Crossing mountains with God
Sometimes ministers have to cross mountains to preach the gospel. But not only they do because every believer has personal mountains that she or he needs to cross. In a divine service in France, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider explained how this works.
The people of Israel are in exile in Babylon, far away from home. The holy city of Jerusalem lies in ruins. The people are unhappy. And then Isaiah comes along and announces: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” This word from Isaiah 52: 7 was the basis of a divine service on 18 December 2022 in Amnéville in France.
Spreading the gospel
The Chief Apostle explained to the congregation that Paul had used this passage to refer to the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10: 15). Already then, the Chief Apostle said, the people lived in exile, so to speak, because they were far away from God on account of the fall into sin. But Paul had good news for them: “God loves human beings and sent His Son into the world to deliver them from their exile. Jesus Christ came and won the victory over evil.”
And this message is still relevant today, the Chief Apostle said. There is injustice, discord, and other problems because human beings still live in the remoteness from God. To this day, he said, the message continues to give hope: “The Holy Spirit tells us the same thing that He told the exiled Israelites at the time: do not be afraid, the future is not bleak, the future is bright. In the end it is always Jesus who wins.”
The Chief Apostle explained the wording of the Bible passage, which sounds somewhat strange for modern ears. It is a typical expression to say that the feet of the messenger who brings good news are lovely. Today one would likely say something like: how wonderful it is to see the messenger who comes over the mountains to bring good news.
The mountains that ministers cross
The messengers whom God sends today are the ministers. They all respond to God’s call and proclaim the gospel. “They don’t do it because they have to, because, frankly, they have nothing else to do and it has always been their life’s dream. They do it because they deeply believe in the message, because they love God, and because they love the Church.” The ministers always have mountains to cross, he said.
- Mountains of obligations: “They have their jobs, they have lots of personal concerns.” This, he said, is no different from any other believer.
- Difficult conditions: “The result is not always apparent at first glance. Sometimes motivating yourself is like climbing a mountain, and sometimes you get more criticism than thanks.”
- Mountains of one’s own weakness: “In this respect too they have to cross the mountain of their own imperfections, their own convenience, their own ideas to serve the eternal God.”
The Chief Apostle said that we should be grateful for the sacrifices that the ministers make, and went on to explain how this could be done:
- “Let’s not focus on the person! No one is perfect.”
- “Let’s focus on the message of salvation, of redemption, peace, the future, rather than on everything that revolves around it.” He welcomes the many activities in the Church, the Chief Apostle said. However: “Let’s not forget what is important.”
- “Let us intercede for our ministers and support them in their tasks.”
And this also applies to the many brothers and sisters in the Church who take on voluntary tasks without an official mandate.
Personal mountains and how to cross them
God calls every Christian to be a messenger of the gospel. “When I look around at the congregations I see many messengers crossing mountains to preach the gospel, and personally I find this very, very beautiful.”
The Chief Apostle went on to show what these figurative mountains are and how they can be crossed:
- professing the gospel despite a lack of understanding, rejection, and ridicule. “It is wonderful to see these messengers cross this mountain of godlessness.”
- believing in spite of problems: “It is beautiful to see those messengers who continue to proclaim the love of God and their trust in God despite all the mountains of afflictions and difficulties they face.”
- forgiving the offenses of the neighbour: “Those who really believe in the gospel, the love of Jesus, are able to cross this mountain of offenses, of resentment, and to bring their neighbour the message of forgiveness.”
- helping despite mountains of personal problems: “Despite the difficulties they face, many brothers and sisters still find the time to serve their neighbour.”
- united despite differences: “How wonderful are the messengers who are able to overcome the mountains that want to divide us. Let’s focus on what unites us!”
While the divine service had begun on a somewhat sombre note dealing with problems, it ended hopefully. The messengers have been sent by God to proclaim His gospel, the good news. “We have many ministers who proclaim this message to us and are willing to cross mountains for it; they do not ask for a salary or a reward, nor do they ask to have their shoes shined,” the Chief Apostle said. “We are all messengers who are to announce to the world, despite all the mountains that may surround us: I believe in Jesus Christ despite all the afflictions and difficulties; I know that God loves me and I trust that He will help me.”