“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed , we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1 NIV)
I grew up on a 96-acre farm just outside the small town of Jenkinsburg, Georgia. As I look back on my life, I realize that some of my greatest life lessons were learned in those formative years on that farm. I recounted one of those lessons when I preached the funeral of my big brother, Ronnie, who went home to be with the Lord on this day two years ago.
When he was about ten years old, Ronnie decided to build a tree house in one of the oak trees in our yard. Upon its completion, he couldn’t wait to show off his handiwork. In spite of my reservations about his construction skills, he finally convinced me to climb up there with him.
Noting my discomfort about the stability of his creation and wanting to assure me just how safe it was, Ronnie started to jump up and down on the floor of that tree house. (You can imagine just how much safer that made me feel!) As I grabbed onto an overhanging limb, he uttered those memorable last words ever spoken in that treehouse, “This thing will be up here a hundred years!”
No sooner had those words left his mouth than the limb it rested upon started to give way, and Ronnie crashed to the ground with it. As for me, I was still holding on to that overhanging limb for dear life, while he lay dazed on the ground. Ignoring his own pain and disorientation, somehow Ronnie climbed back up that tree and helped me down to safety.
As I look back on that experience, the lesson that stands out with me is this – a structure is only as good as its foundation. That tree house was well-built. Like all the men in our family, Ronnie was a perfectionist. But the foundation upon which that tree house rested was not a solid foundation. And the force of Ronnie’s jumping up and down was more stress than it could bear.
How is your foundation today? Will it stand up to the storms of life? There was a time when the foundation of Ronnie’s life would not. But before his earthly tent came crashing down around him like that treehouse from years before, he ripped out the cracked foundation of salvation by works and replaced it with the solid rock of salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Another treehouse stands today not far from the site of that original one from so many years ago. Located at the end of a path Ronnie cleared before the Lord called him home, it belongs to his two precious grandchildren, Owen and Nora, who were the light of his life through those last difficult years. Unlike his treehouse, theirs is professionally constructed with added features like a trap door, a fireman’s pole, and even a zipline.
But it too will one day fall. Nothing in this life lasts forever. Perhaps it will stand long enough for Owen and Nora’s own children to enjoy it. Their fresh memories of their “Pappaw” and the grief of his absence no doubt saddens their heart today as it does mine. But we can all rejoice that there will be no more goodbyes when we rejoin him one day in that “eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11 NIV)
Note: This is an updated version of “Lessons From The Tree House” first published Feb. 20, 2015.