“It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.” – David Allan Coe
When I was a kid I wanted to be an architect. I had no idea what the real job of an architect was, but I loved drawing and I loved buildings. I would lose hours in pencil, ink, charcoal and paint. I would look in wonder at everything from Dodger Stadium to the Capital Building. As I grew older I appreciated Monet, Van Gogh and others, and would search out the structures of like Notre Dame, Petra, and Hearst Castle. I marveled at the ornate and aged beauty, drawing out that sense of wonder that still echoes in images and structures today.
In high school I took drafting and AutoCAD, combining the artistic and architecture appeal. I created custom homes, with detailed blueprints of measurements and specifications. I furthered my vision for building, as I looked to the future when I would realize my house and how perfect it would be for my taste. The path I conceived to its fruition was timely and effective, and I began to actuate the steps needed to reach my goal.
Many of us grown up with an idea of what we want to build. Maybe it’s a family or a marriage, maybe it’s a business or a career, maybe it’s a legacy or a legend; we formulate the things we want to exist in our world and look to architecting them in the manner we see fit.
One such a person who did this was Johnny Cash. He dreamt of building a music career that would distinguish him and make him wildly successful. His empire was built in songs and tour dates, growing him the ability to focus solely on the music he was creating. The road had difficulties, but he became one of the most successful recording artists of all time.
The success coaches of today would affirm Johnny’s talent and his drive as the foundation he built upon. The modern wording these so-called gurus would give are things like, “you can do anything you set your mind to,” practice makes perfect,” or “the secret to unlock your success is inside of you, you just need to believe in yourself.” The essence of this is that you are your own great foundation. You are the springboard, the actuator and the architect of building success and leading others in your upward spiral to glory.
The difficulty is, that as much as we try to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, we come face-to-face with our own limitations. They may show up in physical ability, mental acuity, financial stability and social status, or even in our own mortality. The reality of our empire, whatever stage it is at, is limitation. Kingdoms build on the perishable are perishable themselves. Like the sandcastle, the shifting sand, the coming storm, and the rising tide all resound the limitation that the foundation is built upon.
It is in this light that we ask what our foundation is built upon. Is the foundation you have built solid enough to withstand the storms of life, the shifting sands of society and the rising tide of your own mortality? The Bible reveals that the only wise foundation to build upon is Christ and his Kingdom. Contrary to the world, the greatest source of wise building comes from knowing and understanding Christ, putting into practice his intentions of what is important and what is necessary for us to do.
Now, some people have taken this idea and tried to create a “Jesus” version of an otherwise secular pursuit, but this is not what our Lord was speaking of in contrasting the wisdom of his foundation versus the sands of this world. The reality of Christ is that He is completely other. While He became human and dwelt among us, the intention of his kingdom work was not to bring about our versions of success in this world.
He has called us to build upon Him as we pursue the goals of his empire and his kingdom. We are not justifying our glory through the means of building his Kingdom. This is why He is the foundation. He paid the price for our salvation. He is the provision of our justification to the Father. It is because of his sacrifice that we find unity with the Almighty possible. – A foundation built on anything but Him, is not worthy enough to withstand the test of time or eternity.
Whatever empire we are building, if it is not based on Him and working toward the glory of God in the future will come up lacking. Our human limitations make that a reality. At the end of his life, Johnny Cash came face-to-face with this reality and his limitations. After seeing the Father turn his life around from the empire he had built, to one that honored God, he covered a somber song and aligned the words with the heart of his experience. The drugs, fear, inadequacy and moral failure that had marked his early life, only illuminated the empire of dirt he had built. The final lyrics are as follows:
What have I become, my sweetest friend?
Everyone I know goes away in the end.
And you could have it all, my empire of dirt;
I will let you down, I will make you hurt.
If I could start again a million miles away;
I would keep myself, I would find a way.
In an interview with Johnny, not long before his death, he stated how special this song was to him and his wife in light of the lives they had lived. He said that if he could start over, he would do it far away from the path he began on, and build an empire that would stand the test of time.
The test of time – we are all on the path to see what happens when the things we have made are tested in the balance. When you look at what you have built and are building, is it on the Rock? Is it based on the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ and what He would have for your life? If it isn’t, you might look to Him and find out what He thinks you should be doing and what you should be building. The more we experience nearness to Him, the more He develops his desires in our hearts. His desire is that the empire you build would stand the test of time; look to Him as you build, honor Him as you grow and lean on Him as you find what He has for you.