“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!” (Matthew 7:24-27)
In 1692, Port Royal, located on a sand spit a the western tip of Jamaica was a pirate’s paradise and the 3rd largest city in the Western Hemisphere with over 6,000 permanent residents. Then, on June 7 at 11:43PM a magnitude 7.5 earthquake centered on the island brought mountains crashing down and leveled city. The earth shook so hard that the sand itself was said to roll and crash like waves. The ground rose and sank with such force that a geological process called “liquefaction” occurred, causing the floors of hundreds of homes and business—many built on the packed sand of the small peninsula—to turn instantly into quicksand. In seconds people were literally swallowed whole by their own floors. Some were never heard from again. Some were only partially swallowed and either crushed, dug out or eaten by wild dogs in the aftermath. Some, believe it or not, were shot through underground channels through the earth and spewed out through geysers up to a quarter of a mile away. And they lived!
Then came the tsunami. Thirty feet high and as merciless as the many pirates who inhabited what was widely considered the most sinful place on earth, the wall of water that crashed across the town wiped out three military forts, homes, businesses, piers, boats and anything else that was unlucky enough to be in its path. The debris it left in its wake, combined with the churning action of the turbulent water that followed turned the place into a giant meat grinder. The destruction was total.
A third of the city, over 3,000 people, died as a result of the disaster. The elevation of the peninsula lowered so far that today the ruins of Port Royal lie forty feet under water. Go there today and you can snorkel among them. However, in the middle of the disaster, which lasted a mere 6 minutes, an Episcopal priest by the name of Dr. Emmanuel Heath, led a revival. His home was built on a granite outcropping, inland from the rest of the city and on a hill overlooking it. When the chaos began he was able to stand on his balcony and observe the destruction while not a single painting hanging on his walls was moved by even half an inch. Amazing!
People saw him standing on the balcony, unmoved by the quake, and began to cry for help. Dr. Heath’s response was to run down into the middle of the mess and start helping. Not sure what else to do, he did what had always come naturally to him, he gathered people around him and brought them to Jesus in prayer. The man who literally “built his house on the rock” led many to do the same spiritually.
Think about it:
- Have you ever experienced a natural disaster of any kind? Earthquake? Tornado? Volcanic eruption? Tsunami? Hurricane? Flood? What kind of feelings did that bring up?
- Have you ever experienced a “life” disaster of any kind? Loss of a friend or close family? Divorce? Abuse? Bankruptcy? Serious illness? What emotions did that bring to the surface of your life?
- Take a few minutes and look through the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7) Jesus gives a ton of advice and encouragement to people who are dealing with difficult situations there. He closes it, however, with a warning: Don’t build your house on the sand, act on the message He is giving. What does it mean to YOU to act on the words of Jesus in your most difficult struggle?