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Peaks and Valleys

When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” Matthew 17:14-16

The story of the Mount of Transfiguration provides important lessons to help us cope with the ebbs and flows of life. When Jesus took Peter, James, and John the brother of James high on a mountain, they had one of the most significant spiritual experiences of their lives. First, they saw Jesus transfigured in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Second, they saw Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Third, they heard the voice of the Father as a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

However, as soon as the disciples came down from the mountain, they were rebuked by Jesus because they were unable to heal a man who had seizures. Jesus was angry with the disciples because of their lack of faith in rebuking the demon that caused the young man to have seizures. Their reputation and spiritual legitimacy were questioned.

The Christian journey is filled with peaks and valleys. We should beware of failure after every great victory. When we do experience setbacks after a great victory we should not be discouraged or lose our spiritual focus. No one can always stay on the mountain top. Valley experiences are necessary for spiritual growth. It is in the valley we encounter the lost, the brokenhearted, the downtrodden, the wounded, the sick, and the hopeless. A valley is a place of healing and restoration. It is the pathway to our spiritual peaks.

Preaching on Sunday mornings is often seen as the peak of the pastoral experience. Indeed, most pastors love and enjoy the experience of preaching before their congregation. They relish the experience of seeing congregants moved in the spirit by the proclamation of the word of God. But after the worship and the preaching are over, they must go into their ministry valley to deal with people who are food insecure, the unemployed, discord in their churches, people with dysfunctional relationships, people who struggle with major illnesses, funerals, etc. While many pastors lament those experiences, they cannot avoid them or discount their influence on their growth as spiritual leaders.

Our ability to remain faithful, fearless, and focused during our valley experiences increases our spiritual power and helps us to remain Christ-centered and Holy Spirit-driven when we get to our mountain top. Indeed, the struggles we experience, the challenges we face, and the setbacks we suffer in our valleys make us more reliable and trustworthy as spiritual leaders. When people become enamored by our successes, we must also share with them that every blessing comes with a burden.

If you are a spiritual leader who does not feel like leading. Perhaps you are struggling in your prayer life or have committed a major spiritual blunder though other people still think very highly of you. Maybe you are feeling burned-out and inefficient after a major successful ministry campaign. No need to think about quitting on God and His people. Going through a valley experience after a mountain top experience affirms our humanity and compels us to rely more on God on the mountain top as well as in the valley. Never forget, the pathway to the mountain top is through the valley.

Questions for Personal Reflection

How do you handle failure after a major success?

Why are valley experiences as important as mountain top experiences?

Prayer- Most Holy God, I thank you for my mountain top and valley experiences. Please help me to remain steadfast in the valley as I move toward the mountain top. Please remind me to remain prayerful and vigilant after every victory so I will not lose my spiritual focus and confidence when I go through the valley.

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