I do not know that the phrase originated with Stephen Covey, but he popularized the phrase, “begin with the end in mind” in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The goal setting idea is that a person first define what they want to accomplish prior to beginning. Not unlike planning a trip, in which our destination is usually determined prior to departure.
The most well-known sermon preached by Jesus is found in Matthew chapters 5-7 and is named “The Sermon on the Mount.” When we apply the principle of beginning with the end in mind, it is relatively easy to determine Jesus’ objective when he spoke the words of his sermon. Here are the final four verses he spoke:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” Matthew 7:24-27
Hearing and Doing
When Jesus’ followers gathered around him and heard his most comprehensive explanation of life in God’s kingdom, Jesus was not vague with what he intended them to do with this new information. By way of a parable, which he employed often, Jesus boils down the intended response for listeners in one word: APPLICATION! Those who put into practice the lessons of Jesus’ sermon are like the person who builds their home on a solid foundation. Those who merely listen without acting are like a person who builds their home on a foundation of sand. To get to solid rock requires the difficult task of digging down deep into the sand. What looks like a perfectly good area to build during the dry season may, in the rainy season, turn out to be in the middle of the flood plane. It is not enough to merely know what Jesus teaches, to be able to quote verses and argue well one’s own perspective. Jesus is interested in what we are doing with his teaching.
There are 103 verses in Jesus’ sermon before we get to the parable of the builders. How many of those verses are providing us with actions to take? In Luke chapter six, Jesus will ask the question, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” If we are going to follow Jesus, it is not enough to just know about him and his teachings. The correct attitude when reading the Bible is not wondering what we need to know in order to pass a written test. We need to read asking the question, ‘What can I put into practice in my life today?’ If we will do this, then there is no storm of life which can knock down and destroy our house.