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Survival Tip #7: Beware Of Celebrating The Summit

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.
–Proverbs 16:18

Doug Hansen, a forty-six-year-old postal worker, tried to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1995. But because of guide Rob Hall’s strict turnaround time–a measure used to ensure a safe return to camp before bad weather or nightfall–Hansen had to turn back just 330 feet below the summit. Hansen later told a fellow climber, “The summit looked sooooo close! Believe me, there hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t thought about it.” On May 10, 1996, Hansen made his second bid for the summit, once again in a group guided by Rob Hall. Hall’s turnaround time was 2 p.m., a deadline that was to be obeyed without question. Some of the climbers turned around then, but Hansen did not. Instead, he kept moving toward the summit, and after 4 p.m., he climbed the final forty feet with Hall’s help. The guide did not allow Hansen much time to celebrate. He knew they had to descend, and do so quickly. But Hansen was completely spent and running low on oxygen. By this time, there was also a storm approaching. Before long the blizzard had engulfed the mountain, bringing hurricane-force winds and a wind chill of a hundred degrees below zero. Caught in this extreme environment, the two men tragically never made it back down from the summit.

Climbers know that it is a danger to obsess about the summit so much that you lose your good judgment. But it is also dangerous to get so caught up in celebrating your achievement that you forget that the descent is more dangerous than the ascent. Another climber who was with Hall’s group that day wrote, “The summit was really only the halfway point. Any impulse I might have felt toward self-congratulation was extinguished by overwhelming apprehension about the long, dangerous descent that lay ahead.”

We have been looking at ten survival tips for living out our faith in a hostile environment. The story of Doug Hansen and Rob Hall illustrates the seventh survival tip: beware of celebrating the summit. Personally I am not into mountain climbing–I get dizzy just climbing the ladder to change a lightbulb. But I do understand the concept of attaining a goal in life. If we become obsessed with the attainment of our goals, we are in danger of pride. In Proverbs 16:18, the writer said, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Pride will blind you as you are trying to reach the summit in your life, and it can cause you to stumble afterward. There is nothing wrong with celebrating our accomplishments. That is part of human nature. But if we are not careful, we can either become prideful about our accomplishments, or we can be paralyzed by those past accomplishments and forget that God still has more for us to do. If we are going to survive and thrive in this world, we have to beware of celebrating the summit.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Survival Tip #7: Beware Of Celebrating The Summit” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2019.

Jon Krakauer, “Into Thin Air” (1997; repr., New York: Anchor Books, 1999).

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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