Building Your Life on the Rock: Life has its storms. Sometimes, the storm is a category four hurricane, but more often, it comes in the form of loss, conflict, illness, or a rough patch in an important relationship. So how are we to weather the storms of life? Jesus tackles this issue at the end of his Sermon on the Mount, promising that the storms will come. But Jesus also promises that we can endure the storms, not just through knowledge of his teachings, but through joyful, sometimes painful obedience to his way. Recorded on Oct 16, 2022, on Matthew 7:24-29, by Pastor David Parks.
This message is part of our sermon series “The Unexpected Way,” from the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7 in the Bible. The way of Jesus is totally unique; it’s different from every other way of life, philosophy, or religion. Why? Because the teaching of Jesus — emphasizing holiness, humility, justice, faith, and sacrificial love — leads to a whole new gospel-centered ethic. This ancient ethic, if actually practiced, has the power to bring abundant love and joy, and peace to anyone, anywhere today. This is the way.
All year, we’re focusing on Learning the way of Jesus, which means that all year, we’ll basically be answering the question, “If the gospel is true, how then should we live?” And we’ve been working through a very famous teaching of Jesus known as the Sermon on the Mount in a sermon series called, The Unexpected Way. The teaching of Jesus leads to a whole new gospel-centered ethic, a cross-shaped way of life. And the way of Jesus is totally different than all the other religions and philosophies of the world. And at every turn, it seems as if the way of Jesus is the last thing we’d expect. But if it’s followed, it’s the only way that has the power to bring true and lasting love, joy, and peace to the journey and lead to abundant and everlasting life. Today, we’re coming to the end of the Sermon on the Mount. But next week, we’ll have a little epilogue on faith and works and the importance of getting the order right. But today, we’ll heed the call to build our lives upon the Rock and find true stability and security no matter what storms may come in life. Just a few weeks ago, Hurricane Ian, a category four hurricane, left devastation across southern Florida. I saw a time-lapse video of the storm in, I believe it was, Naples, FL. There were two buildings in the video, one a hotel made out of what looked like concrete and the other a smaller wooden house or shop. When the storm surge came in, the water almost covered the camera, maybe 8-10’ high. And when it receded, the hotel remained, but the house was completely gone. Not just knocked over, but gone. Sadly, everyone faces storms of various kinds in life. Sometimes literal storms like a hurricane, but more often, storms of long-term illness, unexpected loss, conflict, abuse, or abandonment. In many ways, this is just part of life in a broken world, a world marred by sin and death. But some people are able to remain standing through the storms, while others are crushed or just never seem to recover. So as we learn the way of Jesus, how can we remain standing, how can we endure the storms of life? If you have a Bible/app, please open to Mt 7:24. We’ll read this and then unpack it together.
Matthew 7:24-29 (NIV), “24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
So in the Sermon on the Mount, let’s remember the context; Jesus is teaching his disciples/followers what it looks like to follow his way. And he finishes this sermon with this vivid picture of two ways to live. For the past few weeks, we’ve been considering these two ways to live. Jesus has laid before us two gates leading to two different paths, one that leads to life, and the other leading to destruction. He taught that there are true and false prophets, teachers, and disciples. Those who bear good fruit and truly know God through a relationship with Jesus and those who do not. And here, there are two different foundations for life. Let’s start back at v. 24.
Matthew 7:24-25 (NIV), “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Let’s pause here. So there are probably many lessons we could learn from this teaching, but I’ll give you three, two here and then one later. Here’s the first lesson: 1. Storms will come. Some of us have had a relatively easy life. Others of us have not. But regardless of your experience so far, it’s critical to understand that storms will come. If we do not expect difficulty or hardship or pain, we will be especially thrown when the storms come. As C.S. Lewis wrote in God in the Dock, “If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.” [Lewis, C. S.. God in the Dock (p. 52). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition]. This is all about our perspective. And Jesus says, the rains will fall, the streams will rise, and the winds will blow against you. Life will not always be easy in following the way of Jesus. Sometimes there will be times of great pain and suffering, sometimes there will be fierce trials and hardships, and you might even feel like everything in your life is coming apart at the seams. This is the first lesson. But this lesson helps us to set our expectations for our lives according to reality, according to the truth. And this is so helpful. Nothing works in life unless it’s aligned with reality. You can pretend for a while, but reality always wins in the end. It’s funny how that works. You can pretend for a while that God’s blessing means you’ll have perfect health, wealth, and everything you touch will prosper and flourish. That is, until you get sick or lose your job or have real difficulty getting along with your spouse, child, or business partner. Or you can pretend for a while that you have infinite energy or capacity, like God, that you don’t have the normal limits of mere mortals. That is, until you burn out or turn to addictions and other unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the burden of living, maybe for years, outside your God-given limitations. All of a sudden, reality painfully corrects your make-believe world. But whatever happens, as a disciple of Jesus, we cannot say we didn’t expect some difficulty or other to intrude into our lives. Jesus is clear. Obedience to his way does not provide an exemption to life’s troubles and trials, to the struggles and sins that mark this broken world.
But Jesus doesn’t leave us here. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, here’s the second lesson: 2. You can endure. When the storms come, your house doesn’t have to collapse, you don’t have to fall, and you don’t have to be crushed. First, storms will come. But second, there’s a way to endure the storm. We’ll get to how we can endure in a second, but I just want to make sure we don’t miss the hope that Jesus is offering here. Some people don’t expect the storms to come. They will. Don’t be surprised; Jesus is clear. The Apostle Peter wrote later, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1Pe 4:12-13). We follow the way of Jesus. And the way of Jesus included the suffering and humiliation of the cross. However, when you look at the driving rains or the depth of the streams, or the strength of the winds coming against you, do not think that all is lost. Or that God has abandoned you, or your pain/difficulties will last forever, or there’s simply no way for you to survive. For the follower of Jesus, there is hope. After the crucifixion, there was a resurrection. Jesus says there is a way to stand, to endure, to stay faithful and hopeful to the end. “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall,” Praise God. Let’s continue with v. 26.
Matthew 7:26-27 (NIV), “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” So first, storms will come. But second, there is a way to endure, there is hope, and there is a way to stand no matter what storms might come. How? How can we endure the storms of life? By listening to the teaching of Jesus, by “hearing these words of mine,” as Jesus says, but that’s not all. Here’s the third lesson: 3. Endurance is learned in obedience. Jesus says we must not only listen but obediently put his teaching into practice. We must learn his way, but we must also follow his way. Jesus makes it absolutely clear that gaining more information alone is not the key to standing firm in the midst of our storms. Maturity for a disciple of Jesus is not only about learning more and more spiritual or biblical information, but what? Doing what we already know to be true. Practicing what we preach. Now please hear me; I’m not saying Bible reading or Bible study is not helpful. It’s incredibly helpful. God’s word reveals the truth about who God is and what he has done for us by his Son and Spirit, who we are created to be and why, and so many other treasures. But increasing our knowledge is just not enough. We see this in the Great Commission passage after Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus says to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Baptism represents the start of the journey of following Jesus, of hearing the gospel and putting your faith in Jesus and the new life we have in him. It’s the starting line for the race. But the whole rest of the Christian life, the whole rest of the journey of discipleship, is described as “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Not merely teaching, but teaching to obey. So not merely learning the way of Jesus but of following his way in every area of life, including our relationships, work, money, forgiveness, identity, sexuality, and more.
But why? Why do you think it would be obedient actions, and not knowledge/wisdom alone, that would be a firm foundation, a rock, for the difficult times in life? Because it’s too late to sign up for swim lessons when you’re already drowning. It’s too late to develop the character, skills, and relationships needed to weather the storm when you’re already in the storm. Good habits take time to develop and hone. Spiritual disciplines take time before they become our first/natural response. Faith takes time to be practiced and tested in regular life before it is hardened enough to endure the most severe of trials. In other words, the foundation needs to be poured and the house built before the storms come. If we fail to listen to Jesus, we’ll not be able to endure the storms because we won’t know what is true/right/helpful, and we’ll flail about looking for answers without any discernment. But if we fail to obey Jesus, if we fail to put his words into practice in our lives, we won’t be able to endure the storms because our foundation will be too weak. This is foolish, not wise. It’s foolish to fail to prepare for a storm you know is coming. The Apostle James, the brother of Jesus, has much to say about this. James writes, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (Jas 1:22). Don’t deceive/fool yourself. With no foundation, your house is built on the sand. And when the storms come, it will fall with a great crash. It won’t be pretty. It will be devastating. Again, there are two ways to live, two paths, one that leads to life/stability/hope, and one that leads to destruction. One with a firm foundation, a life built on the rock, and one with no foundation. Let’s finish with v. 28.
Matthew 7:28-29 (NIV), “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” I love this description. No one taught like Jesus taught. No one had the authority of Jesus. No one, not even the best and brightest among us, operates at the same level as Jesus. We’ve spent the last three months working through one of his sermons, and we’ve encountered some teaching that is as difficult as it is beautiful. Love your neighbor as yourself. Treat others how you would want to be treated. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Commit yourself to forgiveness and work for reconciliation. Value the life of every person. Be faithful in marriage. Be a man or woman of your word; and on and on. The consistent description of people who actually heard Jesus teach was one of amazement. People constantly asked each other, “Who is this?” when they encountered him. So if you’ve never had a sense of awe or come away shocked or astounded by the teaching of Jesus, there’s a good chance you might’ve missed what he was actually saying. No one is like him.
So now, as we close our series from the Sermon on the Mount, of course, we won’t really move on from the unexpected way of Jesus. We’ll have our epilogue next week, and then we’ll start a new series from the epistles or letters of the NT called Redeeming Regular Life. But as we close today, I’d just like to invite you, as I think Jesus is inviting us in his teaching here, to consider which path you are on in life. Are you on the path that leads to life? Have you entered through the narrow gate that is faith in Christ? Have you made your foundation? Have you built your life on the rock of Christ — both his word and his way? If not, then my invitation is the same as when Jesus preached about his kingdom, repent and believe the good news! Repentance means turning away from your way/sins and turning to the way of Jesus. Believing means both believing the good news that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and that he rose again from the dead. But faith also means that you trust him with all of your life, both the good times and the bad. Both in the calm and in the storm. This is what it means to become a Christian, to repent and believe. If you do today, you will be forgiven for your sins and receive eternal life in the kingdom of God. But even better, you’ll start a journey with Jesus, empowered by his Spirit, as a child of his Father. He will never leave you or forsake you. He will be with you even to the end of the age. Storms will come. But you can endure. Why? Because endurance is learned in obedience. Obedience to Christ, but also obedience to him every step of the way. Let us pray.