Over the years I have been involved in the building of houses, churches and other buildings and I have had the honor of pastoring many people who worked in the building industry. One of the things that I have learned about in construction is the importance of the foundation. The foundation is not the pretty part of the building, it is not the thing that you call everyone to come and look at, but it is the most critical part of the building project. You see the size of the building will always be determined by the size of the foundation. The giant skyscrapers that make up the skyline of major cities, what you may not know is that the building foundation is almost as deep as the building is tall. The foundation determines how large, how tall, and how wide the building can be constructed.
At the end of Matthew 7, we find that Jesus is closing out perhaps the most powerful of the sermons that He, or for that matter anyone, has ever preached, The Sermon on the Mount. The sermon was a message that Jesus taught to many people, but it was directed to the disciples and the church. The sermon centered on going more in-depth in God and the standard that living for Christ entails. As Jesus concludes the sermon, He shares a story of two men that build a house and Jesus only talks about the foundation of the house. He does not talk about the color of the carpet or the style of the house. Jesus shares nothing about the interior design or the type of appliances in the home. He only talks about the foundation, because the foundation is the most crucial part.
Now throughout the Bible, there are several things that the house is a reference. House could be the dwelling place, but it also is used in reference to a family, the House of David. House is also a reference to a Nation or kingdom such as the House of Israel and of course the House of God is a reference to the church itself. Therefore Jesus is talking about more than just a physical dwelling place, but He was talking to the church and the life of a Christian. And what Jesus says is that the most important thing we can do is build on a firm foundation. In the story, Jesus says that one man built on sand and the other built on the rock, and as long as everything was fine that there was nothing that distinguished this two houses. The difference showed up when the storm came, and Jesus says the house on the rock was fine, and it stood, but the house of the sand fell because the foundation was no good.
Jesus defines what a firm foundation is when He states that it is those that heard the Word and the go out and apply to their lives. You see, like a house, the foundation that we build our lives on is the most important thing that we do. Now you may say how do I know how good my foundation is? Well, the truth is that the most significant indicator of what your foundation is built on is what happens when you are in the midst of a storm. You see no matter who you are there is going to be storms in your life. Have you ever wondered why some people can go through a storm with peace and others can face the same thing and seem to fall apart by the situation? The reason is the foundation. If your life is built on the firm foundation of God’s word and you have to live in accordance with the word, then the storms of life may come, but they will not result in your fall. Jesus tells the disciples that both men heard the word but that only one of them obeyed the word and because of that one fact, he was able to withstand the storm that life threw his way. So then the question is that if we know this will help us then why don’t more people build a foundation of life on being obedient to the Word of God? A few reasons:
- Building on Rock is Hard
Anytime that you build on rock it is hard work. I mean you have to dig, and you may even have to blast, and the truth is that it is just harder than building on ground that has no rocks on it. The same can be true for building on the obedience of the Word of God. I have to be honest there are things in the Bible that are hard. I mean when Jesus said to us to “love our enemies” or “to bless those that curse us” those are hard things to do. When He shares that we should forgive those that have wronged us, that is not an easy thing to do, and yet it is one that Jesus commands us to do. You see it is much easier to build your foundation on feelings, and what you think rather than what Jesus actually tells you to do because be obedient to the Word of God is not always easy and so many people hear the Word of God but they find it too hard to live out the Word of God. The only problem is that the Word of God only works in our lives when we do what it says.
Now when we are obedient to the Word of God, we have something to stand on when the storms of life come our way. Many people come to church but do not live in faithful obedience to the Word of God, but when trouble comes, they expect God to show up and make everything right. The problem is that when we do not live in obedience to the Word of God, then we cannot expect to use the Word of God only in times when we need something. Here in the text, Jesus says that is not the way things work. If you have heard the Word but have failed to obey it, then you have built your life on the sand, and when the storm comes, there is nothing that can happen but failure. The only way to keep that from happening is to accept what comes with building your life on the Rock of obedience.
- Building on the Rock is Costly
Now anyone that has ever built something on ground that was rocky knows that there is a cost that comes with construction. Many times you have to remove surface rocks and so you have to dig, drill, and maybe even blast to get the rocks out of the way. All that work costs more money. When you build your life on the Rock of obedience, it is also costly. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The call to discipleship is the call to death.” What he meant by that was that when you walk with Christ, you die to self. The cost of building your life on the rock of God’s word is that you give yourself away; you die so that Jesus may live. Throughout the book of Acts we see the disciples being obedient to the Word of God, but in doing so, we also know the hardship that came with that dedication. They suffered in the flesh because of their stance on Jesus. Throughout the world today more Christians are being persecuted for their faith than at any time in history, and yet we see the greatest harvest that we have ever seen in the history of the church worldwide. Why? Because people are willing to pay the cost.
The reason that many in our society are unwilling to be obedient to the Word of God is that they are reluctant to pay the high price that comes with living on the Rock. They would rather instead settling for coming to church and hear the Word and then go and live their life the way that seems reasonable to them rather than having to give themselves entirely to following Jesus. The problem is when you are unwilling to pay the cost in the sunshine then the bill will come due in the storm. Storms will always bring out cheap construction. Things may look good because we paid the price for all the superficial, but if we have to build a cheap foundation, then it will come to bear.
- Building on the Rock takes Time
Building on the rock is not the fastest way to build something. There is the added time that is a part of the building process. Anytime that you build something, you want it to get finished but building on rock takes time. The same is true in your life and the spirit. Building on the firm foundation of obedience to God’s Word takes time. Discipleship does not happen, but it is a lifetime pursuit. When John Wesley was asked the question: “Is sanctification a one-time act or a progressive process?”, Wesley simply replied “Yes.” The truth is that sanctification is something that is continual and something that every Christian should strive to obtain. The pursuit of perfection may be something we never achieve, but that does not mean that it is something that we should not pursue. The thing is that it takes time and many people in this impatient world do not take the time to grow in God. We want it now; we want to go from being saved to full-grown. We have so many people in the church that have been saved and now have become un-teachable because they believe they have arrived. The truth is that we are always learning and we should always be growing.
Talking about growing, I am reminded of a trip that I took years ago in Honduras. I was going up the Cruta River on a mission trip thinking that I was going to help all the poor people in the area. When we came into a village that had a lady pastor who had won her entire village to Jesus. During one of the services in this remote, very primitive village the pastor prayed over me and even though I did not understand a word that she said I felt the power of God like I had never before. That moment taught me that no matter how much I thought I knew there was always room to grow and that God could use anyone to show us more about Him. Building a life of obedience is a lifelong process.
Building on the rock is something that Jesus said would keep us in the mist of the worse of storms and I encourage you to build your life on the obedience of the Word of God. I know it is difficult at times and there will be times that it will cost you a great deal. I know that it can be frustrating when you are not farther along than you feel you should be and it is taking longer than it should but stay at it and continue to move forward because when the storm comes, there is nothing greater than having your foundation on the Rock.