I believe that there are really only two mistakes that a person can make in regard to Christ’s teaching. There is the error which says, “I need no foundation at all. I’ll just drift.” Many people are drifting today, especially the young. But the trouble with drifting is that the water always flows downstream. You can never drift into happiness. Such a person needs a foundation.
But then there is also the error which, I suppose, is more generally the error of the older generation today. This generation says, “Yes, we all must build upon a firm foundation.” But they do not see that it is possible to build wrongly upon the foundation, and thus they do not enjoy true happiness or security either.
What are you building? Is it the precious things of God? Or is it things that may dazzle now but that will soon pass away into nothing? If it is the latter, you may find yourself in the day of judgment in the ridiculous position of Ozymandias, that legendary Persian king about whom Shelley wrote a poem. According to Shelley, the great statue of Ozymandias lay prone to the desert in the midst of thousands of square miles of rolling sand. The inscription said, “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.”
We are so proud of what we can do in our own efforts. But the things that come forth out of the heart of men do not last.
What are you building upon the foundation that is given you by God? Are you living to yourself? It is entirely possible for Christians to do that. Or are you living for Him? Are you using the talents, blessings, opportunities, influence, and wealth that He has given you to build Christian character and bring men to the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior?
Quite a few years ago William Borden went to Yale University as an undergraduate and afterwards became a missionary candidate planning to work in the Near East. When he made his decision to invest his life in this service many of his friends thought him foolish. He had come from a good family. He had wealth. He had influence. “Why are you going to throw away your life in some foreign country,” they said, “when you can have such an enjoyable and worthwhile life here?” But William Borden of Yale had heard the call of God, and he embarked for Egypt. While in Egypt, even before he had much of a chance to do anything, he took sick. Soon it was evident to everyone including himself that he would die. At this point Borden could have said to himself, “What a waste. My friends were right. I could have stayed in New Haven.” But Borden didn’t think this way. As he lay on his death bed in Egypt, he scribbled a farewell note to his friends that was in some sense his epitaph. The note said, “No reservations, no retreat, no regrets.”
How could Borden of Yale write such a statement? Simply because he had learned to build upon a firm foundation and was prepared, as we should all be prepared, to pass confidently into Christ’s presence and to hear His warm welcome, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21, 23).
1From H. A. Ironside, In the Heavenlies (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1937), 56-57.