We live in a world where we want everything in a hurry. I’ve seen folks stand in front of a microwave and complain that it takes a full minute to heat up a cup of coffee! Can you relate? We like drive-thru convenience, all things disposable, and cell phone availability.
And never have so many complained of having so little time to enjoy life.
Too often we sacrifice quality for convenience. We say we don’t have time. We say we can’t wait. We’ve embraced a “just do it” philosophy. More and more people are sacrificing enduring truth for quick fixes.
But if we want to ensure that we can weather life’s greatest storms no matter how strong the winds or how torrential the rains, we need to step out of the quicksand of convenience and step onto the bedrock of lasting truth.
Storms are an inevitable part of life. It’s simply a reality that our lives will experience a train wreck or two. You may be on the brink of a storm or in the middle of one today. And you may be tempted to jump to a quick-fix solution. But before you act, let me show you how you can build a life that lasts – a rock solid life.
Jesus, a carpenter and the builder of mankind, provides clear instruction on how you and I can build a rock solid foundation for our lives. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7, Jesus talks about a man who builds his house on rock and another who builds on sand. In this story, Jesus gives us three building blocks for a life that will last.
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.1
The Importance of the Basics
Jesus focused on the fundamentals of faith. Forget the complexities, forget the enigmas, forget the theological twisters that all too many of today’s teachers focus on. The faith that Jesus taught was profound enough to set the religious establishment of His day on edge yet so simple that a child could understand it.
It’s time that we all got back to the basics of faith.
John Wooden is a man who practiced the basics. Wooden was a great builder of basketball players and teams and led the UCLA Bruins basketball team to championship after championship.
He was an old-school coach. He did all kinds of things that his players considered unusual, and he had all kinds of policies that his players thought were odd. But he won. Why? Because coach Wooden taught the basics, building a solid foundation for an unprecedented string of victories.
The game for Wooden was always about fundamentals. And many of America’s finest high school players would go on to play college ball under renowned coach John Wooden at UCLA. It was from Wooden that players like Lou Alcindor, who later became the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, would learn the basics of the game.
At every season-opening practice, Wooden would gather the players that he had recruited from America’s best high school basketball teams and instruct them – on how to put their socks on. Imagine what these young men must have been thinking! “What, I’ve come to UCLA to learn how to put my socks on. This is the coach of the best basketball program in the country?” And Wooden would make very clear to them that, yes, learning to put their socks on was precisely what he was going to teach them before they bounced a ball and did a drill.
Speaking rhetorically, Wooden would ask, “You know why you gotta put your socks on in the right way? Because if you don’t put your socks on properly there will be wrinkles in your socks, and wrinkles cause blisters, and you can’t play with blisters.”
And so Wooden would teach his players step-by-step how to put their socks on, first the right foot and then the left foot. Physically grown men training to put on their socks, one foot at a time! That’s teaching the basics! By emphasizing the fundamentals, Wooden built a foundation to last the season and, for many of these youthful stars, throughout their professional careers into their personal lives.
He showed how much he cared for them by teaching them old-school discipline. He cared nothing for the unnecessary and the frivolous. For Wooden, showboating by dribbling behind your back or between your legs to show up your opponent was not a part of the game.
Among the other things that Wooden demanded of his players was that they have short hair and be clean shaven. Why? Because long hair would stay wet longer after a shower, heightening their chances of catching a cold and preventing them from playing. During an era when long hair and beards were the “in-thing,” especially in trend-setting California, this particular policy drove some of his players crazy.
The story goes that after a summer break future NBA great Bill Walton returned to UCLA sporting a lengthy beard and long hair. John Wooden took one look and said, “Bill, you’re gonna have to cut that.” Walton, in turn, responded, “No. You have no right to tell me that. I have a right to wear my hair like this.”
Wooden paused before responding and then asked Walton, “Do you believe that Bill? Do you believe it very strongly Bill?” And Walton stated, “I absolutely do!” “Well,” said Wooden, “I like men that believe in things very strongly, that will stand up for what they believe and stay with it.” Then Wooden added, “It’s been nice having you on our team Bill. We’re going to miss you.”
Bill Walton cut his hair and his beard and learned how to play ball like few men before or since. And to this day, he calls coach Wooden, who is now more than 90 years old, every week just to tell him how much he loves him. Wooden, you see, was much more than a coach to his players. He became their father figure. Of the 188 or so players that he coached during his career, he knows the whereabouts of 172.
Coach Wooden was committed to the basics. He taught his players the importance of building a solid foundation for success – in basketball and in life.
There is great opportunity today to complicate our lives and to miss out on the basics. Yet it is my belief that Jesus wants us to focus on the basics as we seek to build our lives on the rock-solid truth revealed to us in His life and in God’s word.
Building a Strong Foundation
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is the most significant sermon ever delivered. Recorded in Matthew’s fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters, it is a masterful exposition of the law, a potent assault on religious legalism, and a clarion call to true faith and salvation.
Those who heard Jesus deliver the Sermon on the Mount were amazed with its relevance. In fact, the crowd’s response to this incredible teaching is recorded in the last sentence of Matthew 7:29: “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”2
The scribes quoted others to establish the authority of their teaching, but Jesus was His own authority.3 He taught with such force and clarity that it was obvious to all He was the source of the truth He taught.
Among the many things Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount is the absolute need to build our faith on a sound foundation. He offers us a simple yet powerful illustration of two home builders to drive home His point. The houses in His illustration represent religious life, and the wind and rain are divine judgment:
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.4
Two men. Two houses. One founded on rock. The other built on sand. Both buffeted by wind and pelted with rain. The house with a solid foundation remains standing. The other collapses.
Jesus uses this easy-to-understand yet profoundly vivid picture to direct us in building the right foundation for our lives. You can have two houses, but the one with the strongest foundation will outlast the one with weaker underpinnings.
Likewise, you can have two people, two churchgoers, if you will. They dress similarly, live in the same neighborhood, speak the same language, carry the same Bible, and maybe even sing the same hymns with the same enthusiasm. Yet, there’s a distinct difference between them. One actually hears and internalizes the good news of Jesus. The other, if he or she even hears the Word, fails to acknowledge it in his or her life.
The former is building a life founded on the rock that is the Word. The latter leads a life as insubstantial as sand, pursuing a self-indulgent and fleeting existence. Amid the tempests of life, which will fare better? And when we enter that ultimate of storms, which of these two lives will be wanting-the life whose foundation is fixed in God, the rock of ages, or the life without foundation?
Building Block #1: The Reality in Jesus Christ
Building your life on the rock is essential, now and forever, if you are to build a life that will last. How do you do that? The first building block is in the reality that is Jesus Christ.
The “therefore” that Jesus uses to begin His illustration of the man who builds his house on rock signals a summation of the points that he has just made. Key among them is the point Jesus makes to the people who will stand before God on judgment day and assume that past actions alone will be sufficient for entry to heaven: “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'” 5
To these, Jesus tells us, he will say, “I never knew you; depart from Me.” 6
His choice of phrases here is interesting. To know someone in the biblical sense suggests an intimacy akin to marriage. So Jesus is telling us that access to heaven hinges upon us really knowing Him through a deep personal relationship that, in turn, makes Him know us. It’s one thing to say, “I know Jesus,” and another to say that He knows you. The latter is crucial.
We live in a celebrity-crazed time, where fans assume that they know their favorite stars. People go gaga over what these famous people wear and eat and say and do. And many write to their favorite celebrity. Well, you may know a lot of superficial things about your star, but the star hasn’t got a clue who you are. So don’t expect return mail. You’re just another crazed fan.
In the same way, there are a lot of people who claim to know Jesus. Simply knowing His name, however, without committing to a deep personal relationship with Him does not mean that He knows your name. A person whose life displays the reality of Jesus and the Christian faith as preached and proclaimed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is far different from the anemic Christianity often preached and proclaimed in some churches today.
Jesus preaches a personal relationship that is far deeper than the rhetoric often heard in some so-called Christian circles today. He is describing a relationship and a fellowship with God that is life changing.
Sadly, a lot of the people who profess Jesus in their lives through surveys and polls lead lives barely different from people who don’t profess Christ. These self-professed Christians do not reveal their faith at their workplaces or in their marriages or in their academic pursuits and places-because it’s not real. And rest assured, Jesus does not allow for superficiality or artificiality. He won’t let you get away with that.
It’s like the guy I heard about who was stuck in traffic behind a lady who was talking on her cell phone. He was one of these self-professed Christians, as proclaimed by the myriad bumper stickers on his car. Well, this man was becoming increasingly incensed as the woman in front of him missed two lights, distracted as she was by her conversation on the telephone. He began raising his hands, shaking his fists, honking his horn, and turning the air blue with profanity at such a volume that you could hear it outside the car.
When he could take it no more, he accelerated around the woman’s vehicle, only to be pulled over by a police officer who had observed his antics. The officer insisted that the man get out of his vehicle and sit in the police cruiser. Stunned, the man exclaims, “What are you talking about, all I did was try to get through this traffic! You can’t pull me over for yelling at that woman!”
As the officer checked out the man’s license and registration, the officer gave the man a real good looking over. When the officer released him, the irate man assured the officer that he would never hear the end of it – that he had been pulled over for no reason. To which the officer responded, “I’ll tell you why I pulled you over sir. When I saw your car and the bumper stickers and the way you acted, I thought you must have stolen the car.”
A person’s actions do indeed speak louder than a person’s words. As Matthew 7:20 states, “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” 7 The fruit our lives yield is what others will judge us by.
John also talks about the basic truth of knowing Jesus. John, in fact, even defines some of the spiritual fruit that shows we are saved. He states, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” 8
So my first question to you is, have you confessed Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If you haven’t, you are not a Christian. You can invoke the name of God all you like, but it is impossible to be saved without confessing Jesus Christ as your Lord by personally and publicly identifying yourself as a follower of Jesus.
You must believe in who He is – the Savior, the sinless and spotless Lamb of God – and in what He did for you: dying on the cross for your sins and rising again on the third day. But only if we confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead will we be saved. 9
Knowing Jesus as your Savior is the first building block of a life that lasts. It is that reality that is the basic truth to a rock-solid life.
Building Block #2: The Stability in Jesus Christ
If the first building block to a life that lasts is knowing the reality of Jesus, the second building block is relying on the stability that is in Christ Jesus.
Take a look at 1 John 3:9: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.”
What that means, literally, is that a real, confessing Christian does not sin. But, of course, we all know believers who sin. I wish I could tell you that I never sin or that I’ll never sin again. But I’m not all that confident, because I know my nature, and I know the temptations. And, yes, we all sin. 10
But there’s a difference between the true child of God who is building a life upon the rock and one who isn’t. The difference is that the person whose life has been or is being changed by the power of Jesus Christ does not continue to live and practice and embrace sin. There’s a discomfort when we sin caused by the conviction of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
Somebody once said that when we are saved Jesus fixes it not so that we can’t sin anymore but that we can’t enjoy it anymore. There is a grain of truth in that thought. When we are saved we gain conviction and a check is placed upon us-like the warning light that lights up on the dashboard of a car – when we cross the line. The Holy Spirit lives within us, and we can’t continue to do what we used to do. We’re transformed. We’re changed by the power of Jesus Christ. We’re founded on the bedrock of Christianity.
By contrast, a person who blatantly persists in sin is building a life on sand. That person does not acknowledge the reality of Jesus and has no foundation on the rock of a substantial relationship with and in Christ.
Jesus is to be the foundation of our lives. In fact, the Bible often refers to Christ as the chief cornerstone – the indispensable and fundamental component to build our lives upon.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. 11
There is no rationalizing – no other way – than to found your life upon the rock. Only in this way can Jesus change our lives. And not only that, but our belief and our confession in Jesus will result in Jesus changing how we relate to other people. People that we hated, we will love. Check out 1 John 5:1: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.”
Simply put, that means that when you are born again you become a new person in Christ and a member of a family, all of whose members you love. 12 Once Jesus Christ enters your life, you’ll discover a love for those you hated and will embrace other believers as your brothers and sisters in Christ.
It saddens me to hear people say that they get their spiritual nourishment solely through the radio or television or the Internet. Church is so much more than sermons and Bible study. It is fellowship among the members of a family who believe in and encourage and bless and strengthen one another. The church is a place where we can serve as the salt and light of the culture of our community. It’s a place to share Christ, a place where we function as a body.
We each have spiritual gifts we need to share with one another. And that’s why God created the church. If you love Jesus, you’ll love the people who love Jesus and will long to be with them – in His church.
I want to mention one more fruit by which you can distinguish between the real Christian and churchgoer. Look at 1 John 2:5: “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him” Now ask yourself, “Do I live in obedience to the word of God?”
We must keep God’s word, abide in God’s word, love God’s word, and live God’s word. Founding your life upon the rock is to build your life upon the word of God. As it is with loving people you once disliked, becoming a Christian enables you to understand a book that once made no sense to you. What gave you no sustenance before becomes living bread. You want to be with and of the Word. You develop an appetite for spiritual truth in your life because you know Jesus, and the more you know the more you grow in Him.
I’m concerned about the professing Christians in America who think the Christian life is solely an esoteric religious experience. Even some evangelical churches try to make it all about the experience, the emotion, rather than about building foundations: a trust in God’s word. Test the average high school student on the fundamental truths and personalities and events of the Bible, and he or she fails miserably. Many are growing up and merely adopting the religion of their parents instead of having a personal relationship with Christ and growing in the Word.
If you are to build a life that lasts, you need a foundation for your life. The point is that if you love Jesus and know Him, you’re going to love His word and its truth. That’s why Jesus said that those who build their houses on the rock are the ones who hear His word and keep His commandments and do what He says. To build your life to last means building on the reality of Jesus Christ.
And that, in turn, implies building on the stability that is Jesus Christ. Every builder knows the importance of laying sturdy foundations. The bigger the building, the sturdier the base must be. Months can be spent digging and laying out iron and steel and pouring concrete before the actual structure begins to rise.
A good foundation is essential, for buildings and for lives. For the storms will come. Just as a Texas tornado can come up out of nowhere to buffet a building, problems and tragedies can arise unexpectedly in the happiest lives. Jesus tells us that the rain falls upon the just and the unjust, so dispense with the idea that somehow you’re going to escape the storms of life. 13
The storms that Jesus teaches us about can take many forms. They can be the storm of thunderous judgment in the future or the periodic and temporary storms that arise in all lives. The latter encompass all kinds of tests that try our lives in varying degrees. These can be a financial, a family, a marital crisis. They can even involve a trial of unanswered prayer. But you know what? A faith that can’t withstand the tests thrown at it by life is a faith that can’t be trusted. So take those storms in stride. A good storm will demonstrate the reality and the stability of your faith’s foundation.
Over the years, I’ve had numerous church members tell me, “Pastor, we’re in a storm, and it’s hard. But somehow, I’m not sure how, we’re still standing. We’re still trusting in God, and there is peace in His presence in this storm, and we couldn’t live without it.”
The fact is that people whose lives lack a foundation built upon the rock of the reality of Jesus don’t survive. They have no stability. If you build your life around toys and trinkets and selfish pursuits, around anything other than Jesus Christ, one of these days a storm is going to strike and tear your life apart. You’ll have nothing to stand on. You’ll have no strength of support and stability in your life. We all need to heed what that great old gospel song proclaims:
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand 14
To confront the seasons and the storms of life, we must stand on the rock that is Jesus. This is how we build a life to last.
Building Block #3: The Eternity in Jesus Christ
The final building block of a life that lasts is the eternity that is in Jesus Christ. I’m talking about a life that lasts forever beyond this physical life in the company of Christ. Building a solid foundation on the rock of Christ in our physical lifetime leads, ultimately, to an eternal future with God.
You were built to live forever. God has set eternity in our hearts.
Life is brief. It’s described in the Bible, in fact, as little more than a vapor, a mist, a dew in the morning that comes up and quickly disappears. 15 We’re going to spend far more time in eternity then on this earth. That’s why Jesus instructs against the foolishness of building a life for here and now without thought of eternity.
The Christian lives for eternity, and that priority is life changing. We’re to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. 16 This aim alters our values. It revises the way we live, because we recognize that the here and now isn’t all there is. We live knowing that we have so terrific a future and a promise with God in heaven that it defies comprehension.
Paul alludes to this in 1 Corinthians 2:9: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
We can only imagine what awaits us from the glimpses Scripture gives us of this great glory. And it is these glimpses of our prize that keep us steadfastly anchored to the rock that is our foundation.
The Bible tells us that in heaven we will rejoice and revel in God’s presence. That’s what makes heaven, heaven. In heaven, we’re going to be reunited with family and friends, all the loved ones who’ve gone before us in Christ. In heaven, we’re going to be restored and renewed and completed in Jesus Christ, given immortal, glorified bodies and serve Him day and night.
We’re not going to sit in heaven and waste eternity away. We’re going to be serving God forever. We’re going to walk with Him always.
That’s why we live for eternity. Because we know that death isn’t the end. Death for the Christian is a doorway – the exit from life and the entrance to eternity.
In knowing this, we must know, too, that there are eternal consequences to everything we do in the here and now. We have so many choices in life. But for the afterlife, we get only two choices: heaven or hell!
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus, who is love incarnate, ended the Sermon on the Mount with a good, healthy, holy dose of fear? He talks about judgment. He talks about the broad road that leads to destruction. He tells us that while we have many choices there are consequences to every choice, that the decision we make today determines our destiny, forever. Choose to live without God in life, and you choose to live without God in the afterlife.
That’s why Jesus came to earth. He arrived to save us from making the wrong choice, from being judged and found wanting and delivered to hell and its eternal death. He came to offer eternal life instead to all who believe, to all who build a life to last on the bedrock of His reality. He came to show us that the life that we know now is but preparation for the eternity to come. Thus the words of the prophet who admonishes: “Prepare to meet your God.” 17
To build your life to last means building for eternity on a foundation of Jesus Christ. Do you know Christ? Or do you just know the name and a few things about Christ? Does Christ know you? Are you living as a child of God? Do you exhibit the character of the kingdom? Again, do you know Christ? Is Jesus living in you? Are you seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness?
San Francisco’s iconic and oft-photographed Golden Gate Bridge is absolutely essential to meeting the transportation needs of the Bay area. So much so that it is one of the first things in America to receive increased attention when the terrorism alert level escalates.
Did you know that the Golden Gate Bridge is built directly over the San Andreas Fault? During an earthquake, the bridge is built to sway some twenty feet at the center of its one-mile span.
The secret to the bridge’s durability, however, lies in more than just its flexibility. By design, every part of the bridge – its concrete roadway, its steel railings, its cross beams – is integrated, from one welded joint to the other up through the vast cable system to two great towers and two great land anchor piers. The towers, which bear most of the weight, are deeply embedded in the rock foundation beneath the sea. The Golden Gate Bridge stands today because of its solid foundation.
Our lives are an even greater engineering marvel than the Golden Gate Bridge. After all, we are God’s workmanship.
Follow these three simple building blocks to construct a life that lasts:
1. Build your life on the reality that is in Jesus Christ.
Jesus hated phony religion. Why? Because it kept people from a real relationship with Him. In Matthew 7:20-23, Jesus makes clear that there are many who think they have favor with God but don’t, for one simple reason: They don’t know Him.
To really know Jesus is to have a personal relationship with Him. It’s not about the superficiality of merely making an appearance at church and going through the motions of doing religious things. It’s a personal, intimate friendship with Jesus. That is the first building block for a life that lasts.
2. Build your life on the stability that is in Jesus Christ.
Every contractor knows just how critical laying a strong foundation is to the stability of a building. Life is no different. You and I must dig deep into the bedrock of Jesus Christ if we are to weather the storms that will hit our lives.
What does that mean? It means knowing Christ and His word and doing what we know. That’s why Jesus says in Matthew 7:24, “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” That’s the second building block.
3. Build your life on the eternity that is in Jesus Christ.
You must understand that you were built to live forever. At the same time, you must realize that your physical life is but a vapor and that you will spend infinitely more time in eternity then you spend on this earth.
This knowledge will lead you to live for eternity and to reorder the priorities of your life based on that truth. With that commitment, you have put in place the third building block for a life that lasts.
If you want a life that will last, build upon the stability that is Christ. Build upon the reality of a personal relationship with Jesus with an eye to the eternity that is just around the corner.
Jack Graham is Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, TX, and currently serves as President of the Southern Baptist Convention.
1. Matthew 7:24–27
2. Matthew 7:28–29
3. Matthew 28:18
4. Matthew 7:24–27
5. Matthew 7:22
6. Matthew 7:23a
7. Matthew 7:20
8. 1 John 4:15
9. Romans 10:9
10. Romans 3:23
11. Ephesians 2:19–22
12. 2 Corinthians 5:17
13. Matthew 5:45
14. Edward Mote, The Solid Rock ©1834
15. James 4:14
16. Matthew 6:33
17. Amos 4:12
18. Ephesians 2:10