Global Mission: Reaching to the unreached

Surviving the storms of life


Surviving the storms of life

Recently a portion of North Jersey was hit with a major rainstorm, bringing 16 inches of water in less than 12 hours. The result was devastating as several roads buckled, while dams burst open draining whole lakes, causing major flooding. On one block we saw a house had been washed away by a new river that actually ran through house, yet only a few hundred feet away, another house was barely affected because it was built high upon a rock.

The world’s largest ministry, PTL, once had the largest television network in the world. They had hotels, fancy cars, airplanes, and even one of the largest amusement parks in America. PTL introduced some of the most famous “prosperity” teachers in America today. PTL had hundreds of millions of dollars pouring in, and founders, Jim and Tammy Fay Bakker each had multimillion dollar salaries, yet when the storms of life hit, they both lost everything. Jim ended up spending years in jail cleaning toilets for 11 cents per hour. Jim later wrote in his book, “I Was Wrong,” that he never built his ministry upon the Rock of God’s Word, and he repented of his wrongs.

While in Cuba, I asked God to show me what is the most important thing I could be teaching the Cuban brothers and sisters, and He showed me to teach them to build their ministries, and lives upon His Word. But the more I meditated upon this, the more I realized that is the problem with Christianity today; we don’t want the “hard” work of building a proper foundation of obedience to God’s Word. Instead, we want the shallow foundation of experiences, dreams and signs.

For some of us, the storms are already hitting and we are wondering if we are going to survive! The foundation that we built our life upon is starting to rock our world with insurmountable problems, and we are wondering what we did wrong. We may need to reexamine the foundation in which we are building our lives upon so that we can know for sure that we will survive the storms of life. So let us learn how we can make sure we are building upon the right foundation.

Matthew 7:21-27 gives us an illustration of the different types of builders and foundations: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”

Now according to Matthew 7, there are two ways in which to build: one on the sand and the other on the Rock. What we see represented in this passage are two people building their lives on different foundations. From the outside, these two homes probably look very similar. The same is true of us; we are similar in many ways. Many of us attend the same fellowship, we carry the same Bibles, and we do the same works, but the difference is that we may be building our lives on different foundations.

The house in this passage represents your life, but it could also represent your ministry, your marriage, your business, etc… So it is important to understand the basis upon which we build our lives, because according to this passage, the storms will hit, and then we will see the worth of our construction.

The Differences in Foundations

I am the type of person that, if there is an easy way to do something, I want it. Yet, I have learned the lesson over and over again that if I do not build a proper groundwork or foundation to what I am planning, and a problem arises, those plans usually crash. One of the reasons why some build houses on the sand is that no hard work is involved and results are achieved quickly. To build a foundation on a rock takes time, sweat, and work. It requires hard discipline and obedience to a set plan. The sand is actually not a foundation but is a representation of personal opinions, attitudes, and wills as opposed to the obedience of God’s Word. Instead of using the Scriptures as our standard, we use our own methods. But God warns us about building without His foundation.

The saddest part of building your life on the sand is that it is a house that cannot hold out against a storm. Without a foundation, there is nothing solid holding the house together. So when the storms of life come beating against the house built on sand, that house will collapse. How many Christians have we seen that have built their spiritual lives on ceremonies, rituals, visions, experience, feelings, prophecies, self purpose… everything but the Word of God, and when they face a major trial, their whole spiritual life collapses? Let us examine some of the different types of foundations that we build our lives upon.

Building on the Foundation of self-will

Building on the sand of self-will is one of the most dangerous types of foundations upon which you can build. It is like building your house on quick sand! Imagine if I am having a house built and I keep giving the builder instructions on what I want done, but I know nothing about construction. (In reality, I don’t!) The builder tells me that I need support beams throughout the house and I tell him that I don’t care what he thinks, I don’t like them. Then the builder says that I need plywood to construct the house and I tell him I want cardboard instead and I’m in control, not him. As ridiculous as this sounds, we do the same thing when God tells us what He wants from us and we say that we know what we are doing. We know what the Bible says, but we want to do things our own way. Instead of living by the words of Jesus, “not my will but your will Lord,” we would rather do our own will and pray that God blesses it!

If you are living your life against the principles of the Bible, instead of relying upon your own feelings or your own opinions, then you must really examine yourself like 2 Corinthians 13:5 declares, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?”

I have had Christians tell me that they are marrying unbelievers even if God’s Word is against it (2 Corinthians 6:14). I am shocked when Christians tell me that women should have the choice to get an abortion, and they get mad when I tell them that is against God’s Word. People have actually said to me, I don’t care what God thinks, I’m doing this anyway!

Unfortunately, we are becoming a society of Christians that believe, if we feel or think a certain way, it must be truth. There are no more absolutes, or adherence to God’s Word, but simply a faith based on self-centered thinking. We have become like the Israelites worshipping the golden calf, dancing, laughing, and worshipping the way we want instead of the way God wants us to worship. The Israelites tempted God’s faithfulness many times and they lived in constant turmoil, despair, confusion and terrible pain. Yet, they could have lived in a land flowing with milk and honey, with rest and peace, if they simply entered into God’s rest, and yet they refused! What did they have to show for it? A generation of fighting, bitterness and complaining and never finding the peace, love, and joy that they were seeking.

God tells us not to harden our hearts like the Israelites did in rebellion. He said of the wandering Israelites, “Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.” If we would simply come to God and die to our own ways, thoughts, opinions and ideas, and trust God in obedience to His Word, then we would never be swept away from any storms. Instead of a demanding, full of activity life-style, God wants us to wait upon Him, to fellowship with Him, and to let Him direct our steps. The old gospel song still challenges us when it says, “Oh what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Psalm 32:8-10 sums it up when it says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him.”

Building on the Foundation of Feelings or Experiences

I truly love being in God’s presence and I cannot put into words how you sense the power of the Holy Spirit sweeping through Cuba. Yet, as individuals, we all have personal subjective experiences with God, but that experience must always be evaluated by God’s Word which is objective truth.

The house build by the foolish builder represents putting one’s own “feelings” or “experiences” over the Word of God. This person is sensual not Scriptural. He is a slave to his feelings and they are usually his final decision. Unfortunately today, people would rather “experience” God than read His Word. People tell me they know that God works a certain way because they have experienced it. This thinking is believed even if it goes against God’s Word! When a famous evangelist is cupping his hands blowing on people to “blow the Holy Spirit into them,” and they fall over, this is total blasphemy! ONLY JESUS has the power to blow the Holy Spirit into someone. My Spirit is deeply disturbed when I see “prophetic teachers,” who claim to get direct revelations from God that go contrary to God’s Word. YES, God still speaks, but it has to line up with His Word, otherwise it is not from Him! God NEVER goes against His Word. One famous teacher claimed a direct prophetic message which shows that there are nine parts to God which is contrary to the Scriptures and yet his book is one of the most popular in the world!

The problem is that the person who builds on feelings or experience refuses to pay attention to doctrines. They don’t even care about the doctrines of sin, salvation, repentance and faith, justification and sanctification, or even the doctrines of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They just want the blessings of God, not the responsibilities. This is the type of person that does not build a foundation because they have not dug deep into the Word of God (Luke 6:48). God has given us His Word, which needs to be studied and applied, and unless that requirement is met, we will NEVER survive the storms of life.

The Bible tells us that people who live by experiences are like infants, “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14). Instead of having the quiet assurance that God is in control, we look for His signs and wonders even though He warned us that a “wicked and adulterous generation seeks a sign (Matthew 16:4). There is no “new” revelation or prophecy that supersedes the Bible, despite what many “famous” teachers are claiming. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever…” The next verse says, “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.” His teachings are the same as they were yesterday, today and forever!

When you build your life on the Rock of God’s Word you realize that those who worship God must worship in Spirit and in Truth because God is Spirit. On the other hand, Tricia Tillian of Banner Ministries in UK expresses basing your faith on experiences so well when she says:

“demons interact with people in the flesh – that is, in the physical body, and in the mental realm (emotions, desires, feelings). They give bodily sensations (shivers, shakes, heat, tingles, weakness, energy, etc.) and mental feelings (overwhelming burdens, or intoxicating sensations of joy, revelations, strong desires, impulses to do irrational things, etc.). “Although God is interested in our bodies as well our souls, His area of involvement with a Christian is primarily in the spirit.”

Jesus told us in Luke 18:8, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” I did not understand that verse for years. I kept on thinking of the millions of Christians around the world, and Jesus questioning whether He would find faith on the earth. But that verse in the original language opened up my eyes when I realized that Jesus was saying, “Will I find correct faith on the earth.” Many people have a faith, but is it the type that is based on obedience to the Word of God or on one’s experiences? I started to wonder if I was questioning God’s “anointed,” because of all the signs and wonders that some of these famous evangelists were producing and the Lord simply showed me Matthew 7:21-23, ”Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ” Jesus is saying here that some will prophesy, preach, do miracles, or drives out demons in the name of God, but they never really knew Him! So we have to be discerning whose message is from God, and the best way to do that is to see if their doctrine is lined up with the Word of God.

If only we would simply realize that the foundation of fleshly experiences will collapse, as opposed to building our faith upon the Rock of obedience to God’s Word, which will stand forever. We must also realize that since our experiences are based on our sinful nature, we must always look to God’s Word, which is truth, to evaluate our experience of Him. Then God will give us that inward peace and direction that we are seeking. Always remember: God calls the one who builds his life upon obedience to His Word “the wise builder.”

Building on the sand of dreams and visions

The first time I went to Cuba many Christians came up to me and told me their dreams and visions. When I tried to put emphasis back on the Word of God they would go back to their dreams.

I am shocked at how much emphasis people put on dreams or visions without consulting the Word of God. I hear of Christians who have dreams every week, and even though 99% of them are false, they just keep on spouting them off hoping something sticks! Yet, God tells us if there is just one iota of that dream or vision that is off, that person is not speaking for God. Yes, there are dreams and visions, but they are of the rarity, not of the norm. In fact, God warns us about dreams and visions in Jeremiah 23:28-33, “The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the LORD. “Is not My word like a fire?” says the LORD, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”

God is telling us here that His Word is certain and absolute truth compared to dreams and not to even dare compare dreams or visions to His Word. It is the Word of God that is the purifier that destroys all that is not truth. Actually, if you look at Jeremiah 23:27, God tells us that those who tell dreams are “intent to make people forget my name…” Imagine God condemning a person for using dreams or visions intending to make people forget His name! I believe that, before a person tells their dream or vision, that they better know it is from God. I also believe that if the dream or vision is false, the person should be accountable before the whole church! You may think this is harsh, but if this were the Old Testament times, we would be allowed to stone that person for being a false prophet! Also, that dream or vision MUST line up with the Word of God. Again, this is where many people fall into trouble. Suddenly they have a dream that they are going to marry someone. I had those dreams when I was younger, but somehow it didn’t work out and I had to realize that I cannot build my life on dreams but simply on the Word of God, otherwise the storms of life would do me in. Yes, on rare occasions, God gives me a dream or vision. But they are almost always for me alone. I test them to ensure that they line up with the Word of God, and usually, they are to rebuke me because I am not listening to Him in a certain area!

Instead of putting emphasis on the shallow foundation of dreams or visions, we should be building our lives upon the living Word of God. God tells us that the one who has HIS word should speak HIS work faithfully. For God tells us, “He who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully.” The Scriptures tell us that the Word of God is alive and active, not our dreams or visions. You will withstand the storms of life when you build upon the correct foundation.

Building Your Foundation on the Sand of Prosperity

There is a story of a young preacher who just took over a church and the whole congregation was eager to hear what he said. He preached a great sermon and the people told him so afterwards. The very next week, he preached the same sermon, but no one told him because they felt that as a young preacher he must have forgot, and they felt embarrassed for him. The third week he preached the same sermon again and the congregation was aghast. Finally, after the fourth week of hearing the same sermon, the people rose up and said, “Why do you keep on preaching the same sermon?” He told them that when they start to obey it, he would change his message. The same message is true as I point out that we focus more on the temporal values of prosperity than on the eternal values of God’s kingdom.

We put such an emphasis on money that it starts to control our lives. It controls our careers, and our focus on life…money, money, money (see you are smiling already!) We all want to be rich like Bill Gates, Donald Trump, or Ken Copeland. We have bumper stickers that say, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Yet, God tells us “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul.” We vote for a candidate that promises to make us richer, even if he aborts babies. We vote for a candidate that promises to give us more government funding, but at the same time gives homosexuals rights to your children… and we vote for that candidate all in the name of money!

We love money so much that we made a doctrine out of it! The “prosperity doctrine,” or “health & wealth,” “name it and claim it,” “blab it and grab it,” whatever you want to call it. This doctrine was written on the walls of hell by satan. It is a doctrine that is based on money, possessions and health. It builds a church quite quickly when you feed peoples lusts by saying that God is going to make them rich with money, possessions, and perfect health along with eternal life. God warned up against this doctrine in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 when He says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” So God is telling us here that because of our lusts and desires, we will listen and obey false teachers rather than obey the Word of God!

This false gospel teaches that the human mind and tongue contain a “power.” So when that person talks, uttering his positive words, and thoughts, then he “speaks” them into existence. Yet, every time astorm hits and wipes out the person, the faith “teacher” blames the person for “lack of faith.” The teaching of the prosperity doctrine is not only poor doctrine, it is outright heresy. There is absolutely no justification for that doctrine in the Word of God. To the contrary, God tells us in Matthew 6:24,” No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” God then tells us in Colossians 3:2 to “set our minds on the things above, not on the things down here on earth.” God is not looking for us to build a financial empire down here on earth, but rather a spiritual kingdom in heaven. Yes, God wants all of us to become a success, but He wants us to become a success in heaven, and He wants to say the words, “well done thou good and faithful servant,” to us.

Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” God promises to meet all of our needs and none of our greed. He never promised a Mercedes. Rather, He promised the true riches of love, peace and joy. Building one’s life upon the foundation of prosperity is an attractive and enticing, yet poorly build foundation that will not stand the storms of life. God tells us in 1 Timothy 6:6 that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” The Scriptures are teaching that godliness and contentment in any situation is a “great gain.” Paul emphasized the same thought when he said, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).

The Beginning Foundation

1 Corinthians 3:10-11 says, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Building your house on the foundation is coming into a living relationship with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is not just a belief in God, but a living relationship with the Creator of the heavens and the earth. One of the biggest misconceptions about Christianity is that it is a “belief” or “religion.” That is true to a degree, but you can believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, heaven, hell, and all the proper doctrines of the Bible and still go to hell! The Scriptures tell us that the devil believes and that He shudders (James 2:19). You have to receive the Lord Jesus Christ into your life, asking him literally to come into you. This means building the foundation of your life upon God and His Word. This requires coming to God and saying, “I die to myself, my sins, my plans, my ambitions, my goals and I will let you become what you want to become through me. You are my Lord, and I am your servant.” It is not easy because you are now turning over the keys of your life to God! Your highest priority in your life is seeking first God’s will, His Lordship and righteousness in your life (Matthew 6:33). The conclusion of Matthew 6:33 is that God promises to meet all our needs of love, peace, joy, forgiveness and necessities if we would simply build our lives upon Him.

The Wise verses the Foolish Builder

Jesus shows us the difference between the wise builder and the foolish builder, the one who builds on the sand and the one who builds on the Rock.

a) Jesus identified the wise man as “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them,” as compared to the foolish men “who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them.”

b) The “foolish” merely call Jesus “Lord”; the “wise” obey Him as “Lord.” To the foolish He says, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not the things which I say?” But He identifies the wise as “Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them.”

c) The “foolish” are “hearers only, deceiving themselves,” while the “wise” are “doers of the word,” and each is “blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-27).

The More Sure Word

God has given us His “more sure Word,” (2 Peter 1:19) to guide our lives. He tells us that “His Word is alive and active and sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). God is telling us that His Word is Alive and Active and possesses the very attributes of God Himself, not our experiences, our dreams or visions, and certainly not our own self-thinking. God tells us the six blessings of His Word in Psalm 19:7-13:

1) It restores the soul 2) Makes wise the simple 3) Rejoices the heart 4) Enlightens the eyes 5) Endures forever 6) Produces complete righteousness

Then God promises us in Joshua 1:8, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” So God is telling us the principles for a successful and prosperous life, to mediate on His Word and do all that is written in it, then we will survive the storms. The person who bases his life on God’s Word is the one who God says will have life more abundantly, and be more fruitful and generous. That person will now have the love, joy and peace that God promised because he realizes that God is responsible for all his steps, and he trusts Him.

The Solid Rock

Building the foundation is hard work, it is a slower process because you have to dig to get a good foundation. You have to sweat and labor, and it is more costly as well to add a solid foundation. Yet the Scriptures point out that everyone who obeys the Word of God is building his house on the foundation that could out last any of the storms of life. Yes, the house may take some hits through a storm, but as long as the foundation is solid, the house will not come crashing down.

Some of our lives or foundations are in need of repair. Some of us may have laid our foundations on Christ, but we have built some parts of the house poorly. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 tells us, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the day will bring it to light. Psalm 127 echoes this when it says, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” Unless God is the one who is building your house, your life, your ministry, your marriage, your business, you are laboring in vain. Some of us need to make sure we are building on the foundation of Jesus and obedience to His Word. We may have to move the spiritual house onto the proper foundation of God’s Word. Some of our “buildings” are in dire need of repair. Some of us need to gut the house, restructure the beams, and clean out the attics. We may need to return to our “first love” and make Jesus the Lord, the Captain, and the Master of our lives. We have to sit down before Him and evaluate how we are using our gifts, our resources, and what our motives are before Him.

Jesus was a Carpenter. He is also a Master Craftsman who is molding us, His spiritual houses, into something beautiful. Yes, we may have made mistakes, even years and years of mistakes. God tells us that “He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). Even if we have messed up so bad that we think God will not use us, He tells us that he will restore the years back to us. He can take a worn out life and restore it to something beautiful. God can work with anything, and anyone as long as we come to Him and step back to let Him be God! We have to give Him total control of our lives, building it on the solid foundation of God’s Word, then and only then, we will become survivors of the storms. “This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me..’” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

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