Build your life on Christ

One of the most powerful personal evangelists of the Nineteenth Century was John Vassar who grew up in his family’s brewery in New York. Following his conversion to Christ he abandoned beer-making and committed the rest of his life to helping people realise their need of the Saviour. On one occasion while travelling in a remote area, he had a most unusual experience. He came across a cabin inhabited by a devout Christian woman who was married to a very worldly-minded man. The woman begged for a Bible and Vassar gave her one, promising that he would call again on his return journey. He had no sooner left the cabin when her husband returned home. The man saw the Bible and became enraged. Seizing the Book with one hand and taking an axe with the other he went to the wood-pile and hacked it crosswise in two. He then threw half of the destroyed Bible at his wife saying “Since you claim part of all this property around here is yours, there is your share of it.” The other half he tossed into his tool shed.

Weeks later, on a winter’s day, the man wanted to have some space from his wife and so he retreated to his tool shed. Time passed slowly and out of sheer boredom he began to thumb through the mutilated Bible. Suddenly his attention was caught by the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke Ch 15. He became absorbed in this parable and began to question if he had been too hasty in thinking that he didn’t need God. The rest of the parable was in his wife’s part of the Bible so he went back to the cabin to read it. As he read the full story over and over again it had a profound impact upon him. He could clearly see that he was just like the prodigal and like him, was beginning to realise that he did need the Lord after all. Moreover, how could he possibly face the Day of Judgement if he rejected the advances of such a loving God? Finally he broke down in tears and committed his life to the Heavenly Father Who had been waiting for him for so long.

In Matthew Ch 21v 42 Jesus said “The very stone which the builders rejected, will become the chief cornerstone of the whole building.” This may seem a strange thing for Our Lord to say, however He was of course referring to Himself metaphorically as being like a rejected stone which would later become the mainstay of the entire building. Although He directed this statement to the Jewish leaders, it is a saying which can be applied to a far wider group. This saying is an illustration of how individuals often initially reject spiritual matters, thinking that they are of no value, but who later recognise that they are actually of paramount importance.

Every day this kind of recognition dawns upon tens of thousands of people worldwide. They are jogging along in life giving no thought to God or spiritual matters when suddenly “wham”, out of the blue something occurs which shakes their thinking and makes them realise they do need God after all. This shaking can be the result of many different things. Like the worldly husband it might come from reading the Bible. With others it might come from listening to a sermon or watching a Christian DVD. And of course with many, their thinking is shaken when trouble occurs and they are forced to recognise that they need God’s help to get through it. Sadly many individuals only start to seriously think about God and turn to Him after a death, illness or similar incident because such things cause a major reassessment regarding their need for His help and strength.

Some years ago an eminent Christian doctor discovered that he was terminally ill. Wanting to remind his medical students of their need for Christ, he used his illness as an opportunity to write an open letter to them. It read “I stand on the border of mortal life. I look backwards to the years of the past to see all pettiness and triviality shrink to nothing. Such things have no meaning now. Only the worthwhile things I have done for the glory of God count.” He knew that people easily get distracted by worldly things. Rather than making Christ the cornerstone of the life they build, they ignore Him and build their life on the trivial and the passing. He wanted to remind his students that the trivial and the passing are just that; trivial and passing. Once these pursuits are finished and seen to be what they really are, the only thing left is Christ, the rejected Cornerstone.

When individuals do truly recognise their need for God and the importance of spiritual matters, it dramatically changes their behaviour and their outlook on life. They start to develop a very different character from the one they had before because now they are no longer world focused but God focused. This transformation will be observed by all those around them. Living the Christian life in relationship with God and others is very much like “formation flying”. An individual must keep their eye on the Leader (Jesus), but they must always fly (their life) with their relationship to others in “plane” view. Like flying, both their well-being and others around them depends on mutual concern for one another.

For this reason, when Christ becomes the cornerstone or foundation of a person’s life they will regularly “check their instruments” and examine their “flying tactics” (or life) in the light of Scripture, so as to ensure that they are still in “formation.” Almost every wedding I conduct has 1st Corinthians Ch13 as its Bible reading, which is all about “Love”. It is probably one of the best loved and most challenging passages of Scripture and it serves as an excellent “flight manual” to see how our “formation flying” is doing.

The passage teaches that “love suffers long”; are we putting this into practice by being patient and long suffering? It teaches “love is kind”; are we kind when a car cuts us up on the motorway or do we respond with road rage? It says “Love does not envy”; are we envious when a colleague gets promoted instead of us? It states “love does not parade itself and is not puffed up.” Are we proud of our achievements and boastful about our endeavours? It says “love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, and does not rejoice in iniquity…bears all things, endures all things and love never fails…” Is our flying really in formation with all these commandments or do we need to make some course corrections? Moreover, we are to treat others the way we ourselves would like to be treated. (Matthew Ch7v12) Are we obeying the will of our “Squadron Leader” in this?

From time to time we need to check; am I getting distracted again from what is important in life? Am I beginning to focus and spend too much time on the trivial? Am I becoming petty-minded about things? Petty-mindedness is a classic sign that all is not well, deep in our hearts. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for this kind of attitude stating that “they strain out a fly, but will swallow a camel” by focusing on minor issues while neglecting major ones. (Matthew Ch23v24). Are we becoming like them by majoring on minor things? Then again, are we too quick to criticise others and complain about things? In Colossians Ch3v13 we are commanded to “forebear with one another and forgive one another and if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive as Christ has forgiven you.” On the other hand, if people criticise us, have we become oversensitive and quick to take offence? Jesus said we must turn the other cheek and be long suffering, rather than repay evil for evil.

With so many distractions around today we must regularly give ourselves proper “thinking time” so as to check our instruments and flight path. Is Christ still at the centre of our hearts and lives? Life is a serious business. No matter what, following the Lord and having His Friendship and Salvation, really is the most important thing of all in life.