Rinnier's Chapel talk is something you can build on

Danielle Rinnier, GCU's Assistant Dean of Students, talked at Chapel on Monday about the importance of building a foundation for your life based on the teachings of Jesus.

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Rylan Dressendorfer
GCU News Bureau

This bizarre year was summed up perfectly at Chapel on Monday morning when Danielle Rinnier asked for a show of hands because she couldn’t tell the students from the cardboard cutouts filling Grand Canyon University Arena.

“Raise your hand if you’re a real person,” GCU's Assistant Dean of Students said as she peered into the semi-darkness at the pandemic-perpetrated new feature for basketball games. “It’s kind of hard to tell who’s real out there.”

That segued nicely into what she wanted to talk about: From the outside, you often can’t tell when someone has built a solid foundation for their life. They might seem as if their house is in order, but one storm can reveal that their abode is built on sand, not rock.

It was a reference to a Bible passage that, in Rinnier's view, would qualify if Jesus had a greatest hits album – the Sermon on the Mount. Here's what He said in Matthew 7:24-27:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

It’s very simple, Rinnier said. The strong foundation is the teachings of Jesus, the unseen-but-unwise shaky support is anything else, and we can be sure of one thing: There will be storms.

To illustrate her point, Rinnier used a diagram of two identical houses with very different foundations.

Like the ones this year.

“I look at the memes and I know we’re all hoping that the calendar is going to turn and 2021 is going to come and it’s all going to get better,” she said. “But most of us are probably starting to grapple with the reality that as 2021 approaches, there still are going to be some challenging circumstances that we’re going to have to walk through.

“And I know it’s human nature to want it to end. No one enjoys pain and difficult circumstances. But I also think we serve a God who says that He works all things together for our good, and when He says all, He actually means it.”

Jesus wanted us to know that “there is a better and different way to live than what your human perspective and instincts tell you,” she added. The Sermon on the Mount is one of four warnings about how to live. The other three:

  • The gate that leads to destruction is wide, while the path to life is narrow.
  • Beware of false prophets.
  • Admittance to heaven depends on fulfilling God’s will.
Madison Russell sings with the Worship team before Rinnier's talk.

The final one was about the foundations, and Rinnier noted that even good things, such as community service or giving to the poor, can fall into the sandy soil. A sign of a faulty foundation is reacting joylessly to the challenges of the daily life.

“Then there are these other people who we look at, and they seem confident and joyful and hopeful, no matter what life throws at them,” Rinnier said. “And our temptation, again, is to look at the house and say, ‘Well, it’s because they serve, it’s because they read their Bible, it’s because they’re giving their money away.’

“But what Jesus is wanting us to understand is it’s because they’ve based their life on what He says, that they have an internal posture of understanding that Jesus is the source of their truths, that Jesus is the One they look to to find out what they should think about themselves and about others and about all that other stuff, like how to give time and money and resources and energy.”

Another way to look at it, she added, is what you’ve done to numb the pain of this year. Are you binging on Netflix? Are you turning to alcohol or drugs? Even if you’re doing something healthy, such as exercising, it can turn into a negative if you’re not focused on Jesus.

Rinnier told the story of a time, long ago, when she was sitting at a table in front of Thunder Alley during a meeting with a student. She shifted her chair slightly – right into a hole, which caused the chair to tip over. Students inside Thunder Alley thought it was hilarious when she struggled to get up, and she did, too.

It all comes down to how you rise up when faced with life’s inevitable challenges.

Rinnier said it's perfectly normal to want your troubles to end, but how you deal with your challenges is a choice.

“I think the reason that Jesus records and ends His sermon the way he does is that He wants us to understand that wherever you’re at, you have a choice,” she said. “You do not have to continue to build your life on things that will not sustain you when things get hard.”

Pain is unavoidable, she added.

“Do you want to build a life that’s different? Do you want to take that narrow path that at the onset is going to be more challenging for you? But then when those storms come, you will stand firm and secure. You will know that your God has you, that nothing that comes against you can destroy you.”

She has seen it in her own life, and she also has seen how faith has pulled her through. She encouraged the assembled students to pay attention to what Jesus says and make Him the primary voice in their lives.

Her closing thought about dealing with the challenges that no doubt are ahead, if they aren’t here already:

“As you do that, people are going to look at you and say, ‘How are you doing this? How are you able to walk through what life has handed you? It seems so unfair and so unjust. Why aren’t you more angry? Why aren’t you getting revenge? Why aren’t you falling apart?

“And in those moments you get to say, ‘By the grace of God and His goodness toward me, am I able to continue and to persevere.'”

● Chapel replay

● Next Monday: Christmas Chapel (final Chapel of fall semester)

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].

****

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