A Standing Place
“If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)
I am not a builder, but I know enough about the craft to know that regardless of how pleasing the aesthetics, how spacious the rooms, or how nice the neighborhood, if the foundation is faulty, the entire house is compromised. Cracks in the walls, doors that refuse to close, or a house that is badly off the plumb line, can all be traced back to a failure to get the foundation right. Ultimately, the house can fall because of something that is not readily apparent to view because it lies beneath the surface, where no one can see.
Our lives can be very much like that. Every life needs a solid foundation; something that will serve as an anchor for the soul when times are tough or to strengthen our convictions to do right when the lure of compromise seems to offer a fast track to success. Everybody’s life is built on some kind of foundation. Our true convictions, our guiding principle, however, is not determined by what we say we believe, but by what we do when the pressure is applied. Jesus said this very thing in one of His parables.
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and DOES them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and DOES NOT do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
Most people don’t wake up one morning and say, “Today, I’m going to destroy my marriage,” or “Today, I am going to compromise my convictions and enter into an illegal money laundering scheme and lose everything.” We may never say that, per se, but in failing to prepare ourselves by establishing certain bedrock principles in our lives, we leave ourselves open to the siren song of temptation and compromise. One thing, and one thing alone, will reveal our foundation for what it is, and that is the storm.
For the believer, that sure foundation is the Word of God. It alone is the guiding principle for our lives. While we should be men and women of conscience, it is the Word that informs our conscience and holds us accountable when the voice of our own mind begins to back peddle on what we know to be right. However, it is not enough to have a fundamental knowledge of God’s Word, we must be doers of the Word if we’re to secure a firm foundation for life.
Jesus gives the analogy of a house built on the sand as opposed to one built upon a rock. Both, however, are built where the waves and the winds would test their integrity. Of course, the house with no foundation was washed away and fell, whereas the one built upon the rock stood when tested. However, what the parable does not say, but I believe is implied, is that the house built on the sand may not have fallen all in a day. More likely, the foundation was eroded little by little, until, in the end, there was simply no foundation to support the house.
For the most part, the big scandals we read about, whether in business or in politics, were not the result of a single compromise. Little compromises were made along the way that ultimately wore away the scruples of the person or persons involved until, finally, their house came crashing down, and, as Jesus said, “great was its fall.” When one fails to build one’s life on the sure, immovable edifice of God’s Word by being a consistent practitioner of its truth, it becomes easy to yield to the seduction of compromise; a little here and a little there. It may seem harmless enough at first, but a pattern of behavior is formed, aided by self-deception. Once such a pattern is established, the breach widens as the conscience is seared, and a sense of invincibility deludes the mind.
The truth is, we only really find out what we’re made of when we’re put to the test. A deep knowledge of the Bible will not safeguard us from temptation if we have not purposed to allow that knowledge to inform our actions on a daily basis. One who truly lives by the Word will soon be battle-hardened as his or her convictions are tempered in the fires of trial and test. One who passes the daily tests to stand strong may be ready for the greater challenge that comes unforeseen. The one who fails to pass such smaller tests of character, however, is foolish to think he or she will suddenly wax valiant when a greater temptation to compromise tests his or her already underdeveloped conscience. Even if we believe we’re ready to face such a challenge, we must NEVER rely on our own strength and resolve. As Paul said, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Our reliance must be on the grace and strength of God that is available to us in Christ and not ourselves.
On the night of Jesus’ betrayal, He warned his disciples that they would all be offended (or made to stumble) on account of Him. He warned Peter in particular that he was in danger of being “sifted like wheat.” Peter, however, vehemently protested saying, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). Yet Jesus assured him that before morning Peter would deny three times that he even knew the Lord. As you likely know, Jesus’ prediction came to pass. What He recognized that Peter did not – as many of us don’t until it’s too late – is that there is often a disparity between our intentions and our actions. Good intentions are fine, but if we wait for the moment of test to arrive before we prepare ourselves for it, we will be like those disciples who forsook Jesus in that dark hour to save their own skin.
Before we become too critical of the disciples for their failure on that night, we need to realize that people are still forsaking Jesus today whenever they choose the easy way over the right way, or yield to the the seduction of carnal pleasures rather than following their conscience. We all need to find that standing place as believers that holds us steady in the storm and shows our house to be a house of the Master’s making.