Sunday, May 22, 2011

How Firm a Foundation

In Mark chapter 10, we read of a noble, rich man that inquires of Christ, "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" Finding that the man had kept the commandments from his youth, the Savior instructed the rich young man to, "go thy way way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor... and come, take up the cross, and follow me." Though we do not know if or when this young man may have obeyed, at the time of his encounter with Christ he, "went away grieved: for he had great possessions."

Turning to his disciples, the Master Teacher commented, "how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!" Then again, "With men that trust in riches, it is impossible [to enter into the kingdom of God]; but not impossible with men who trust in God and leave all for my sake, for with such all these things are possible."

Honest self-evaluation may reveal to each of us what we may have in common with the young rich man. It is easy to feel like everything will be okay because the bills are paid with money left over for groceries and maybe even some savings. Do we pray more sincerely when our cash reserves are low?

The principle behind what Christ taught the young, rich man is taught more explicitly by King Benjamin in Mosiah chapter 3: "There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent." Faith in Christ is the first principle of the gospel and absolutely essential to salvation in the kingdom of God. When we place our trust elsewhere, we introduce false idols and false security into our lives. We become like the foolish man, who built his house upon a sandy foundation.

Even the mention of idol worship conjures up ideas of gold calves made thousands of years ago or the neighbor that is always out in his front yard washing his new car. Yet when tragedy strikes or stress mounts, where do you and I turn? If we look for comfort in a batch of freshly baked cookies or retreat to the chocolate stash in our dresser drawers, we may well find that sweet treats have hindered or even replaced the deepest, most sincere trust in God that is required to return to Him.

Riches of cash or of calories are not alone in their ability to replace our faith with false security. Some create idols of intimacy, of drugs or alcohol, and still others trust most in their own education, their favorite sports team, the power of their preferred political party or their ability to control or influence those around them. When we put our trust in these things more than God-- when we turn to them in our difficult moments rather than to our Heavenly Father who waits to teach us and to bless us-- it is as though each of us were departing from the Savior just as the young rich man.

Victory over this form of idolatry requires a healthy dose of humility. We must change our thinking from, "What do I want to do?" to "What would the Lord have me do?" We recognize that the comfort we find in idolatrous trust of money or food or whatever allows the natural man to gain strength; so we strive to "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit" that put off the natural man as they help us become, "submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, [and] willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us]" (Mosiah 3:19). In other words, as we find success and refinement in humility, we will also develop a deep and abiding faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Lord has promised that he will care for our needs, "for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things" (3 Nephi 13:32). Our job is to believe him-- believe he will do what he says he will do-- then take up our cross and build upon his firm foundation.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent word.
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
who unto the Savior for refuge hath fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health, 
in poverty's vale or abounding in wealth,
at home or abroad, on the land or the sea
as thy days may demand so thy succor shall be.

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
for I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

E'en down to old age, all my people shall prove
my sov'reign, eternal, unchangable love;
and then when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake.

(How Firm a Foundation, attr. to Robert Keen, 1787)

1 comment:

  1. A great, related quote from President Joseph Fielding Smith:

    “When a man confesses that it is hard to keep the commandments of the Lord, he is making a sad confession—that he is a violator of the Gospel law. Habits are easily formed. It is just as easy to form good habits as it is to form evil ones. Of course it is not easy to tell the truth, if you have been a confirmed liar. It is not easy to be honest, if you have formed habits of dishonesty. A man finds it very difficult to pray, if he has never prayed. On the other side, when a man has always been truthful, it is a hard thing for him to lie. If he has always been honest and he does some dishonest thing, his conscience protests very loudly. He will find no peace, except in repentance. If a man has the spirit of prayer, he delights in prayer. It is easy for him to approach the Lord with assurance that his petition will be answered. The paying of tithing is not hard for the man, fully converted to the Gospel, who pays his tenth on all that he receives. So we see the Lord has given us a great truth—his yoke is easy, his burden is light, if we love to do his will!” (New Era, July 1972, p. 23.)