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Venture Out: There Is More to Be Discovered

By David Jeremiah

New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa climbing companion were the first to reach the top of the world—the summit of Mount Everest—in 1953. Besides being known as the first to summit Everest, Hillary is also well-known for the reason he gave for making such an arduous ascent: “Because it’s there!” Actually, Hillary wasn’t the first to give this reason that has been echoed by generations of climbers. He borrowed the now-famous phrase from British mountaineer George Mallory who died in an attempt on Everest in 1924. When Mallory was raising funds for his expedition, “Because it’s there” was his answer for why he wanted to climb the world’s highest peak.

Historically, there have been more purposeful reasons for pushing the boundaries of endurance and exploration. Think about it: There’s nothing to gain by reaching the top of Mount Everest or any other mountain. There’s no pot of gold, no guru revealing the secrets of life. You climb up the mountain, then you climb down. Yet the brave and inquisitive continue to climb mountains! In fact, earlier this year in the 2019 Everest climbing season, there was a literal traffic jam of climbers on the thin ridges near the top of the mountain—hundreds of climbers queued up, inching their way to the top where they would raise their arms, take a selfie, then inch their way down. Most made it—sadly, eleven died in the attempt.

When Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition spent three years circumnavigating the globe by ship (the first to do so—1519-1522), his purpose was not “because it’s there.” His purpose, as commissioned by Spain’s King Charles I, was to find a westward route to the Spice Islands in the South Pacific—which he did.

Same for Christopher Columbus’ voyage nearly three decades earlier (1492). He accidentally discovered America—actually, the Caribbean Islands—while looking for the same thing Magellan later found: a westward route to the South Pacific islands.

Fast forward to modern times, when America sent the Apollo 11 crew to be the first humans on the moon in 1969. It wasn’t just because the moon was there. We already knew the moon was uninhabitable and offered no economic benefit. There was another reason: to beat the Soviets. Since the USSR was first in space with its tiny Sputnik satellite in 1957, President Kennedy established a goal to be the first nation to reach the moon—and we were.

Exploration and discovery are almost always driven by an underlying goal or purpose. When we lose sight of purpose in life, we lose the drive for exploration. (More on that in a moment.)

Take the greatest geographical exploration in American history: the Corps of Discovery Expedition of 1804-1806, better known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. When President Thomas Jefferson bought the territory of Louisiana (actually, the entire middle third of the continental U.S.) from France in 1803, his insatiable curiosity about the purchase led him to ask, “What did we gain?” So, he sent Lewis and Clark to find out. Embarking from Pittsburgh, then St. Louis, they traveled across the Midwest and Northwest territories and reached the Pacific Ocean, returning after two-and-one-half years.

The purpose for the dangerous expedition? Map the territory, find a route from the central U.S. to the Pacific Ocean, establish an American presence in the Northwest, and discover the flora and fauna of the new territory. Following the success of this venture, the wagon trains began rolling westward from St. Louis. The lure of cheap land, a chance for a new beginning, and yes, the thrill of adventure … all this and more caused hundreds of thousands of people to uproot their lives in the East and roll toward the open plains.

Purpose always promotes progress. Excitement always encourages exploration. Daring always drives discovery. But what happens when we lose our purpose, our excitement, and our daring?

The Power of Spiritual Purpose

Let’s face it—there are very few places left to discover in our world. Rain forests and the depths of the ocean floor are among the tiny fraction of our planet where human footprints don’t exist. And someday, even those few places will be mapped and charted. I wonder if this creates a malaise in the human spirit that we don’t even realize. Have we become complacent about the thrill of discovery, thinking there is nothing left to find?

Can that malaise infect our sense of spiritual discovery? We know this about God and His Word: They are infinite and unbounded; there are no limits to what we can learn and apply into our lives from our study of God and the Bible. No one has plumbed the depths of God or ascended to His outer limits; no one has gleaned every truth or insight from His Word; no one has trusted God by faith to the farthest extent. Yet that is our purpose in life—to know God and to make His infinite nature known to others!

We would do well to heed the words of the English Separatist pastor, John Robinson, who was pastor to the Pilgrims who sailed to America on the Mayflower in 1620. In his farewell sermon to them on the dock, he exhorted them that when they arrived in the New World, not to be content with what they had learned from the “shining lights” of the Protestant Reformation, but to keep pursuing God. He told them “that the Lord had more truth and light yet to break forth out of  his holy word.”1

We must continue our lifelong purpose of pursuing Him as well. If we lose the passion of purpose and pursuit, we will stop exploring; we will never discover that He is everything we need.

There Is More to Discover

God’s greatness is “unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3); God’s judgments and ways are “unsearchable” (Romans 11:33); the riches of Christ are “unsearchable” (Ephesians 3:8). And to state an obvious point: “unsearchable” doesn’t mean “not searchable” as if we shouldn’t seek to discover all we can. It means God and His ways are inscrutable, unfathomable, inexhaustible, beyond completely finding out.

Many diseases were unsearchable until science discovered germs, bacteria, viruses, and other causes. Yet with all we know about the human body, there is a universe of discovery that remains—and the same is true of God and His Word. Our purpose is to know Him as intimately as possible, which is why we must live on the edge of discovery!

There Is More to Do

The more we discover about God, the more we realize that He has the answers to all of our questions. The more we know of God and His Word, the better equipped we are to live for God and His kingdom on this earth. And there is plenty for us to do for Him!

Christ gave us a commission—to preach the Gospel and make disciples in all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Did you know that there are still groups of people in this world who have no active witness of the Gospel in their midst? Estimates are that there are some 4,400 unique cultural groups—3.19 billion people—who have no self-sustaining church in their midst. We may have established a human presence all across the globe, but the presence of the Gospel of Christ remains to be completed. There are still many places for Gospel explorers to become engaged.

There Is More to Deliver

Think of what the “opening of the West” wagon-train explorers had to equip themselves with to make their journey of discovery: wagons, horses, tools, food, water, clothing, repair parts—can you imagine what it took for those journeys? Equipping themselves was part of the discovery process, along with putting those items to use along the way.

We are to equip ourselves as well. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says that the Word of God makes us “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Scripture, illuminated by the Spirit, is our tool kit for the journey of discovery God has called us to. With it we are able to deliver to others, through ministry, the riches of God in Christ.

Have you kept alive your passionate purpose as a Christian? Or have you become settled, complacent, and comfortable with what is familiar? I trust this issue of Turning Points will cause you to cast your eyes toward the horizons of God and His Word. Go further and deeper and mine new riches in your relationship with Him.

1Reverend Jeremiah Chaplin, D.D., Life of Henry Dunster: First President of Harvard College (Boston, MA: James R. Osgood and Company, 1872), ix.

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