I wish with everything in me that I could have been there that day when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. It laid out the entirety of his message in quick and simple language that the people listening, even though they were not as a whole scholars or even educated people, could understand and apply to their own life. I have been preaching for almost 54 years yet being able to preach with the kind of clarity and powerful illustrations that Jesus used from ordinary life has always seemed out of reach. When Jesus came to the conclusion of this masterpiece of a sermon he ended with an illustration from their day to day life than no one could miss.
“Everyone then who hears theses words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on a rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Great sermons are interesting to hear and sometimes people marvel at the beauty of the message or the excellence of the words or illustrations. But the power of the sermon is never in simply hearing it and telling the preacher what a fine sermon it was. The power is in what we do with it. Certainly with every sermon preached by a human it is important to examine the message to make certain that what is said is really from God and not one of their own making. Remember God called the people of Berea a noble people because on hearing Paul preach they searched the Scriptures to see if what he said was true (Acts 17:11). But the time of examining should come to a conclusion and upon learning that the message is true we should then put it into practice. Just knowing the truth on anything is of little value if we don’t do anything with the knowledge.
Think about some lessons from this illustration. Both groups heard the same lesson. It wasn’t the lesson that made the difference but their reaction to the lesson. It is also important to notice that the same rain, storms and winds came upon both the wise who were obedient to the message and the foolish who just listened without making any changes in their lives. Being a follower of the Lord doesn’t protect us from the storms and agonies of life. As I am writing this a strong hurricane is barreling down upon North and South Carolina and this storm will hit without respect to which homes or businesses are affected. It won’t skip over the houses or businesses owned by good Christian people and demolish the houses of those who don’t follow His teaching. Far too often people have gotten the notion, likely from listening to a teacher or preacher who taught it to them, that if we follow the Lord then he will keep us from facing the storms of life at all. The result of such thinking is that people are shocked when their families are hit with cancer or with some other major illness or problem in life. Time and again in visiting people in the hospital I have heard people say that they just can’t understand why this is happening to them since they are Christians. Many asked, “What did I do wrong that God would allow this to happen to me?” The right answer is that such problems, storms, rain, and winds come upon all people in one form or another. The old saying is true that if we think that if we could just swap our problems with those of someone else we know that just seems to have everything going their way, we would likely want to swap back within a week of getting theirs and finding out what they were really dealing with.
Have you ever seen a house that was built on a poor foundation? Some years ago I had a friend to call me wanting me to come look at a house near where they lived that was for sale and they thought it was a tremendous buy and I should think about it. I went to look at the house and sure enough it was beautiful on the outside. But when you went into the house the doors wouldn’t shut right. The floors in some rooms were lower than in others and it wasn’t because it was built to be that way. I went around back and looked under the house to see what was going on. It had slipped off the beams that were there to hold it up and was in real danger of collapsing at any time. They builder had put lots of effort into making the house beautiful, but hadn’t spent the time, effort and understanding to make the foundation secure.
Jesus said that in life it is exactly the same way. If we take the message he proclaimed and lived before us and do what he teaches us to do to the best of our abilities, we are building our lives on a solid rock foundation and when the storms of life hit us we will stand the test. But when we make it our practice to listen to the message of the Lord but make no changes in our lives then we are building our lives on sandy soil and when the storms come we will be swept away in the storms.
The real question is how am I building my life? Am I intent on hearing and doing God’s will or just on hearing it and knowing the truth?
When Jesus finished the crowds were astonished at this teaching and declared he spoke with authority and not like the scribes, but nothing is said about how many of them actually made any change in their life as a result. Amazing!