Now, here’s a thing. We are coming up to the anniversary of the first successful attempt to climb Mount Everest. On 29 May 1953 Norgay Tenzing and Edmund Hilary reached the top and then successfully descended (Others may have reached the top but not got down safely – Mallory and Irvine in 1924, for example). 1953 was a special year – the Queen’s Coronation, Everest climbed and the ‘Matthew’s Cup final’!
Did you know, though, that although Everest is the world’s highest mountain it is not generally considered the hardest to climb? Indeed, it is now a tourist destination with almost 900 people a year reaching the top last year, thanks to improved equipment, stored oxygen and permanent climbing aids. Many consider Annapurna (also in the Himalayas), the 10th highest mountain, to be much harder. Only expert climbers attempt it and still around one in four have died in the attempt.
So, what got me round to thinking about this? I have recently been reading through 1 Corinthians and have just got to chapters 14 and 15. It seems to me that they may be the Everest (or Annapurna) of the New Testament because they contain a lot of difficult material. In Chapter 14 Paul writes about desiring spiritual gifts, the gift of prophecy and speaking in tongues. He says he would like everyone to speak in tongues, but would rather have them prophesy! He then brings in flutes and harps and also talks about praying with his spirit and his mind! He tells them that it should be orderly, with each prophesying in turn, although women should not be allowed to speak.
In Chapter 15 Paul starts with the resurrection of Christ (relatively straightforward!). He then goes on to talk about the resurrection of believers (when Christ returns) and his destruction of all dominion, authority and power. (Still with us? Good – more yet to come!). Next comes the baptism for the dead, followed by a contrasting of earthly and resurrected bodies (The latter is much better, by far!) Lastly (for our purposes) he says all may not sleep, but all will be changed.
I confess that in parts I find these chapters difficult to follow, difficult to understand and difficult to apply to our present circumstances. I am certainly not going to try and explain them here, but there are some points to be made.
Firstly, of course we find some of the scriptures difficult to understand. The Bible is the word of Almighty God bringing to us eternal truth. It would be surprising if we could immediately grasp all its meaning and understand every part of that truth.
Secondly, sometimes we need to struggle with a passage. This can bring us closer to God and open our hearts to him.
Thirdly, look at other parts of Scripture and what they say. Can they shed some light on a passage that we are struggling with? God has given us his whole word and we should use it all.
Fourthly, there are those of greater wisdom, intellect and learning who can help explain things for us. We need discernment of course. There are plenty of cranks, charlatans and false teachers out there and they are more readily available than ever. Learn from other people but also learn which ones to trust and rely upon.
Finally, pray and ask that God opens your heart and mind to the truth contained in his word. The Holy Spirit is the best commentator and the best teacher – ask for His guidance (But again, do practice discernment – is it the Holy Spirit or your own feelings that are guiding you?).
Hopefully these thoughts will help you to scale the heights and get home safely!