Life in Columbia, South Carolina, after the “great flood” of October 2015, has taught not just me, but many people many things. One thing I have heard over and over from people, especially those majorly affected by loss, was the fact that “they DID NOT KNOW” their house was in a flood zone…or flood plain!
We were not affected by the flood personally. I remember my dad, who was a road builder, emphasizing when we were looking to buy property and build a house to be sure to investigate “flood plains” and make sure we didn’t build our house in one. I can remember doing my homework based on my dad’s advice and experience. We can do the same with our spiritual life!
In fact, this is the most important thing we do….
Build our “spiritual house!”
Matthew 7:24-27, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who build 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 the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
One thing I can say for absolute certain at age 54…100% guarantee…if you are living…you will experience “storms in life, floods.” Not just environmental ones…but personal ones….and scripture is clear on how to build to protect ourselves for these “storms.” Build on Jesus and PUT GOD’S WORD INTO PRACTICE = obedience.
Unfortunately, we mistake church attendance as being a guarantee of great and safe “craftsmanship.” Or reading our Bible daily (gaining knowledge). Or giving or going on a mission trip, or serving, or going to a popular Bible study. All these things are excellent practices but we could still be building on the sand.
Allow me to explain using the “gym” analogy.
I have been going to the same gym and church for 30 years. I go to the gym consistently and usually at the same time. I see people come in the gym and stay for an hour, or even longer. They have been paying their membership fee for years. They chat and socialize, lift a few weights and walk, or maybe stroll, around the track and then leave…NEVER BREAKING A SWEAT. I am guilty of this as well.
I/they want to build a strong house and we show up but we don’t PUT INTO PRACTICE what it takes to build a strong house. It can be painful and inconvenient and require sacrifice on our part.
It’s similar to going to church and having 100% attendance–sitting in the pew, socializing, listening to a good sermon and basically checking it off our list as meeting the criteria for building a “strong spiritual” house. It is not going to happen. Just like showing up at the gym and going through a routine without “sweating” and elevating our heart rate or being sore from a workout that “stretched” and challenged our muscles, we are NOT going to change.
Building a “spiritual” house on a strong foundation takes FAITHFUL and FULL OBEDIENCE. It is going to church and having fellowship and accountability with other believers, but it is also serving, tithing (even when money is tight) and living an obedient walk 24/7 which often times can cost us something. It is our will deferred to God’s will.
We have to “hear the word and DO WHAT IT SAYS,” a.k.a. PRACTICE IT. Several years ago I discovered that a complete surrendering to God and His will was not comfortable but it was exhilarating because I started to see God’s hand in my life more specifically. Being “spiritually sore” has helped me to ensure against the “floods” that come in life.
It has clarified God’s voice in my life and helped me to distinguish my flesh and Satan’s voice and to defer to the Shepherd’s voice. Yes, living a life built on a STRONG FOUNDATION and having a STRONG FAITH requires us to be spiritually sore which can mean stepping when we are fearful, speaking truth when we may cause someone to be sideways with us, choosing to remain silent and walk away, setting a boundary that may cost us something on earth, extending grace, mercy and forgiveness when our “feelings” don’t want to cooperate.
For example, leaving a job with a comfortable salary because the environment was causing us to stumble or was promoting ungodly behavior. Or setting a boundary in a relationship that caused you to be judged by others. Or sharing the gospel in a hostile environment. Or continuing to pray for someone who has hurt you. It could be a family member, someone close to you, that you continually have to forgive. Or obeying and giving sacrificially. It could be saying, “I’m sorry” and making restitution. It could be transferring colleges to follow God’s call when everyone thinks you’re crazy.
It is “dropping your hands” and not defending yourself when you have been judged after someone has been given false information about you and allowing God to defend you in His time instead. It is calling out WRONG even when you have to leave a team/job or be kicked off/fired without another team/job because God says to leave. It could be stepping away from a loved one who is continually acting irresponsibly.
For me personally sometimes “dropping my hands” and waiting on God has taken years. It has made me very sore at times but it has really BUILT MY SPIRITUAL MUSCLES/HOUSE because full obedience often goes against man and our flesh. It is saying no to what might “look right to others” and saying “YES” to God. “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—-NOT FORGETTING what they have heard, but doing it—they will be BLESSED in what they do” (James 1:25, emphasis added). Be encouraged, OBEYING God brings BLESSINGS!
To build our spiritual house means stepping to build even when you don’t see the end. It means stepping to obey when you are in the minority. It is stepping to obey when you are ridiculed or made fun of. It is stepping to obey when you are excluded. It is continuing life when you bury a loved one and looking to God daily. Denying self and taking up “your cross” is costly but worth it. Just the other day my precious neighbor, Pam, who just lost her husband said to me as we stood in our driveway, “How do people handle life without Jesus and a strong faith?” I really don’t know and I don’t want to!
If you question being in the minority when you are building your spiritual house, consider this sobering scripture, “Enter through the Narrow gate, For WIDE is the gate and broad is the road to destruction, and many enter through it. But SMALL is the gate and NARROW the road that leads to life and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14, emphasis added). Coming to the realization that we were created by God and for God to do His will, we were created for His purpose. This is very different than building our house for ourselves and living our lives thinking God is here for us….existing to meet our every desire.
What I have studied in scripture, and found to be true in my personal experience, is that building a strong spiritual house requires us to wait on God no matter HOW LONG. Step when HE says step and step and how He says step (regardless of our feelings or man’s opinions) even when I don’t understand (lean not on our own understanding—see Proverbs 3:4-5). Just like houses are NOT built in a day…our spiritual houses are continually being built and as we age there definitely needs to be remodeling and updating and repairs…life storms sometimes expose what needs “fixing”…
One of the most encouraging guarantees in scripture is found in James 1:5, “If ANYONE lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who GIVES GENEROUSLY to ALL WITHOUT FINDING FAULT, and IT WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU!” and what it says after is soooooo very important verse 6-8, “But WHEN you ask, YOU MUST BELIEVE and NOT DOUBT, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.That person should not expect to receive anything from the LORD. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do” (emphasis added).
To build a strong, stable spiritual house….we have to intently look to God’s word…Seek His Wisdom and do what He says without doubting. It is there that when the wind blows and the floods come…we will find stability and strength and our “house” will be a “shelter!”