Building For A Different Day
If anyone builds on this foundation
using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,
their work will be shown for what it is,
because the Day will bring it to light.
1 Cor. 3:12-13
We could work on one of our remodeling project rooms, play games and sleep in.
Unfortunately, for those of you who know what owning a general contracting business is like, it won't surprise you that by midday on the first day of our "stay-cation" he had received upward of 100 phone calls, not to mention the texts and emails he had responded to. I was absolutely fried. I had a terrible attitude. I was so mad. I had waited so long for this day and for our project to make some headway...I blew up at him.
Man, did the conviction of the Holy Spirit get to me after what I said. It's not a fun moment when you realize you've put your own agenda before loving your family, your hard-working husband and, by transference, God Himself.
When I read the story of Abram and Lot, I see myself caught in this moment—the moment of choice between choosing to survive—or to thrive. My agenda, or God's.
In this opening scene, we find that Abram and Lot, who is Abram's nephew, have been traveling together for quite some time, each with their herds and families and servants. But because their great amount of cattle and sheep took so much pasture land, they found that there just wasn't enough food to go around, and their servants had started arguing about who could have the pasture:
So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord. Gen. 13:8-13
Lot had an agenda. So did Abram. They both wanted to be good businessmen and to take care of their families. There's nothing wrong with either of those goals. The difference was what each was willing to do to get their agenda.
I find that so often selfishness, or at least a self-focused way of thinking—what do I need, what does my family need, how can I get to my goals--trips me up in my desire to please God and love Him and others. It's not so much that I don't care about others, but I can get so focused on my own desires, goals, and needs that I place them above God's love and concern for other people who also have needs and desires.
Lot and Abram were both believers in God. They both tried to practice righteousness. They both tried to abstain from wickedness as far as they knew.
But Lot chose for himself what seemed to be the better plain. The one that promised riches. Promised popularity. Promised an easy life. But the promises were empty.
In fact, in 2 Peter the apostle Peter tells us that Lot was righteous, but that by living in Sodom in what he had thought would be a really fun lifestyle, he “was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)" 2 Peter 2:7-8.
Lot had built up a kingdom for himself that was made only of flammable materials: when the judgment day came it completely burnt up what he had built until only he himself was able to be saved. When the angels came, he was forced to choose to either save his own life or die staying with his empty wealth.
The Apostle Paul explains how this relates to our personal life as believers and how we serve the church Body together:
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their 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 person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Cor. 3:10-15
So if Lot chose to build with wood, hay or straw, with what did Abram build?
In chapter 14 we find that even before the angels come to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities faced a war. The four kings of the tribes around them joined together to attack them in the Valley of Siddim. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar lost and their people were taken as captives, including Lot and his family, and their possessions were looted.
Abram's immediate response was to rally his 318 men and go to fight the winning king to take back the people and possessions. He split his men at night and attacked and pursued them, bringing back all the people and the goods.
The next thing that happens I think is key to understanding Abram's different perspective on true wealth. Both the king of Sodom and Melchizedek, King of Salem went to meet Abram. By the law of conquest, every person and all property would belong to Abram and would be at his disposal to deal with however he pleased:
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine;
He was the priest of God Most High. And He blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
And [Abram] gave him a tithe of all.
Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.”
But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’—except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.” Gen. 14:18-24
When Melchizedek blessed Abram, He reminded Abram that the God Abram served and worshipped was currently in possession of the universe and was absolutely capable of providing for Abram's needs without him resorting to taking away from the needs of others or by taking the riches of wickedness.
Though it doesn't outline a distinct conversation, either Melchizedek told Abram God's instructions about not taking the riches of Sodom or Abram simply had a strong heart conviction from God. Either way, Abram was not only willing to give God back His own tithe, but also to depend solely on the Lord's provision for his future needs.
This simple action of trust and obedience is what made a distinction between Abram and Lot:
Abram went back to living a hard life in the desert, waiting for the promises of God to be fulfilled in God's own way and time.
Lot went back to Sodom.
I know that I believe in Christ to be my savior, and I know that He has forgiven me and gives me grace to walk in righteousness and to grow in grace. But I want more than that. I want to build for His kingdom in such a way that there is something left after it all goes through the fire of the Judgment Day. I want there to be something left worth going through the challenges of this life. In my day to day decisions, I want there to be gold.
When my child comes down to “talk” at 11:30pm, am I willing to listen and free myself for however God would want to use that conversation?
When my husband calls me and asks to stay out late helping another person with the broken tree limbs hanging over their home, can I give my plans of comfort time to God, and take on the extra responsibilities of putting the kids to bed by myself?
When God asks me to give my spending money to care for strangers in need, would I be willing to give that up?
I'll be honest, both the little things and the big things are a daily challenge for me. It is much easier for me to abstain from doing evil things than it is to give Jeff the better cup of coffee. True story.
If we are to build using gold, silver and costly stones, it is going to cost us.
I would encourage you and myself, however, to put our trust in our God Most High, the Possessor of Heaven and Earth: He is the One who will abundantly and richly satisfy both our needs now and will give us a reward that can't be even imagined:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared
for those who love Him.”
1 Cor. 2:9
When we find a “costly stone” or precious metal, something that we can give up for Him, let's be excited at the building that we are helping to prepare for eternity—us.
Love: The Bond that Insulates
In fact, I believe that Jesus promised both that betrayal would come, but also that it would grow colder and colder at the end of time. He prophesied that people would eventually join the body of believers “by intrigue,” not seeking to belong out of sincerity, but rather to spy on and betray us. He said that “brother would betray brother to death, and a father his son. A man's enemies would be the members of his own household,”( Matt 10:36). He said that it would be so dark and cold because of the “abundance of wickedness,” that “the love of many would grow cold,” (Matt 24:12).
Betrayal comes from close family. Parents. Church family. Colleagues and associates at work. Best friends. Authority figures. Children. Spouses.
As King David lamented, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.” Psalm 55:12-14
David was saying that "it wouldn't hurt so much, it wouldn't feel like a betrayal, if you had been my enemy." We expect that from our enemies. We have our guards up. We even plan on how to evade or avoid pain inflicted from people we distrust.
But when we have gone through those steps from acquaintance to friend to close or intimate relationship--when we have lived with our families through the joys and pains of birthdays, sicknesses, breakups, financial hardships and even the loss of shared loved ones, then the sting of betrayal bites deep, and hangs on.
So how do we get out of the grip of betrayal? How do we plan for and prevent the damage that can come from betrayal?
We all know what happens if we are exposed to freezing temperatures for too long—we can go into shock, lose parts of our extremities due to a lack of circulation, and become disoriented. We can find it very hard to make good decisions, and may generate risk-taking behaviors. We often aren't even aware that we are experiencing hypothermia. Our bodies tend to retreat into ourselves, and we just want to go to sleep. We want to be left alone. Left untreated, these conditions can lead to complete failure of our hearts.
Just as these are the physical symptoms of intense cold, I find these to be the spiritual symptoms we experience when we go into betrayal unprepared, without the right spiritual coats.
So how can we be prepared, or if we didn't start out prepared, if a lot of damage has already been done to us, what can we do to heal and bring our hearts back up to a healthy temperature?
We need to set our hearts on Jesus on His throne.
"Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
We must take our focus off of the physical circumstances that surround our betrayal, and refocus our thoughts and purposes on the absolute that Jesus is on the throne. He is Lord. He is in charge of it all, and can fully sort through and handle our situation. None of this has escaped His notice, and He isn't going to abandon you.
My husband is a general contractor. One year, and this is actually pretty common, we were taken advantage of by a very large contractor. We were never paid for most of the job, so we lost around $100,000. We still had to pay our employees and the subs.
I had a number of severe health emergencies at the time, surrounding my pregnancy, and we were also looking at high medical bills. My husband pleaded with the contractor to pay us, but he was unwilling. This lasted for a year of work, during which time we went into a year's worth of debt. This one was particularly hard. We needed to feed our family. It would have been so very easy to sink into hatred for this man who was causing all of us so much suffering.
But two things enabled me to get through that time until God would, really miraculously, deliver us out of all of those things.
Whenever I would become overwhelmed, which was multiple times a day, I would retreat in my soul right into Christ, and just hide there in Him. I would only allow myself to focus on His goodness surrounding and protecting me. I would focus on His Lordship and His power. There wasn't anything He couldn't do to protect me in my painful circumstances or to rescue me out of them. And in His good timing, He would do both.
We need to bless.
My mother was a beautiful, godly woman, and she had taught us that the antidote to bitterness was praying blessing for our enemies. So we prayed. We prayed for God to bless this man. We prayed for God to bless his company. And we prayed for his salvation.
There have been times when betrayals are so deep that it is hard to pray for God's blessings for that person. In the case with the contractor, it really wasn't that hard. But at other times, it has been really difficult. It's hard for me when I feel that the betrayer doesn't deserve any blessing and it hurts to think that they would get good out of what they did to me. One thing that has made it easier for me is understanding the concept of blessing in the Bible.
You see, according to the Bible, when we give a blessing to someone who never does deserve it, in other words, they never repent, they never change, then the blessing can't “stick” to them. Instead, it comes back on our own heads to bless us even more. (Prov. 10:6; Proverbs 26:2, Matt 10:13). However, if they do change, we also are blessed because we are participating in Christ's work of salvation in their lives. Whatever they choose, we receive more blessing from God when we choose to bless.
We need to be humble.
We need to realize who we used to be...and sometimes still struggle against going back to:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:
immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these:
anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
When other people betray, sometimes it's truly unintentional. I can't tell you how often I have realized later the hurt I have caused other people without knowing or trying to. Life is full of misunderstandings and miscommunications. But it's also full of us messing up and giving into our own anger, rage, gossip, and even slander. Sometimes we have discovered ourselves to have been the betrayer and we have needed the mercy. I know that's certainly true in my life.
There was one time when someone I had very much trusted spoke some slanderous things about me to others and to me. It was a deeply painful experience.
After I drove away from this experience, I was telling the Lord how I felt about this. In front of me a vehicle was driving, and I noticed their bumper sticker: “The Armor of God,” it read. I laughed, and said, “Lord, which part?” He impressed on my heart that I needed the breastplate of His righteousness to guard my heart from the fiery arrows of accusation.
You see, the accusations that had been leveled at me included some things I had confessed to struggling against in a private prayer time with this person, as my trusted friend. It had even been leveled at me to prove their point: I had confessed that I struggled in this area, so what they were saying about me must be true.
This is how the devil likes to accuse us. He likes to take something that has some truth in it, expand it, and try to convince us that we are as far beyond redemption as he has made our case out to be.
I can't say that those accusations didn't continue to come back at me for some time, but I did find that as I placed the breastplate of the Lord's righteousness on my heart, that my value to and righteousness before God wasn't based on my own perfection and sinlessness, but rather on Jesus' own righteousness that He had given me.
Is it true that I struggle with temptations and sometimes give into them? Absolutely. In this particular case, whenever I neglected to apply the breastplate, I found myself back in pain and confusion. And when I was back in that pain, I would find that I would use my words to hurt my husband. I would accuse him of not protecting me. I would find ways that it was somehow his fault. I found that I would deeply hurt him, because I was hurting.
But while I don't practice sin on purpose, the reality is that my redemption and value is not based on those things that I've done that are under the blood of Christ. This took out a lot of the bite that the words had, and enabled me to deal with healing, as well as to see how I was perpetuating the hurt on to the next person in my life.
This part, seeing my own weakness, was crucial to seeing the pain of the person that had hurt me. It enabled me to hope for both compassion for myself as well as for them.
Admitting that we all have sinned and need God's forgiveness takes us to being able to forgive others for their shortcomings.
We need to forgive.
In Matthew 18 we find Jesus' story of servant forgiven of an enormous debt by his master, but then being unwilling to forgive his fellow servant the minor debt owed to himself.
When we forgive, it is a canceling of the debt. They don't need to pay it back. God will still judge, He will still sort it out, but I don't need to go exact my debt from them. I can leave it in the hands of a loving God who knows it all and is the only one who can figure out what is best.
I find that when I have forgiven someone, even sincerely, it can be easy to put the burden of their debt back on them when I am being tempted to relive the bitterness of the past. This is a symptom that I need to forgive again. To forgive as the Lord forgave me...completely, once and for all, and keeping no record.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect unity.
We need to put on love
This one is both my favorite and the most important one of all, because practicing love in action is what finishes bringing a restoration.
There was one time where someone accused me, very inaccurately, of something that was very wrong. It was to the entire church, but privately, and without my presence, so that I couldn't deny it or set the matter straight.
The situation got worse as people called my husband, rather than me, to express deep disappointment in him for allowing me to get involved in what they were assuming I had.
It came to the point when I was crying out to the Lord, just for safety. When some people decided to confront us personally, I felt afraid. I got to my knees and prayed, asking God to protect me. Immediately I received a text that the person had fallen gravely ill and could not longer meet.
I hadn't anticipated God answering my prayer in that way. But I could also see that He was doing something better and deeper than I could have imagined. He had given me an opportunity to love my enemy.
My husband and I prayed about the situation, and decided to contribute financial help to them in their need. We sent a loving email, expressing our desire to help and pray for them during this time. We also prayed for their health, truly and sincerely hoping for God to somehow resolve the situation and restore the relationship.
God did heal them. But more than that, he healed our relationship. Without my having to defend myself in any way, they offered sincere and heartfelt apologies for the way they had treated the situation and the hurt they had caused us.
At that point, by forgiving, praying, blessing and choosing actions of love to them, our hearts were already following where we were putting our treasure, as Jesus promised (Matt 6:21). We wanted good for them, and we wanted a restored relationship.
This is the love that binds our hearts in unity in Jesus.
I can't say that every relationship and every betrayal has been restored in my life. I have a few that are achingly unfinished works God as far as what I can see. But I can say that following God's plan for staying warm in the freezing season of betrayal keeps my heart loving people and loving God. It clears my heart of the bitterness and anger and resentment that wants to set up its home inside of me. And it enables me to keep receiving the abundant love and mercy of God.
It keeps my heart warm.
Halley Faville lives with her husband and children in their mountain home in Oregon.