Shifting Sand

By Thom Mollohan

Several years ago, I was the guest of a small church about an hour’s drive away from my home. As I traveled, the bright light of the early-morning April sun made the newly budding leaves emerging on the tree branches seem to glow with the fresh green of spring. As I pulled into the gravel parking lot of the church, the building struck me as a cheerful and welcoming place. Indeed, the pastor and a lay leader were waiting to greet me at the door and they ushered me into the old but charming structure where we prepared for the service that was to shortly follow.
After worshiping our living Lord with their church family and sharing a word of encouragement from the Bible with them, they generously invited me to join them for a meal in a small fellowship room connected to the sanctuary by a long hallway with small rooms on either side which were set apart for Bible study classes. During our meal together, we shared some of the respective spiritual journeys God had taken us on so far. At some point in these conversations, I happened to remark about how pleasant their worship facility was, and how I was sure it had been a blessing to their community for many years. The moment the words left my mouth, an expression bordering on glumness crossed a few of the members’ faces. I wondered if I had said something to offend them.
The pastor noticed my confusion and quickly said, “Well, it’s funny that you should say that. We’re not going to be in it much longer.”
I glanced at the others seated around and their expressions all had the same wistful look similar to the same regret that had flickered over the pastor’s face. “Well, that sounds like something either really exciting or something really sad,” I replied after a moment.
“Not knowing what the future holds for us,” a lady answered, “sometimes we forget ourselves and look at these circumstances from eyes of flesh and get a little sad. But God is in control. He has a plan for us.”
“What’s happening?” I asked. “What are these circumstances you speak of?”
One of the men laughed. “This building was built on property given to the church a long time before any of us were even members. It turns out that the ground it was built on, and the ground all around this area, is sand… or mostly sand anyway. We’ve done all right by it for a long time, but now it turns out that sinkholes all around here are causing all this ground to shift. We’ve been notified that this building isn’t safe and we’re going to have to vacate it.”
As this news sank into my mind, I could sense that these brothers and sisters in Christ were wrestling with the temptation to feel anxious about their future together as a church. It proved to be a very difficult time for the congregation as a whole. Thankfully, they were able to have their main worship in another church’s building when the other church was not holding services – the generosity of the other church family was just amazing. Yet, their pastor, not only had to deal with losing their church building, but also had to endure some very serious and traumatic experiences in his family – a death and a series of debilitating illnesses. They finally came through the valley of night, and were able to see God’s faithfulness in spite of that season of confusion and dark discouragement.
In fact, although their old building may have been built on sand, their lives and testimony were constructed on something infinitely more dependable than any building, financial asset or human relationship. The fact that their confidence was built on the faithfulness of Christ, poured through the windows of their souls when cataclysmic storms raged against them. Although their tender souls were bruised at times in the tumult about them, they have been lifted up, and now joyfully share the hope that sustained them with others in their community.
Their physical circumstances years ago may have been a gentle admonition from our Father in heaven to be sure that their faith was not built on mere feelings, or on the delusion that a Christian’s life will be without pain and problems. Jesus reminds us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33).
Just as dangerous as building our lives on emotions, it is a grave error to build our lives on anything other than Christ Jesus. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
It isn’t enough to go to church, dear one. If the Word of God isn’t somehow transforming our lives through our choices, our values and even our being, then it seems that we may be building our houses on sand. What will be your fate when the hurricanes of hurt and typhoons of trouble crash into your life, toppling over the things to which you’ve given yourself? Will you be lost in the waves of circumstances swirling about you, as you reach out hoping that somebody will throw you a lifeline? Don’t wait until a catastrophe hits home before you tether yourself to the only real lifeline there is: Jesus and His love for you. He gives us a special promise, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him,” (James 1:12).

Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 15 ½ years and is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables. He is the pastor of Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at pastorthom@pathwaygallipolis.com.

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