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Building on the Right Foundation


The words in Matthew 7:24-27 conclude one of the greatest sermons ever preached. Jesus Christ brings to culmination the great Sermon on the Mount, and he does so with a poignant truth about two men. These two men raise the question, what kind of foundation are we building on? These two men can be seen in terms of a comparison, a contrast, leading us to a clear conclusion.

The two men shared the same vision

Note first of all the comparisons between these two men. These two men had the same vision. They both wanted to build a house. Their dreams were the same. Their longings were the same. Their desires were the same. What makes these two men alike is that their view of the future was on par. They both wanted to build a house. The concept of building a house—in its most immediate interpretation—would be to erect a life, to build a life worth living, to build a life that's significant, to build a life that is going somewhere. You could relate it to building a family, since families live in homes. And you could say both men wanted to have vibrant, dynamic, strong households. Of course the church of Jesus Christ is called the household of faith, so we could apply it to building a ministry.

You are probably building all three. You're building a life. You want a life that you are proud of, that God is proud of, and that when you look back on it you are glad. You want a family that's strong and stable and vibrant and alive and committed. And you want a ministry that will stand the test of time. All of us fit into this brief story. Both men had the same vision.

Both men listened to divine truth

Not only did both have the same vision, they both went to the same seminary, because it says both men "heard these words of mine." Both men went to the same classroom and had the same professor. You don't get any better than this, because in this case, the written word was communicated by the living Word. Jesus himself was the professor. Both men were oriented to listening to divine truth. Both men were bibliocentric. Both men were committed to making themselves available to divine input. We're not talking about one man having a love for hearing the truth, and another man a total distain for it. We're talking about both men availing themselves to Scripture. So the comparison between these two men is they have the same vision. They want to see things rise from the ground and go higher—a life, a family, a ministry, or all three. And they have the same instruction, the same instructor, as they avail themselves of divine truth.

Both men faced the same storm

There's a third comparison. These men lived in the same neighborhood. I know what you're saying. You're thinking, I've read this story, and I don't see anything about the location of the houses. They lived in the same neighborhood because they were both affected by the same storm. The description of the storm is precisely the same in both cases, and affected both men. Both men were subject to the same storm, which meant they were in reasonable proximity to one another. Everybody here is affected by a storm. Everybody here is affected by the negative realities of life or ministry or family. It may not be the same, but one thing is true of us all—we do get rained on. Life is not always sunshine. Life is not always exciting. Life has its moments of tears. We all share the same vision—we want to build something; same training—we want to hear something; and same storms—we all have to face something.

The two men possessed two different characters

Those comparisons in this story are paralleled by some contrasts, some things that made these men different from one another. First of all, these men possessed two different characters. Jesus calls the first man a wise man. He calls the second man a moron. The Greek word for "foolish" is where we get our word moron from. One is viewed as wise, a wise man who wants to build something, a wise man who gets spiritual training, and a wise man in the storm. The other man is a foolish man who wants to build something, a foolish man who exposes himself to divine truth, a foolish man in a storm. Wisdom, in Scripture, is the ability to take divine truth and apply it to life. The fool in Scripture is not necessarily the person who lacks information. It is the person who does little or nothing with the information received. Proverbs is full of the fool who hears but does not respond. So these two men were fundamentally different. Don't get me wrong. They both had dreams. They both had training. They both had storms. On the outside they would have looked like Siamese twins, but in the description given by the Lord, it says they were fundamentally different men.

The two men had different foundations

What contrast demonstrated the fundamental difference between these two men? It's all about foundations. It says that the wise man built his house upon the rock, and it says the foolish man built his house upon the sand. While both men have the same vision, while both men have the same dream, the same training, and the same storm, they did not have the same foundation. The undergirding and underpinning of their dreams, of their training, and of their trials were not the same. What's the difference between building on a foundation of rock and building on a foundation of sand? What were the two thinking that made one a fool and one a wise man? When Luke tells the story in Luke 6:48, it says the wise man dug deep. It costs to build on rock. You can build on sand fairly cheaply. To build on rock is hard work; to build on sand takes little time. It costs time and energy and effort and additional funds if you're going to go deep. You can be cursory if you want to stay on top of the shifting realities. You can be quick about it on sand; you can't go too fast on rock.

This difference between the two men is fundamentally rooted in the fact that the second man, the foolish man, was building a house for show. The man building his house on rock was building a house to last. The second man was not concerned about how long the house would be there. He just wanted to make sure for however long it was there people would want to drive by and look at it. It was for a public persona, not for depth.

I went to the Leaning Tower of Pisa when I was in Italy. If you're ever in Italy, don't bother going to Pisa. That had to be the biggest disappointment of my trip. You see these newscasts with the Leaning Tower of Pisa imposingly behind the newscaster. You get to Pisa, and it ain't that big. I spent my time and my money, my energy and my effort to watch a building lean. Another reason you ought not to go to Pisa is there ain't nothing in Pisa but that tower. So don't be looking for other stuff to do. There is nothing to do in Pisa but watch a tower lean and watch vendors selling you replicas of towers that lean. Do you know why the tower in Pisa leans? The Leaning Tower of Pisa leans because it's located in Pisa. Pisa means marshy. The tower was built in a marsh, on mud. It did not have the proper foundation. And because it did not have the proper foundation, it was not able to remain stable, and every year it would lean another 1/20th of an inch. When we were there, they had ropes all around it, holding it until they could do something about this ongoing leaning. If it continued, in seven years it would collapse. It was built on the wrong foundation. The only thing the Leaning Tower of Pisa is good for are tourists. All it is is for show, for people to come by and look at it.

A life, a home, or a ministry that is not properly founded on the right foundation is a tourist attraction. You go to Hollywood and I'll show you tourist attractions. Homes with families who are tourists' attractions. Ministries where people will come for the show. But when it comes to erecting something that will last, it's only good for tourists.

The two men experienced different results

The biggest contrast of them all is the results, because it says one house stood and another house fell. Not only did it fall, "it fell greatly." It was a total collapse. What does the Lord want us to learn? What is his fundamental point? You have to notice something in the text. If you were to drive by both men's homes, you would not discover there was a difference. If you were to talk to the men, you would not know that there was a fundamental difference. The only time you would discover there was a difference between these two men and the lives, homes, or ministries they erected was during the storm. Only the storm reveals the nature of your foundation. As long as the sun is shining, you won't think about what you're built on, you may not care about what you're built on, but the storm has a way of letting you know what kind of foundation you're resting on. Notice the language. In both cases "rain descended," "floods came," "winds blew, and burst against that house."

Whenever you have rain, floods, winds, and houses being knocked down, that's a hurricane. Hurricane season came on both of them. I wish the Christian life was really like the way some televangelists declare it to be—come to Jesus and it's all sunshine; come to Jesus, he has keys waiting for you for your new BMW; come to Jesus and he's got the house in the suburbs and he's got the healing for your every disease. You can build a great show house with that kind of preaching. But according to this text there was a hurricane. Nature was unleashed, and rain and winds blew.

Our foundation must be formed before the storms come

You have to understand something about foundations. You can't pour them when it's raining. You can pour a foundation before it rains. You can pour a foundation after it rains. But what you can't do is pour a foundation when it is raining. Whatever foundation you're going to have, you need to get solidified before the storm, so when the storm comes you're not in crisis.

I love the story in Mark 4 where Jesus tells the disciples "let us go over to the other side." Jesus lay down in the boat and went to sleep. The boat was filling with water because they ran into a lailaps. That's where the wind coming across the hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee created an upheaval on the sea. It is called a lailaps, a fierce gale. It was slapping the water all around, which was slapping the boat all around, and the water was descending into the boat, and they were in jeopardy. They were in a storm, and Jesus was asleep. What good is having a God who will go to sleep on you? When you need him most, he's snoring. When you need him most, he's chilling. Has that ever happened to you? You dial heaven only to discover a busy signal? The key isn't that Jesus was asleep. The text says Jesus was asleep "on a cushion."

I was on the plane coming from Dallas. The stewardess said, "Sir, would you like a pillow?" Being interpreted, "Are you planning to go to sleep?" Jesus didn't fall off. He was on a cushion. That meant he planned to sleep on them. This was intentional snoozing. Their theology was in an uproar, because they said, "Carest thou not that we perish?"

Don't you feel that way when you're in a storm? Don't you care? How could heaven be this quiet now? When I didn't want to listen to you, you were out preaching. Now I want to listen to you, and you're sleeping. "Don't you care that we perish?" Jesus awakened from his sleep and asked what sounds to me a very insensitive question: Why are you so timid and so easily ruffled?

Jesus, we're getting ready to drown. That's why we're so easily ruffled. What kind of question is that? Jesus comes to the front of the ship and says, "Peace, be still." That's an interesting term. I would have thought Jesus would have said, storm, be still. He said, "Peace, be still." Why would he say that? Because, you see, he had told them when they left the dock: Gentlemen, we, all of us, are going to the other side. We are going to leave here, and we are going to wind up at the other side.

Storms have a way of causing you to forget what the Lord has said. Storms have a way of causing you to forget the truth of God. Storms have a way of keeping you from applying in a storm what you learn in the sunshine. Their problem was not hearing the truth. They heard Jesus say, "Let us go to the other side." Their problem was applying the truth in a bad situation.

I like how that story ends. After Jesus quelled the lailap, it says, "they became very much afraid." They were scared of the storm, and then they saw the Lord, and then they got really scared. "What manner of man is this?"

Why does God give you a storm? Because it lets you know what kind of foundation you're on. Only in a hurricane will you discover whether you're really resting on the truth of God or whether you're merely listening to it. There's a lot of difference between saying amen on Sunday and saying amen on Monday in a storm. There's a lot of difference in worshiping God when all is well and worshiping God when all is wrong. But if your foundation is sure, then it will be the application, and not merely the information, of divine truth that will hold you steady.

The goal of biblical preaching is not merely to inform the body of the menu of the truth of God's Word. It is to bring them to the place of partaking of the meal. It is not merely to tell people, thus sayeth the Lord. It is not merely to explain to them what the Lord has said. It is to bring them to a change of action based on the truth of God. In other words, every time you have a hurricane, God has given you a new opportunity to demonstrate you are resting on a sure foundation.

A couple of years ago we took a cruise to Alaska with some of our ministry supporters. On our way back a storm broke out, and this was the worst storm Royal Caribbean had ever had. The waves hit 50 feet high. Plates were flying. Pianos were rolling. People were throwing up. It was a messy situation. People were screaming all over the boat. My wife became evangelically ticked-off. She picked up the telephone and said, "May I speak to the captain, please?" They said, "Ma'am, the captain's on the bridge. He can't talk to anybody right now in light of the storm." She said, "Would you please tell him I am very upset that he would put us through this when he could have avoided this. He knew it was coming. And I just want to register that I am thoroughly upset about this." They said, "I will relay that to the captain." A few minutes later our phone rang, and it was the assistant to the captain. He said, "Ma'am, we have just received your message. It was relayed to the captain, and he asked me to call and relay two things to you. First of all, lady, go to sleep, because the captain is going to stay up, and there's no need in both of you staying awake. The second thing was, this ship was built with this storm in mind. Long before we ever hit the storm, we knew this day was going to come. We knew there was going to be a day when we would face nature at its most vicious level. So way back when we were putting the boat together, we contemplated this moment. And this boat was structured in such a way that on whatever day this storm came, while it would be inconvenient, irritating, aggravating, and exacerbating, while it would be traumatic to go through, what you need to know is all of that was considered when it was constructed. So while the storm is bad, the boat is better."

I don't know what storms, hurricanes, or tornadoes you will face. You're either just coming out one or you're in one, and if not, one is around the corner waiting on you. I do know this. This Savior was built with this storm in mind. He is your foundation, which involves the truth of God applied in the realities of life. Foundations are not merely the information to stand on. The Word of God is not simply to have a Bible under your arm or on your coffee table. It is to have the truth of God as the modus operandi of decision-making. What differentiated these two men? Both heard, but only one did.

I wish I could tell you that hearing God's Word means no storms, but that's a lie. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I can tell you is that adhering to God's Word means whatever storms there are won't have the last word.

When I was growing up as a boy in Baltimore, Maryland, my father purchased for me a balloon-boxing bag. You hit it, boom, and it hit the floor. Bing, it bounced back. Boom, bing. Boom, bing. I remember getting mad one time and kicking it. Whop, boom, bing. It just kept coming back. You know why it kept coming back? Because at the bottom of the bag was a weight. The foundation of the bag was a weight heavier than the rest of the bag, and so the weight at the bottom determined where the bag finally wound up no matter what you did to it.

I wish I could tell you that life had no difficulties awaiting you around the corner, but the Bible doesn't tell us that. God doesn't tell us that. Jesus doesn't tell us that. The Holy Spirit doesn't tell us that. So we shouldn't be telling you that. But what you can tell yourself, your family, or your flock is that when the storms of life go bam, you, because of the weight of Christ as your foundation, will come back bing. When Satan goes whop, you'll go bing. When all hell breaks loose, wham, bam, bam, bam, you're going to say bing, bing, bing, bing; because the man who built his house on a rock, after the hurricane was over, his house, life, family, and ministry still stood.

For Your Reflection

Personal growth: How has this sermon fed your own soul? ___________________________________________

Skill growth: What did this sermon teach you about how to preach? ____________________________________________________________________________

Exegesis and exposition: Highlight the paragraphs in this sermon that helped you better understand Scripture. How does the sermon model ways you could provide helpful biblical exposition for your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Theological Ideas: What biblical principles in this sermon would you like to develop in a sermon? How would you adapt these ideas to reflect your own understanding of Scripture, the Christian life, and the unique message that God is putting on your heart? ____________________________________________________________________________

Outline: How would you improve on this outline by changing the wording, or by adding or subtracting points? _____________________________________________________________________

Application: What is the main application of this sermon? What is the main application of the message you sense God wants you to bring to your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Illustrations: Which illustrations in this sermon would relate well with your hearers? Which cannot be used with your hearers, but they suggest illustrations that could work with your hearers? ____________________________________________________________________________

Credit: Do you plan to use the content of this sermon to a degree that obligates you to give credit? If so, when and how will you do it?

Tony Evans is founder and President of The Urban Alternative. He pastors Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas. His most recent book is Kingdom Man.

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Sermon Outline:


The story of two men building houses concludes one of history's greatest sermons.

I. The two men shared the same vision.

II. Both men listened to divine truth.

III. Both men faced the same storm.

IV. The two men possessed two different characters.

V. The two men had different foundations.

VI. The two men experienced different results.

VII. Our foundation must be formed before the storms come.