August 17, Thursday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is written by Pastor Shan Gian (Fenway Site Pastor, Symphony Church).


“The Great Staircase”

Psalm 61:1-3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; 2 from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, 3 for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

I’m typically not one to enjoy touristy sites, but a few years ago I had the privilege of going with a group of people to the Great Wall of China. It was a beautiful sight; we not only got to see the wall up close and personal, but we got to walk on the surface itself and climb up to the highest point.

It was a great experience, but what we visited that day was not a great wall, but rather (as Pastor Young puts it) “The Great Staircase”. To reach the highest point, we must have climbed something to the tune of 40 flights of stairs. It was physically exhausting.

But what made this trip up the Great Stairs of China especially painful was that as we went up the stairs, we could see what we thought was the summit of the Wall. So even though we were getting tired, in our minds, we kept thinking, “At least we just have to get to that part.” But when we got to “the top”, we discovered the stairs didn’t end there; there was another long stretch of stairs to go until we reached the actual summit. So again, we’d push ourselves to get the “real” summit, but when we got there, that wasn’t it! Yet another long stretch to go. We repeated this at least 5 times over. Get to the top, it’s not the top. Keep going. Get to the top, bamboozled again. Keep going. We were so close to giving up not just because we were physically tired but because our spirits were constantly being crushed.

When David says in Psalm 61, “Lead to the rock that is higher than I,” I think he might have understood my Great Wall experience. In his life and in our lives, we seek to ascend different summits: the summit of education, the summit of career, the summit of material wealth, the summit of relationships, etc. But every time we reach one of these summits, we discover that it’s not the top, and then we have to keep going to the next summit. This happens over and over again because any summit we can reach is never high enough, and the results are just like my Great Wall experience: tiring and spirit-crushing.

I think David asks God to lead him to a rock that was higher than himself, because he had experienced the same letdown of reaching his own summits and heights on his own power. David knew that only God could take him to a place where he would be secure. He knew that only God could lead him to the ultimate summit.

As we reflect on these words from David, consider what summits we’ve been trying to reach in our own lives. Let us lay down those pursuits that tire us and crush our spirits and ask God to lead us to the rock that is higher than us.

Prayer: Jesus, I pray that you will lead me to places where only you can take me. I lay down my own pursuits and ambitions and recognize that I will only find joy and contentment with you. Lead me to you, Lord. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 4

Lunch Break Study

Read Mark 10:17-22: And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Questions to Consider

  1. What summits had this man already ascended?
  2. Why does Jesus tell him to sell all that he had and give to the poor?
  3. How do we see the grace of Jesus in this passage? How can we experience that grace in our own failures?


  1. This “rich young ruler” should be commended in a few ways. He (at least in his own view) lived a very moral life in keeping all of these commandments. Also, in going to Jesus, he was seeking eternal life. Finally, in the eyes of the world at least, he was commendable in that he had great wealth.
  2. Jesus’ concern for this man was not that he lacked compassion for the poor, but rather it was his attachment to his possessions. This young man had achieved great things in many respects, but in reaching his summit of wealth, he was not willing to let it go in order to reach higher heights and the far greater riches of the treasures in heaven.
  3. It says in verse 21 that Jesus looked at this young man and loved him. As we study this passage, we notice that this young man is a classic example of someone we all might dislike because he was young, proud and rich. But Jesus, in spite of knowing all of this young man’s flaws and sins, looks at him with eyes of love and grace. We are not very different from this rich man, and like him we are often unwilling to lay down our pride or achievements or riches; but Jesus looks at us with the same eyes of love and grace. In our own failures, all we need to do is to seek the love and grace that Jesus reserves for us.

Evening Reflection

Do you feel worn out and tired by life? Do you feel like you have striven to succeed but getting nowhere? Perhaps, you’ve been reaching for heights that pale in comparison to the rock that God wants to lead you to. Tonight, surrender your life and heart to God, and ask for Him to lead you.

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