Dad told me that once as a teen he was with his father on their fishing boat when the weather turned nasty. Dad was whining and complaining about how rough it was and how he wished that they had of stayed home instead of going fishing.
And his father told him, “you wouldn’t want to be ashore in a storm like this, it’s much safer out here if you were ashore a tree could fall on you.”
And the reality was my Grandfather probably wouldn’t have headed out in the Bay of Fundy in a small fishing boat if he knew that rough weather was coming, on the other hand, they were already there. To turn around would be to lose valuable time and spend valuable money on fuel when they were already where they had to be. And so they safely weathered the storm without a tree falling on them.
This is week four of our “Weathering the Storms of Life” series. Over the past three weeks, we’ve focused on storms that happened at sea.
In week one we looked at the Old Testament story of Jonah and the storm that he found himself in when he was disobedient to God.
And you’ll remember that we learned five things from that story.
1) Not Every Storm Is Our Fault
2) Every Action Has Consequences for Others.
3) Don’t Make Major Decisions When You Are in The Midst of a Storm.
4) No Storm Lasts forever
5) The Remedy for Disobedience Is Obedience.
Two weeks ago we looked at the time that Jesus calmed the storm that he was in the with the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. And from that story we learned:
1) Sometimes Obedience Leads Us into Storms
2) Jesus Is Always With Us In The Storm
3) The Storm Teaches Us About Ourselves
4) The Storm Teaches Us About Jesus
5) It’s Easy to Nap When You Know Who’s in Control.
Last week we looked at the story of Paul’s voyage to Rome and the multiple storms he encountered. And there were five lessons there as well:
1) Sometimes a Storm is just a Storm
2) Storms Don’t Always Come Alone
3) If There’s Something You Can Do, Do It
4)The Consequences of the storm Can Outlast the Storm
5) Never Forget, God is There
But not all storms happen at sea; I happen to think the cool ones do.
This week the storm story is a story of a story. We are going back to the Parables of Jesus, the stories that Jesus told to illustrate the Kingdom of God. Matthew and Luke both record this story, and we are going to settle into Matthew’s account.
Matthew 7:24 & 26 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. . . But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.
So let’s start with The Back Story Jesus begins by telling the story of two men, because one man wouldn’t have been enough and three men would have just confused the issue.
And the two men had some things in common, they both heard the teaching of Jesus, they both embarked on a project, they both made choices, and they both encountered a storm.
In the story, the project they embarked on was the task of building a house, which of course was an analogy for the life that each one of us creates for ourselves.
And although we didn’t actually “Build” them, we designed both of them, and we were on site every day, checking progress and bringing the contractors home-made chocolate chip cookies. It’s incredible how far home-made cookies go.
And over the past thirty years I have been involved in 3 church building projects, and in each of those I was involved in the design, I was on site every day and I took part in the building project. Swinging a hammer, lugging stuff and painting. I love building.
And I have discovered that in each of those cases you need to be careful about what’s happening while the building is under construction because you will pay later for any shortcuts that were taken during the building process.
And trust me when I say that nobody will care more about how your house is constructed then you will.
And so, the two men, both build their homes. One chose to build on bedrock; the second man built his house on sand. The commentators tell us that this would have been a story that would have had people nodding. It made complete sense in their culture, time and geography.
Barclay writes in his Daily Study Bible, “There was many a gully which in summer was a pleasant sandy hollow, but was in winter a raging torrent of rushing water. A man might be looking for a house; he might find a pleasantly sheltered sandy hollow; and he might think this a very suitable place. But, if he was a short-sighted man, he might well have built his house in the dried-up bed of a river, and, when the winter came, his house would disintegrate.”
Ultimately both men made decisions, decisions that would dramatically affect the quality of their lives later.
And Jesus explains very clearly what he was trying to say: He didn’t beat around the bush or try to sugar coat his words. Let’s listen to his words again. Matthew 7:24 & 26 Jesus said, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish.”
the same as wise and foolish.
Because it’s easier for a wise person to gain knowledge than for a smart person to gain judgment.
And we’ve all met people who are incredibly smart but dumb as dirt when it comes to making practical decisions about life.
So, one of these men, the wise man, hears the teachings of Jesus and chooses to make those teachings the foundation of his life, even though it’s not necessarily the easy choice or even the popular choice.
The second man heard the same message but made a different decision about what he would do with that message. He chose to ignore the message.
We don’t know what the philosophy was that he built his life on, but we do know what it wasn’t. It wasn’t the teaching of Christ.
In this parable Jesus first of all, demands that people listen to his message and then he demands that people do something with what they heard. Knowledge only becomes relevant when translated into action.
When I first went to work with Dad on the tugs, he gave me a big lecture about doing as I was told and not questioning him or anyone else, that it expected that as soon as they told me to jump that I’d be in the air asking how high?
And as I looked at him with that 15-year-old, “I know everything” look, he explained that if we were towing something and the cable or rope broke, and someone yelled “Get down!” and I didn’t I might get my head cut off. That made sense, even to a 15-year-old who knew everything.
And the same way you don’t build a house overnight, you don’t build your life overnight.
Stephen Covey wrote, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
So let’s continue with our story: Matthew 7:24-27 “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.”
Which of course is The Storm Story
Presumably, the houses weren’t built in the midst of the storms, but the storms eventually came. And it seems that they came from all directions. The story tells us that the rain didn’t just come, it came in torrents. And the heavy rains caused the floodwaters to rise, and the wind was beating against the house.
Last week I spoke about how there are times that one storm seems to follow right on the heels of a previous storm.
But even within the same storm, there are various elements to the storms.
You get sick, and then you can’t work so you can’t pay your bills, and you lose your car. Not multiple storms, but elements of the same storm.
In the story that Jesus told the storms are identical, torrential rains, flood waters and wind. But it is in the end result that we see the difference.
At the end of the day, one house is
So, what are some of the Lessons from the Story
1) Storms will Come Regardless of how nice the weather is when you are building your house, you can be assured that at some point storms will come.
So, If you are building a house in Canada, you ought to prepare for snow and if you a building a house in Florida ought to prepare for hurricanes.
But sometimes we get hurricanes in Canada, and there have been times they’ve gotten snow in Florida.
There may not be a storm today, but storms will come. Your life may seem peachy right now, but the chances are that at some place in your future a storm will come.
My first pastoral family was Jack and Charlene Mackenzie, or as we all called them “Pastor and Mrs.” And they have been the Godliest people I have ever met, an incredible example of faith and personal holiness. If faithfulness exempted us from storms, then life should have been cloud free for the Pastor and the Mrs.
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Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5:45 For He (God) gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
But with that in mind, listen to the promise that Jesus made to his followers in John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Or as Shannon Alder reminds us, “There is always a storm. There is always rain. Some experience it. Some live through it. And others are made from it.”
And remember the wisdom of Bee Stanton from last week: “A wise old mariner perhaps once said ‘Never grumble of how the winds they howl, tis one of the few things in life you cannot change.”
Which leads us to the next thing we learn, The Best Time to Prepare for a Storm is Before the Storm Kind of like the old guy who never fixed his roof because when it was sunny, it wasn’t leaking and when it was raining it was too wet to work on the roof.
The time to prepare for the storm is when the sun is out. The best time to build a house and to build a life is when the storm isn’t raging around you.
Sometimes we get the warning, “a storm is coming get ready. ” But often times we miss the warnings, or we underestimate the power of the storm. And it’s at those times that we discover how prepared we are.
When Angela and I first started dating, we took a group from the bible college out on Dad’s pleasure boat for the day. It started as a really nice day, but the time we were done our three-hour cruise the wind had really blown up.
Dad had a new window that he was planning on installing in the boat, and he had it laying on the deck in front of the cabin. I didn’t notice it until a gust of wind picked it up and blew it overboard. Probably should have secured it before the wind came up.
The middle of a hurricane isn’t when you should be putting your patio furniture away, and the middle of the snowstorm isn’t when you should be discovering that you forgot to put gas in the snow blower. Not that I know anything about that.
But I do know for a fact that sea sick medicine is a lot more effective if you take it before you get sick.
Your Foundation is Important in the Storm We’ve all seen pictures of icebergs. In 1981 I had a great summer job on the Irving Cedar which took me to the magnetic North Pole, and we got to see Icebergs on our way there. And there were a few days that it got stormy and we were bouncing around, and they were just floating placidly along, it was so cool. And that was because so much of the berg was beneath the surface.
Luke’s account of this parable is a little different than Matthews. Luke 6:48-49 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”
Jesus told another parable where he compared our Christian experience to plants and explained how the plants that had developed deep strong roots were more likely to survive than plants with shallow roots.
And how do you make sure that you have a strong foundation in your Christian life? Start by reading your Bible. Paul reminded the early Christians in Ephesus of this truth when he wrote, Ephesians 2:20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.
And the way you build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets is to read them. And if you don’t have a bible to read, let one of the staff know, and we will get you one in a modern translation.
But it’s not just reading your bible, make prayer a habit, join a small group and make regular worship a part of the routine for you and your family.
The time to be preparing your foundation isn’t when you just found out you are ill, or unemployed or there are problems with your kids, the time is now.
It has often been said, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” Nobody knows who said it, but nobody argues with the truth of the statement.
You should have started laying the foundation of your faith a long time ago, but if you didn’t then start today.
The Results of the Storm Will Differ for Each of Us
Everybody goes through a storm differently. Before we moved to where we are now, we lived further into Kingswood. And our house was down in a sheltered area, and I remember the night that Hurricane Juan went through. The power had gone off in the middle of the night, and it was still off when we got up in the morning.
I remember looking out the window and thinking, “Well that was much ado about nothing.” And then our son came home from working in Bedford and told us about how much damage there had been in town.
Both men went through the same storm, one man’s house stood, and the second man’s house fell. In their case if was because of poor planning and poor preparation.
But understand that every storm is different, and so are the people who experience the storm. Their life experiences, the faith background the foundation they have established and all of those things will dictate how we weather the storms.
Don’t try to project on others how you think the storm should affect them. You can be there for them, but you aren’t them.
And finally, and most important, God is With Us in the Storm. Maybe You are wondering where it said that in the story. Remember how the story began, Matthew 7:24 Jesus said: “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.”
And in Jesus teachings, he reminds us how much God loves us and cares for us and how he will always be there for us.
The prophet writes in Nahum 1:7 The LORD is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.
If you’ve never accepted the forgiveness and grace of Jesus, those promises are just a prayer away.
And here is the promise from the past three messages: Proverbs 10:25 When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.
And a new promise for today from the book of Romans, Romans 8:35-39 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Numbers 6:24-26 ‘May the LORD bless you and protect you. May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you. May the LORD show you his favour and give you his peace.’