A storm is coming. The torrential rains shall fall. The waters shall rise. The floods shall sweep away all wood, hay, and stubble. The violent winds will blow away all that was built irresponsibly.
Are you building your house on the rock or on the sand?
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Mt. 7:24-27).
“What sayings of Mine” is Jesus specifically referring to in these passages? Reading in context, Jesus began a lengthy teaching from Mt. 5-7 and the central theme of it seems to be the character of the heart of man – from the beatitudes, to loving our enemies, to having the right motives in giving, praying, and fasting. Then He goes on to teach them about the Father’s care for them and not worrying but seeking first the kingdom of God. Finally, Jesus comes to the end of that teaching and speaks about hypocrisy and righteous judgment and reverting back to heart matters followed by a warning of false prophets and those who call Him Lord but don’t do His will. This entire teaching is traditionally known as the Sermon on the Mount, and it ends with the parable of the wise and foolish builders.
This was one of Jesus’ first and most foundational teachings. It set the tone for His public ministry. As ministers that is important for us to know. We must emphasize what Jesus emphasized. These sayings prepared the people and His disciples for what was to come. Herein we find the standard of Jesus’ life and ministry for all He did and taught. The heart must be right or nothing else will be right. If the heart is not right people won’t do what He says. We must build our lives on Jesus’ words, especially these first words of the first lengthy sermon He preached.
STORMS TEST THE STRENGTH OF THE FOUNDATION
Jesus was the Master Builder. When it comes to building people He is our primary example and pattern. The apostle Paul refers to God’s people as God’s field and God’s building (1 Cor. 3:9), and he calls all ministers his fellow laborers who plant and water the field, and who are to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
The image of the people as a building under construction is very interesting because it highlights the responsibility of ministers to be faithful in how they build. Ministers are like building contractors who are only permitted to build on the prescribed foundation (see 1 Cor. 3:12-15). There are both wise builders and foolish builders (Mt. 7:24-27). To build on the foundation a building of durable material (gold, silver, and precious stones) means not only to teach sound doctrine but even more importantly, to be a godly example and live a sanctified life of fidelity to the truth, thus helping to mature the saints. Ministers and especially pastors/shepherds, because they live with the people, teach more by their life example perhaps than anything else.
On the other hand, to build with perishable material (wood, hay, and stubble) is to provide inadequate or unsound teaching or to compromise the truth by living a lifestyle that contradicts or falls short of modeling it. It is the quality of every builder’s work and not the quantity, as seems to be much of the focus today, that shall be tested by fire, for which every builder shall give account to the Lord.
In Jesus’ parable (Mt. 7:24-27) He uses a storm, signifying the pressures, hardships, and trials of life, as well as the persecutions we will suffer for the gospel, as a measuring gauge for how solid our foundation is. And what is our foundation based upon? Jesus taught us that it is based upon doing His sayings. Obedience is the issue. “For not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father (v. 21).” Obedience is what God requires, not lip service.
Have you ever thought about what gives us the strength and fuel to obey God? Why are some people obedient and some are not? Why are some doers of the Word and some are not? Why do some people stay faithful to God and remain true while others do not? Why do some start this Christian race but never finish? What is it that causes us to endure to the end (Mt. 24:13)?
It is the fear of the Lord. Obedience to the Lord is not only proof of your love for Him (Jn. 14:21), but also of your fear of Him. There’s been an emphasis on love, although we’ve fallen short of the full counsel of God in that area, too, but there has not been nearly as much of an emphasis on the fear of the Lord. It takes both of them to produce a strong constitution in your Christian life. Notice in the following two different translations how the love of obedience in Jesus was rooted in the fear of the Lord. They are identical. Or a better way to say it would be that the manifestation of the fear of the Lord is obedience to His Word and His sayings/commandments.
“His delight is in the fear of the Lord…” (Is. 11:3 – NKJ).
“He will delight in obeying the Lord…” (Is. 11:3 – NLT).
I love this verse of Scripture. It feeds and fuels the fear of the Lord in me and the delight to obey Him. This is our sure foundation. Since our obedience is the manifestation of the fear of the Lord in our lives, and since that is the difference between building your house on the rock or on the sand, we then could say that the fear of the Lord is what builds a strong foundation for our houses, which represent our lives. The fear of the Lord produces durable materials in our lives that will strengthen us to stand even in the midst of the storms. Can you see that?
A house is built by wisdom, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning or the foundation of wisdom/knowledge. Once again, a house represents our lives, homes, families.
“Through [skillful and godly] wisdom a house [a life, a home, a family] is built, and by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation]” (Pr. 24:3 – Amp.).
“Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord…” (Pr. 1:7 -CEB).
“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge…” (Pr. 1:7 – NLT).
If we build our lives and homes on the true wisdom and knowledge of God that comes from the foundation of the fear of the Lord then we need not fear the storm because we will stand.
PAUL’S GREAT DESIRE
One of the apostle Paul’s greatest burdens was this very thing, that the people He ministered to would stand firm in their faith and remain obedient to God even in the midst of the troubles and persecutions of his day. Other New Testament writers shared the same burden.
Paul’s great desire was that the people he taught would not falter under pressure lest his work be useless or his labor be in vain. Notice his great concern for the Thessalonian saints (1 Thes. 3:1-9). He had warned them of the troubles that would soon come. In his farewell speech to the Ephesian elders he warned them of the same troubles (Acts 20:25-31). To the Galatians and the Hebrews he did the same, warning them not to turn back to the Law. He was preparing them for the storm and the persecution they would receive from preaching the cross and paying the price to follow Jesus. Warnings are such a large part of the Scriptural admonition that Paul and the other New Testament writers gave to the churches. Today there is a glaring absence of these warnings in our preaching.
Here are many I found in the New Testament:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Mt. 7:15).
“But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues” (Mt. 10:17).
“Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name saying, ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many” (Mt. 24:4-5).
“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many, and because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mt. 24:11-13).
“For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive if possible, even the elect” (Mt. 24:24).
Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation” (Mk. 12:38-40).
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Lk. 12:1).
“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Lk. 12:15).
“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).
“Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9).
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (1 Cor. 11:3).
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6).
“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation” (Phil. 3:2).
“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18).
“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man…” (Col. 1:28).
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).
“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16).
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation…” (Heb. 2:1-3).
“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (Heb. 4:1).
“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10).
“You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (2 Pet. 3:17).
Fellow minister and preacher, how well are you preparing yourself and your people for the storm? Are you teaching them the whole counsel of God or catering to itching ears? Are you including the warnings in your preaching? Are you preaching on only the goodness and mercy of God or do you also preach on His severity, wrath, and judgments? Are you only preaching on the love of God or do you place emphasis on His holiness, too? Do you ever preach on sin and repentance? Are your concepts of the love of God and the grace of God accurate and in accordance with Scripture?
If not, then you may be guilty of the blood of men.
“I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God… Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:26-27, 31).
Make sure you are preparing yourselves and those whom God has entrusted to you for the storm. Oh, how much stronger our churches would be if we included these things in our preaching and teaching and living them out before the people!