Seven strength-builders can equip believers to withstand life’s stressors and storms
When I was a boy I lived in a community where a tract of affordable houses had been built. From the outside they looked simple, yet attractive. By all appearances it seemed that these families were living the American Dream of home ownership. But this dream eventually became a nightmare.
You see, there was a problem. The foundations these homes were built on were compromised. They simply weren’t strong enough to deal with the stress placed on them. Over time the effects of shifting soil and changing temperatures took their toll and these foundations began to crack. As they cracked, these houses began to come apart. Ceilings separated, cabinets began to pull away from the walls, floors buckled.
Even though most of these homes were nicely appointed, inside and out, none of that could mask the fact that these homes were built on faulty foundations. Any structure is only as strong as what it is built on.
Spiritual lives are like that. Jesus made this very clear in His Parable of the Two Foundations in Luke 6:47-49. In this parable Jesus taught the necessity of building lives on a rock-solid spiritual foundation to stand strong amid the “storms” and stresses of life. He declared that the only sure way to accomplish this was to hear His words and to obey them. When we teach disciples to follow Jesus’ Word, will and ways in loving-obedience, we help them to set in place spiritual foundation stones that give them something solid and deep to build there lives on.
In the congregations I lead and serve, there are several key principles and resources we use to help people to establish strong spiritual foundations in their lives. Through these we endeavor to see spiritual “foundation stones” put in place on which people can build their lives in Christ.
1) Disciplined to Devotion (John 15:1-7) — As we teach disciples the importance of obeying what the Word commands, we must emphasize that this is to be a loving response to a loving Savior. We don’t want to shape people who are merely devoted to discipline, for that can lead to trying to live for Christ in the power of the flesh rather than the Spirit. But when people are disciplined to devotion, their focus can remain on a loving intimacy with Jesus—devotion to prayer, His Word, will and ways. In our context we not only teach people how to meet with God every day in the Word and in prayer, but also how to lovingly and loyally abide in Christ throughout the day. [Recommended resource: Daily Life Journal, New Song Christian Fellowship]
2) Engaging the Lost (Mark 16:15) — It is vital that we help devoted disciples give themselves to the primary mission of the church: preaching the gospel and making disciples. For many churches effective personal evangelism has become a thing of the past. But that is beginning to change. We are seeing more and more churches calling their people to engage the lost with a loving, winsome witness. A new wave of gospel-sharing is rising. Tools are being created and effective training is becoming more available. We must access it and use it well. When people are trained to present the gospel clearly and effectively, they engage the lost with confidence and ease. [Recommended resource: Engage 2020 and The God Test, Rice Broocks]
3) Faith and Obedience-Based Discipleship (John 14:15) — As Jesus was about to ascend to heaven He commissioned His disciples to make disciples of the nations, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). Notice that He didn’t say, “teaching them to consider all things that I have suggested to you.”
To help believers become firmly established in the faith, we must teach them that being a faithful follower of Jesus requires truly believing all that Jesus said and living a life of loving obedience to Him, by the truth of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Romans 1:5, Paul said, “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations.” This is the basis for how we seek to lay foundations in peoples’ lives: believe everything the Word says and obey it. That is what Christ commands, and that is what He richly blesses. [Recommended resource: Disciple’s Handbook, Volume 1, New Song Christian Fellowship]
4) Finding Identity and Freedom in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) — When people come to Christ we tell them that they are new creations in Christ. But we need to help them to understand how new new really is. They have gone from being sinners to being saints. Sinners sin according to the dictates of a fallen nature; saints are to live righteously according the power of a new nature created by the new birth. That is a huge shift in thinking and living.
People need to discover that the grace that saved them is also the grace that will sustain and strengthen them to live victoriously. Additionally, though people are new in Christ, they come to us with minds that need to be renewed and cleansed. We give great attention to filling peoples’ minds with the truth concerning their new identity. Also, we need to help people to deal with any type of demonic influence that they may still be experiencing. [Recommended resource: Victory Over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker, Neil T. Anderson]
5) Founded and Grounded in the Word (Heb. 4:12, 2 Tim. 3:16-17) — We live in a day where the lack of biblical literacy is alarming. Many Christians are ignorant concerning what the Scriptures teach and how to apply its truth in their lives. When this is the case, believers are building on the “shifting sand” of human opinion rather than the immovable strength of divine revelation.
Part of our strategy for helping disciples be founded and grounded in the Word is to take them through the whole Bible—cover to cover—every year. We show them how to meditate on the Word and commit parts of it to memory.
When someone comes to Christ, one of the first things we do is to help get him into the Scriptures every day. We do the same with our kids and youth. Additionally, we are putting increased emphasis on individual and group inductive Bible study. We must help God’s people to feast on His Word, understanding what the Word says, what the Word means and how to apply it and obey its directives. [Recommended resource: “Walking Through the Word” podcast on iTunes]
6) Living in Community (1 Cor. 12:12-27): The Bible is primarily a “we” book, not a “me” book. It is a book about God creating covenantal community and teaching people their place of privileged-responsibility in it.
From the first family in Eden to the citizens of The New Jerusalem at the end, God reveals that He is a community builder where the community is to function as a holy, loving, gratefully redeemed family.
Church is to be a context where each member learns to find his fit and do his part, thus making it mutually beneficial to all. Church is about a people united in Christ reaching up to God in prayer and praise, reaching in to one another in loving service, so it can reach out to the world in gospel mission.
To create environments where people can learn to become deeply connected to other believers, we have to be intentional and consistent. The heartbeat and lifeblood of this for us is our small-group ministry. In these groups we teach people how to rightly relate to fellow believers and how to rightly relate to leaders who seek to serve them well. [Recommended resource: Connecting With God’s Family: Six Sessions of Fellowship, from the Doing Life Together series]
7) Recognizing Spiritual Gifts and Innate Strengths (Rom. 12:6-8) — God has created each individual uniquely. Everyone has a place to take and a part to play in the fulfilling of the Great Commission and advancing of Christ’s kingdom into the hearts of men everywhere.
Helping people to discover the ways in which God has graced them is vital. It is vital for their full release into God’s purposes for them. And it is vital for us to multiply and strengthen ministry by our people being “jointly fitted together” according to their unique gifts and strengths. Whatever tools or processes we use we need to help our people clearly recognize who God has made them to be. [Recommended Resource: Unlocking the Gifts in You, Foursquare Media]
A number of years ago, my wife and I were having a new house built. Because it was built in three levels, it was a taller and bigger home than we had ever lived in. Remembering those compromised foundations I saw when I was younger, I wanted to be sure that the foundation for this house could handle the weight of the house and changes in weather.
On the day the foundation was poured I was there, inspecting things very carefully. The builder assured me that the foundation was deep and reinforced well and was more than able to handle any stress and any storm.
And so it has—year after year after year.
May we lay spiritual foundations like that—deep, reinforced well, and more than able to handle the stress and storms of life.
Dale Evrist is senior pastor of New Song Christian Fellowship, a Foursquare church in Brentwood, Tenn. He has been in pastoral ministry for more than 20 years and has been extensively involved in church planting. Dale and his wife, Joan, have two adult children.