Why does God shake up our foundations? Two reasons:
1) God shakes up our foundations because he loves us
2) God shakes up our foundations because he wants us to build the right foundation with the right attitude
9/11 – like I said, we were there in NYC when it happened. Jackie and I were standing on the side of the freeway about to enter the city of Manhattan and we witnessed firsthand the crumbling of the WTC. And I recall distinctly praying to God, Lord, have mercy on us, have mercy on the victims and their families. Time is short, Lord. Help me to remember my calling to preach the gospel. Please use me to reach the lost in Japan and wherever you place me. In Jesus Name, Amen.
I prayed from the freeway and then I went to my grandmother’s house in NY and watched the events from the safety of her living room on TV the rest of the day. And I wondered this morning, why didn’t it even cross my mind to go there and help? Okay, I didn’t have a car because I was visiting, but the thought didn’t even cross my mind. I was a Christian. I was missionary. People were hurting and they needed Jesus, but I went back to my aunt’s house.
Sometimes, we think our faith in God is so big. But when an opportunity like this presents itself, in my case, I was all talk and I looked the other way. I wonder, if 9/11 happened today and I’m a pastor now and I happened to be in NY, would I go where people are hurting or would I go home? And watch the events from the TV. Because that’s where it is safer and more comfortable. That’s what God convicted me of this morning. My cowardice and unwillingness to suffer for the gospel.
Prayer is tough sometimes. That was certainly one instance on 9/11 when prayer was tough. Even after praying as I did that day, you have to wonder, where was God during those attacks and if God is sovereign and He was fully aware what was going on, why didn’t he intervene? What was God up to on 9/11?
These are difficult questions. Evil reared its ugly head that day. So one answer could be, God allows for evil for a short while but eventually He is going to have the last word. We got a taste of that final vindication when Osama bin Laden was killed recently, but I doubt many people felt much of a sense of closure after his death. The Al Queda network is still functional and at least while Bin Laden was alive, he was the face of Al Queda. Now we are battling a faceless enemy. On top of the constant threat of terrorism, now the economy is in shambles. So in many ways, I think we feel more insecure today than we did 10 years ago, or even last year.
So what was God up to on 9/11? If we look to the Old Testament, then we see precedent for God using evil, pagan nations to humble the nation of Israel and get them back on track spiritually. Is that what God is doing to America? Perhaps. This country was founded on Christian principles and America rose to be the number one super power in the world. Are we still a Christian nation? It’s hard to tell. Some say that God is judging America.
Others say that the world is ending soon. Not only the rise of terrorism and the faltering world economy, but the increased frequencies of natural disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes. And wait until next year, 2012, everyone and their mama are going to be talking about the end of the world. Is God telling us to prepare for the end? Perhaps.
The problem with trying to answer these questions is the very obvious fact that we are not God. So the best we can do is to believe that evil is real, God is sovereign, and into that gap, all we can do is to trust. Things happen in this life beyond our control. Things that make you wonder, why on earth did that happen? God, are you there?
But I will say that although the precise reasons for the 9/11 attacks may be unknowable, one truth is undeniable — life is short. Think about those people who worked in the WTC. How many years of working 60-70-80 hours a week did it take to land a job at a company on one of those high rise floors? And how many long hours did they have to work to maintain their positions as a banker or stock broker or whatever? To think, all of that labor can come to an end in an instant.
And we see the crumbling of the towers and we are horrified, we are angry, we want vengeance, we demand that justice prevail. Those emotions are warranted, but if you think about it, death comes to us all. It may happen a week from now or it can happen 70 years from now. Only God knows. But one thing is certain – we all die.
And when things like 9/11 happen, it makes us wonder, what am I living for? What am I building my life upon? In other words, what is the foundation of my life? At bottom, what really matters to me? Because whatever my answer to that question, that’s the foundation of my life. If I think success is the most important thing in life, then that’s my foundation and I am going to build my life to be successful. If what really matters to me is to be comfortable, then comfort is my foundation and I am going to build my life upon that goal. If people’s opinion of me is the most important thing to me, then there’s my foundation.
Recently, there was an earthquake in Washington, D.C. of all places. After an earthquake passes, what’s the first thing you have to do? You have to check the foundation. Engineers examined the Washington Monument after the earthquake and discovered some structural damage. And I think that’s a good metaphor for spiritual life.
I believe God sends large-scale earthquakes to shake up nations. Maybe God used an earthquake as big as 9/11 to shake us up so that we as a nation can examine our foundations. And God sends mini-earthquakes in our lives all the time so that we can examine our individual foundations.
Why does God shake up our foundations?
1) God shakes up our foundations because he loves us
The context here in 1 Cor 3 is judgment. The main thrust of this passage is God’s judgment of the Corinthian church. And by extrapolation, the coming judgment includes every single person because each one of us is going to stand before God alone on Judgment Day.
The Corinthians started out well. Paul came to them and preached only Jesus and him crucified. The gospel of Jesus, the cross of Jesus — this is the core of Paul’s teaching. This was the foundation that Paul laid with care, as an expert builder. And the Corinthians responded to this gospel correctly with repentance and faith. They were saved. Their testimonies were confirmed. Over time, however, they forgot about the foundation and started building with flimsy materials such as an overemphasis on human leaders and spiritual gifts. As a result, unbeknownst to them, they departed from the very gospel of Jesus that had saved them.
So God sent an earthquake named Apostle Paul. You know how in the news, they give human names to forces of nature, like recently with Hurricane Irene? So we should call this Earthquake Paul. God sent Earthquake Paul to the Corinthian church to shake them up.
Why did God send Paul back to them? Because God loves the Corinthian church too much to leave them alone.
Sometimes, we get confused between grace and truth. We tend to think that love equals grace only. God is a God of grace–this is true, but he is also a God of truth.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus is the Word in the flesh and he is described as full of grace and truth. Would it be a loving thing to do for God to show the Corinthians only grace and ignore the problems at Corinth? What if God did that? What would be the result? The result would be they would go through life and think everything is fine and then get to Judgment Date and they’d be shocked. Because yes, they may be saved, but God is not all too pleased with them.
I used to look down on churches that went through church splits and think, man, what went wrong there? I don’t think that way anymore. God loves churches too much to leave them as is. Many churches start well, many start with the gospel but along the way they lose their focus. So God who is both full of grace and full of truth deals with us, He sends earthquakes to shake us up so that we can rebuild on the right foundation with the right materials.
If you love someone and they are headed for disaster, you would warn them. A friend who only tells you what you want to hear is not a true friend. A friend sometimes, out of his concern, needs to say, what are you doing? You have to get your act together.
It is God’s love for us and for his church that causes Him to send spiritual earthquakes to shake us up. Because when we are shaken up and our house of cards comes crashing down, we get a chance to look underneath the rubble and re-examine our foundation.
The years 1998-2000 were difficult for me and Jackie. We got married after a year and a half courtship and it was a pretty disastrous period in our lives.
Prior to our dating period, I thought I was pretty spiritual. I read my Bible, I prayed every day, all of my lunches were filled with meetings with people: meeting a Christian brother for fellowship or meeting someone I was reaching out to, or a younger brother I was discipling. I planned out all my lunches in the beginning of the week and so all my meals slots for lunch and dinner were filled with these types of one-on-one meetings. And so I thought I was pretty hot stuff. Certainly, I thought I was more spiritual than peers my age. I had a bright future of ministry ahead of me and God was lucky to have me on his side.
And as you would expect from someone like me–young, naive, zealous yet blind to myself, when I turned 24, I thought I was ready to date for marriage. I followed all of the suggested books on dating and courtship. I was saved in my sophomore year in college and I liked Jackie from about mid-way through my sophomore year and she was a freshman. Yet, despite the attraction, I decided to wait until the end of 1998 so that’s 5 years. For Jackie, on her end, I think it was love at first sight so she must have been waiting 5 years for me to ask her out. But I will let her share her side of the story after this message.
As a college student in love, I felt like I was like Jacob who worked 7 years under Laban to marry his daughter, Rachel. I waited 5 years not knowing how Jackie felt, but I had my suspicions, I had a good feeling in my gut that she must like me, I mean, what’s not to like? So God gave me the ability to wait patiently. And during those 5 years, I devoted myself to growing spiritually, bonding with other brothers from church and ministering to younger brothers, evangelism, going on summer mission trips. I did all that. I thought I was so mature. But the idol of romance was so deeply ingrained in me that I was going to have to learn the hard way that there shall be no other gods before the one true God.
I had my own sin issues that I was struggling with. On top of that, I was experiencing conflict with my spiritual leaders because they were not perfect. So I began having a hard time with church. As a result, I became isolated and I almost threw in the towel during that year and a half of courtship. But God had mercy. He didn’t let me leave the church at that time because I was still immature. And I knew that if I stepped out of the church as a twenty something, I would be walking away from not only church and ministry, but probably I’d be walking away from God for a long while, perhaps never to return.
Eventually, by the grace of God, we stuck it out and Jackie and I got married in 2000. But there was no fairy tale ending. It was not happily ever after. A dark cloud remained over me that I couldn’t shake. I used to be so excited about spiritual life and ministry and discipleship, but I felt stuck. I tried fasting, I tried going on prayer retreats, I tried praying with others, but I was stuck. And when you are stuck, sometimes the only solution is to hit the reset button. When your PC crashes, sometimes the only solution is a hard reset. Hit the power button. Boot up again. To tear down the house of faith that I had took so much pride in and to start over from ground zero.
God gave me a chance to rebuild my foundation by sending us to Tokyo as missionaries to help with a new church plant. It was a time that I could re-examine my spiritual foundation because I had learned the painful lesson that I was not as spiritual as I thought I was. In fact, my foundation had many cracks in it. I realized during those years that I could be working hard for God in the service of others, but I could still be at the center of it all. I could minister because I wanted to feel useful. I could serve because I wanted people to thank me and admire me. And so I had to hit the reset button. Start over.
Whenever you are going through a difficult time when it feels like your world is crashing down, know this. God loves you. God loves you. You have to believe this. Because it’s true.
As Pastor John preached last Sunday, God is not interested in our happiness, he is interested in our holiness. God doesn’t want to give you everything you ever wanted if that means that you are going to be happy only in this life. God is interested in the business of preparing you and me for eternity.
Earthquakes are a blessing because they make you re-examine your foundation. Often, it is through the shaking up of our foundations through difficulties, hardships, tragedies, suffering — these are the tools that God uses to make us holy and to prepare us for eternity.
God shakes up our foundations because he loves us. That’s number one.