When I was a child, we used to sing, “The wise man built his house upon the rock… The rains came down and the floods went up… And the house on the rock stood firm.” Of course there was the verse where the house of the man man who built on the sand went splat! The song was taken from the parable of Jesus in Matthew 7:24-27. Jesus spoke of the importance of having a good foundation in construction, in life, or in anything really.
If you’re going to build anything, it’s only as good as the foundation it’s on. Ive read that when they build skyscrapers, they usually have to dig down until they hit bedrock. Sometimes they have to dig up to 150 feet so they can build it on a firm foundation. If they don’t do that, nothing else matters. When the winds hit it or any other storm does, it will come crashing down. You are I are building more than a skyscraper. Were building a life.
Storms are going to come. We will all experience them. That’s why having such a good foundation is important. Proverbs 10:25 says, “When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation” (NLT). Storms not only test what you’re built on, they reveal it. Even if a storm wipes out everything you’ve built, if you have a sure foundation, you can build again.
So how do we build a strong foundation that lasts? Before Jesus told the parable, He said, “Anyone who listens to my teachings and follows it is wise, like a man who built his house on solid rock.” It’s not enough to just hear or know what Jesus said. You have to obey it and live it out. You can build your life on God’s Word because after heaven and earth pass away, His Word will still remain. It is truth. It is life. It is a firm foundation that won’t give way when the storms come.
If you have a smart phone, you’ve probably downloaded an app. There are two main types of apps: ones that cost and ones that are free. Sometimes an app company will develop a lite version of their app so you can try it before you buy it. That allows you to try some of its features, but not the best parts of it. To do that, you’ve got to pay the price. Many people download the lite versions and free apps only because they’re unwilling to pay what they cost.
I think it’s human nature to try to get out of paying the cost of things. We identify with the end result of things, but we are unwilling to put in the work to achieve those results. Bowflex is proof of that. Their commercials show you the results of hard work, and then get you to buy by telling you that you don’t really have to work that hard or long to achieve those results. As a result, most Bowflex machines end up as very expensive clothes hangers.
As Christians, we want full access to who God is, but we only want the lite or free version of Him. We want the faith of the people in the Bible without putting in the effort. We identify with those who have the strongest faith, but we don’t want to put in the time and effort to worship and know God. Just like any relationship, you get out of it what you put into it. We can’t know the depths of God if we aren’t willing to have more than a social relationship with Him.
In Psalm 34:9, David wrote, “Worship GOD if you want the best; worship opens doors to all his goodness” (MSG). Worship is more than bowing down to Him or recognizing His greatness. It’s an internal submission to Him. It’s putting His needs above our own. Worship is the price for the full version of God if you will. It’s not just a type of song on Sunday morning. It’s what we do with our relationship with Him the rest of the week. If you want access to all of God, learn to worship Him every day.
One of the pictures I have in a shoebox somewhere is of me and the neighborhood kids posing by the outline of a fort we made out of Fall leaves. We were so proud of it that we had my mom take a photo of it. We spent a lot of time making that thing, but our efforts were wasted by the first strong wind to blow through. Those leaves kicked up and scattered all over the yard again. We might have rebuilt the thing once or twice more before we gave up realizing that it wasn’t going to last.
Sometimes we can feel that our work for the Lord is like that leaf fort. It feels like our efforts are wasted and unappreciated. Nothing we do seems to last, and we get discouraged. I know what it’s like to invest in someone only to watch the winds of change undo all our progress. It’s frustrating to watch hours, and dollars appear to go to waste when something we’ve done for the Lord is destroyed or brought to nothing. All of us go through those times where we wonder, “Is this even worth it?”
Paul must have experienced some of those feelings as well. He knew that if he felt that way, others did too. He wanted to encourage those of us who feel that way. In I Corinthians 15:58, he wrote, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (NLT). He wanted to remind us to keep going and that the work we do for God matter.
Whether you teach Sunday School class with kids who don’t appear to be paying attention, lead a small group that has inconsistent members, work the parking lot at church where no one follows your direction, or any other number of unappreciated jobs around the church, keep working enthusiastically. Your labor is not in vain. Keep scattering seeds. The Lord prepares hearts and causes those seeds to grow in due season. Don’t give up. Be strong and immovable because nothing you do for God is useless.
Growing up, I looked for loopholes to get out of things I didn’t like doing. I spent more effort looking for loopholes than it would have taken me to just do the work. It’s sad to think how much time and effort each of us spend trying to avoid doing things we are responsible for. We will often wear ourselves out trying to avoid what we hate instead of doing it. My parents had to get good at closing loopholes and creative at how they explained what they wanted done, and how they wanted it done.
If you’re like me, and find yourself looking for loopholes, we are not alone. There was a guy in Luke 10 who asked Jesus, “What do I need to do to get eternal life?” (MSG) Jesus asked for his opinion, “What does God’s Law say? How do you interpret it?” He then gave the two greatest commandments (Love God and love your neighbor). Jesus said, “Good answer! Do it and you’ll live.” Verse 29 says, “Looking for a loophole, he asked, ‘And just how would you define “neighbor”?'”
Just like us, there were people this guy didn’t like. He may have had a neighbor who stayed up late and was noisy. He could have had one that didn’t care for his house or lawn. He could have had one that always got him in trouble with the HOA. Surely God’s Law didn’t mean he had to love them. He wanted a loophole to just love the neighbors he liked. I’m sure he had expended extra effort to avoid the neighbors he didn’t like, and now he wanted to justify it with God’s Law.
But Jesus didn’t play by His rules. He told the story of the Good Samaritan and asked him who was the victim’s neighbor. Jesus closed the loophole and let him know that “neighbor” isn’t defined by neighborhood, class, religion, color, or nationality. He told him to go and love everyone the same way you love yourself if he wanted eternal life. He learned a valuable lesson that day about who to love and about trying to find loopholes in God’s commands.
Which of God’s commands do you find yourself trying to find your way out of? We all have them. There are certain parts of the Bible our human nature wants to avoid doing, so we look for loopholes to get out of it. I think what Jesus did for Him is what he wants to do for us. He wants us to quit looking for loopholes to get out of our responsibilities. He wants us to trust that His way of living is the best. If we will use as much energy living His way as we do trying to avoid it, our lives and the world will get better.
When I picture John the Baptist, I picture a Grizzly Adams kind of man. Bearded, tough, and furry clothes. The Bible describes him as a guy who lived in the wilderness and ate locust. I wonder what people thought of him when they saw him. I wonder if they took one look at his exterior, made a judgement, and discounted his message or dismissed him as crazy. Sure, on the outside, he was rough, but on the inside was a heart and spirit we should all strive to have.
I believe he was able to amass a great following based on his heart. How many people do you know who have charismatic personalities, yet are very humble? Those two things rarely go together. Usually the person who enjoys being the center of attention doesn’t give it up happily, but John knew his place and his calling. When Jesus came along, he had no problem yielding the stage to Him. To me, that’s what admire most about him.
When some of his followers came to him to tell him that Jesus was baptizing not far away, they expected him to get upset. After all, his name was John the Baptist. Baptizing people was kind of his thing. His followers were a lot like us. They didn’t like to yield the stage, and they really didn’t like that Jesus was taking people from their ministry. How dare He? After all, it was John who baptized Jesus. But John knew what was going on and he didn’t let his pride get in the way of his calling
In John 3:30, John showed us what was behind his wild and rough exterior when he told his followers, “He must become more important while I become less important” (GNT). That’s the attitude that each of us should strive for each day. We should make Jesus more important in our life while we become less important. We should understand that our lives were created to serve His purpose, not ours. Each day, we should be looking for ways to have Him increase in our lives. If you want to fulfill your purpose, you have to lose the pride that tries to make your name known so you can make Him known.