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A few years ago, after months of rain had softened the ground beneath them, houses on Blue Bird Canyon in Laguna Beach began to slip their foundations and slide down the hills. For the homeowners, whose dreams and fortunes slid with those houses, it was an agonizing experience. For us, it is a vivid picture of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount:
“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. 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” (Matthew 7.24–27).
Life is difficult. It is filled with any number of “storms.” Marital arguments, problems with children, conflict at work, ill health, financial difficulties, and spiritual doubt all challenge our faith. Consequently, the question we must ask ourselves is whether our faith has a strong enough foundation to withstand the storms.
There’s another storm on the horizon, and it is the “perfect storm” to test our faith. I’m talking about death. Each one of us will die, and when we die, we will stand before God in order to give an account of our life. Using the image of a refiner’s fire, Paul writes: a man’s “work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3.10–15). Who will be able to endure the storm of death and judgment?
Interestingly, Paul answers the question using the same image as Jesus did: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” According to Jesus, the strongest foundation of life is his “words,” that is, his teaching. According to Paul, the strongest foundation is Jesus himself. In the end, there is little difference between the two, for there is a perfect integrity between what Jesus says and who he is.
So, as I wrote yesterday, we are faced with a choice. We can choose to follow Jesus Christ and obey his teachings, or we can choose not to. But now we see that our choices have consequences, both in this life and in the life to come. We can choose to have a faith that withstands life’s storms and that carries us through death itself. Or we can choose to face life and eternity, having built our houses on some other foundation. The difference between a wise and a foolish builder lies solely in this choice. So choose wisely.