Thanking God For The Thorns

The “foolish” (moronic) man hears exactly the same words. He has access to the same revelation of God’s holy truth. He knows the same biblical revelation.

But he does not put these words into practice. He does not stop to ask God’s word for guidance before his decisions. He chooses behavior which contradicts God’s word and will. He pays deference to the word on Sunday, but ignores it on Monday.

He “built his house on sand.”

The “sand” here is not a beach or sand pit as we might imagine it, but loose topsoil and rocks lying above the underlying strata of solid rock. The most common place to find such soil was in a dry riverbed.

During the dry season, the region went for months without a drop of water. So a man builds his house, moves into it, and all is well. Until the first storm. Then the same rains which bombarded the wise man’s roof, fall on his; the same streams which flooded the wise man’s flooring, rise against his; the same winds which pounded the wise man’s walls, assault his. But the fool’s house has no foundation. No underlying rock. No place to stand.

And so the house “fell with a great crash.” “Mega” crash, in the Greek. The crash which is coming to every life not built on obedience to the word of God.

How do people build on sand today?

Some make this tragic decision with regard to salvation. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the theologian who returned to his native Germany to fight Hitler and paid for his commitment and courage with his life, wrote one of the great classics of Christian literature, a study of Jesus’ teachings called The Cost of Discipleship. He begins: “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace.”

What does he mean? “Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system…An intellectual assent…is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins.” So long as we believe that the Bible is true, Jesus is the Son of God and Savior and Lord, that’s enough. No life-transforming personal relationship is needed.

As a result, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

On the other hand, “Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life” (pp. 45-7, emphasis his).

If your salvation is resting on intellectual acceptance of the truths of Christianity, you’re building on sand. Only when Jesus is your Lord, your Master, your King and Boss and God, are you standing on the rock. When the storms come, we’ll all know which foundation is yours.

Lost people build their salvation on the sand. And some saved people build their lives next door to them, on the same sand of self-sufficiency. We who follow Christ are tempted to compartmentalize our lives. To build one room on Christ and one on the world, our friends, our resources, ourselves. Or to stand on the rock part of the time and the sand the rest of the time.

Is there a room in your house which is disobedient to the revealed word of God? When last did you consult that word before your decisions, your actions, the day before you? When last did the word of God change your behavior?

Jesus was a master carpenter. He knew that appearances are deceiving. The roof, walls, and flooring can look excellent in workmanship. It takes a rainstorm to reveal the leaks, the cracks, the faults.

What do the storms of life tell you about your soul? Do hard times frustrate you? Discourage or depress you? Do they cause you to turn from God in anger? Or do they draw you closer to your Lord, make you more dependent on him, reveal more of his love and truth through your life to others?

To discover the quality of a grape, crush it. To find out what’s inside a bottle, shake it. To learn the nature of a tea bag, drop it in hot water.

Conclusion

Walt Disney was right: difficulties make some men bitter, and others better. If you’ll live in constant, consistent obedience to the word of God, it will be the latter for you.

A West African believer from an unreached people was recently released after being kidnapped and tortured for days. Because he continually witnessed to his faith in Christ through the ordeal, four of his captors trusted in Jesus as their Lord. They said, “No one could endure what he did for something that wasn’t true.”

Our own Verdell Davis, no stranger to suffering, has written an excellent book titled Riches Stored in Secret Places. Here she quotes James Means: “The very fire that blackens my horizons warms my soul. The darkness that oppresses my mind sharpens my vision. The flood that overwhelms my heart quenches my thirst. The thorns that penetrate my flesh strengthen my spirit. The grave that buries my desires deepens my devotion. Man’s failure to comprehend this intention of God is one of life’s true calamities” (p. 15).

George Matheson was born to privilege. At the University of Glasgow he graduated first in classics, logic, and philosophy. His prospects for academic success were brilliant.

Then, in his 20th year of life, he became totally blind. He followed God’s call to ministry anyway. Across many years of faithfulness, he pastored some of Scotland’s finest and largest churches, wrote books of philosophical theology which are still read and cited today, was theologian to Queen Victoria, received numerous honorary doctorates, filled the most prestigious lectureships in the land, and was a fellow of the Royal Society.