Posted by: JennyRain | October 28, 2009

Three Cups of Tea and Mountain Climbing: Conquering the Impossible

Expect great things FROM God; attempt great things FOR God…William Carey

This mobilizing statement is used by the leaders of our church when they need to muster the troops. I love this concept because it profoundly demonstrates that following Christ is a partnership comprised of faith, action, and reliance.

This week as I have been pondering Carey’s statement, I found myself wondering “What if the GREAT things are actually in the LITTLE things performed faithfully?”

We have all heard the statement “A little plus a little equals a lot” or “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”  These phrases remind us that conquering the mountains in our lives revolves around committing to the little things regularly.

Mountains in our Midst

There are times we are called to conquer things the size of mountains. To summit the mountain successfully would truly be a GREAT attempt. Yet we are still at the base of the mountain staring up. It towers over us and blocks the sun, threatening to consume us with its power. Surely this is not the mountain we are called to? It must be another one?

Our legs feel like lead as we find the courage to brave each step. Fears grow around us as moss to an oak tree, threatening to root us to base camp before we can attempt another 1000 ft.

We are reminded of the numerous times we have attempted Great things and failed. We meditate on the size of the mountain before us and forget the fact that behind us we have already climbed 10,000 ft just to reach base camp.

Is the summit still 29,000 ft? Yes. But we have climbed one-third of that distance. Do not discount what we have already climbed.

Perspective and Position

When we encounter mountains in our lives keeping the proper perspective is tantamount to our success and motivation.

The only way to keep moving up the mountain is to remember our ascent is best achieved gradually and consistently. We will not conquer the mountain in a day. 

There are times along the journey it is imperative that we sit back and reflect upon the vast size of the mountain. This is done not to discourage us, but to engender a necessary sense of awe and respect that reminds us we cannot conquer this mountain alone, and we cannot climb it without the necessary gear.

If we lose perspective of the size of the mountain, we will forget to bring our oxygen, climb too far too fast, or leave our fellow climbers behind and end up stuck on the side of a rock-cliff in the middle of a snow-storm.

Keeping our eyes open to the right things

I am reading the book Three Cups of Tea which is the inspiring story of Greg Mortenson’s dangerous and difficult quest to build schools in the wildest parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mortenson’s entire journey began because he got lost…

In 1993 Mortenson was descending from his failed attempt to reach the peak of K2. Exhausted and disoriented, he wandered away from his group into the most desolate reaches of northern Pakistan. Alone, without food, water, or shelter he stumbled into an impoverished Pakistani village where he was nursed back to health.

While recovering he observed the village’s 84 children sitting outdoors, scratching their lessons in the dirt with sticks. The village was so poor that it could not afford the $1-a-day salary to hire a teacher. When he left the village, he promised that he would return to build them a school. From that rash, heartfelt promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time.

From Three cups of Tea.

Mortenson’s “GREAT thing” was not his attempt at summitting K2. His “GREAT thing” was establishing schools for children in a region that without his intervention, would not have had any type of education.

Even though Mortenson got lost along the way to HIS goal, he kept his eyes open on the trail and discovered an opportunity that allowed him to accomplish a greater goal… that of “Promoting Peace…one school at a time.”

Mortenson’s climbing practices were the same as those he used to establish schools:

  • Expect and attempt GREAT things
  • One step at a time – take your time – go forward gradually
  • Remember the size of the mountain – stop often to re-calibre your “sight” if you have lost perspective of its size
  • Keep your eyes open to the things around you – even when you think you are lost

Summitting Successfully

This morning as I was reflecting on what I am learning in this season, I ran across Zechariah 4. As I read, I was inspired by how closely this passage reflects what is needed to conquer our mountains successfully (To “Summit Successfully”)…


Verse 6 states: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.

I cannot climb the mountain by my own strength alone, I must rely on God to walk with and empower me.

 Verse 9 states: The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it.

The mountain will not be climbed by prayer and faith alone, I must engage the effort and abilities and gifts I possess. I must do what I can, when I can.

Verse 10 states: Who despises the day of small things?

I must remember that every GREAT thing in my life has been accomplished by regular and consistent faithfulness to the small things I am presented with each day. Dag Hammarskjold reminds us that the key to the many is one as he states, “It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.” I wonder how many times I have wanted to conquer the mountain but forgotten all of the people along the trail that I might have impacted.

Greg Mortenson working with one of the schools he helped to establish 




  1. Funny, I always thought the power to do great things was within ourselves, not ‘given’ to us by some myserious diety.

    • Greetings!
      Thank you so much for the read & the comment. As to your question… To me, I believe this is something that we all have the opportunity to wrestle with for ourselves. For me, my decision is that I am on a shared journey with a “Diety” -as you have so named – who is deeply personal and relational.
      I believe, however, each person must decide for themselves an answer to the question you have asked… My hope for you is that you will find as much joy on your own journey – wherever it may lead you – as I have found on mine 🙂
      Blessings & Peace+

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