"Life Happens"   (July 2009)

If you don’t know it by now... life happens.  Just being alive brings problems, trials and a vast array of circumstances and situations our way.  You never know what life may hand you.  It is unpredictable and often takes us by surprise.  Let’s face it, the one thing about life that we know for sure is that we never know for sure what it may hold.  One minute life is full of laugher and joy, and the next minute it can be full of pain and heartache.  One minute you are on the mountain top shouting, “Victory”, and the next minute you are so discouraged that you don’t even want to live.  For example, the Prophet Elijah called fire down from heaven, slew all the false prophets of Baal and was instrumental in bringing a mighty revival among the Israelites.  In the next few verses we see him praying for the heavens to open up and send rain after he had prayed three years earlier for them to be shut up.  He was on top of the world.  But in the very next chapter we see him running for fear of his life because of the death threats of Jezebel. (1 Kings 18,19)

Joseph is another example of “life happening”.  He had received dreams from the Lord letting him know that one day he was going to be a great ruler.  He was his father’s favorite son.  Life seemed good for Joseph, then one day his father sent him to check on his brothers and the flocks.  When Joseph found them, they threw him into a pit and sold him as a slave.  One minute you can be feeling great, life is treating you good, everything is going your way, then without warning you find yourself in a pit of darkness and despair.  This happened to a nurse that attended to my mother in law during her last stay in the hospital.  This nurse had come in to check on her before her shift ended.  She commented to my mother in law that she had had a wonderful day.  Everything was going well, no problems, the blessings of the Lord were there at every turn- in short, it was a perfect day.  But before she reported for duty the next day she received a phone call that her son had been killed.  (Oh, my heart broke for her.)  This is a prime example of what I am talking about- life happens, and it happens to all of us.  There is “sun” and “rain” in all of our lives, and we never know when which is coming.

One minute we are on top of the world, the next minute the world is on top of us.  One day the economy is looking good, the next it is in trouble.  One day you report for work, the next day you are told not to come in because you no longer have a job.  One day you are healthy, the next day you get the report that you have a terminal illness.  One day you are walking in victory, the next day you feel defeated.  One day you are enjoying family and friends, and the next day they are gone.  Tonight you may go to bed in the comfort of your own home and tomorrow find yourself in a homeless shelter because a storm came through and wiped it all away.  Again, life happens!

So the question is not, “Does life happen?  Does it deal us some hard blows?”, the question is, “When life happens, what do we do?  How do we handle it?  How do we make it through?”  We each face personal trials and problems in life, but I also believe that the closer we get to the return of the Lord we will see a lot more things happening, and not all pleasant things, that we will have to face because of the times in which we are living.  (Jesus spoke to us about this time in Luke 21.)  How will we handle peril, economic collapse, disasters, increasing lawlessness, persecutions?  We are also warned in the last days of false teachers, false teaching, deception, people doing what is right in their own eyes, a casting off of all restraints, doctrines of devils being preached, truth being called lies and lies being called truth, and so on.  There is only one way that we can, or will be able, to handle it-- we must be rooted and grounded in Christ.  “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:  Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6,7)

Let’s look at some of the words from this verse to help us get a clearer understanding about what it means to be rooted, built up and established.  The Greek translation for “rooted” means:  To become firmly established, settled; cause a person or a thing to be thoroughly grounded.  “Built up” means:  to strengthen.  “Established” means:  firm and secure; to be settled.  Once we have come to Christ, we have to be firmly planted, settled, unmoveable, strong and secure in our faith and not easily shaken.

How do we become rooted and grounded in Christ?  First, let me say that if you don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, if all you have is a mere profession of Him, if He is only a religious figure to you, if you only know about Him mentally but not personally, if He is someone that you think about only in times of trouble, you will never be rooted and grounded in Him.  Instead you will be shaken and tossed to and fro when life comes at you.  Have you ever seen an area after a tornado comes through?  I have.  I have also noticed that the pine trees snap into at the force of the wind, but the oak trees uproot.  I have seen massive oak trees- trees so big that it would take two or three people to wrap their arms around it- uprooted and fallen to the ground.  I have seen skinny, undeveloped pine trees that were so small you could easily reach around them stand even the worst of storms.  Why?  What’s the difference?  The difference is in the root system.  The oak tree’s roots grow close to the surface, leaving nothing to support them.  While the pine tree has something called a “tap root”.  That tap root goes deep into the earth.  The deeper it goes, the stronger the pine becomes at withstanding anything that would try to uproot it.  Just talking about Christ instead of knowing Him gives you no deeper of a root system than that of the oak tree- surface roots only. 

There is one primary way to become rooted and grounded so that we can handle life when it comes our way, so that we can stand firm when the events prior to the return of Christ unfold, when perilous times come, when we face personal problems or world wide catastrophes.  Rooting and grounding and establishment comes through God’s word.  “Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, ‘AS YE HAVE BEEN TAUGHT’, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:7)  What were they taught that helped bring this rooting?  God’s word.  Paul sandwiched this verse in between verse 4- “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words”, and verse 8- “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”  Paul was saying that being rooted and grounded in the word of God will keep you from being deceived by enticing words of men that will lead you astray and away from Christ. 

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6a)  God’s word is our source of knowledge- true knowledge.  Knowledge in how to handle life and life’s problems.  Knowledge in how to stand in times of temptation.  Knowledge to stand in the midst of false teaching and deception.  Knowledge to stand in faith.  (“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17)  God has so graciously given us His word, but not having the knowledge of what His word says can lead to destruction.

Jesus ended His teaching on the Sermon on the Mount with the parable of the wise man and foolish man who built their houses upon two different foundations. (Matthew 7)  One man built his house upon a rock and the other man built his upon the sand.  When the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds beat upon the houses, the house that was built upon the sand fell but the house that was built upon the rock stood firm.  “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.” (Matthew 7:24)  Jesus said that whoever hears His words and applies them to his life will not be destroyed when life and its storms beat upon him because he has his house/life built upon and established on a firm foundation- God’s word.

I found it interesting in looking at the seven churches in the Book of Revelation that most of the churches were either commended because they kept God’s word or they were rebuked for having allowed false teachings and other doctrines to come in.  To all but one of the churches He gave a rebuke.  He told the other churches what to do in order to be accepted by Him.  But at the church of Thyatira He said something different.  “And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.  Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.” (Revelation 2:18-20)  There was a woman in the church who claimed to be a prophetess but was not teaching the people the word of God.  Instead she was teaching them just the opposite.  Many in the church were following her teachings forsaking the truth of the God’s word.  Did you notice that this was the only area of rebuke from the Lord about this church.  Evidently, this is a serious matter to God, look at what the outcome was to those who did not heed and follow the truth.  “And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.  Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.  And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:21-23)  Not following the word of God, following false teachings, following teaching that is in opposition to God’s word will bring destruction upon you.  After He rebukes them and reveals the consequences if they don’t repent, He then tells them what He requires of them.  “But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.  But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.” (Revelation 2:24,25)  His only requirement to this church, unlike the others, was to those who had held on to the truth to continue doing just that.  He didn’t place any other demand, command or requirement on them because they were doing the most important thing-- holding to the truth of His word.  They were rooted and grounded in His word, therefore, they did not fall prey to the false teachings of this Jezebel.  They had their roots deep in the soil of God’s word so when the false was taught, they didn’t fall for it, they didn’t give into it and they remained faithful to the Lord.  When you hear false teachings, if you are rooted and grounded in God’s word it will keep you from falling for it and being destroyed.   

Remember we said earlier that one moment you might be on top and the next minute on bottom?  Peter is a prime example.  One minute he is walking on water, and the next minute we see him sinking.  “And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.  And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.  But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.  And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.  And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.  And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:25-31)  When we see storms in the Bible, they are often symbolic of situations in life.  We all face storms of some sort.  There are times, like Peter, when the storms seem to have no effect on us.  Instead we are walking on top of them.  We have peace in our hearts that even though the storms of life are raging, our faith is strong and we know that all is well.  Then there are times when the storms that are raging around us begin to consume us and we start sinking in them.  When you start sinking, that’s the time you need to be rooted and grounded in God’s word. 

There are many valuable lessons that we can learn from this story of Peter walking on water.  One that I want to point out is the fact that when Peter started sinking what was the first thing he did?  “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”  He didn’t yell out for someone to throw him a life preserver.  He didn’t start trying to swim to the boat.  He didn’t start treading water to help stay afloat.  The first thing he did was cry out to Jesus.  He knew where his help lie.  He knew that he could trust and count on Jesus to save him.  He knew that Jesus was his only true source of help.  Do you know why he had the assurance that Jesus would save him if he called out to him?  It’s because he spent time with “the Word”.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1,14)  Peter spent time with the Living Word, Jesus, day in and day out.  He listened to His teachings.  He heard the words of truth.  He meditated upon His words.  He sought for answers and understanding from Jesus. 

The lesson we learn from Peter’s example of the way he handled the storm when it started swallowing him up is-- we too have to know who to call upon when it is happening to us.  And the only way we will know this is by doing what he did- spending time in the word.  Spending time in God’s written word everyday.  Reading it.  Hiding it in our hearts.  Meditating on it.  Memorizing it.  Seeking out its words of wisdom and guidance.  But you also have to spend time “with” the word.  We have already established the fact through scripture that Jesus is “The Word”.  You have to spend time in His presence.  This is done through prayer and praise.  You have to get to know Him.  You have to discover for yourself that He is who He says He is- faithful as promised.  Peter could not depend upon John, or Andrew, or any of the other disciples knowledge and experience with Jesus to save him when he was sinking.  He had to have personal knowledge of who Jesus was and that He would do what He said He would do.

When we spend time “in” and “with” the word, we will be able to apply its precepts to life’s situations.  We will have promises, the promises of God that do not fail, that we can stand upon.  Spending time in the word daily will build our faith, and faith gives us confidence and assurance in God.  The same confident assurance that Peter had when he cried out to Jesus.  He knew Jesus would not let him drown but would save him.

Being rooted and grounded in God’s word is the only solid foundation upon which we can stand when life comes at us with its ups and downs.  And the only way to become rooted and grounded in God’s word is to spend time in it.  It doesn’t just happen.  I don’t think that it is by coincidence that the longest chapter in the Bible (Psalms 119) is devoted to talking about the word of God.  I believe that the Lord was trying to tell us something.  He was telling us, not only the importance of knowing His word, but also the priority of it.  Are you rooted and grounded in God’s word?  Like I have already said, you have to be spending time with and in it in order to be.  But until it becomes the main priority in your life, you won’t do that.  And if you don’t do it, your roots will remain shallow and life will easily uproot you.

The Bible called the man who built his house upon the rock a wise man.  He made it a priority to make sure his house was built upon a solid foundation.  If we do the same, make it a priority to build our lives on a solid foundation- God’s word- we will also be wise.  “And when life beats upon us we will stand and not be uprooted.  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” (Matthew 7:25)