After another olive oil soaked breakfast, we made our way to the Mount of the Beatitudes to a spot near where Jesus is believed to have delivered the Sermon on the Mount. There is of course a church built there to commemorate this. It is the shape of an octagon, one side for each of the beatitudes. The grounds around it are beautifully kept. But what bothered me, like many of the commemorative churches, was the overpriced gift shop and refreshment areas, turning what would otherwise be a beautiful monument to Jesus’ great sermon into a place of business.
At any rate, the entire large group gathered in a little amphitheater built for groups like us to gather. Lindsay McCaul led worship. James assembled each of the pastors in our group from around the country and their wives, and each read a part of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7. James then preached on the last few verses in chapter 7 where Jesus talks about the difference between building your house on the sand vs the rock.
I just love James. He walked through the text in his customary expository style, his delivery brimming with the expectation that we would actually apply the Word to our lives, not just listen to a message. And not only that, he managed to take a very familiar passage and introduce me to a new thought in teaching it. His point was that the man who builds his house on the sand looks pretty smart for a while. In fact, if troubles never come, then you’d rather be the sand guy. How much quicker and easier would it be to build on sand!? You’d be grilling burgers on the deck with your friends while the man building on the rock was still digging foundation.
Building your house on the rock only makes sense if troubles are going to come. But that’s the whole point: troubles always come. And even if you live a life of luxury and privilege in this world, the ultimate “trouble” awaits you: How will you answer a holy God who rightly demands that you give an account for your life? In this day of trouble, the sand will not provide adequate foundation to withstand the wind and the rain.
So James asked us (always moving toward application), “What would it look like for you to build your house on the rock?” At first blush, I didn’t know. Lately, I’ve been far too focused on answering questions like this in terms of career or geography or possessions. But man’s life simply doesn’t consist of the abundance of these things.
After James had finished his message, I walked down to the edge of the water — well, as close as I could with a banana plantation in the way that wasn’t there in the 1st century — and asked God to reveal to me the answer to James’ question. What I felt is that the answer isn’t about “what”, it’s about “how”. It’s not about what I do or what my address is or what I own, it’s about how I work and how I live and how I love others. Of course, this stuff requires time and margin and focus and discipline and intentional investment, but millions of people with every job, house, mortgage, car and salary imaginable both do these things well and do them poorly. It’s a matter of the heart, of belief, of a willingness to learn and rely on God’s promises, and on minimizing distraction.
So, I was grateful to God for that word. I’m pretty dense, so I’m still working through all of it. But I get absolutely stoked that God loves me so much, and I’m grateful for the freedom He gives and the way He takes care of me all the time.
Fantastic morning on the seashore.