The Messenger - Jan/Feb 09





Sir Edmund Hillary died on 10 January 2008, aged 88. He made his name (with Sherpa Norgay Tenzing) as the first to climb Mount Everest. Both men spent the night of 28/29 May 1953 in a small tent 1,100 feet beneath the summit. They arose at 4 a.m. with the temperature at minus 27oC. At 6 a.m. they crawled out of their tent into the bitterly cold snow and gusting winds to achieve in the next five hours what no one had done before.

They proceeded cautiously, cutting steps along the left-hand side of the summit ridge until they reached the fifty-foot cliff face now called the Hillary Step. ìThe rock itself, smooth and almost holdless, might have been an interesting problem to a group of climbers in the Lake District,î Hillary wrote, ìbut here was a barrier beyond our feeble strength to overcome.î Hillary wedged himself into a narrow crack between the rock and a snow cornice hanging over the 11,000 foot drop into Tibet, dug in his crampons and levered himself upwards. Although painful and exhausting, he made it. Then heaving hard on his rope, he helped Tenzing wriggle up.

Their strength flagging, they continued cutting steps into the snowy ridge until they stood on the roof of the world. Then, 15 minutes after they had reached the summit, they commenced the equally hazardous descent - to fame, acclaim and honour.

What if they had failed? They would be statistically irrelevant: just another two bodies in frozen preservation, with dozens more since, on the upper slopes of Everest! Alternatively, if the snow cornice had given way, they would have plunged almost two miles into Tibet!

Successful risk-taking and subsequent reward are the experience of few. Risk and failure are the lot of multitudes. Yet all around are those who would hazard everything - life and soul, and heaven - for 15 minutes at the top! Achievement for achievement's sake becomes an all-consuming passion. The cult of ephemeral celebrity is all-pervasive. And the withering wreath of human glory still has tremendous appeal. Everything is hazarded for fame.

The question posed by the Lord Jesus Christ is still pertinent today, both to risk-takers and the risk-averse: ìFor what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?î Mark 8.36, 37. We have only one run through life. Then eternity. Eternity where?
Mountaineers take care about their hand-holds and foot-holds in case they slip. ìTherefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip Ö how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?î, Hebrews 2.1-3.

"Lay hold on eternal life" is Paul's closing and repeated advice, I Timothy 6.12,19. Do not let the possibility of salvation slip from your grasp. Lay hold upon it. Put your full weight upon the promises in the Gospel. ìThis is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chiefî I Timothy 1.15. "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" Romans 5.6.


Reproduced from "Assembly Testimony" obtainable from W. Neill,
109 Lurgan Road, Banbridge, BT32 4NG, N. Ireland


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