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Shepherds Hill Homestead » Messages » Tested at the Depths of Despair

Tested at the Depths of Despair

          I heard an interesting story this week about a submarine. It had some equipment failure and lost control and the dive planes were stuck in a downward direction. The engine was on battery and running full speed and no one could open the switch to stop it. As it dove deeper into the ocean, all the sailors began to wait. Anyone who knows about submarines knows that they have a maximum depth rating which is determined when it’s built. Engineers design each submarine knowing how deep it can go before the pressures of the deep crush it. This collapsing of the hull is an instantaneous thing and kills everyone aboard. Just imagine a soda can crumpled in your hand.

          As the sub got closer to collapse depth the conversation stopped. The crew worked desperately trying to get control again. The captain ordered someone to go to the electrical panels with an axe. In a last ditch effort a sailor swung his axe and broke up the welded contacts of the switch. This stopped the engine. The captain ordered valves to be manually opened to purge the ballast tanks so that the submarine would make an emergency blow. This maneuver causes the ship to rise suddenly (a good thing) but rattles everything loose in the ship (a bad thing). When the sub got to the surface they radioed for help. This story has happened many times in submarine history. It was not always caused by the same problem. Sometimes it was due to an attack and others times it was mechanical or electrical failure. Some incidents ended in tragedy and killed the crew.

When I heard this story it made me think.  Here is a man made object that was designed with all the technology available to carry men underwater. It is a high-tech machine with a highly trained crew. When there are no problems it performs well. And yet it has obvious limitations. The depth of the ocean is just one of them. When a failure occurs it can be catastrophic. The part that I pondered on was that while men were panicking inside waiting on probable death there were fish on the outside just minding their own business without a care in the world. They were swimming around this same deep water with no fear of collapsing. Their bodies were not made of steel nor did they have high tech electronics. Yet they survive even deeper water than a lot of submarines. How?

When I did some research I found an answer that was very enlightening. One source said “there is a pressure on the inside of these fish that is equal to any pressure they encounter”. Wow! Isn’t that a great statement? These fish swim around with no regard for how deep they are. They are designed by the Creator to do what they do and go where they go. The pressure inside of them keeps them from feeling the outside pressure and collapsing like a submarine would.

When I thought a little more on the subject the parable of the wise and foolish builders came to mind. In Matthew chapter twenty-four Jesus told a story about a wise and foolish builder. The wise builder built his house on a rock. The rains came, the winds blew, the floods came and yet the house stood. The second builder built his house on sand. The same rains came, the same winds blew, the same floods came, but this house fell because it had no solid foundation. Jesus also added “and great was the fall of it”. In other words, it didn’t just have shingles blown loose and windows cracked. It was completely crushed.

Now, I emphasized that it was the same rain, wind and floods on each house. I want you to see something here. Not only was the same storm happening at each house but I want you to see that each house was built using the same floor plans and quality of building materials. These were not different. Why do I say that? It’s because Jesus was emphasizing that the foundations were different.

As I’ve worked for utility companies over the past thirty-four years I have seen my share of storms and houses damaged. When we move in to get the power back up we see some heart breaking scenes. The storms that occurred last year inAlabamawent through a valley and swept clean everything in its path. As we drove through there were some houses that were completely gone and then to our amazement there would be an undamaged house within two-hundred feet of it.

A day before the storm it would have been interesting to talk to the owners and ask them if their houses would hold up in a storm. Most people think they will be safe in their home. Here at our house we often sleep right through them. It’s not because I think my physical home is better than anyone else’s. It’s because my spiritual home is ready for the storm. Sometimes we read through that parable and don’t really understand the point Jesus was making. Notice in verse twenty-four He compares all who hear His words and follow them as the wise builder who built his house on a rock. He compared the foolish builder to those who hear His word but don’t follow them.

Let’s think a little deeper about that. Each man made his own decision as to whether ort not he would listen to what Jesus said. Each builder built equivalent houses. I want you to imagine the move in day of each man and his family. They bring in their furniture and belongings. Pictures go up and they decorate. Days, months and even years go by. Imagine that the man who built on the sand is on the beach. He looks at the house on the rock and laughs at the site. This man will have a hard time mowing the yard, he thinks. He has the great view of the ocean and he just knows that the value of his house will be greater than the other one because of the number one rule in real-estate—location!

The man who built on the rock does have a different home. It took more time to build as the rock is unmovable. Instead of sweeping the sand around with his feet he had to carefully find material that would match the rock.  He enjoys his home and also believes he made the right decision. Both men feel they did the right thing. The builder on sand didn’t want to go to the trouble of building on rock. All he really cared about was the house. After all, isn’t a house a house? It’s beautiful inside and the view is great!

My friends, I constantly meet people who fit in one of these two roles in this parable. Sometimes it’s the builder on sand and sometimes the builder on rock. The sand builders only care about the future they can imagine. They can’t imagine a storm bad enough to need a good foundation. They believe they have seen hard times enough to endure anything. Like the submarine, they look around and their home seems unmovable. In fact, they get a feeling of pride at the awesome sight when they walk through. It is the best home they can imagine. They see no reason to do like the other man and build on a rock.

Have you ever known someone who doesn’t live for God and their lives seemed just fine? They go to work each day and arrive back home with a smile on their face. You look over the fence on Saturday and they are cooking out with they family. On Sunday, when your family goes to church you see them hooking up the boat for a day on the lake. They always seem to be doing well and the children look happy. From everything you know about them they are just as content as you are. In some ways they may even seem more carefree as they spend their time just as they want to. They have no obligation to God or following the Bible. They seem to be morally good and raise their children to be good citizens, yet without God.

This is often a mystery to the child of God. If years had gone by without a storm I can imagine the builder on the rock as wondering if it had been worth the effort. He sees the house on the beach and it sometimes looks inviting. Maybe he should sell. This scenario goes on in lives every day.

Two families live within sight of each other. Both are morally good. One follows Jesus and the other follows what seems right. When can you tell the difference? It’s the storm that does it. It’s the depths of despair that proves what you are made of. It’s the tests of life that show who made the right decisions.

Sometimes we even see people who believe they built on the rock. Yet, when the storm comes their house blows away and they lose it all. I was like that. I thought my life was in order. I attended church like all my friends. I believed I had everything under control. Then, the storm hit and it all washed away. When I sank to the deep I was crushed.

I stood by and watched in horror as my house was flattened. It was much like the families I’ve seen when we do disaster recovery for the company I work for. They stand there in shock and unbelief for some time after the storm clears. They can’t believe what they see. And then they rebuild. This time they do it differently just like I did. There is a wonderful thing called Grace!

There are many people who sincerely believe their life is in order without God. Some have told me “I’ve made my peace with God”. Sadly, this expression often means, “God, I’ll leave You alone if You will leave me alone”. Others are hurt from some event in their life and decide that God must not be there. If He was the “event” would never have occurred. The two houses in Jesus’ parable represent lives. The man who wholly stands on God and His principals will withstand the storm. The man who forsakes God, believing his house is solid enough has no idea that a storm this terrible is coming. When it comes and his house begins to fall he can do nothing about it.

What about your life? Maybe you are happy without God and see no reason to include Him in your plans. You can decide on your own what is right and what is wrong without religion getting in the way. It seems to have been the right decision all these years and you see no reason to change. If that is the case let me tell you now that the storm will come that will take your house down. It always comes and when it does you won’t make it. The sand that your life is on will wash away.

You don’t have to wait until the storm if you get wisdom. You can rebuild now. You won’t be homeless if you have to build it again, either. Jesus has a way. Throw away your plans and pick up His. He has a wonderful plan for your life. If you are one of those people who think you’ve done it right let me warn you that you may be wrong. It could be that you are like I was. Going to church and doing a mix of God and the worlds pleasures will lead to the same destruction as ignoring God altogether. It’s time to check the foundation. Make sure that your life is completely built on the Rock, Christ Jesus. If you do that you will be like those fish in the deep. There will be something inside you equal to any pressure you will ever encounter!

Prayer-Father, today I am praying for those who sincerely feel their life is fine without You. It may seem fine today but it only proves they have not come under the upcoming storm. When the test comes their life won’t hold up. May they gain wisdom today and their eyes be opened. May they see the cracks already in the walls from the unstable foundation. May they find Jesus as the only source of life.

In Jesus’ Name I pray–Amen


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Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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