One thing I’m grateful for is that while our adventure in Arizona is completely different from our time in Connecticut, God is just as much here as He was there. The church He’s led us to has a wonderful pastor who is a strong teacher, and we’ve also enjoyed good discussions in our Sunday school class. On our first Sunday, something in class led Charlie and I to read through 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. I was thinking about our judgement as believers, which is something I’ve never really understood. If God has already assured my salvation, what exactly is on the line here? Then, on our little couch as the sunset changed our living room walls to all shades of pink, the Lord taught me something that has subtly changed the focus of my days.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
In this passage, Paul is telling the Corinthians to take care how they live their lives – what they do to build on the foundation of Jesus that he has made known to them. The foundation is set – my salvation is assured in Jesus and that can’t be shaken. But what is built on the foundation is what I will be responsible for on the day that I face the Lord.
When Paul talks of building with the various materials, he’s referring to the activities and works we do every day. Some believers build their lives with wood, hay and straw. Others go about their days building with gold, silver and precious stones. When we each stand before the Lord, He’s not judging our salvation – He’s judging what we’ve built for Him. He will test our lives with fire. If we built upon our salvation using durable materials, our works will withstand His test and we will receive a reward in heaven. But if our works were thrown up with only straw or hay, we’ll see them disappear before our eyes as nothing. Paul says that in that case, the man will be saved since his foundation is secure, but he will suffer loss and be saved only as one through fire.
So here’s the thing:
I don’t want to see my life’s works disappear before my eyes. I don’t want to come to the end and realize that I didn’t do anything that will last into eternity. What a waste! Through this passage, the Lord taught me the subtle difference in good works and eternal works. When I work in the soup kitchen in the mornings, that’s a good thing to do. But when I work in the soup kitchen and intentionally allow myself to be led by His spirit, speaking and doing whatever He tells me, then it becomes an eternal work. After all, just going doesn’t really make me any different from the other nice, yet unbelieving, people who show up to help there every day. While it looks like a good thing to build upon my foundation of Jesus, if I’m not intentionally looking for ways to further His church during my time there then I’m just throwing up a house of wood – passing the visible test, yet not withstanding His holy fire.
I’m seeing that it’s not enough to just do the good things we feel we should do as Christians. Yes, that will build something and yes those are good. But are they eternally good? Are we intentional about searching for His opportunities to use our good works to further His kingdom?
We can all build something on our foundation of Jesus. There are a lot of good things to be done in His kingdom. But are we doing the things He planned in advance for us to do? Are we intentionally seeking the opportunities He gives us to turn these good works into a chance to bring Him deep glory? When I look at my life, I see a lot that I have built on my foundation. But I know that some of it was built only with straw. I was happy to show up and work in His field, but that’s all I did. I wasn’t asking Him to use me however He wanted in these situations so that my service can further His church. I was showing up with a good Christian spirit, but not actually being led by Christ. Straw is light and easier to handle without thinking about it much. Stones are heavy and require strength to lift and use. When I was building things with straw, it was because I was either too weak in the Lord to really use stones or because I was too lazy to use the strength they demanded. I know I’ll see some things burn away when I stand before the Lord. I also know that from this point forward, I don’t want to add to that pile of wood any more.
So my prayer when I go to the soup kitchen this morning is for my heart to be tuned solely to the Lord so I can hear how He is leading me to act in every moment. I don’t want to miss an opportunity because I think I’ve already seized it just be showing up.
And now, because I don’t want to post twice in a row without any pictures, here’s a random shot of the delicious Chinese pancakes we enjoyed at the Phoenix Chinese Festival!