Article From the Magazine:

Rock or Sand? Location Is Everything

By David Jeremiah

Bob Vila, one of America’s favorite home-improvement experts, warned that foundation problems at a construction site can spell disaster for the homeowner. “A foundation’s main job is to hold up the house,” he said. Since some soils are far better than others, he advised making sure the builder completed a thorough site and soil analysis before work began to avoid problems down the road.

Builders and carpenters know such things, so it isn’t surprising that the Carpenter of Nazareth said as much 2000 years ago:  A wise man . . . built his house on the rock . . . and it did not fall. . . . A foolish man . . . built his house on the sand . . . and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).

This passage is the conclusion of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, which emphasizes the genuineness of our relationship with God. Some of the religious people of our Lord’s day were unaware of the extent of their own hypocrisy, for people seldom see themselves through objective lenses. Jesus began His message in Matthew 5 by listing the evidences of genuine godliness—being poor in spirit, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being merciful, being pure of heart. He went on to stress the inward nature of a bona fide relationship with God—it isn’t primarily a matter of externals, but of internals. It’s one thing to say, “Lord, Lord,” and another thing to do the will of the Heavenly Father. As Jesus concluded His message, He brought it all down to this—we must build our lives on a storm-resistant foundation. Our spiritual and eternal health hangs in the balance.

Two People

There are two kinds of people in the world, Jesus said in Matthew 7:24, 26—wise ones and foolish ones. In our society, we encounter foolish behavior every day. CNN aired a report about a man nabbed by police for robbing a grocery store. He was caught because while filching money from the cash register, he accidentally dropped something from his pocket, and in his haste he didn’t bother to retrieve it. It was his ID!

We don’t have to look far to find examples of foolish behavior, and sometimes we ourselves are the perpetrators. We often do things that bring us embarrassment. All of us occasionally feel foolish.

But when Jesus differentiated between the wise man and the foolish man, He had something specific in mind. Surprisingly, they had something in common: They both enjoyed listening to His sermons.

Verse 24 says, “Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of Mine . . . I will liken . . . to a wise man. . . .” And verse 26 repeats, “Everyone who hears these sayings of Mine . . . will be like a foolish man.” Notice that both men heard. Jesus could have been talking about two church members, two Bible study participants, or two seminary graduates. Both heard!

But there was a difference. Verse 24 says, “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them . . . ,” while verse 26 says, “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them.” The difference is obedience. Follow-through.  Biblical living.

The wisdom of which Christ spoke entails acknowledging Him as Lord and Ruler and being willing to harmonize our lives with His teachings. Do we, for example, enter our closet, shut the door, and pray to our Father in secret as He commanded in Matthew 6:6? Do we disallow anxiety, knowing He prohibits worry (6:25)? Do we run from images that stimulate lust (5:27-30)? Do we pledge ourselves to permanence in marriage (5:31-32)? Do we forgive those who offend us (6:14)? Do we invest our resources in His Kingdom’s work (6:19-21)?

In other words, we must ask ourselves, “Have I made a conscious decision to let Christ rule my life, and am I willing to let His teachings govern my behavior without reservation, hesitation, or equivocation?” Then and only then am I living wisely.

Two Buildings           

The Lord Jesus proceeded to say that those who hear and obey Him are building their lives on a firm foundation, on a rock. Those who hear but don’t obey are building on sand, which leads to unspeakable tragedy.

Jesus was teaching that strength of foundation determines quality of life. Without the right foundation, no structure is safe. No matter how impressive a building appears above ground, it is what is below the surface and out of sight that counts.

Christ is the Cornerstone, the Sure Foundation, the Rock of Ages. If you want a life that will stand the test of time, you have to build it on Christ. Some people build their lives on friendship, on fads and fashion, on materialism and money, on an altruistic purpose or a selfish dream. There are many footings, but only one Rock. There are many foundations, but only one that will never erode.

Two Storms

The test comes when the storms strike. Interestingly, both houses in Jesus’ story were subject to storms. Matthew 7:25 says about the house on the rock:  “the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house.” Two verses later, He used the same description for the house on the sand:  “the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house.”

We can’t escape storms. They’re inevitable. Remember the little chorus we sang in Sunday school?

The rains came down and the floods came up;

The rains came down and the floods came up;

The rains came down and the floods came up . . .

When we were chirping out those words as children (complete with hand motions), we didn’t realize we were describing the trials we would later encounter in life. But now we know, for all of us encounter storms. They aren’t predictable, and we often have little advance warning. The sky blackens, the clouds swirl, the winds howl—and as the rains come down, the floods rise up. Christians aren’t exempt from stormy weather.

Sometimes it’s a storm of bereavement, a storm of loss, a storm of disease, a storm of persecution, a storm of financial stress. In this passage, two storms of equal strength hit the two houses, and the storms were packed with driving rain, cyclonic winds, and heavy floods. Sound like the circumstances of your life?

Two Results

As Jesus unfolded the story, the critical thing was not the intensity of the storm but the stability of the foundation. The house on the rock was secure, neither shaking or shuddering. Often during my years in the ministry, people have come to me, saying things like, “You know, Pastor Jeremiah, I always believed this, and I’ve always trusted the Lord. But when we went through the loss of our daughter, or when we went through that terrible financial reversal, it was hard. But I have to tell you something. The Lord Jesus was real. He was there. I felt His presence as never before.”

I can say the same thing myself regarding my bouts with cancer. When we go through the storm, one of the great benefits is discovering the reality of the foundation on which our lives have been built. I don’t know how people get through the storms of life without Christ. When the storm hit the house on sand, it fell, and Jesus added: “great was its fall.” Sand castles by the sea don’t survive storms; they are swept away. But the house on the Rock stands firm.

So build your house on the Rock.

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This article was first published in Turning Points Magazine & Devotional.
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