To me, succeeding at things that really matter means investing in something of lasting value. And to do that, we must make sure we our building upon a sure foundation and not on shifting sands.
This week’s podcast is taken from a blog post I wrote nearly five years ago, which you can read in its entirety below today’s show notes.
But the message is as applicable now as it was then. Maybe even more so, since we have an ever-growing number of distractions tempting us to spend our time on things that have little to no eternal merit.
- “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall. ” – Matthew 7:24-27
- “This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” – James 1:27
- “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’” – Matthew 25:35-40
- ” If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink…” – Proverbs 25:21
- “You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost. Instead, you have ruled them with violence and cruelty.” – Ezekiel 34:4
- “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15
- “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.” – Hebrews 13:2-3
- “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” – Matthew 10:42
- “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” – Matthew 6:6
- “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your charitable giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:3
Succeeding at things that really matter
Our family enjoys going to the beach, but we normally wait and go off season. We’ll head to the coast in late February or early April or maybe even September, when schools are back in session after a too-short summer break.
Traveling at odd times means we avoid the crowds. Sometimes, we even have the entire beach to ourselves. We once visited Destin the last week of August and never saw another soul there.
Unfortunately, visiting off-season also means the water’s cooler and the air crisper than in the height of summer. So we spend the majority of our beach time playing in the sand instead of splashing in the ocean or riding on the waves.
The kids bury one another in sand. We run along the beach and fly kites and hunt for seashells. And we build lots and lots of sandcastles.
Eventually, I got smart and started packing a sculpting set to add detail work to our sand sculptures. We embellish the castles with bricks, drawbridges, turrets, and windows. We add scales, fins, and flowing hair or fiery breath to our mermaids and sea monsters.
It’s a lot of fun, but we know from the beginning these creations won’t last. Eventually, the tides roll in and carry them out to sea.
Besides, as soon as Dad’s stomach starts rumbling, he’s ready to pack up and go eat, so we couldn’t invest an inordinate amount of time on our sandcastles, even if/though we were inclined to do so.
Several years back, Doug and I built a real house. A house to live in. A house that took a substantially bigger investment of time and money than the most intricately detailed sandcastle the children and I have ever constructed.
Before we could even begin building, we had to do a couple of months’ worth of clearing the lot and pushing the dirt and preparing the pad, to ensure we’d be working on a solid foundation.
Neither we nor our builder wanted the house to crumble when storms rolled in, as they inevitably do.
Do you remember the parable Jesus told contrasting a wise man who built his house on the rock with a foolish man who built his house on the sand?
Have you ever considered the fact that both builders had heard the same message? The difference was not in the knowledge with which they were working, but in what they did with that knowledge.
The wise man chose to obey the words of Christ. The foolish man opted not to.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall. (Matthew 7:24-27)
Both builders worked hard. They both invested time and effort and capital in the construction. But the wise man’s obedience meant he was building on a solid foundation of rock. The foolish man’s carelessness meant he was building upon shifting sand.
Lord, teach us to number our days
In actuality, the houses are metaphors for life. They beg the question, “Into what am I pouring my time and energy and effort?
- Am I investing in something of eternal value, in obedience to Christ?
- Or am I sinking my resources into something that’ll crumble as soon as difficulties arise?
Francis Chan observed in his groundbreaking book Crazy Love, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”Francis Chan: Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.
Of course, determining what things in life matter and what things don’t can be a tricky business. That’s because God’s economy often turns the world’s economy on its head.
The world views success in terms of fame and beauty and bank accounts. Power and politics and platform building. Climbing corporate ladders and crashing through glass ceilings. Glitz and glamour.
Scripture stresses the importance of lowlier activities. If we hope to succeed at the things that really matter, we must spend our time…
- Caring for orphans and widows (James 1:27)
- Clothing the naked (Matthew 25:36)
- Feeding the hungry (Proverbs 25:21)
- Tending the sick (Ezekiel 34:4)
- Weeping with those who weep (Romans 12:15)
- Showing hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2)
- Visiting those in prison (Hebrews 13:3)
- Offering a cup of water to a thirsty child (Matthew 10:42)
So don’t fall into the trap of thinking that living in obedience to Christ means serving Him in some sort of conspicuous or grandiose way. You can do work that matters as a school teacher, a surgeon, a student, or a stay-at-home mom. You can serve God as an accountant, an artist, an athlete, or even an attorney. (Lawyer jokes aside, we are so grateful for the God-fearing attorneys we know!)
Perhaps someday the Lord may call you to do foreign missions, to pastor a mega-church, or to run for President. If and when that day comes, you’ll need to answer the call.
But for the time being, work on proving yourself faithful in your present, humble circumstances. Honor God, walk in obedience, point others to Him, pray without ceasing – moment by moment, day by day, week by week – right where you are, at home or away, in the boardroom, in the bedroom, or even at the beach.
Succeeding at things that really matter is Jennifer Flanders’ life goal. As a stay-at-home mother of twelve, she’s spent the last 35 years clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and giving countless cups of water to kids who claim to be thirsty – especially when they’re supposed to be in bed. To read more from this author, check out her books.