Summary: We prepare to weather the storms of life by applying the words of Jesus in our everyday lives.
In 1174 the Italian architect Bonnano Pisano began work on what would become his most famous project - a bell tower for the Cathedral of the city of Pisa. But after construction had progressed to the second floor several years later, the tower began to sink and tilt due to the fact that the foundation was only 3 meters thick and it had been set in unstable subsoil. Over the next 170 years or so, as the construction took place in several different phases, there were a number of attempts to fix the problem, including building the upper floors with one side taller than the other in order to account for the tilt. As a result the “Leaning Tower of Pisa” is actually curved.
In 1990 the tower was closed to the public and for the next decade a number of measures were taken to slightly straighten the tower and to stabilize the building. It was finally reopened again in 2001.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa demonstrates quite clearly what happens when a building is constructed without the proper foundation. As we come to the end of our study of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes the case that the same thing is true spiritually. If we want our lives to be stable and sturdy, we must begin with a strong foundation. Let’s read the concluding words of Jesus’ message.
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.
Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV)
As Jesus speaks here about rain and floods and wind, He is obviously using figurative language that pictures the difficulties that we face in life. These storms take on a number of forms and they can involve physical, emotional and spiritual issues. But the good news is that Jesus provides us with some principles that we can apply in order to weather those storms of life.
This is a pretty straight forward passage so we can move pretty quickly through the observations that we can draw from it.
SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE STORMS OF LIFE
1. Everyone experiences the storms of life
One of the first things we note is that both the wise and the foolish builder are subject to the same forces of rain, floods and wind. As we have pointed out frequently during our journey through the Sermon on the Mount, being a Christ follower does not provide us with immunity against the difficulties that we will inevitably face in life. In fact, Jesus made that very clear with His words earlier in His sermon:
…For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Matthew 5:45 (ESV)
The storms that come into our lives are neither a source of justification or condemnation. We can’t use them to prove that someone is either living for God or living for self. That is one reason Jesus had earlier warned about being judgmental.
It is instructive that Jesus doesn’t focus here on the cause of the storms. I’m convinced that is because He doesn’t want us to spend all our time debating why the storms occur. Instead, He wants us to focus on building the right foundation, so that when the storms come, we will be prepared.
Thirty years ago, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a very popular book titled When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Unfortunately in that book, Rabbi Kushner came to some very unbiblical conclusions about the nature of God. But as dangerous as those conclusions were, the even greater danger posed by his book was that by even asking the question he took people’s focus away from the real issue. Instead of arguing about why bad things happen, Jesus is much more concerned that we take the proper steps to make sure we are prepared when they come.
2. Surviving the storms requires building on the right foundation
The only distinction that Jesus makes between the two houses is the foundation on which they are built. Other than that there is nothing to distinguish one house from the other. So the obvious conclusion that we are to make is that surviving the storms of life is dependent primarily on building the right foundation.