For what seemed like years on end, I can remember walking to work in downtown Portland and passing by this massive hole in the ground in the middle of the city. It was incredibly strange. I figured someone probably had a good reason for leaving it as is, but I could not put my finger on why in the world it just sat there, seemingly void of any purpose and taking up an entire city block. There was absolutely nothing aesthetically pleasing about it. In fact, surrounded by a bunch of rinky-dink wooden sidewalks with makeshift tunnels over it that were covered in graffiti, I could not help but wonder if an asteroid hit Portland that was never reported in the news, or it was some sort of wormhole to another dimension the government was trying to lazily cover up. (Newsflash: It was not).
And then, as if out of nowhere, it disappeared. After my job had moved out of downtown Portland, and upon my return after a couple of years of not having to walk near that location, I saw it: The Park Avenue West Tower. The years of nothing but what seemed like an empty abyss disguised as a hole had given way to one of the finest building in all of Portland. It just took an extremely long time to build up its foundation, rising up deep from within the very grounds below it.
This is how it is for us when we choose to follow the ways of Jesus and go “down to the potter’s house” where God is “working at his wheel” and waiting for us to decide to be like “clay in the potter’s hand” (Jer. 18:1-6).
This is also what Jesus was getting at in the last part of His Sermon on the Mount, when He said these words in Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV) …
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the 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.”
We must build our foundations on the rock because just as we experience plenty of rain in the Northwest, we will all experience plenty of life’s rain and storms; and when the ultimate storm comes that will decide our eternal fate, on what foundation did we build our house?
Unfortunately, as Pastor Mike discussed in his sermon on Sunday, many peoples’ foundations are built on the shifting sands of money, entertainment, cultural norms, or even things that seem more commendable like good deeds or fascination in things like the end times or angels and demons. But unless our lives are grounded in the One who describes Himself as, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin (Exodus 34:6-7, NIV),” then we are doomed to the fate of the sinking sand.
Paul describes this foundation as of “first importance” in 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 (ESV) in this way: “That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas [who is Peter], then to the Twelve. Then He appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.”
Worry not my friends: Through the gospel accounts and extensive research on the legitimacy of the New Testament, we can be sure that Jesus is real and is “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).” There is no substitute that will stand up to the storms that will come our way. We cannot build our lives on the created, but only the Creator.
When we stand on the beach, we enjoy the feel of the sand under our feet. Playing in it is one of the highlights for my family and me when we go there to get away on occasion. But when the tide comes in, anything that remains will be swept away; we must retreat to safety. My family enjoys stopping by the beach at the Devil’s Punchbowl near Otter Rock to look at the tide pools and climb around in the Punch Bowl. But we have to know when low and high tide are. If someone were to spend too much time in the emptied-out Punch Bowl and not notice the tide sneaking back in, they would end up trapped in the treacherous cavern without a way of escape. Though we enjoy the beach, we would not be foolish enough to begin building a permanent house out on the sandy shore. So it is with this life: Though we enjoy the good gifts our Father gives us in the world, we cannot be foolish enough to build our lives upon anything but the One who gave them.
As you walk through this life, may you be like that building in downtown Portland, which, though perplexing to me before it was finished, has a sure foundation that will stand the test of time. And may we look forward to what God has in store for us after the final storm is over.
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” (Isaiah 65:17-22)
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF …
- What is my foundation built on?
- Do I believe in Jesus, but lack obedience? And if so, what could be done to change that?
- Does my confidence and hope rest in Jesus Christ alone?