Faithlife Corporation

If the Foundations Are Destroyed

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“In the LORD I take refuge;

how can you say to my soul,

‘Flee like a bird to your mountain,

for behold, the wicked bend the bow;

they have fitted their arrow to the string

to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;

if the foundations are destroyed,

what can the righteous do?

“The LORD is in his holy temple;

the LORD’s throne is in heaven;

his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.

The LORD tests the righteous,

but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.

Let him rain coals on the wicked;

fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.

For the LORD is righteous;

he loves righteous deeds;

the upright shall behold his face.” [1]

Four years ago, it was difficult to imagine that we would actually witness biblical prophecy being fulfilled in our lifetime. I am not as blasé as I might have been at one time. Ezekiel speaks of an invasion of Israel; the invasion will be led by an individual identified as “Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” This vast horde includes armies from Iran, Ethiopia and Libya, but they will be led by Russia [see EZEKIEL 38:1-39:24]. The prophecy of this weird and wonderful man of God appears to be taking shape before our eyes. Each day brings new evidence of a startling, stunning transformation in world affairs.

In 2009 the world was transformed, though few realised at that time either the transformation taking place or the magnitude of that change. In January, 2009, an American President who had promised fundamentally to transform America assumed the leadership of what was unquestionably the most powerful nation in the world. That man was said to be the leader of the Free World. Convinced that America needed to be humbled before her enemies, he operated according to a philosophy dedicated to diminishing American power and influence in the world. He has exceeded in his efforts beyond the wildest expectations even of his minions.

On September 30, 2015, a Russian three-star general entered the embassy of the United States of America in Baghdad to deliver a démarche to the American military attaché demanding that American armed forces stay out of Syria because Russian warplanes would be bombing enemies of the Assad regime beginning in one hour. This followed on the heels of a Chinese general warning the United States to stay out of the South China Sea. In less than seven years, American influence had been eroded to the point that they can only bluster and protest pitifully.

With the election of a Prime Minister who appears to be more “even-handed” toward Palestinians and Arabs, Israel is being deserted by erstwhile allies—increasingly the tiny nation stands alone. While Palestinians run amok, stabbing and hacking innocent people, world leaders urge Israel to avoid aggravating Muslims—they would surely commit a crime against Muslim terrorists if they attempt to protect their own people.

The Arab world surrounds the tiny nation that now stands isolated and defiant against the darkening clouds of threatened annihilation. Russia has formed alliances with Iran, Iraq, Syria and soon will have alliances with other nations who realise that they will be deserted and left standing in grave danger if they continue to rely on the United States as their national defender. Eager to gain momentary advantage with the new Axis alliance, the European nations are seizing the moment to exert their own independence from the United States.

Candidly, I could never have imagined that when prophecy began to be fulfilled the end would come so precipitously. Events are moving swiftly and ominously toward a cataclysmic, crashing conclusion that was prophesied long years ago. However, events will not conclude as the world imagines—that, also, has been prophesied long years ago.

The question is raised, how shall the child of God respond to the changes spinning about us? What steps should the believer take as the world sets itself against God and against His chosen people? Those saints who dare stand with Israel can anticipate opposition—demonic minions do not appreciate anyone standing athwart their supposed dash to creating the world as they imagine it should be. What shall the people of God do? That is our study this day.


“In the LORD I take refuge;

how can you say to my soul,

‘Flee like a bird to your mountain,

for behold, the wicked bend the bow;

they have fitted their arrow to the string

to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;

if the foundations are destroyed,

what can the righteous do?”

These are godless times; wickedness appears to be in ascendance. The righteous are told, “Worship as you wish; but keep your religion to yourself.” What is done in a church building is of no particular interest to the power brokers of our world, so long as we who believe do not permit what we believe to dictate how we shall live.

Samuel Clemens and his wife Olivia Langdon afford an illustration for the point I make. Olivia Langdon was a beautiful, gracious Christian woman when she was wed to Samuel Clemens. The story is told that he attended church with her before their marriage; however, soon after they were wed he refused to accompany her, declaring that religion was but ancient and meaningless rites. Livy, as Clemens called his wife, loved her husband, and he was equally in love with her; however, he did not share her Faith. As is so often true of spiritually mixed marriages, she surrendered her Faith in order to show her love for her husband. Should a Christian marry an unbeliever, she is disobedient to the Master. Moreover, the believer will not be better for that marriage—she will be spiritually impoverished for her disobedience. She will never be capable of honouring the Lord as fully as if she had been obedient in the first place.

In her final years Livy experienced severely deteriorating health. Clemens moved his family to Italy for her health. He sought to prolong her life, but she died there in June, 1904. As she was dying, the account is related that Clemens urged her to pray if that would comfort her. Her response to her husband of more than thirty-six years was that she could not do so. Despite his extravagant wealth, he could offer her no solace in her dying days; so he urged her to return to the Faith that had once comforted her in the early years of their marriage and in the death of their son, Langdon, but his urging was futile. Clemens had no respect for the Faith, assuming it to be a mere act that could be used for one’s personal benefit and discarded at will. In this, Mark Twain’s view was not so different from the prevailing view held in society in this day.

This utilitarian view of the Faith has gained more than a foothold among the churches of this day. When the hard times come, the godless think to use religion as a sort of talisman for their personal ends. We sometimes speak of “foxhole religion” to describe the sudden conversion when people are threatened with the end of life or with serious reversal in personal well-being. While I do not doubt that God is gracious and that He receives any who come to Him through the Son, it seems abundantly clear that few actually surrender to him at such times.

In this Psalm, the Psalmist is writing of a time of difficulty, a time of personal challenge. It is impossible to say what particular danger David is recalling in this Psalm. He was often in danger from the moment he sprung onto the scene until near the end of his days. Individuals who are conversant with the Word of God know that David did flee from danger on occasion. He fled from Saul, hiding in the wilderness for perhaps as long as ten years. Rather than fighting and endangering his rebellious son, David fled from Absalom, taking refuge across the Jordan. The particular danger prompting the writing of this Psalm is not known, but it appears to have been a time of stress when the king’s safety was threatened.

Sensible people flee danger. Those who are unprepared to meet danger will not only flee, but they will urge others to flee with them. Like wildebeest or zebras in the presence of a pride of lions on the hunt, all begin to flee. It is well-nigh impossible to stand firm when all about you are giving way to panic.

When ISIS began to invade northern Iraq, the Yazidi villages had a common response—flee for safety. They fled to the Sinjar Mountains, the most immediate wilderness of the region. The mountains provide a measure of shelter from the immediate attack—there are often trees, crags and caves to hide the frightened. The mountains have the advantage of height and the rugged terrain affords a measure of shelter from the weapons of the pursuer. However, people do not live in the mountains because they cannot grow the quantities of food on the mountains that a society requires. Transportation and communication is more complicated in the mountains. Fleeing to the mountains is a inevitably a short-term response to a long-term problem. In panic, people flee the immediate danger without thinking beyond the immediate.

We see an example of the panicked response of mankind in the response of the godless during the Tribulation. The Revelator writes, “When [the angel] opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand’” [REVELATION 6:14-17]?”

In the early years of my faith pilgrimage, a man named Mike Warnke was popular within evangelical circles; many people found his shtick entertaining. He told a story of involvement with witches even as he grew increasingly immoral and ungodly. His message appeared designed to induce a measure of panic among the faithful. What has now been proven is that he created a fictional persona to inflate his importance to immature saints. He became a celebrity, interviewed by Larry King and Oprah Winfrey and performing his stand-up routine in multiple church venues. His story has been investigated and exposed as a complete and utter lie. [2]

Let me simply note some of the warnings given in the Word. James warns believers, “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water” [JAMES 3:11, 12].

Confronting religious leaders who lied concerning His words, Jesus warned, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” [JOHN 8:44].

As an old man, John wrote to believers, “By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” [1 JOHN 2:3-6].

A man named John Todd delivered a message that a powerful occult group controlled the governments of the world. He implicated numerous Christians, including Jerry Falwell, Chuck Smith, Bob Jones, Sr., Billy Graham and Oral Roberts as enmeshed by “the Illuminati.” At one point while I was teaching at a Bible college, students were coming to me speaking of their fears after reading what this man had said. Multiple large ministries echoed the message that Christians must purchase weapons and move to the wilderness to prepare for the battles that were coming when the forces of evil attacked the righteous. [3]

Anyone who knows me knows I love the shooting sports. I enjoy the challenge of ballistics work. However, I cannot seem to find that verse that tells Christians to buy guns and go to war with those opposed to the Faith. Even the final great battle of Armageddon is Christ’s battle. Believers will have been raptured and the great battle takes place between those intent on attacking Israel and Israel’s great protector. Though no one can speak with absolute authority on the matter, it appears that the forces that must eventuate in that final great battle are even now driving the nations toward that fateful day. However, my understanding of the Word drives me to conclusion that we who believe will have been removed before that day comes.

Underscore a vital truth in your mind—a healthy church is a loving church, and a loving church draws people to Christ and to the message of life. An unhealthy church is a fearful church that drives people to react in fear. Remember the word that we believers have received: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” [1 JOHN 4:18].

Before rushing on in this message, let me state the obvious from what we have witnessed. Panic reveals a lack of trust. Remember, the child of God walks by faith—this one walks in trust, resting in the Living God. With the Psalmist, the child of God testifies:

“I trust in You, O LORD;

I say, ‘You are my God.’

My times are in Your hand;

Rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!”

[PSALM 31:14, 15]

And again we confess:

“When I am afraid,

I put my Trust in You.

In God, whose Word I praise,

in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.

What can flesh to do me?”

[PSALM 56:3, 4]

Whenever we witness a panicked, fearful response to pressure, it speaks eloquently of failure of faith. It is the Lord our God who leads us in the way we should go. Let us determine that we are following Him and then move boldly as He directs.


“The LORD is in his holy temple;

the LORD’s throne is in heaven;

his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.

The LORD tests the righteous,

but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.

Let him rain coals on the wicked;

fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.”

Either God is sovereign, or God is a mere figment of the collective imagination of pitiful people who are incapable of facing trouble. Either God rules over all and overrules all, or God does not factor into the equation when trouble comes. Make no mistake, troubles will come and each individual, especially each one who calls on the Name of the Lord will be challenged by the denizens of this dark, fallen world. If God does not reign, if God is a creation of weak minds, then why should we serve Him? We who are born from above must put into practise the Word of God that teaches us that “We walk by faith, not by sight” [2 CORINTHIANS 5:7]. If there is no God, the wicked are right and we are without hope in the world.

I recall one of the earliest messages I delivered when teaching at Criswell College in Dallas. I was speaking on Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal. I boldly stated at that time, and I believe it now, “A God who can’t burn wet wood isn’t worth dry faith.” [4] The import of that statement is that either God is God, or He is a mere figment of mankind’s fevered imagination. If God is a concept conjured up to allow us to avoid personal responsibility, we need to ask whether He is worthy of our worship! The text calls us to an eternal perspective.

Note what the Psalmist has revealed in verses four through six. He says that God reigns. The Psalmist is adamant that God knows what is going on. Moreover, David testifies to the truth that God examines and approves of the righteous. [5] Finally, the King of Israel states that the Lord hates the wicked and those who do violence. Rather than being some remote, detached entity, we are taught that God is intimately involved in the life of His child. Child of God, we serve a God who is too wise to make a mistake and too good to needlessly hurt us.

God reigns. Does this knowledge grip your soul? Are you confident that this is true? If not in the world at large, at least in your own life can you testify that God reigns, that He is sovereign? Let me ask what may be a disturbing question for each of us? You alone can answer the following queries, each of which addresses the same matter. What evidence in your life shows that God reigns? What practical difference distinguishes your own conduct from that of unbelievers? When we conduct business as a congregation, the question that should be uppermost in each mind is whether God reigns over the assembly? Or do we conduct business as we think best and for our own ends? Is the glory of God foremost in our deliberations? Or are we focused on our own comfort? Our own exaltation? Our own purposes? The knowledge that “the LORD is in His holy temple” will serve as a restraint on our actions.

God knows what is going on. The Psalmist also says,

“The LORD’s throne is in heaven;

His eyes see, His eyelids test the children of man.”

The Lord sees; and He witnesses not only an individual’s actions, but why an individual acts as she does. The word translated “test” in verse four speaks of demonstrating the character of a material, or in this case the character of a person, by holding that material or person for comparison to a standard. [6]

Each of us has had a time when we questioned whether God knew what we were experiencing or if He even knew whether we existed. I well remember the experience of kneeling in a field one dark night, waving a white hankie toward Heaven and crying out, “God! Do you know who I am? Do you know what I am going through? Do you care? What am I supposed to do?” You’ve been there as well, wondering if the Holy One knew your trials or if He even cared about the pressures you were then enduring. The Psalmist insists that God knows what is going on; He knows you and He knows what is taking place in your life. He is watching. And though you may not realise it now, He is proving the genuine nature of your faith.

We will do well to recall the words Peter penned to a suffering people in the Diaspora. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” [1 PETER 1:3-9].

God examines and approves of the righteous. If God tests mankind, know that He both confirms and approves of the righteous. In this opening statement of the fifth verse, God testifies that He is fully aware of the righteous person. He knows that one and she is accepted before Him. James, the Lord’s brother, opens the little missive that bears his name with a beautiful and encouraging statement. Look at it and draw strength from what James has written. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him” [JAMES 1:12].

I will not tell you that you will not be tested—you will experience testing. I will remind you of the Word of God that teaches us:

“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline

or be weary of his reproof,

for the LORD reproves him whom he loves,

as a father the son in whom he delights.”

[PROVERBS 3:11, 12]

When the writer of the Letter to Hebrew Christians quotes these verses that Solomon penned, he reminds readers that God is treating His beloved children as sons. He is emphasising the fact that they are sons and not simply children because he wants them to grasp that they have a glorious inheritance. They are the heirs of His glory and God is preparing them to wear that glory, sharing His glory with Him. This is the destiny of each believer in the Risen Lord of Glory. We have an inheritance reserved in heaven; we who have been born from above are assured that we shall “share in the inheritance of the saints in light” [COLOSSIANS 1:12]

There is in the Ephesian Letter a passage to which I refer frequently in the messages I deliver. I refer to this passage precisely because it is so encouraging to God’s beloved people. Join me in looking again at what is written in the opening verses of the Ephesian Encyclical. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” [EPHESIANS 1:3-14].

The Lord hates the wicked and those who do violence. We are quick to speak of God’s goodness to the righteous. Tragically, many—perhaps even most in this day—imagine themselves to be righteous because they are convinced that they deserve God’s commendation. The Psalmist removes any comfort that outsiders may have been clinging to when he says, “[God’s] soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”

The Psalmist was writing this Psalm at a time when it seemed the foundations were being destroyed. Perhaps you feel as if the foundations are being destroyed at this time in history. Churches and denominations are being shaken as many desert the Faith. Wicked people promote themselves as spokesmen of God, assuring parishioners that God will wink at sinful behaviour. People identified by their sinful behaviour are promoted as paragons of virtue, their sin exalted and their hostility toward godliness embraced by civic leaders and politicians. Nations tremble at the rise of evil while goodness is despised and even the righteous are induced to act as the hateful of the world. We are witnessing a clash of civilisations, and righteousness is despised. We wonder what the outcome of these things will be. The Psalmist reminds the people of God that “the Lord hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”

Because this is true, we who believe are compelled to warn the wicked. You are not permitted to create your own standard and approve your deeds according to a standard of your own creation. In an earlier Psalm, God speaks of the righteous, contrasting them to the wicked. After speaking graciously of the conduct of the righteous in the FIRST PSALM, God says:

“The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.”

[PSALM 1:4-6]

No individual must ever exalt himself in his own eyes or in her own eyes. Because they have no relationship to the Living God, they are under His wrath. Thus, the brash are warned,

“The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;

You hate all evildoers.”

[PSALM 5:5]

We rest in the knowledge that God shall hold the wicked and the violent to account. When we are attacked, we comfort ourselves in the Word of God that teaches us that God says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” [HEBREWS 10:30]. And again, we are confident of His warning, “It is time for judgement to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the Gospel of God” [1 PETER 4:17].


“Let him rain coals on the wicked;

fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.

For the LORD is righteous;

he loves righteous deeds;

the upright shall behold his face.”

Western Christians tend to make two critical mistakes when thinking of the intersection of faith and culture. We have the attitude of a “majority” culture. We imagine that civic morality is Christianity. Thus, when the culture changes we are tempted to cry out that we must turn the culture back to Christ. I must tell you, the culture never was enamoured of Christ, though in the past the Faith did significantly colour civic morality.

The other response of western Christians is to adopt a siege mentality. We grow fearful, wring our hands and bemoan the conditions in which we now live. “It’s the times,” we say. Let me say that the godly were never welcomed with open arms. There has always been resistance to the righteous and opposition to holiness. Religious liberty is imperiled today, and perhaps more so than at any time during the past two centuries of North American civilisations! However, we must differentiate between actual state-sponsored persecution and cultural marginalisation, between public opposition and personal offence.

We approach each Christmas season fuming at the disrespect displayed toward “our” celebration. However, I suggest that we should not be irritated by society’s disregard of holy things as though we are a protected class of victims. Western culture is increasingly distanced from the Christian Faith. Christmas, to say nothing of Easter and even of Thanksgiving, is viewed by the majority of our fellow citizens as a cultural fête, an occasion to party, to drink beer with friends and to watch sporting events. Perhaps we Christians need to tell again the powerful message that astounds angels, sends star-gazers trekking across deserts and terrifies shepherds. One theologian perceptively states, “An Incarnation safe enough to sell beer and barbeque grills is a gospel too safe to make blessings flow, far as the curse is found,” [7]

Twice-born children of the Living God need to shout out again the stunning message that drives religious dilettantes to invent lies in a vain attempt to explain what God is doing and that flatters sinners. Not everything that offends us can be counted as persecution. Persecution of believers does occur in the world; but few of us know persecution. Most of us do not know someone who has been imprisoned because he is a Christian; we do not know someone who was killed for the Faith. Hear once more the Word of God as we are instructed. “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” [HEBREWS 12:4].

In the Psalm we are studying, we discover how the godly are to live. Peter wrote at a time when believers were actually persecuted. He wrote, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” [2 PETER 3:11-13].

As we wait for His Coming, we can apply the truths that are taught in the final verses of the Psalm. First, note that the godly relinquish judgement into the hands of God who is just. The Psalmist does not sugar coat the consequences of unbelief, just as the Apostles did not shield unbelievers from the truth of divine judgement. The Psalmist warns that the LORD will “rain coals on the wicked.” “Fire and sulphur and a scorching wind shall be [their] portion.”

Some religions are taught to respond with choler and rage when they feel their religion is slighted. Christians must never act in that manner. We are taught, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” [ROMANS 12:14]. The reason for this gentle response is that we refuse to take judgement into our own hands; we have accepted the God will render judgement.

Again, the Psalmist teaches that the godly are to determine to live righteous lives now. The Psalmist writes,

“The Lord is righteous;

He loves righteous deeds.”

[PSALM 11:7a]

We are determined to glorify God through living righteous lives to the praise of His glory. Christians are taught, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” [ROMANS 12:17-21].

The actions of the wicked shall not dictate how we live. Rather, the new birth we have received determines how we are to live. Let us, then, determine that we shall honour our God by living according to His Word. Jesus Himself has taught us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” [MATTHEW 5:44, 45].

The Psalmist teaches us that the godly look forward in anticipation of fulfilment of His promises. The Psalm concludes with a precious promise that “the upright shall behold His face” [PSALM 11:7b]. We have not been promised freedom from opposition because we are Christians. If we focus on the moment, we will grow disheartened and become discouraged. Christians have enjoyed a measure of freedom allowing us to worship according to the dictates of our heart for more than century; that time may be passing even as I speak. In the sweep of world history, the past two centuries are exceptional in the enjoyment of religious liberty by the people of God. Like Peter when he stepped from the boat, so long as my eyes are focused on the Master I can stride across the waves. However, when I take my eyes off Him and begin to look at the tempestuous times, I begin to sink [see MATTHEW 14:22-33].

We have grown flaccid and complacent as the people of God. We imagine that we shall never be disturbed. There are worse things than being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Daniel’s contemporaries who prayed to the king’s statue never saw the inside of a lion’s cave. Pontius Pilate lived to a ripe old age, never experiencing the state-sponsored harassment that pursued the Apostles. Judas Iscariot was never arrested for anything. Those who apostatised from the early church escaped the Colosseum with their lives. All it cost was a pinch of incense and the mumbled confession, “Caesar is Lord.”

The early disciples persevered, looking to something far greater than this world could ever provide. “Time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” [HEBREWS 11:32-12:2].

Amen. Amen, indeed.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Good News Publishers, 2001. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] Jon Trott & Mike Herenstein, “Selling Satan: The Tragic History of Mike Warnke,”, accessed 7 January 2016; Lorette C. Luzajic, “The Devil Made Me Do It: Mike Warnke’s Ministry of Lies,” September 9, 2009,’s-ministry-of-lies/, accessed 7 January 2016; “Sex, Lies and Satanism: The Rise and Fall of Christian Comedian Mike Warnke,”, accessed 7 January 2016

[3] Mark Dice, “John Todd, ‘former Illuminati’ member exposed as fraud,”, accessed 7 January 2016; Gary Metz, “The John Todd Story,”, accessed 7 January 2016

[4] Michael Stark, Sermon, “When the Fire Falls,”"When the Fire Falls"/1000000&content=/submissions/33409&tab=paneTabResults&pane=resultsPane

[5] See textual note of the NET Bible, “Hebrew, ‘examines,’ the same verb used in v. 4b. But here it is used in a metonymic sense of ‘examine and approve.’” The NET Bible First Edition (Biblical Studies Press, 2005)

[6] Cf. James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Logos Research Systems, Inc., Oak Harbor, WA 1997); see also Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Clarendon Press, Oxford 1977), 103

[7] Russell Moore, “The Difference Between Being Offended and Being Persecuted,”,, accessed 2015 October 18

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