Storms Test the Quality of Our Labors Matthew 7: 21-27; James 5: 1-6; 1 Corinthians 15: 58 Jim Davis

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Storms Test the Quality of Our Labors
Matthew 7:21-27; James 5:1-6; 1 Corinthians 15:58
Jim Davis
The storms we have experienced here in Florida and the one we are anxiously awaiting have gotten inside of us. They have produced storm clouds within our hearts with high record winds—many are more anxious now than they have ever been.
Those who evacuated during hurricanes Charlie and Frances packed personal belongings into their cars and fled to safer havens. Many of us know what it is to flee with three suitcases full of personal items; yet, we understand that it is quite another to wake up and that is all you have left. Imagine losing everything in hurricane Charlie, and Frances and having to stare the threat of hurricane Ivan in the face. We may be packing our bags for the third time. May God bless us in our struggles to face the storms of life!
The Quality of Our Lives
Hurricane Charlie tested Florida’s new building codes put into effect as a result of hurricane Andrew. By all reports the new building codes are paying great dividends. However, hurricanes not only test the quality of Florida’s structural housing codes, they test the very core of our being.
Matthew 7:21-27

21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

24 "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. 25 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. 26 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. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." NIV
Storms force us to focus on what is really important in life. We discover that electrical power, water and a roof over our heads—material things—do not really define the boundaries of our existence or the quality of our lives. It is who we are when these things are stripped away that matters.
Storms are just part of living in a fallen world. Storms come for different reasons and maybe no reason at all. Some storms, such as the flood in Noah’s day, are brought upon us through the behavior of others. We may bring storms upon ourselves. Jonah’s storm was a self made storm. The disciple’s storm on the Sea of Galilee was brought upon them because of their lack of faith. Job’s storm was brought upon him by Satan. However, the Bible says, “The LORD spoke to Job out of the storm” (Job 40:6). When God spoke to him out of the storm, Job said, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5 NIV). It was his experience in the storm that made God real to him.
Our frustrations can teach us to build our lives on something more solid than the tides of time. Nothing brings God’s word to bear on our lives more than the storms of life. The word of God tends to take on real meaning as we experience the storms of life.
Storms Reveal the Superficial
Storms have a way of stripping away the superficial. The prophets and prophetesses of old were great spokes persons for God because they personally experienced God's principles as they weathered the storms of life. I can’t imagine Noah’s experience in the flood, nor the devastation Noah experienced when he descended from the ark, but it drove him to build an altar—it drove him to his knees in worship to God.
In the aftermath of the storms we discover the physical world makes a very poor foundation for life. Storms not only teach us the importance of building on a solid foundation—storms test how we have built upon that foundation.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15

11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. NIV

The quality of God’s building—his kingdom—his church, is determined by the quality of our lives. Building upon a solid foundation with shoddy materials makes a solid foundation all but useless. God provides a solid foundation and his word provides a solid building code for daily living. James spoke to Christians seeking to build their lives with shoddy materials. They were hoarding wealth and living in luxury and self-indulgence.
James 5:1-6

5:1 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. NIV

James may be alluding to their impending judgment shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Their labors were almost over, but they had labored in vain. They had used shoddy materials to build their lives—gold and silver were corroding—those cheated out of their wages were crying out to God. God is coming to judge their self-indulgence. God’s judgment was sure.
1 Timothy 6:17-19

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. NIV

This world’s trouble began with a couple that decided to spend the riches of God’s physical blessing upon their own lusts. Their self-indulgence resulted in them losing everything valuable.
Genesis 3:6-7

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. NIV

We were created to be productive and not possessive of God's gifts. The vast majority of our energy expended in the labor force is just about us—just us—is the cry of our age. Michael Jordan made more money from advertising Nike shoes in one year than all the workers in all the Nike factories in Asia made in one year. The CEO of Disney makes $97,000 an hour while Disney workers in Haiti make $.28 per hour. Sadly, such people are the nation’s heroes.

Labor Day Storms A Little Ironic
Labor Day in Florida seems to be notorious for hurricanes. We have just endured the taunting presence of hurricane Charlie and the grueling experience of hurricane Frances, and now we are dreadfully experiencing hurricane Ivan’s ominous approach. Isn’t it a little ironic that these storms are testing the quality of our labors? Many have worked all their lives to retire in Florida. How many have had all they worked for, all their lives, swept away in a brief moment.
Do we labor in vain for a temporary world swept away by the tides of time or for a world that will not survive the coming of God’s judgment?
1 Corinthians 15:58

58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. NIV

Revelation 14:13

13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on."

"Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." NIV
Meaningful labor makes for a meaningful life. In the beginning labor was more meaningful than it is today. The rewards of labor in Eden far exceeded the dollars and cents to which we have reduced our labors. God gave Adam and Eve a huge world view—“Be fruitful—fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the earth.” Their motivation in tilling the ground went beyond self-centeredness and self- flagellation. When their motivation turned to self-centeredness their labors became a curse.
Solomon’s selfish perspective made his labors become futile.
Ecclesiastes 1:2-8

2 In my opinion, nothing is worthwhile; everything is futile. 3 For what does a man get for all his hard work?

Generations come and go, but it makes no difference. The sun rises and sets and hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south and north, here and there, twisting back and forth, getting nowhere. The rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full, and the water returns again to the rivers and flows again to the sea . . . 8 everything is unutterably weary and tiresome. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied; no matter how much we hear, we are not content. TLB
At this point in Solomon’s life he believed work was futile because he really didn’t get anything lasting out of all his hard work.
Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;

I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my work,

and this was the reward for all my labor.

11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done

and what I had toiled to achieve,

everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;

nothing was gained under the sun. NIV
Ecclesiastes 2:17-21

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. NIV

Storms reveal our need for meaningful labor.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

13 Now all has been heard;

here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

for this is the whole [duty] of man.

14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,

including every hidden thing,

whether it is good or evil. NIV

Storms Reveal Our Deepest Needs

Storms reveal our need to build our lives with an eye upon eternity.

Matthew 6:19-23

19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! NIV

1 Peter 1:3-9

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. NIV

Storms reveal our need for a haven of safety---a place of refuge. We may flee the fury of a hurricane—but beware—you may flee into its path. My neighbor flew his plane to Orlando before Charlie hit. Guess where Charlie hit—Orlando. During Frances he flew it to Key West, Florida. I don’t understand how he faired any better there. I could flee Florida only to be caught up the road running out of gas at the same place everyone else is running out of gas—with inadequate gas supply and inadequate shelter—to close to the storm for comfort. I can’t pray for storms to go east or west when it is on land—that is wishing a curse upon others—in many cases upon our own children. I can only ask God to keep me safe in the storm. We must depend upon God for our safety.

God is a master at providing safe havens. We need a place of safety where we are totally dependent upon the power of God—God is the only real anchor in the storms of life. He kept David safe from Saul, Esther safe in the king’s palace, Daniel safe in the lions’ den. If worst comes to worst, I remember that God kept his Son safe through death—with the exception of a few battle scars. Jesus Christ is the safest haven you will ever find. If you lose your possessions for him in this life, your rewards in the next life will far exceed the reimbursement of any insurance policy.

Baptism into Christ places you into Christ and no one can pluck you out of his hand.

1 Peter 3:18-4:1

18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. NIV

Storms reveal our need of mutual support. Paul writes “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2-5). Hurricane Charlie reminded me of the importance of a gallon of water and a bag of ice. The help we offered in hurricane Charlie seemed so small to what needs to be done. But I have never seen so little have such a great impact on so many. It is not the quantity of our work but the quality of our motivation that makes the difference. I realized Charlie’s victims needed the moral support more than anything.

Mutual support is the key to spiritual survival. Mutual support encourages us to keep on keeping on despite the swirling storms in an uncertain world.

Hebrews 10:23-25

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching. NIV


God designed a frustrated world to test the very nature of our lives. It is designed in this way to point us to the only safe place.

Romans 8:18-25

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

This frustration is designed to refine our faith in God.

1 Peter 1:3-9

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. NIV

When we are tested to the point that we don’t know which way to turn—the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. He does this to keep us safe in the storms of life.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

"For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. NIV

  1. How have the hurricanes of the past few weeks affected you personally?

  2. What do you think about when the storm is approaching?

  3. What do you think about when you are waiting in a hallway, bathroom or under the bed in the midst of the storm? What seems important in those times?

  4. Why do storms come? Are hurricanes the only storms we face?

  5. Does anything you have valued before the storm seem superficial during the storm?

  6. Jesus Christ is the foundation for each life. How important is it to take heed as to how we build upon that foundation?

  7. How does God test the kind of lives we are building in the present?

  8. Where did this world’s problems begin?

  9. Our all our labors on earth in vain? Why did Solomon think his labors were in vain?

  10. What do life’s storms reveal?

  11. What are our deepest needs in the fury of a storm?

  12. What is the value of life’s frustrations?

  13. When we are tested beyond our wisdom to cope what do we discover?

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