Thanking God for the Thorns
Dr. Jim Denison
There is a group which monitors “top idiots of the year.” Here are some of their honorees, all of them true stories.
A woman called the poison control center to report that her daughter had eaten some ants. The physician told her not to worry. The mother then mentioned that she had made her daughter eat ant poison to kill the ants in her stomach. The doctor changed his mind.
A man waited in line to rob a Bank of America, with a stickup note written on the bank’s deposit slip. The line was going too slowly, so he crossed the street and gave the note to a teller at Wells Fargo. She told him she couldn’t accept his stickup note because it was written on Bank of America’s note, and that he would have to go back there. So he did. Meanwhile, she called the police, and they arrested the man in line.
A man held up a corner grocery, demanding money and a bottle of Scotch. The clerk told the robber he didn’t believe he was 21, and couldn’t give him the liquor. The robber showed the clerk his driver’s license to prove his age. The clerk called the information to the police, who arrested the man two hours later.
And yet another would-be robber walked into a Burger King in Michigan, early one morning. The clerk said he couldn’t open the cash register without a food order. The robber ordered onion rings, but the clerk said they weren’t available for breakfast. The man, frustrated, walked away.
We are fallen people, living in a fallen world. Jesus warned us: “In this world you will have tribulation” (John 16.33). Some of our trials are our fault; some are not. But problems are part of life. The question is not whether rain will come, floods will rise, winds will rage. The question is whether we will still be standing after they do.
There’s only one way to withstand the inevitable storms of life. We’d best know what it is, for the rain is going to fall. Maybe today.
Build on the word of God
Jesus begins: “Everyone who hears these words of mine” (v. 24a). No exceptions, no qualifications. Every person among us can qualify. Each can hear the words of God.
But then we must “put them into practice.” Many do not.
The Lord warned the prophet Ezekiel: “My people come to you…and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice” (Ezekiel 33:31-32). It’s one thing to hear the word on Sunday, but another to obey it on Monday.
James adds: “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (James 1:23-24).
Every time you and I look into the mirror, which is the word of God, something about our lives should change. Conviction of sin, direction of life, leadership from the Spirit—there should always be life-transformation for hearing from the Lord of the universe. When did the word of God last change your life?
When we seek God’s word for our problems and decisions, and do what it says, we are “like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (v. 24b). “The rock” refers to a strata, not just a specific stone. In the limestone country of Galilee, when a builder digs down through the topsoil and sand, he will always find such a level of solid stone. It was common to dig down to this level, and build the house’s foundation on it.
Now “the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house” (v. 25a). Rain bombarded the roof, streams flooded the flooring, winds pounded the walls. Every part of the house was assaulted. But “it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (v. 25b).
Proverbs 10:25 says, “When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.” Because our foundation is solid.
Dr. Earl Palmer has pastored a church in California for more than 30 years. In his excellent commentary on the Sermon on the Mount he writes:
“I live in earthquake country. And the church I serve in Berkeley, California, is next to the campus of the University of California which sits astride the Hayward fault, itself connected to the gigantic San Andreas Fault that stretches from Mexico to Alaska and directly under the city of San Francisco.
“Earthquake specialists have pointed up several important facts about home construction in earthquake terrain: A wood structure is ideally suited for the stresses of horizontal land movement, which is the terror of an earthquake, provided that the wood structure is bolted to its foundation…The non-bolted home moves a few inches away from its foundation, [causing] the collapse of the structure…A safe house is that house which relates as much of the house as possible to its foundation. It not only rests upon a rock; it is built into the rock.”
Dr. Palmer adds that the strategy behind the Golden Gate Bridge is similar: its two great towers are deeply imbedded into the rock foundation beneath the sea. As he says, “the bridge is totally preoccupied with its foundation. That is its secret!” (The Enormous Exception, 144-5).
Refuse every other foundation
We have another option: “everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (v. 26).