That’s Just the Way it is!

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority-quite unlike their teachers of religious law. Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside” (Matt.7:24-8:1 NLT).

Day 1 – The Wise Man

Last night I was untimely ripped from a good night’s sleep due to a violent windstorm. I’m pretty much a scaredy-cat no matter where I am when a storm hits, but now that we’re in a new home in a new place (in a forest full of tall trees), I’m even a little more freaked out. As I sit typing at my computer right now, the wind’s STILL blowing pretty hard. Looking out my office window, I can see all the trees dancing in the wind, swaying back and forth. It looks to me like they could fall at any moment. That’s the only thing I could think about last night as I was trying to go back to sleep. What if a tree falls and hits our house? Will we die right away? Will it cut right through the house? By the way, they’re not small, insignificant trees. They’re tall oak trees that soar way above our house.

Yet the more I think about it and stare out the window, I can’t help but think how those trees got there in the first place. I can’t help but think what they had to endure to get as tall as they are now. I don’t think it’s possible to get that big and tall without being strong. And as tall as they are above the surface, I can’t even imagine what their root systems looks like underground. So I have now come to the realization that those trees aren’t going anywhere. One windstorm isn’t going to bring those tall oaks down. Those trees have been through hundreds of windstorms over the years and they’re not going anywhere. They’re anchored in the ground and they’re built to last. That’s just the way it is!

With that in mind, there is no more fitting conclusion to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount than the story He’s about to deliver in the verses we’re looking at today. He’s finishing up the greatest sermon ever preached. He’s given us so many tools to live by. And if we actually put His words into practice, we will (over time) grow in our faith and be able to weather any storm life throws our way. Over time, as we apply His words and live by faith, we will grow. Our roots of faith and action will run deep below ground to anchor us through the storms of life.

The truth is that the entire Sermon on the Mount comes down to the story Jesus uses to close it out. He’s given His hearers so much great information. Yet if they walk away and do nothing with it, they’ve all wasted their time. It always comes down to action. The information Jesus gives us in this entire sermon is intended to be applied. Once applied over time, God produces the transformation we need to make it down that narrow road of life. James summed it up well when He wrote, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22 NIV). So in order to weather life’s storms, we need to DO God’s Word. That’s just the way it is!

1. If we want to weather the storms of life, grow in our faith, and find true happiness, we must not just hear the Word of God, but DO the Word of God (Matt.7:24-25). Jesus delivered this message on a mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee. It’s quite a beautiful sight. But everyone who was listening to this message would have immediately known what Jesus was referring to here. The sand that encircled the Sea was hard as a rock on the surface over the hot summer. And believe me, it’s hot! Even in June, it’s hot. I was slightly upset the day I visited this place because it was a Triple H day (hazy, hot, and humid), and I couldn’t get a great shot of the Sea because it was so hazy. However, I eventually got some good shots. But the point is that over the hot summer, the sand is rock hard.

But over the winter months it was a different story, and they would get torrential downpours that could cause flooding. Guess what happens to the sand at that point? It’s not so rock hard anymore. So those that built their houses there knew that they needed to dig down under the surface to build the foundations for their homes. Sometimes they had to dig even 10 feet below the surface of the sand to get to the bedrock below and build their foundation from there. At that point, they knew it could withstand the heavy rains over the winter months.

Furthermore, Jesus tells us right away where He’s going with this story. He says that anyone who hears His words (the sermon He’s preaching) and DOES them, will be like this wise man. So Jesus is saying that it’s more than just hearing the Word, it’s also acting on what we hear. And this is a continual thing, not just a one-time deal. We need to continually hear God’s Word and DO God’s word. He doesn’t sugar coat it. That’s just the way it is.

The rock foundation that Jesus is talking about here is really obedience to God’s Word. The rock is the very words of Jesus and our obedience to His words (our actions). And this is something we must do on a continual basis. It takes time to build a house. It takes time to build a foundation. It takes time to base your whole life on God’s Word. So over time, that house withstands those storms because it was built the right way. It was built on the proper rock foundation below the surface (not unlike the root systems of tall oak trees).

Have you ever had a superficial friend? Have you ever known anyone who was a friend for a time but then when your life started to get hard, or something changed, he/she was gone? We’ve all been there. True friends are the ones who stick around even when you are at your most vulnerable point. Even when you are about to lose it, true friends will stick around and help to pick you up. In a similar way, a faith in Jesus Christ that is built on a solid relationship with Him (one that hears His Word and is obedient to His Word over time), is one that will stand the test of time. It will withstand the storms of life.

Have you ever heard the expression use it or lose it? Hearing God’s Word on a continual basis and doing it on a continual basis makes for a solid faith that can’t be lost or shaken when trouble comes. And trouble WILL come for all of us. That’s a given. But as we USE the Word of God, we will be strong. When we don’t, we lose ground, our faith becomes shaky, and those storms seem unbearable. Then we start to wonder where God is and question Him. But God’s right there the whole time! We’re the ones who are not doing His Word. We are the problem, not Him. We need to USE it or LOSE it. A sporadic use of God’s Word will be a sporadic faith. Knowledge of God’s Word (without action) is not enough. It just leads to an enlarged ego.

If our lives are based on anything other than the Bible (the Word of God), we’re not going to find the true satisfaction and happiness we’re looking for. It will always seem like something is missing. If we want to weather the storms of life, grow in our faith, and find true happiness, we must not just hear the Word of God, but DO the Word of God. And we can’t do the Word of God if we don’t believe it or use it as our manual for life. Have you ever wanted a manual for life? Have you ever wondered why one had not been written yet? It has! It’s called the B-I-B-L-E. That’s our solid rock foundation. And it will stand the test of time. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8 NIV). And the person who FOLLOWS the Word is truly wise.

Day 2 – The Foolish Man

2. If we want to continue in our struggles, not grow in our faith, and not find a lasting happiness, just hearing the Word of God is sufficient (Matt.7:26-27). Now we have the exact opposite of our first point. We looked first at the wise man. But now Jesus tells us what happens to the other guy (the foolish man). Jesus says, This is what happens when you have sat and listened to My teaching and don’t do it. You’re an idiot! Of course, He does not use those exact words; however, He might as well since the foolish man only listens and doesn’t ACT on God’s Word. The foolish man has sat and listened to the whole Sermon on the Mount. Yet he walks away and doesn’t DO anything about what he heard.

This foolish man is the one who does not dig down under the sand and get to the rock. He just went ahead and built his house on the surface of the sand because it was quick and easy. The foolish man looked at that hard sand in the summer and said, That’s hard enough. I can build my house there. He didn’t think long-term. He didn’t plan for those winter rains. He didn’t plan for that sand (and his house) to get washed away.

Moreover, both houses look the same above the surface. No one can tell the difference until the storms come. The difference is what’s under the surface. The difference is spiritual. The difference is between someone who professes faith in Christ and someone who professes faith in addition to acting in obedience to God’s Word. Only the storms of life can flush out those who only hear and profess. Yet those that have heard and done the Word (over time) will withstand both the storms of life and the judgment of God. Instead of saying, I never knew you, Jesus will say, I’ve always known you. And the reward is no small matter: eternal life.

Sadly, not everyone really believes God’s Word. They might believe it CONTAINS God’s words. Or they might think it’s just another book. But it’s so much more than that. If you actually know what’s written in the Bible (and you’re living it out), you know it’s not just another book. This is our manual for life. And it’s either ALL true or it’s ALL a lie because God claims that it’s His Word and that it will stand forever. That’s either true or false. There is no gray area when it comes to God’s Word, the Bible. And if it IS true, then we need to follow it. We need to ACT on what it says. We must never forget, however, that it’s a continual action. When it comes to weathering the storms of life, we must be in the Word training every day AND using it. It’s so easy to get off course and slip and fall.

A little over 4 years ago, Olivia gave me a wonderful Christmas present. It was a trip to Israel. I was to go that following June. The gift, however, came with a condition. She said that I had to lose weight. I was around 206lbs at that time. Nevertheless, my motivation to make the pilgrimage to Israel was pretty great. So I started working out. And over a 4 month period, I lost almost 40 lbs! Even after the trip, I liked my new body and I wanted to keep it that way. So I maintained my new weight for about 3 years.

Unfortunately, once we moved to Enola to plant our first church, I stopped working out. And it was for good reasons. I never got lazy. I just got busy. Our whole lives were turned upside down and our focus shifted. But the problem was that, over time, my eating habits changed. Since I no longer worked out, I couldn’t eat as much and still maintain the same weight. Needless to say, those pounds started coming back on without detection. By the time I noticed, it was too late. It seemed like my clothes shrunk overnight. Currently, I now weigh 10 lbs more than I did before the initial weight loss. And I can’t blame the dryer for shrinking my clothes.

The Christian life is the same way. It’s so easy to slip. In fact, it’s easy to lose weight as a Christian initially because you’re so excited. The hard part is keeping the weight off over the years! We have to continue to study the Word and DO the Word in order to keep growing; otherwise, when those storms come up, we won’t make it. We become that foolish man without even realizing until it’s too late. The truth is that if we don’t get serious about God’s Word today, we never will. We must strike while the iron’s hot! But we need not do it alone. That’s what the church is here for. We can strengthen each other along the way. That’s just the way it is!

Day 3 – Which man (woman) will YOU choose to be?

The Sermon on the Mount comes to a conclusion with that story of the Wise Man and the Foolish Man. However, it is interesting that Matthew records what happens once Jesus is finished preaching. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority-quite unlike their teachers of religious law (Matt.7:28-29 NLT). In today’s church, it seems that if people were actually challenged to live out the Word, they would all walk away. We seem to want to STUDY and HEAR the Word in abundance while not doing much of anything about it (except go to more Bible studies). But Jesus never gave us that option. He said, You gotta actually do this or it’s worthless!

And His audience didn’t walk away. They wanted to hear more! “Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside (Matt.8:1 NLT). Instead of walking away, they followed Him off that mountain. Today, I think many church leaders have it all wrong. They think they need to water down God’s Word to draw large crowds. But I beg to differ. I believe that people WANT to hear God’s Word. I think they WANT to know it and understand it better. I think they would actually WANT to follow Him if they knew what He taught and had authentic leaders who also DO the Word rather than just preach it. Jesus did both. He led by example. Our leaders should too! That’s just the way it is!

People are looking for meaning and purpose to their lives. Honestly, I believe that people are generally unhappy, whether they want to admit it or not. But as the church, we need to show them Jesus Christ. We need to BE Good News. We need to teach them what the Bible actually says instead of forming an opinion about what they think they already know. As the church, we don’t need to change the Word. We need to DO the Word. We need to live by example. And God will change lives. OUR job isn’t to change people’s lives. That His job. But He does tell us to put His Word into practice.

Unfortunately, if we wait until the storm comes, we will fall like the house on the sand. The choice is ours to make, however. We either build it on the Word of God AND doing the Word, or we build it on the philosophies, religions, and opinions of the world. Let me know how that works out for you in the end! Experience tells me the latter choice doesn’t end well in this life or in the life to come!

Here’s 3 ways to put this Scripture (and the whole Sermon on the Mount) into practice:

1) Hear the Word (make time and effort to hear it). Attending church services is part of hearing God’s Word. Make it a habit. Make it regular. That’s where we can learn and be challenged by God’s Word (especially if we’re beginners). You can also read it on your own at home on a daily basis. Get a Bible that’s easy to read and understand. I recommend a modern translation. There are plenty available! The New Living Translation (NLT) is probably the one I would recommend if you’re just starting out. The English Standard Version (ESV) is great as well. But no matter what translation you use, just start reading and listening! Hear the Word.

2) Learn the Word (make time and effort to learn it). “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11NIV). That’s what is known as The Berean Challenge. So be a Berean! Study the Bible every day. We can do that personally at home or in a Missional Community setting. Sunday morning sermons aren’t enough. That’s only 1/7th of what we need! If we want to start to grow in our faith we need to learn the Word. And it takes time. Yet it’s a daily habit that’s worth starting! The above Bibles that I mentioned also have study Bible versions. I highly recommend getting a Study Bible that includes not only the text, but also study notes that help you to understand what you’re reading. Learn the Word.

3) Do the Word (make time and effort to do it). Once you hear it and study it, the only thing that’s left to do is to put it into practice. If you miss that part, you’ve missed the whole point. God doesn’t want us to just get smarter. For example, I can learn about weight loss. I can read about weight lifting and cardio, but unless I get my butt into gear and eat right and exercise, I won’t lose weight! Action is required if we want results that will last. We must DO the Word.

Missional Communities are a great way to learn how to DO the Word. MC’s do study the Bible, but we also take seriously Jesus’ Commission to go and make disciples. God intended us to work together, as the church, to accomplish His purposes. It was never meant to be every man for himself. The Christian life is one that needs to be shared and experienced in community with other believers. We’ll never really know what it’s like to truly live by faith and trust God until we DO His Word (together). That’s the only way to withstand the storms that come our way. That’s the only way to build our houses on the Rock. DO the Word. That’s just the way it is!!!

Day 4

Questions to consider…

  1. How do you learn best? Reading? Watching? Hands on? A combination?
  2. How much time do you normally spend hearing God’s Word? Learning God’s Word? Doing God’s Word? Would you consider yourself a beginner, intermediate, or advanced student of God’s Word? What qualifies you for that distinction?
  3. What gets you through a crisis? Do you ever doubt your faith or the goodness of God when bad things happen? Has your opinion changed over time? Why?

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