Fred Luter Jr. is pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, in New Orleans, La., and also the newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Shortly after his election as president, he visited Billy Graham in Montreat, N.C., where the two discussed civil rights, and Mr. Graham congratulated Luter for making history as the first African-American SBC president.
I have always been intrigued by the text in Matthew 7:24-27, where Jesus describes two houses. As much as the two houses looked alike, they actually differed in a significant way. It appears that both houses were about the same height and width. It appears that both houses were built in the same area. However, something had to be different about the houses, because the Bible says one house stood and the other house fell.
On further reading of the text, we find only one difference between the two houses. Oh, but what a difference! One house was built on the rock, and the other house was built on sand.
From the outside, both of them looked like they would stand a long time. That is, until the rains came. Until the flood came. Until the winds blew against both houses. And only then were we able to see the difference. When the rains, flood and wind came, the house built on the sand fell, but the house built on the rock stood! In other words, when storms come, the house built on the right foundation will be able to stand.
Brothers and sisters, I lived this text personally a few years ago, when Hurricane Katrina blew through the city of New Orleans. My home, my church, my community and my city were flooded with 5 to 10 feet of water when the levees broke. The devastation was incredible; the loss of life was horrible; and the memory of this event, to those of us who went through it, will last a lifetime.
Not only did this storm bring about physical challenges, Katrina also brought about spiritual challenges. And that is why so many of us who lived through it can relate so well to this text.
The fact is, every believer, every child of God, will go through storms. While most of you did not go through Hurricane Katrina like I did, I know that many of you have been through other storms: the storm of sickness; the storm of physical abuse; the storm of verbal abuse; the storm of an unfaithful spouse; the storm of rebellious children; the storm of an unexpected death of someone dear to you; the storm of financial hardship; the storm of being hurt by someone in the church, in your family or on your job.
However, my concern as I write this article is not simply that we have storms in life. My concern is how do we handle these storms? I discovered that when the storm comes, faith is the first area the enemy attacks. That is why it is so important that we build our lives on rock rather than sand.
So what did Jesus tell us in Matthew 7 about building our lives on the rock? He said that only those who hear His words and put them into practice are like those who build on the rock. Why would He say this? Consider the fact that many people may hear Jesus’ words but will reject them outright. Others may give intellectual assent to His words but never let them affect the way they actually live. Only when we hear His words and put them into practice does it become clear that we truly believe Him and trust Him. Because Jesus Christ is God, His words are trustworthy. If we put our trust in Him, and He is our Savior, we can trust Him to get us through any storm.
Therefore, let me suggest that we must believe—and act out that belief—primarily in three areas:
1. We must believe in the promises of Jesus.
There are promises throughout the Scriptures that we need to stand on when the storms come. That is why it is so important for believers to know, memorize and apply all the promises of God in our daily lives (Philippians 4:6-7). In the aftermath of Katrina, many of our church members stood on God’s promises by making a commitment to go back to New Orleans to rebuild our homes and our flooded church sanctuary! Yes, the rains and the storms came, but our faith did not waver because we stood on the promises of Jesus.
2. We must believe in the presence of Jesus.
As a Christian you must be assured that no matter where you are—on the banks of the Red Sea, in a lion’s den, in a fiery furnace, in a battle against Goliath or facing a storm in your life, marriage or ministry—Jesus is always with you (Hebrews 13:5). Even when so many of our church members had lost so much when Hurricane Katrina flooded our city, we held onto the promise that Jesus would never leave or forsake us. So, one by one, person by person, family by family, we began to believe that “greater is He that is within us than he that is in the world!” (Cf. John 4:4).
3. We must believe in the power of Jesus.
No matter how torrential the rain, no matter how deep the flood, no matter how hard the wind blows, Jesus has the power to handle any storm in our lives. I recall a family relocating to Austin, Texas, after Katrina. After losing their home, personal possessions and their daughter’s high school, they could have really had a pity party. Yet because of the power of Jesus in their lives, they made a determination that the same God they served in New Orleans was also God in Austin, Texas. They put their faith, trust and confidence in God and started a new life—in a new city, in a new school, in a new home—and God spoke peace in the life of this family that had been through the storm. Oh, what power!
Hurricane Katrina was the most devastating storm in the history of our country. However, in the midst of this storm, my congregation and I were able to endure by standing on the Word of God and putting Jesus’ teachings into action.
Storms are coming your way. Which foundation are you building on?
©2012 Fred Luter Jr.