Recently storms battered the northern coast of Sydney. It was remarkable seeing the ground below beachside houses being swept out to sea and leaving buildings on the brink of collapse. The scene reminded me of a story Jesus told. It can be found in Matthew 7:24-27.
Basically it is a story of 2 builders. One builder just loves water views and so builds his house right down on the beach. The other builder trades in some of the views and makes sure his house is built on rock. Even though it may have started out nice the weather inevitably turned nasty. The houses were hit by storms and floods. At the end of the day only 1 house was left standing, the one on the rock.
Now, Jesus wasn’t speaking about events in Sydney. Nor was he trying to create the first set of building regulations. Jesus was worried about people.
No matter how good your life may be, storms will always come. They may be the storms of ill health, failing finances, relationship breakdowns, or becoming aware the many injustices of our world. Whatever form they take you will experience storms. What matters is how you will respond to them. What your life is built upon is central to this.
Without a firm foundation houses slip away. I know this firsthand. Most of my house has fairly good foundations but not the veranda. For some unknown reason it was built straight on the ground. Over time, these foundations have started sinking on one side. To fix it, the veranda was lifted off its piers while proper foundations were prepared. It is frustrating. Six months down the track and there is still restoration work that needs completing.
So what are good foundations according to Jesus? It’s so audacious. He says you need to follow him.
For Jesus there are 3 qualities that mark his life as worthy of following.
1. Everything was based on God.
Jesus was motivated by his relationship with God. It was a thing of intimate trust but it didn’t mean things were always easy. For Jesus trust was a positive expression of his reliance on God. It showed what life with God looked like, even when it required unwavering obedience leading to personal suffering. In other words, Jesus’ relationship with the Father was central no matter what he was experiencing.
2. Jesus was all about serving.
It is so opposite to our cultural norms to value serving others. But this is what Jesus did. It didn’t matter whether it was healing someone, sharing a meal with someone, or simply talking to someone, Jesus always sought to serve. What would life look like if we learnt to stop asking ‘what’s in it for me?’ and started asking ‘how can I help you?’
3. Jesus understood sacrifice.
Most people equal sacrifice with suffering. It means surrendering your rights and submitting to someone else. Not so Jesus. For Jesus sacrifice was about bringing redemption. As he submitted himself to the cross Jesus brought redemption to others. This transforms sacrifice from just being painful to being infinitely purposeful.
One thing is certain, life’s storms happen. Storms may shake you but whatever your life is built on will determine how you are able to respond. The big question is ’Are you building on rock or sand?’