit of? Answers? A debate? Reasons and justifications? Hope? “When David was come to the top of the mount…he worshiped God.” It was presence he sought! Until urgency rips at our soul to be in the presence of God, we will forever be satisfied to walk barefoot in the smooth grass of the valley and fearful of the stones and thorns between us and our Father.
Our life must be free from unrivaled passions. Remember these words, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart..” It is interesting that God would allow Moses to storm His presence and behold His glory, but accused Israel of desiring to “..break through unto the Lord to gaze…” The message God sent was this: hungering hearts must possess holy hands. What pains my heart is to think there could be days, maybe years, God has waited alone for me on that mountain top. Waiting for me to make up my mind. Grass will never grow under still feet, but neither will apples grow in the winter.
It must be an understood privilege. On the Mount of Transfiguration, until God spoke, Peter could only see the blessing and not the blesser. There is such a sense in our era of Christianity that God owes us something. Will my generation be fortunate to hear another Moody, Spurgeon, or Sunday? Men who dared to storm Heaven’s gate, and men content to be hidden in the cleft behind God’s glory. Few have ever truly been there. But, for the few who have, they were not permitted to stay long.
Is it possible to just taste a little of Heaven’s fruit, drink of Heaven’s cup, behold Heaven’s glory this side of eternity? There is enough evidence in scripture to tell me yes. A growing church is a church that is growing toward something, and growing away from other things. Philip said it best, “..shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” I want to die as Moses died…having charged the mountain top, and alone with the Father. To do so will take true grit!
© Alan Stewart, 2004.
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.