What Happens After the “Mountaintop?”

You might recall a major story in the life of Jesus and the disciples about the transfiguration. Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, and Luke 9:28–36 detail this moment on a mountaintop where Jesus’ glory shines before the disciples. Here’s how Matthew describes this episode:

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

As you can probably guess, this is where the term “mountaintop experience” comes from! The disciples witnessed a grand, divine occurrence and Peter put it plainly: they want to dwell in this incredible moment for a long time.

The broader implication is that so-called mountaintop experiences don’t last forever. We must eventually “come down” from the mountain and continue our work as disciples. Jesus did this. In Matthew’s he immediately goes to heal a young boy facing demon possession. His work was not yet done. We cannot be isolated and off by ourselves, simply because God has a mission for us to do!

On Sunday when we explored Psalm 16 and John Wesley’s conversion story, it is worth noting that feeling God’s presence often does not last for extended periods of time. The church service eventually ends. The concertgoers go home after a powerful evening of worship. The insightful bible study discussion wraps up. All these possible moments remind us of the importance of continuing on as disciples of Jesus Christ, even when our profound experience of God comes to a close. What happens after our mountaintop experience?

Wesley had some insight into this matter. That evening after he felt the love of God in his heart at Aldersgate, he wrote this in his journal:

After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations, but I cried out, and they fled away. They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He “sent me help from his holy place.” And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.

The following morning, Wesley also documented this thought:

The moment I awakened, “Jesus, Master,” was in my heart and in my mouth; and I found all my strength lay in keeping my eye fixed upon Him and my soul waiting on Him continually.

Here are some thoughts about how to sustain God’s presence in your life, even when you don’t feel like your heart is warmed:

  1. Remind yourself that temptations will come. Wesley literally faced this predicament after feeling God’s powerful presence that evening! Calling upon God will equip you to handle doubts, worries, and fears.
  2. Remember that you are a conquerer. It is so profound that Wesley came to this realization. God loved him, God died for him, and God wanted to pursue him. Too often we feel insecure about our identity, thinking we aren’t good enough or that we are doomed to failure. But we need to remember how God sees us!
  3. Have a heart of prayer. Prayer is so much more than simply asking God for something or “blessing a meal.” It is how we communicate to God, and how God can speak to us. A simple prayer such as “Jesus, Master”–recognizing that Jesus is Lord and leader of your life–can orient your heart to what matters most and free you from distractions.

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