Lesson Four – Build Your Foundation Before Tribulations Come

Build Your Foundation Before Tribulations Come

Lesson Aim:  To show how Christians prepare ourselves to benefit from tribulations in our lives by laying a foundation from the teachings of Jesus before our testing comes.

Scriptures:  Matt. 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49.

Historical analysis for reading the parable.

Place:  In the hill country near Capernaum, Luke 7:1.

Occasion:  Preaching the kingdom of God was one thing Jesus came to earth to do.  In this sense it was not a special occasion, Luke 4:43.

Time:  After Jesus had selected the Twelve and after He was well known, Luke 6:12-19.

Audience:  Jesus’ disciples and a number of people from other places, Luke 6:17.

Aim:  To show how Jesus wanted to help the people understand about life on a higher level than they were being taught from the old covenant.  See Matt. 5:17-20; 7:28, 29.  We can be sure Jesus wanted to challenge His audience to think in terms of fulfilling the Law of Moses from an inside out point of view.


God’s sonship program in Christ’s kingdom would not be complete without discipline by tribulations (Rom. 5:3-5).  The virtue of patience is developed by testing (James 1:2-4).  A tribulation is not generally viewed as one of the blessings “in Christ,” but it should be.  Some people believe tribulations are a curse from God.  A study of Hebrews 12:1-13 will help us overcome negative thoughts about discipline; however, for us to accept it as good and rejoice in our own testing, we must have an understanding of God’s purpose in creation.  We must also have a strong hope of sharing His purposes with Him before we will allow ourselves to be trained by tribulations.  See the Introduction of Lesson One, Part I.  All of the attributes of a son of God may not be developed by discipline, but the program by which the others are attained would be in jeopardy without patience.  Impatience has brought many worthwhile exercises to an untimely end.


We know God’s program is complete “in Christ;” consequently, the question is not, will tribulations come, but will I be ready when they do come?  Will I have more patience as a result of my next test?  Will I accept my next challenge and walk away from it being as strong as the challenge?  This is the essence of Jesus’ parable in our lesson text.

The foundation we must be laying at this point in time is developing our character and personality like Jesus Christ.  Each encounter we have with a tribulation will prove or disprove our progress.  Jesus’ intent for our testing is to help lay the foundational attribute of patience in our self-control system (James 5:7, 8).  Jesus’ promise is that we can know we will stand the test if we are now hearing His words and making them our habits of life.

Please note how, in the first sentence of His parable, Jesus touched the three inherent learning stages found in every normal human being.  Jesus impacted our first learning stage when He said, “Hear My words.”  In this stage we take His words into our memory and seek to understand them to the point we can restate them in a meaningful statement (cognitive learning).

When Jesus said, “Everyone who comes to Me,” He may have been saying that first of all we need to have faith in Him as the “Prince of life.”  Acts 3:15.  Unless we have learned to have faith in Jesus as the One through whom life was created we may not be able to have faith in His teachings about life (Heb. 1:1-3).  Faith is developed in our “affective” learning stage.

When we learn to “act upon them,” we have finished the third learning exercise (behavior).  Jesus does not mean we should practice selective behavior.  He means we make our understanding of (cognitive), and our faith in (affective) His teaching our habits (behavior).  James said our faith is shown by our habits (James 2:18).  Christian learning, being a disciple of Jesus, is accomplished in all three stages – or not at all.

In our previous lesson entitled “The Power of the Indwelling Seed,” we saw how we need the blessings of the kingdom to give us the proper spiritual environment so we can accept God’s commands.  We learned that when we are able to accept God’s commands, we will be developing like Jesus.  This is what Jesus meant in His parable in our text when He said God’s children would be laying the proper foundation when we hear and act upon His teachings.  We cannot wait until the “storms” come to begin the process of building our foundation.  We understand we must first have membership in the church Jesus purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28; I Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20-22).  We function as a member of Christ’s body and our niche in this habitat is the foundation where Christians construct our “life foundation” (Acts 4:12; I Cor. 3:11).  It will not happen outside.

Matthew recorded this parable at the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5-7).  Jesus began His discourse by stating eight attitudes of a happy person and their resulting graces (5:3-12).  If a Christian has a measurable degree of these traits of personality he or she will have begun to lay a good foundation for properly meeting tribulations and becoming equal to them.  These attitudes plus patience developed by tribulation will also sustain the processes of the making of a son of God (Rom. 8:29).  This is the goal of everything that happens to us after we are born again.  It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Col. 1:27.

Let us briefly consider how we can improve upon these attitudes in ourselves, thereby laying a stronger foundation day by day.  The “poor in spirit” attitude is the beginning of learning.  A person with this attitude does not think he or she “knows it all.”  Therefore, when a Christian with the poor in spirit personality trait encounters a situation his or her “mind intelligence” is looking for something it may not already know.  It is investigative rather than instructive on first encounters.

Christians who have the “poor in spirit” attitude continue to seek the hidden treasures of life (Phil. 4:8).  We humbly try to learn to appreciate more and more “the pearl of great value.”  Jesus said the resulting reward is having the kingdom of heaven now (Matt. 5:3; 13:44-46).  We start by being a learner of God’s word.  We can examine ourselves because God created mankind with the endowment of self awareness (II Cor. 13:5).  Therefore, we can “strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble.”  (Heb. 12:12).  Because the personality of Jesus is our goal, we will always remain “poor in spirit.”  See James 4:6-10.

If we do not have the attitude of a mourner we may need to get more involved in people’s lives outside our families and friends.  The only way to develop stronger muscles in our body is to exercise.  We enhance our “attitude of a mourner” by the same principle.  We may want to do more traveling with the man from Samaria on the road to Jericho (Luke 10:30-37).

The greatest service we can do for some people is to lend a sympathetic ear at the right time.  Mature Christians learn to practice empathic listening, that is, we listen until we learn the facts of our fellow traveler’s situation and then we listen until we understand how he or she feels.  When Jesus listened empathically to Martha He wept with her and the others (John 11:36). We listen with our mind and heart and respond in our behavior.  See I John 3:17-21.

We may need to make ourselves available in more peoples’ life situations – regardless of our own planned schedule.  We can start at home.  We can become less self-centered and practice empathic listening with our spouse and children.  The resulting blessing is that people will more likely listen to us with their minds and hearts when we cry (Matt 5:4).  Our time will come to cry.

The gentle, or meek, souls are those who place themselves under the rule of the given situation, be it in the home, school, community or church.  If we belong to the mass of people who look for the rule in order to “step beyond it” we can change by consciously making ourselves aware of every rule.  Our selfcontrolled submission will eventually become our habitual attitude.  John said it all when he said, “Sin is lawlessness.”  I John 3:4.  John may have been referring to Christians being meek in relation to the law of life.  This law defines the nature and function of our souls.  He was not referring to the Laws Moses wrote on stone.  The laws of life are the laws referred to in Jesus’ new covenant (Heb. 8:10; Rom. 8:2, 7).

The Apostle Peter encouraged Christians to approach the laws of our nation with a gentle attitude (I Pet. 2:13).  Jesus said the resulting blessing for those who have this happy attitude will be to have the earth for our own (Matt. 5:6).  The meaning of inheritance is to have what was bequeathed to us in a will as our own.  Every gardener understands this principle about the law of nature.  He lays his foundation for a bountiful crop with meekness toward the laws of nature before the storms and droughts come.  He or she gets the results for their own possession.  The law of nature and the law of life in the new covenant belong to the same category of law.

Jesus gave us another happy attitude to gently accept as a part of our Christian personality when He said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”  Matt. 5:5.  When a situation develops where glory, honor, gain, loss, or blame is likely to be awarded we need to control ourselves in order to think before we act.  We need to use our “pause button” and then choose what is right.  The banner of “justice for all” is good for politicians but for Christians who are laying our foundations before the storm, it is who we are.  We do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matt. 7:12).  When this attitude controls our behavior in a given situation we demonstrate the righteousness of God now in time and He, and we, will be happy (Rom. 3:3-5; James 1:20).  The resulting blessing is “satisfaction.”

There is one thing people in all cultures and religions agree upon.  We all want to be happy.  Jesus made a promise to us and He used the one word most associated with happiness.  It is “satisfaction.”  Jesus chose our most immediate human needs, hunger and thirst, to show the importance of having the attitude of seeking “justice for all.”  He literally said, “On a scale of zero to ten, put your spiritual need for righteousness on the same par with your basic physical need of food and water for your body.  Righteousness has foundational value for every kingdom.  Righteousness is a primary descriptive term for the behavior of God; therefore, it is a foundational attitude of God’s children (Rom. 3:3-5).  We do not leave home without it; furthermore we bring it home with us.  The resulting blessing is satisfaction; therefore, happiness.

When we have the attitude of mercifulness we do for others today what will be good now and also for their future.  Parents are merciful to their children when we discipline them.  We are not seeking to please our child at the point of applying discipline; however, we do have their long-range welfare in mind.  Some people who have had this attitude, lost it because they were “taken in,” or thought they were, on several occasions.  They literally went out like “sheep among wolves” and they “got taken.”  Some of us have been there.  When Jesus sent His disciples out on missions of mercy He advised them to be “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matt. 10:16.  The main aim of these merciful missions was to preach the kingdom of God.

Christians need to get involved in acts that foster this happy attitude of being merciful, if for no other reason, it will be helpful at our final judgment (James 2:12, 13).  God did not promise us grace at our judgment but He has offered conditional mercy.  Jesus said receiving mercy is the resulting blessing of learning the attitude of being merciful.  He was probably thinking more of our present life than the “Day of Judgment.”  The Apostle Paul worked out a scenario in which Christians manifested the merciful attitude.  It helped others with their physical needs; it gave praise to God and inspired other Christians to pray for those who showed mercy.  Please notice how God promised to add a “multiplier” to the result of their initial act of mercy.  See II Cor. 9:8-15.

Our “pure in heart” attitude can best be improved upon by not doing some things (Phil. 2:14-16).  We can stop listening to impure things (Titus 1:15, 16).  We can stop making ourselves a judge in situations where we have not been given influence (James 4:11, 12).  We can simply stop thinking about some things and think of others (I Tim. 5:22).  If the spirit of man knows the thoughts of man, then the spirit of man can take “self” control.  One of the powerful human endowments is that we can think about what we are thinking about.  The spiritual person can set his or her mind to thinking and doing the things Jesus taught (I Cor. 2:11).

Jesus has challenged Christians with the command to love one another from a pure heart (I Tim. 1:5).  We can accept His command as our goal while we work on learning to love.  The first step will be to work on keeping our hearts pure.  Jesus made this possible for us because we have been purified by His death for our sins (I Pet. 1:22).  He loved from a pure heart.

Little children love from pure hearts (Matt. 18:3, 4; 19:14).  Perhaps Nathanael was an example of a person who could love from a pure heart because he had no guile in him (John 1:47).  There was no ill will in him; consequently, he quickly recognized Jesus as the Son of God.  The resulting blessing of having a pure heart is that we see God (Matt. 5:8).  We may not ever know how and where until our heart is sufficiently pure.  Although the Scriptures tell us no one has seen God, He wants to be seen by His children in the people He created (John 1:18; James 3:9; I John 4:20).

We are either a peacemaker or a troublemaker in our efforts to settle strife between others.  The way to begin to improve our abilities to be a peacemaker is to first improve our relationship with God.  Unless we are at peace with God we cannot hope to be at peace with ourselves.  To have peace with God we need to repent of every sin and have faith He has forgiven us.  The priesthood of Jesus functions on a 24-hour schedule to give us peace with God, our Father.  He is holy and righteous and mankind with the knowledge of good and evil is not.  Jesus, our high priest, is our mediator (I Tim. 2:5).  He is now with God but He came here among us to understand us; therefore, He understands both God and us (Heb. 2:16-18; 4:14-16; 5:7-10).  He is our peacemaker (Rom. 5:1).  We must understand and have faith in the faith system of righteousness.  This will give us peace with God and ourselves.

Now we can think about the role of a peacemaker.  Wisdom from above will be the key tool we will need after we have peace with God and ourselves.  One definition of wisdom is that we must apply truth to our life’s experiences.  We will need to know God’s truth from His word.  We will need to have matured in the healthy attitudes of a happy person taught in His sermon.  Christians who have these attitudes are interested in people and we want to help them.  This is our personality and character.  The sum of the attitudes taught by Jesus is our identification.  Now we are ready to enter into the challenging arena of peacemaking according to the rules set forth by James.  See James 3:13-18.  All Christians have been adopted as children of God.  Peacemaker Christians are “called sons of God” because of their successes as mediators.  This is the resulting blessing of developing the attitude of a peacemaker (Matt. 5: 9).

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness.”  (Matt. 5:10).  This is the eighth attitude presented by Jesus in His sermon.  It does not sound like an attitude and in the strictest sense it may not be.  However, to be willing to let ourselves be persecuted for righteousness sake calls for a certain attitude.  Please review the introduction of this lesson.  Jesus said many other things in His sermon before He gave the parable in our text.  Please consider their importance in relation to the aim of this lesson.

May God have mercy on Christians who hear the words of Jesus and do not act upon them!  When a tribulation comes they will label it “trouble” and the result will be their fall; “And great was its fall.”  Matt. 7:27.  May the Lord continue to bless us as we build our foundations in His church.  May we be equal to our next testing challenge, for if we are, this life experience will establish our new level of glory.  (II Cor. 3:18).

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why can Christians be sure tribulations will come?
  2. How does Hebrews 12:1-13 help us take a non-critical view of our tribulations?
  3. Why will personal testing be joy for some and a tragedy for others?
  4. How is character proven?
  5. How is spiritual progress tested?
  6. Why do we need to be able to accept God’s commands?
  7. Define a “good foundation” from the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
  8. What approach should one take to improve or develop the attitudes taught by Jesus?
  9. How does being “persecuted for righteousness sake” relate to Jesus’ parable?
  10. What can be said about a person who does not act upon the teachings of Jesus?

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply