If the foundations are broken, how can the righteous stand?

The title is from Psalms 11:3. Though it's known that it is a psalm of David, there is a lot of conjecture about why he wrote it and when, and this question has made many a saint of God wonder what could have made King David ask such a question in his life. David had many desperate moments in his life; I am sure this psalm could apply to any of those moments. But I see a couple of points about the background. It is a situation where his faith is horribly challenged. David is making a choice to trust God, but his situation is so difficult that even as he takes refuge in God, he is honest enough to ask the question, “If the foundations are broken, how can the righteous stand?”

As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we often forget that the Lord did not come to save “perfect” people–we are not perfect. God has to remind us often that without Him, we are nothing, and we have nothing. That particular thought serves to keep us humble before the Lord. We will always need His sacrifice at the cross of Calvary, not just for our salvation, but also for our sanctification. He longs to make us like Himself, and that is His prime purpose for our lives in this world. But with that being said, what do we do when the “ground of our faith” seems to have been dropped out from below us? I believe there are two factors that we have to take into consideration in order to honestly confront such a test.

First, we are all ‘Works in Progress’; none of us come with a perfect “foundation” that the Lord does not have to work on once it has been laid down. I believe that the Lord Jesus made this point in His Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7: 24-27, Jesus said that anyone who hears His word and acts on it (obeys it, puts it into practice) is like a man who built his house upon the rock; the winds, storms, and floods rose against that house, but that house–built upon the rock–stayed standing. On the other hand, for the person who hears the word of the Lord and does not act on it (ignores it, does not put it into practice) shall be like a man who built his house upon the sand. The storms and floods came, and the house upon the sand came crashing down–“great was the fall of that house”.

Having grown up in church all my life, I am under no illusion to believe that everyone who comes through the doors of a church anywhere also sincerely obeys the message or the instruction of God they hear in sermons or Bible studies; quite the contrary, really. The mentality that most people seem to have is that “church matters belong in church”, and life outside of church has little or no connection. If this is the case it should not be any big surprise that so many proverbial “houses of faith” have come crashing down with tremendous viciousness.

Secondly, every believer’s destiny in this life (and in the next) is based on choices based on their faith in God, or lack of faith. I do not believe that God holds us accountable about things we do not know, but rather on the Word that we do know. His instructions come to us from the Word of God as we read it, or listen to it when taught or preached; the Holy Spirit convicts us accordingly. Psalms 95:7-8: “Today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart…”

Time and time again, instructions in righteousness come from the pulpit or Bible study, and the Spirit of God convicts our hearts or prompts us toward decisions or courses of action–all of which results in life change and transformation. King David in Psalms 11 wrote about the God of Righteousness: “For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness.” The instructions unto righteousness (1 Timothy 3:16) come from the pulpit in many contexts; it is up to the listener to decide what he or she will do about that instruction when it comes. Unfortunately, this particular point has become confused with the issue of legalism and grace. In many churches, a very prevalent idea is that God accepts everyone as they are–there is no problem with this point. But God does not leave us as He found us. I have heard many an individual cling to that first part and think that they have fully achieved God’s purpose in their lives by simply praying the prayer of salvation, and nothing else. Hence, a lot of new people coming into the Church feel no compulsion for their lives to change. In their minds, God does not care. They can do whatever it is they were doing and not worry about eternity–after all, they “prayed the prayer”. Anything that comes as instruction can be easily discarded as being legalistic and not grace. Hence, broken foundations are retained.

If the foundations are broken, how can the righteous stand? The answer is they will not. As a preacher, one of the first hard lessons learned in the ministry is never to judge by the first appearance of any person, to never make a judgment based on how a person first looks or talks. That does not mean to be rude or paranoid to everyone, but rather every preacher must understand that each person contains a story of life filled with positives and negatives. There are things going on which in due time the Spirit of God will bring to the surface. Each family and each individual live behind closed doors, and only God sees behind those doors. But on Sunday morning, everyone looks good and talks nicely. They pay their tithes and offerings. In the world of church administration, it is easy for pastoral staff to focus on the business end of the ministry in which we make sure there is enough money coming in the offerings to cover expenses, to pay off debts, to pay the bills and meet the budget, and if all that is done, “the church is alright.” We need people in the church to meet the two-fold criteria of “ministry success”: filled-up pews and heavy offering bags. Programs and sports tournaments are all geared toward this end.  Unfortunately, God does not look at things that way, and when the reality behind the close doors has to be confronted, many pastors resort to that wonderful excuse of “it’s not my business”.

The questions eventually come like this: “Pastor we did everything so right, then why did this happen to us?” In the Pentecostal churches, many folks want a “prophetic utterance” out of a problem. But if one has a problem with Sin and is not aligning himself to the Word of God, what good is an utterance? The only response from pastors would be to go through said life and find what went wrong (remember, deny the first senses and allow the Holy Spirit’s discernment). Eventually everyone will have to answer questions about the secrets of life and whether or not they are willing to follow the Lord’s instructions to come out of the problem or to rectify the situation of their lives (people involved in ministry know how difficult this is).

All problems are spiritual in nature, but that does not mean that every problem can be immediately rebuked in the name of Jesus. Many require simple obedience, like Naaman, who had to obey what Elisha told him if his leprosy was going to be healed. Others are like the woman who was caught in adultery and was hurled before Jesus for judgment: Jesus’ response turned the judgment on her accusers first, and then He turned to the woman and told her that He was not going to condemn her either. But, she had to make a choice based on His next sentence: “go and sin no more.” When confronted by demon-possessed people, the Lord would cast out the demon. When making miraculous provision, He commanded it, but those who wanted the miracle needed to obey. In every situation, His Lordship had to be acknowledged by obedience.

King David answered the question in the following verses in Psalms 11. He found out that his true foundation was in God Almighty–the King of Righteousness over all the Earth! The wicked will never escape nor go unpunished. David asserts that the upright will “behold His face.” I take it to mean that it is all based on the choices we make by our faith in God. It reminds me of the words of Joshua, the second leader of Israel after Moses who led Hebrews into the Promised Land. Towards the end of his life, God warned him what would happen to the nation of Israel in the future, and he addressed the people of Israel at Shechem, between the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal: “Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” A willful decision to stand with God had to be taken, regardless of the madness and insanity of the world around them.

Why choose to trust and obey God? Because it is right. God is how we make sense of a world that daily presents more questions without answers. Our sanity depends on it. Our future depends on it. The old hymn said it so beautifully: “Trust and Obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey”.

More than any other time, a true desire for the presence of God has to rise in the heart of each believer. The preservation of the Church really is dependent on the preservation of our self. How can we explain it any other way? Each one of us who are believers in Jesus Christ must make a conscious decision to put God first, no matter what trial comes our way. The people of Israel got through that horrific period of the Judges because God found a few people who believed Him, and when the Holy Spirit moved upon them, they had enough faith to obey.

In recent times, the falling away of some Christian personalities has made the front page news. The lead singer of the Canadian Christian band Hawk Nelson–Jon  Steingard–became the latest casualty to announce to social media that he no longer believes in God. The response to his confession has been strange. Several other Christian musicians went on social media to assure him of their prayers and love while others praised him for his “honesty and candor”. “At least he is not a hypocrite” –some folks chimed in. And of course, many in the secular world “celebrated” the “conversion” of another Christian to atheism and secular humanism. But let’s face it: there is nothing but pain when the spiritual house of faith in someone’s life comes crashing down.

The questions regarding the existence of God during the troublesome times we live in can be answered intellectually but that does not mean that anyone who is asking the question will respond positively towards God unless they allow the Holy Spirit to move in their hearts to accept the answer. More to the point, it is a conscious decision to accept the love of God by faith.

Corrie Ten Boom, the Dutch Christian and Holocaust survivor recounted her dreadful experiences of her life in Ravensbruk Concentration Camp, in her book The Hiding Place. Ms. Ten Boom and her family were not Jews, but they saved the lives of many people the Nazis were targeting in Holland. The Ten Boom family was eventually exposed, and the entire family was arrested and sent to various concentration camps. Everyone except for Corrie died. She and her younger sister were sent to Ravensbruk, where she witnessed firsthand the abuse and death of her sister. If ever a person had every justification to lose her faith in God–to reasonably admit that the foundation of her faith life was broken–it was Corrie Ten Boom. Only by amazing grace of God did she persevere. It was in that dreadful place she spoke the immortal words to her fellow inmates, “there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”  It is a choice to accept that love, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we feel that love. The promise of God is that He will never leave us or forsake us and that in due time, we not only will feel His great love for us but will come to understand His purpose on our behalf. He will not allow our foundation to be broken, because He is that foundation! “All things will work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

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