If you grew up going to Sunday School, you know the song: The wise man built his house upon the rock… The rains came down and the floods came up… And the house on the rock stood firm. When we run across the text it comes from (Matthew 7:24-27), we catch ourselves singing the refrain. Yeah, we know that one; check it off the list and move on.
As we rush through our busy lives, though, we sometimes forget about the rest of the building. If we make our house out of straw or sticks like the first two little pigs in the child’s story, the devil will huff and puff and blow that house down, leaving only the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:9-15).
In this passage, Paul doesn’t warn of any loss of salvation, but uses the analogy to illustrate how the wisdom of the world (vv. 18-20) amounts to little more than a house of straw. It won’t withstand God’s purifying fire.
This seems particularly applicable to me as a writer. I receive advice from one expert or another (each more experienced and successful than I) to consider my writing as a profession. I must plant my posterior in the chair and write every day. I must set aside a regular time and place and not allow people to distract me. If I’m to sell books, I must write more of them—two or three a year, if possible. I must build a platform, make connections, be active on Google+, Facebook, Pinterest. etc. I should stick to one genre and market my work to a specific audience. I should find what genre is selling best and write for that audience. I should read a lot. I should go to conferences. I need both a website and a blog. And I’d better get me an agent, or I’m dead in the water. Then, once published, I’ll need a publicist.
I’m not saying this advice misguided. No, these people speak from experience, sharing what’s worked for them. But is it the path God would have me to take? Should their goals be my goals? Does God want me to follow in their footsteps?
In Psalm 61:2, David prayed that God would lead him to the Rock. Not a foundation in this case, but something above ground. Something higher than what David could attain on his own—higher than human wisdom can grasp—higher than our efforts and our righteousness can take us. We don’t climb up to that Rock by asking other people for directions or following a road map. We can only get there by following God’s personal leading.
Yes, godly people often give good advice. Just because the person telling you something is a mere mortal, that doesn’t make them wrong. But remember Job’s so-called friends? Everything they told him was true, but none of it was applicable to Job in his situation.
When I hear pointers from authors about how to produce and sell more books, the advice doesn’t always seem practical for me. When I have done the things I’m “supposed to,” it doesn’t usually pan out as I’d hoped.
I must ask myself: what kind of building do I construct for the Kingdom by writing and selling books? Is this a material God would have me to use? Should my focus be quality over quantity? (Because it’s evident God has not made me a fast writer.) Could it be my writing doesn’t need to sell widely but must just reach a certain few? Perhaps my writing—the fact that I do write rather than what I write—will serve as inspiration to one of my grandchildren, or to someone else whom God will want to use. It might even be that all the writing experience I’ve acquired so far is merely preparing me for something else.
How can anyone know these things? They can’t. But God does. If He led me to write in the first place, He’ll take care of the rest. I need to be actively working at the tasks He’s given me (which include things other than writing), and working at them all diligently. But it’s vital that I build with the materials He provides. To let Him lead me. To be prayerful and discerning about the advice I receive, and follow God, and only God, in confidence.
The wise ones build upon the Rock. But they also look to the One who is higher than they. He can lead them higher than human wisdom could ever dream.
Book 3 in the series launched May 2014.
Ransom in the Rock: What is a life worth? And who will pay the price?