The storms of life will hit us. When they do, is our life foundation firm?
We’ve had already in just this, I would say January, I was just reminded it ended with a flurry. Some of us are kind of aware of a lot of things that have been going on in the national landscape. There are tons of political things that are happening. There’s a lot of different things that are brewing, mulling around, and different elections that are going to start now. There’s a lot of stuff happening at a national level. Then, of course, the way that the year ended for us. It’s been an unusual week because it’s leading into something that hasn’t happened that much, to the whole Super Bowl, and all that has just created its own kind of momentum. But it was last Sunday actually, that something really remarkable happened.
We were looking at the words of Jesus when He was talking about how important it was to build on the foundation of His words. He reminded us as we wrestle with His words about the fragility of life and just how if we only build our life on temporary things, that those things can be lost so easily. Things such as fame, wealth, and even money. We even talked about how if we build our lives on people, in the end, we’re building sort of unfairly on them. There’s something that only God can fill in our lives. So we were sitting with that and talking about how Jesus said, build on the right foundation. The one who hears these words of mine and does them, I liken that person to a wise person. We talked about that.
In between the 10:30 and the 12:30 service, right after I finished sharing at 10:30, I walked back into the little green room space where I can pray and sort of get ready for the next service a lot of times. There was a note on my phone. It was a notification and someone had also sent me something as well that said, “Hey, Pastor, just be aware that Kobe Bryant just died. He had a helicopter crash, and a lot of people died with him.” It was stunning because we had just been talking about the very things, about what real success looks like, about how fragile life is, about how things can turn so quickly. How important it is to have a healthy foundation in our life. Some of us may recall if we were at the 12:00 service, when we shared it, there was a collective gasp that came out. There were a lot of people that hadn’t heard about it. So it was a pretty intense moment, but it underscored everything we were talking about, and I couldn’t help but think about the timing.
Many of you are aware that we kind of have a modest global epidemic going on. I mean, the Coronavirus. Even though it seems like it’s somewhat contained, the truth is well over 300 people have already died. The numbers are escalating in China in terms of infection counts. Other countries are starting to be affected by it. It’s enough to where the World Health Organization has called it a global emergency. Even though we are a little bit closer or cut off from some of the intensity of it here in the States, it nonetheless is a real significant issue because they don’t really have a solution to it, not presently. It’s spreading and causing a lot of concern and fear. In fact, we might say we’re not really directly affected as much, but the truth is our market reflected it on Friday. It had a big impact there as well. A lot of people are afraid. Apple’s closing stores in China temporarily. A lot of things are happening in the culture at large.
Honestly, those things have to do with what Jesus taught us. In life, there are going to be real things that happen that are going to get our attention. So, as I looked at this, again, it really reminds us of everything that Jesus taught us. How real, relevant, and connected it really is to the things that we are experiencing on a daily level. What I want to do is have us go back and look at a piece of what Jesus taught in Luke six. Last week we talked about Matthew’s account. I want to switch over to Luke’s account. It renders it in a slightly different way, but it’s very impactful as well. I want to just have us look at verse 46.
Luke 6:46 says, “Why do you call me, Lord, Lord? Jesus says, but you don’t do what I say. Why do you call me, Lord, Lord, but not do what I say? Why don’t you do what I tell you?” It says, “Everyone who comes to me,” Jesus said, “and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like. He is like a man building a house who dug deep and laid a foundation on a rock. When a flood arose,” the other version says, “A storm arose, the stream broke against the house. The winds blew. That house it could not be shaken because it had been well built, but the one who hears and does not do them, who hears my words and does not do them is like a person, who’s like a man who builds a house on the ground without a foundation.”
The other version says on the sand, in contrast to the rock, “and when the stream breaks against it and the storm rises and the wind comes, it immediately fell. The ruin of that house was great.” One of the versions says, “Great was the fall of it.” The impact was a moment of great failure and calamity. If you look at this passage, really look at it, it’s all about responsiveness, isn’t it? What’s the key? What word do you keep seeing coming up in this little teaching here that Jesus gives us? Doing, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, but not do what I say? The one who hears these words of mine and does them, this is the one I will liken to those who build their lives on a rock foundation. The one who hears these words of mine and does not do them, I will liken to one who builds their house on an unstable foundation.”
So you look at that and you think, oh, this is all about responsiveness, about doing. But there’s another thing that it teaches us. I’m going to start putting a few things up along the way, especially for those of us who are note-takers, we engage, we sit with things, we come back around, and maybe we even talk about it in our small groups or the next day as we’re pondering it, or just staying connected with the whole rise and shine themes. A lot of times it’s connected to things that we’re discussing. One of the things I want to put up from the very beginning is something that is presupposed in what Jesus taught us, and that is this. That in life, everything that we build is going to be tested. It’s going to be tested by the storms of life. I think we understand that.
This year, as we have already seen, there are big storms that hit. They hit us at national levels. They hit us at a global level, people are experiencing big storms. There are things that we cannot predict in our world. So big storms in the big world. There will be storms in this world, but also, we will have storms in our life, in our personal world. These storms are sometimes even more impactful. If we’re not directly affected, there might be a kind of anxiety and fear around things that are big, that are happening, that we hear the noise of it. We feel affected by the tension, fear, and concern. A lot of times the storms that are most impactful for us are the ones that some of us are walking through right now. They might be relational issues, our health, it might have to do with finances, or just fear that we might have something that we’re going to lose. There are storms that hit us.
We’re talking about the problems of life that oftentimes affect us deeply. Jesus taught us that when the storms hit, and they will, it’s our foundation that will make all the difference. Storms, they come with different force, most storms hit quickly and they pass. So they hit us and quickly pass. We’ll call them the problem patches of life, those places in life where we get hit with something and it’s hard. Again, I mentioned the different kinds of things that some of us may be having to face right now. We might have some problems that are really challenging for us and really disturbing our peace. But we’re working through that. Some of us realize that it’s going to pass. These are issues that we’re having to focus on or things that are hurting us a little bit.
Maybe there is a temptation there. If they come in too many in a row, they can start to get us into a place that we get stuck. That makes total sense. However, a lot of those, what I’ll call mini storms, they hit and they pass. They come into life and we get past them. Next week, we’re doing better, but there are other storms that hit with gale-like hurricane intensity. When they hit our life, they alter things. Sometimes they affect us, not just for days, weeks, or months, but for years. We feel the impact of that storm that hits us with such intensity and ferocity. It’s exactly what Jesus was describing. Some of those storms are so hard for us that they take literally years for us to recover from them. So what are we going to do then in light of that, the fact that we have storms everywhere?
In our personal life, when things happen like that, what are we going to do? Are we going to live life afraid? Are we going to become cautious, timid, and shrink our world down? Are we going to play everything safe and allow fear to dictate to us what we’re going to even try? It’s kind of interesting how this works, isn’t it? We can easily start to close down and that’s something that is a real thing. It happens when we experience a lot of storms or we’re having something that has really been devastating in our life. What are we going to do? Another thing that happens sometimes is we get angry with God. We do. I’ve seen this. I’ve seen this with people who love the Lord.
They get hit with a storm that was so hard they start to wonder, why aren’t you showing up for me, God? Where are you? Why is this happening? This should happen to bad people. In these kind of places it reminded me we can begin to question God’s goodness sometimes. That can happen. I was thinking about one of the most profound books in the Bible. If you just want to get into problems and wrestle with things, it is the book of Job. It’s one of the most underestimated powerful books in the Old Testament, really, in all the scripture. Because in Job, you have this situation going on where he has been hit literally with a series of storms in a row. We would call them high level, high grade, gale force, intensity stuff in life. To the extent where his entire world essentially collapses.
Job’s world collapses to such a degree that he’s beginning to lose everything that matters to him. Finally, it gets to the point where his closest friends even begin to question the sincerity of his faith. You watch him wrestling with them and saying, “But I didn’t do anything wrong.” One of them starts to imply, “You must’ve done something wrong or God would not let this happen.” It’s a very interesting discussion that starts to take place. He maintains the fact that his love for God is honest and sincere, that he has not been duplicitous. It even gets to the point where his wife comes to him and is so critical of what has taken place. If you think about it, he’s getting hit with these storms and the people who are closest to him are not hearing him. She even gets to the point where she says, “Job, I think you just need to curse God and die.” It’s powerful.
Job’s health is melting down. His relationships are melting down. Everything in him is going wrong. It’s such a temptation to turn on God, but he will not do it. He will not do it. “No, I will not,” Job says. This is a reminder. Sometimes we can close down and start to quit on God and not even overtly. That can happen. Other times we don’t quit on God when the storm hits us with devastating impact or consistent things begin to wear us down. We don’t really quit on God, but some of us quit on life. We start to allow for certain things, negativity starts to corrupt us. All of a sudden, our words are negative. Our attitude is poor. We’re angry. We’re not resolving that anger.
Sometimes we struggle with unforgiveness. If unforgiveness begins to dominate our life, then you know what unforgiveness in the Bible says can turn into? Bitterness. You know what the Bible says bitterness does? It corrupts many, when bitterness is allowed to grow in us. I was talking to someone just actually a couple of days ago. I could hear them struggling with forgiveness. I had known about something in their life that they really needed God’s forgiveness in a big way. I watched this and I was listening to their words and said, “Are you sure that you should not be a little more merciful here and more forgiving because I think you’re getting really stuck? Let me ask you this question. Do you need God’s forgiveness at work in your life? I would encourage you,” I said, “to not allow this offense to just get stuck inside of you. For what? When you need the forgiveness of God. We all do.”
You know what Jesus taught us? If we ourselves cannot forgive, how can we ask the Lord to forgive? Now that doesn’t mean we agree that something wasn’t wrong, that it was wrong. It just means a lot of times when we talk about this, when we forgive, we set a prisoner free and that prisoner is us. A lot of times the feeling is that I might have this anger inside of me or this offense in me, but I’m just going to, listen, set it aside and section it off in my heart. Then I’ll live the rest of my life this way. I’ve got this dark place inside. But it doesn’t work that way. It spreads. It spreads, it affects others. It affects our key relationships. It’s not accurate to suggest that we can allow things that God’s saying are not good for you to have a place there and think that it won’t affect other things. It spreads itself. That’s why the Lord cares about that.
Again, I just can’t do that. I can’t follow the Lord and pitch my tent there, stuck in anger, unresolved anger, and bitterness. I just get stuck there because the storm hit me. They did this, this happened, this hasn’t been resolved. They haven’t paid. All those things may be true or partly true. I always suspect my own, but we must always remember, I have a blind spot as well, and we can misinterpret. We don’t get everything exactly accurate. We may have most of it, but we have to always walk with a degree of humility that suspects our own righteousness. It’s one of the things the Lord taught us. But again, this idea of we can’t pitch our tent there. If we pitch our tent in that negative place we’re disobeying Jesus.
There is something we can do. What we can do is what Jesus taught us. You know what that is? Is to build a good foundation. Build our lives, sincerely and securely on His words, His promises, and then seek to live those words. That’s something I want to do by God’s grace until the day I die. Never perfect, but I want to do it. So nothing is allowed to get so lodged inside of me from either my past, my upbringing, or even my present situation, the residue of a storm that I didn’t want, nor did I invite, or see coming, but it hit me hard. What do I do? That’s what we’re talking about.
I was particularly struck at verse 28. Look at that closely again if you don’t mind. In verse 28, what did Jesus say? He is like a man or someone who’s building a house, look at that phrase though. And what? Dug deep. This is a time for all of us young and old. We’ll put it up there, to dig deep, to dig deep. When you’re talking about foundations, life strength, wisdom for living, constructing a future, and having a life that is capable of enduring through the turns and storms, big and little. It’s talking about foundational building. “Hear these words,” Jesus said to all of us, “If you want to be like the wise one, build your house on the rock. Who is one that does that? The one who hears these words of mine and implements them in their life and does them.”
Apply yourself to this. Spiritually speaking, I want to take this a little bit further. I want you to think about the image of somebody who’s digging deep into the ground, and that requires effort. A lot of times it takes effort to dig deep. You have to go down there, you hit a rock. The things that have to get out of there. That’s sweat on the brow. That’s hard work. It implies effort. It doesn’t just happen. It costs us something to dig deep. Foundations don’t happen without some digging. That’s the part that God won’t do for us. He’ll help us, but we have to choose to do it. So practically speaking, I’m going to put some things up there. I’m going to describe what digging deep might look like for us and talk about that for a moment.
It means paying attention to certain things. Things like character and integrity. We’re talking about interior work here. We’re talking about who we really are, how we handle and manage things. How there not to be a disconnect between what we say, believe, and actually do and live out. The greater we can get alignment, between what we say is in our heart and what is actually happening in our lives. That’s why one of the reasons Jesus’s words were so powerful. Because there was no gap between what He said and how He lived. The smaller the gap, the more power for good. The idea of character is that God’s trying to get us to dig deep. This might be a season for some of us for digging deep into our character. So that ways of being that have characterized us for many of our years are being challenged in love by Christ. We’re actually giving that attention.
We don’t want to be hypocritical, but then I hear some people say, “Well, I don’t want to be a hypocrite so I don’t tell people I’m a follower of Jesus because I don’t feel like I’m living the life.” I say, “You know what? Part of me respects you, but the solution is incorrect. The solution is asking God to help get you to the point where you feel more able to speak with honesty, not as a perfect person, but as an honest growing man or woman who is following Jesus.” It might have to do with other things such as fellowship and community. Maybe for some of us, this is the time where God’s really calling us to push into that. You all know it, you know this. We’re better together. That’s a phrase we’ve been talking a lot about. That’s why we have small groups, shape groups. The idea of getting in shape, spiritually fit. We can do some things alone. There is an ‘aloneness’ part to following Jesus that has to be there.
There’s also a connected part with others. There’s a fellowship. There’s an accountability. There’s the idea of sharing life, sharing faith, and wrestling with questions. We’re not always strong at the same time. We need others in this life. I’ve needed it. There were times where I stumbled and needed someone to help hold me in grace. We pray together. There are a lot of times where God’s saying you’re strong enough to hold the other. We’re better together. We’re encouraging one another. Sometimes our faith dips. Sometimes we hit a wall. Sometimes we run into something like the storm we’ve been talking about. All of a sudden we feel like I’m dropping back into stuff. That’s when having that work of community makes a huge difference. It’s worth it.
You know what? It really shows up in the storms of life because it’s part of the foundation process of God. We’re not isolating. Frequently, what I found is even in groups we get connected into. We may not just connect with everybody. That might be good because God’s stretching us not to just be with only our kind of people. At the same time, we might find that there’s some real friendships that develop where genuine trust and intimacy can occur at a safe level. Do you understand what I’m saying? This might be a season where digging deep has to do with knowledge and wisdom in our life. What do I mean by that? For some of us, this is a year to really grow in our biblical understanding. Or perhaps to be refreshed in it. To spend time reading God’s word and talking about it with others. To really commit yourself to an expansion of knowledge base.
Of course the difference is that wisdom is the application of knowledge, of accumulated knowledge. So we may know things but not know how to actually implement them in ways that work in our life. When God is calling us to apply ourselves in wisdom, it’s learning how to take what we know and to be able to put that into the everyday-ness of our life in ways that is increasingly life-giving. So it might be a season where that’s what we’re being asked to do. It also has to do with just being more of a worshiper. Being more of a person who is more committed to devotional life. Digging deep for some of us may be the first time that we’re actually really giving consistent attention to things like space for prayer and worship. There’s a song in our heart. We have songs, we are singing the songs. We’re a worshiping person. We’re having time in the morning.
There’s a rhythm to our life with the Lord. It’s showing up. It shows up in the daily, you are renewed day by day. Give me this day, my daily bread. There’s a time that we’re making room for the Lord. We’re praying. We’re thinking about it. We all kind of like to have a little bit of a consistency in our way with Jesus, our walk with Him. On top of that, it might have to do with coming to the Lord’s house. It says about the one in seven, it said of Jesus that when he came to the synagogue in Nazareth as His custom was. The Lord himself models the one in seven, making a consistent pattern of coming together in the place where God’s word is shared and loved. People share what we’re doing right now.
For some of us, it might be giving or serving, honoring the Lord in ways that are stretching us and we haven’t done before. The last one you can see is, in my mind, this is not a comprehensive list, but I’m thinking about practical things that the Lord might be speaking to your heart that have to do with digging deep, reading and reflecting. Someone might say, “Well, I stopped reading when I got out of school.” I will say this, the reading I’m talking about is not really the kind of surface level entertainment or Apple news paragraph. Nor is it just reading that ends up just being extraordinarily surface-y. I’m talking about quality reading. There’s a leadership principle, the one who reads leads. There’s an element of truth in that.
When we read quality things that stretch us it gets us thinking. A lot of times in our small groups we might have a book, a wonderful Christian book, or there might be also literature that we’re reading, but something that’s stretching us. It’s getting us thinking, exercising our mind, growing our vocabulary, just being more open to ideas and expanding. Not putting a cap on our growth. When you follow the Lord, you never stop growing. We’re always becoming an improved version. That’s His will for us, and reflection.
We live in a very high stress culture right now, where honestly, I feel the same effects. It’s very hard to be disconnected. The ability to have time to reflect, to prayerfully reflect with long thoughts on our lives, to listen. You hear me use the phrase, listen to our lives by creating space, maybe a walk where we’re not trying to do anything, but just say, “Lord, how am I supposed to be processing this? Is there something your spirit is trying to say to me? Lord, do you want me to address this in my life? Am I building in the right way here?” Are we creating space for that to happen? Are we reflecting? Are we looking at it? Are we gaining self understanding?
This is very important. I’ll just tweak this around a little bit. This is just the way it helped me. I’ll put this next one up, and you can look at it in a slightly different way, this is partly how I looked at it. Do you see these tension points between work and rest, between giving and receiving, and between self-sacrifice and what we might call self care? Depending on where we’re at with the Lord, this might be a season in terms of just looking at it and sitting with it because it’s kind of a balancing act. Some seasons are requiring us to place an accent on one thing more than the other. Some seasons require us to work hard. We really need to work hard for the foundation. It’s a time of working hard.
There are other seasons where we really need to rest. If we don’t rest, we’ll actually burn out and we’ll start to notice that the law of diminishing return starts to set in. What that means is we start doing more and more and more and getting less and less from it. It might also have to do with giving and receiving. Sometimes we’re in a season where we are giving. For someone who’s in a pastoral role, this really hits on the mark. Giving, giving, giving, but you also have to have times for receiving. Otherwise, you’ll start to run on empty and crash. The Lord might be saying that, what looks like, ‘aren’t you supposed to sacrifice and give yourself and bless?’ Yes, yes, yes. Some of you are amazing at it. You give all the time. You’re sacrificing for others. You’re serving. That’s what you do.
There’s also a time for self care. that’s not being selfish. It just means that if we don’t pay attention to certain things in our own life, what happens is we’ll melt down. All the good that we’re doing will be undermined. Remember we cannot lead anyone further than we lead ourselves in the end. I’ll put it one more way and we’ll leave it here. Don’t forget to decorate. The Christian life is never to be a strictly utilitarian faith life. That is just down to the nuts and bolts. No, it’s to be a life that’s filled with grace, love, beauty, and wonder. It’s artful. It’s not just law. It’s the master artist, Jesus. It’s never just religiosity. It is contending for authenticity, but it’s alive. Do you know what? I’ll share one last verse, one of my favorite Proverbs Proverbs 24.
It has such relevancy. It says, “By wisdom a house is built and by understanding it is established.” Look at that, “By knowledge its rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” I love that. It’s how you build a life right there that’s beautiful in Christ and in God. A life that makes a difference. Are there rooms in our life metaphorically speaking that need to be redecorated and filled with beauty? Are we in a building phase where we’re establishing the foundation of our life? Or is it possible that we’re at a point where we’re not necessarily supposed to be building a room foundationally? In a new room, an addition, an expanded place? We’re actually being invited to redecorate, repaint, reorganize, recreate, rearrange something, move furniture around, buy a few new pieces.
It may be time to soar with some of the things that we’ve learned. This may be a season to take some of the unique gifts that God gave us. It is supposed to be a season of beautiful impact and contribution at unprecedented levels in our life. In other words, it may be that it’s less about building something, a new wing. It’s more about letting something in us just start to sing out in a more beautiful, expansive way. The Christian life, the life of Jesus, the way of Jesus, it was never meant to be dull. It was meant to be vibrant and alive with color. I know everything I just said, because it was a couple of days ago I was thinking about this, your life in Christ is to be alive, to be vibrant. You have to get the focus on the right direction. Do you know what happened? I had one thing to do after another. I had to go on this day, I had to go do as many of you do. I was thinking about it.
We live with the responsibilities of life. We have things we have to take care of. I had to get to the cleaners. I had to get this one issue taken care of. I had another conversation that needed to be done. I had this whole thing planned out how I wanted to organize my life with God. The next thing I know, I ended up having to go online to get something adjusted. Then I got stuck in what I call the abyss of passwords where you have a next question, next question, next question. By that time, I’ve already forgot the password that I put in. I ended up wasting hours. You know what I’m talking about. This is the everyday-ness of life that can get to us. Out of the context of that, the Lord has a way for us to live, prevail, grow, stay alive, and keep our spirit light.
I understand. I live in the same world, but God still calls us to a life with not only a firm foundation, but with beautiful rooms. That’s what He wants us to do. What is it He’s asking and putting in your heart to pursue as we make our way into these coming months? Where’s the accent point supposed to go? Is it character? Is it something to do with habits? Is it something to do that God’s trying to expand? Is He saying soar with something I’ve given you? Don’t just settle for letting it sit there. Use it. What is it? I don’t know. God knows. Let’s pray together.
Lord, we just trust you that you are at work in our lives, that you have a plan, and a purpose for every season and time under heaven. I ask that we would not be passive or beaten down by the responsibilities of life, which can get us in the disorganization of life sometimes. It requires us to give attention to things, but in the end, we need to make room for you. The beautiful one at work in beautiful ways in our lives. May you work in us and through us. Help us to be quality interior decorators inside of our heart and inside of our soul, let you do something beautiful there so what comes out will be something that blesses others increasingly. I just ask that before we rush into the remainder of this very enjoyable day that we would just take these next few minutes, not just for our time of giving, but for the song that we’re closing with, just be very encouraging, inspiring, and we enjoy this moment together. We close it well in Jesus’ name, speak to our hearts, Lord. Amen.