What Is a Mountain Top Experience?

May 27, 2024

It was August 1, 1997, and I had just begun a juice fast to seek guidance from God about whether it was time to move to a new church, and what kind of church God may want me to serve. What began as a three-day fast turned into the most spiritually intense seventeen days of my life. God spoke to me in ways that I had never experienced before and, through this, He gave me a new vision for doing ministry, a leading to serve a new church development in LaGrange, KY, and a beautiful daughter that we adopted from China. Those are just the high points of those seventeen days.

In Biblical language we call that a “Mountain Top Experience.” Have you ever had a time that you sensed the presence of God in a special way? That is what Jesus’ closest disciples Peter, James, and John were experiencing when Jesus took them onto the mountain, and God transformed Jesus as white as light. Moses and Elijah were there talking to Jesus, and then “a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’” (Matthew 17:5).

We can learn a lot about mountain top experiences from what happened to them. First, they didn’t want it to end. Peter volunteered to build a place for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah to stay, just to make it last longer. Though I was glad to start eating solid food again, I certainly didn’t want the spiritual intensity of my relationship with God to end. But we cannot stay on the mountain top. God gives us these special experiences to give us strength, so we will be better prepared for the challenges that God intends the mountain top experiences to prepare us for.

Second, once you have had a mountain top experience, get ready for the challenges of a lifetime. When Peter, James, and John left the mountain with Jesus do you remember what road they started walking down? It was the road that led to Jerusalem, and Jesus’ eventual arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. Now that was a challenging road to walk.

After my seventeen-day spiritual journey, I thought that my life was going to be blessed more richly than ever. It was blessed, but not in the way that I expected. I really thought my house would sell quickly in Ohio, we would buy a home of equal beauty in Kentucky, the church would explode with new members, and my daughter from China would realize what great parents she had been given and quickly adjust to being the model child. I was wrong on all counts. Through the years there have been times when I have held on for dear life to those seventeen days in order to remind myself that God is still God, and always will be, and that I can trust him for all things, even when the world tells me there is no reason for hope. God knew he was going to send me on the hardest journey of my life, and so he gave me the sweetest experience of His presence, in order to allow me to complete the journey.

Finally, we need to go find the mountain top to let God recharge us. Jesus did this by leaving the crowds and having quiet prayer with His Father. Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray for forty days in order to prepare for his ministry (Matthew 4:1-11). He prayed all night to know who his disciples would be (Luke 6:12-16). He went to the mountain top to pray (Matthew 17:1-13) and he prayed until he sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane before his death (Matthew 26:36-46).

Many times in my life, Jesus’ model has inspired me to seek quiet times with God on personal prayer retreats. During these times of separation from the very loud world we live in, God has blessed and strengthened me for the journey ahead of me. I think that if Jesus needed prayer retreats His disciples do to, and my prayer retreats are some of the most profound experiences that I have had with God in my lifetime.

When was the last time you sensed the presence of God in a special way? Do you need to go on a prayer retreat? Does your pastor take prayer retreats? Can you ask him for some ideas on how you can find a chance to walk to the mountain top with God? Plan on only taking your Bible and some spiritual material to read. Plan on spending a lot of time praying, being still and listening for the gentle whisper of God in your soul. (see I Kings 19:1-14). If you ask God to bless you with His special presence, I believe you can expect God to honor your request.