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Chipping Away at the Mountain

September 4, 2007

This is a email devotional message that I received that I thought you might enjoy reading. Sometimes we need to remember the value of patience in a “instant gratification” world.


Over the years, I have collected hundreds (maybe even thousands) of stories and anecdotes. Many of those stories are heard and quickly forgotten. A few of them, though, are so significant that I continue to be reminded of them because of the powerful lessons they teach. This morning’s story is one of those that I rank among my favorites:

An ancient Chinese parable tells of Old Tan Chang who had a small farm overshadowed by a towering mountain. One day he got the notion to get rid of the mountain. With the help of his wife and sons, he began to hack at the rock around its base. A neighbor walked by and scoffed, “You will never finish the job, old man! There are not enough days in the year for you to do this.”

But Tan replied confidently, “I am not as foolish as you think, my friend. I may be old and feeble, but after I am gone, my sons will continue to peck away at the mountain. Then their sons and their sons” sons will do the same. Since the mountain cannot grow, someday it will be level with the ground, and the sun will shine upon our land.”

As I read the Bible, I am reminded that God’s work often takes hundreds of years with each generation doing a little bit more until finally God’s work is completed. The Hebrew writer tells us (11:13) that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all received promises from God, but those promises were not fulfilled in their generations. They “pecked away” at the mountain one stroke at a time, and later generations received a multitude of blessings.

It is a reminder that we need in our “instant culture”. We have gotten used to instant coffee, instant messengers, and a multitude of other products all designed to help us receive what we want as quickly as possible. The result is that when we pray for God’s will to be done in our lives, we want it done within the next five minutes. There are great things to be achieved simply by laying a groundwork that succeeding generations can build on.

It is a reminder that I need when I tackle a task that seems to be endless. Many days I have told myself that “the mountain cannot grow” and every chip I take out of the mountain makes it that much smaller, and in time, the mountain will be gone. I hope that if you are facing mountains in your life that this parable will serve as an encouragement to you as well.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Cor. 15:58)

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

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