Matthew 7:24 ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.'
It seems completely counterintuitive to us that the Bible tells us to welcome adversity. It goes as far as to tell us that we should, ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds’ (James 1:2). If we are honest, we would rather be comfortable and allowed to get on with life with as few unpleasant disturbances as possible. Surely counting it ‘pure joy‘ is taking it all too far! James goes on to explain that when our faith is tested, perseverance is produced and when perseverance has finished its work, we will be ‘mature and complete, not lacking anything’ (James 1:3-4). In other words, if we respond to testing in the right way, it will produce a wholeness of Christian character that encompasses the whole of who we are. There are two distinct parts to each of us and, for most of us, this means our extrovert and introvert. Most people grow up living predominantly in their extrovert because they have not learnt how to live comfortably in their introvert. When someone becomes a Christian, they respond to the Lord with the part they are used to living in. As we walk with Him, a process begins that enables Jesus to be Lord of our introvert as well as our extrovert.
Our verse reminds us that the only true foundation to life is to put into practice the words of Jesus. If we take that analogy further, we can say that those words need to penetrate the foundations of our lives, that is, into our introvert. God’s truth needs to challenge the deeply established patterns, attitudes, and responses of our hearts so that we live our lives on solid ground. Jesus’ hearers would have understood His illustration. In the summer, many gullies offered pleasant locations in which to build. It was a different story when the torrents flowed in the winter, and the sand was swept away. How many times have we seen that work out in people’s lives? While the sun is shining, what can go wrong? Life moves along, albeit at a superficial level, but what happens when adversity strikes? What happens to us when the ‘trials of many kinds’ start flooding in? The undeveloped introvert is exposed. The extrovert is well practised in coping with life to a point, but now the pressure is on, it is proving not to be fit for purpose.
What to do?
For the Christian, he can choose to let the words of Jesus penetrate the depths of his heart. The storms may well be exposing the fears, insecurity, and weakness of the introvert, but it is an opportunity to apply the truth that Jesus brings to that deeper level. Because the Spirit of God lives within, we know the truth that is ever-present in each Christian. That awareness may have become overlaid with layers of sand, but if we dig deep through the sand, we will come to the solid rock. We know the truth within, that truth resonates with the words of Jesus, and we can now build on the rock. Do we have to wait until some major challenge comes our way before we start building on the right foundation? Certainly not. Fix the roof when the sun is shining, not in the middle of a hurricane. James speaks of trials ‘of many kinds’, which includes the little issues and large. The key is in our response to the everyday, even mundane, challenges of life. Start practising now on whatever comes up in your day. You may sense that you are getting irritable - let Jesus’ grace go deeper. You may be struggling with disappointment - let the love of Christ satisfy your heart. Guilt might be your unwanted constant companion - apply the truth of God’s complete forgiveness to the most stubborn remnant of guilt. Refuse to tolerate those weaknesses in your foundation and live in the strength of the presence and joy of the Lord.