The Appointments of God
March 28th, 1954
THE APPOINTMENTS OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-28-54 10:50 a.m.
You are listening and watching the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas Texas. And this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Appointments of God, or God’s Time is Now. In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Acts, in the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth verses:
And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.
And as Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will – not now but some other day –
And in the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes, from the wisest man who ever lived:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the sun:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to reap;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to rejoice;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
To every thing there is an appointed season and a time to every purpose under the heavens. In the sixteenth chapter of the First Gospel, Jesus answered and said unto them:
When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, ye say, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
And once again in 1 Chronicles 12:32:
And of the children of Issachar, were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.
The appointed times of God.
And before I go into the sermon could I parenthesize to say there is a time for us regarding our tremendous building appeal. I held a revival meeting in one of the great cities of the Southland, in the First Baptist Church in that tremendously important and growing city. By the side of the church, hard pressed against it, is a magnificent multi-story building. It’s the home office of a national life insurance company. I looked at it and its architecture was somewhat ecclesiastical, it seemed so to me, even though the company had tried to change it. And I said, "The great building there looks as though a church had built it."
"That’s right," came the reply. "That was the educational building of our First Baptist Church."
Well, I said, "What’s the matter? It’s got a big sign on it, home office of a great insurance company."
He said, "That is the tragedy of the history of our church. That broke our back and broke our spirit."
They had a great pastor, a world famous pastor. And he led them in the 1920s to build that tremendous educational building. Then he sat at ease in Zion and they drifted. And in the years when they should have paid for it, they let the opportunity slip through their hands. And the 30s came and they lost that tremendous building. And they lost their spirit and their heart; it broke the back of that great church.
The chairman of our board of deacons, and the chairman of that building fund committee, and the other men who pray for and love this church say to me, "Pastor, this is the time. Don’t you let these days pass without our people given the opportunity to pay for these buildings. You don’t know what tomorrow may bring. This is God’s time. It’s now. It’s now." And I believe God has given them wisdom to know what Israel ought to do. When that appeal is made, the clock struck, and the time is come, there is an appointed time for every purpose and season under the sun [Ecclesiastes 3:1]. And that time for that building is now. It’s now.
Now that was a parenthesis. The turn and the heart of this message is God’s soul-winning time, revival time, preaching time, praying time, visitation time, Dallas Theatre service time. The great day of our opportunity has come. There never was a time that God has given such wide open doors for the preacher and for his message as today He has given His preacher and His church.
There are great sections of this world that are blocked off to the preacher. He’s the first one they try to cut down. You have to remove him before you can take away the spirit of the people to resist. Love of freedom, love of democracy, love of country is born in the preaching of the gospel. You have to cut him down before you could ever enslave the free minds and the free spirit of a free people.
There are sections, I say, that have been blocked off to the minister of the gospel of Christ. But not here, thank God, not here. In Dallas, in America, in our country, and in the association of free nations in the earth, the preacher has an open door and his pulpit is unfettered. This is our great day.
There comes a time, there comes a time, when the Lord speaks to the heart, and when that time comes, that is God’s time to make the appeal, and it is God’s time for the harvest. There comes a time in the life of little children when their souls are quickened, when they are sensitive to the gospel message. They are so quickened – I don’t know any other word to use – by the Holy Spirit that they come and sit down by my side, and most of them just sitting there will burst into tears. Their hearts have been touched. God’s Spirit has worked, and the day has come for the child to accept Jesus and become a Christian.
How many times do I go to our meetings in downtown Dallas, a civic club, a fine aggregate of Dallas people? And up there will be a man leading in the wonderful work, a glorious man, a fine man, and he is doing a marvelous thing for the city, but he is not a Christian. He is not a Christian. I sit there and look at him, and I think, ah, if that man could be won to Christ, if only he could, what a tower and what a fort would he be in the kingdom of God! But he is not saved. He is not a Christian. There was a time somewhere; there was a time when it would have been easy to reach that man for Christ, when he was a child, when he was a little fellow. But some church or some family or some home let the little fellow slip their fingers, and now chances are he will never be reached.
I think that same thing when I read about bad men, evil men, men who sometimes take the lives of officers and of innocent citizens, and they rob and they kill and they destroy. Now they are up for trial, and the pictures are there on the front pages of the papers. And the state’s attorney is asking for the penalty of death. And I look at that fellow’s picture, and I think there was a time, there was a time, there was an appointed time but somebody let the little fellow slip through their fingers, and now he’s lost, he’s lost. There is a time in the life of our children when they are like little twigs. They can be turned and bent so easily; for that fellow the time has passed; God’s appointed time has passed. And they grow hard, and gnarled, and unbending, and almost impossible to reach. God has an appointed time for our children. God has an appointed time for our friends and our neighbors and our people. And He has an appointed time and a day of opportunity for us who are Christians to mediate the words of love and encouragement to them: God’s time, God’s time.
I went around over a state one time in a series of rallies, Christian rallies, encouraging the people in the work of the Lord. And I had by my side a layman, and he and I spoke together in those rallies. We stayed together, traveling from city to city; a wonderful Christian man, a well-to-do man and a leader in his work in his state.
So I asked him one night when we were in the hotel room together, I said, "It’s rather unusual to see a big, fine, rich, businessman like you take time out to go with a preacher and encourage the people in the Christian faith." I said, how did it happen that you turned this way?"
"Well," he said, "I’ll tell you how it happened and when." He said, "I had a man in my employ. He had been working for me for twenty-five, twenty-six years." He said, "I called him in one day, and called him by his first name, and I said, ‘You are slipping, and if you don’t do better, I am going to fire you. Now you do better or you are going to lose your job." He said, "A few mornings after that I came early to the office," for some reason that he forgot. "I opened that executive’s office, and on the inside of the office he was slumped across his desk in a pool of blood with a gun lying there on the floor by his side. And on the desk was a note." It called him by his name, the boss man’s name. "’I’m laying down the burden where I took it up twenty-six years ago. Tell my family the keys are here and the car is parked in front of the building.’"
He said, "In the days that followed that suicide, I thought about that last interview I had with him," that, "I noticed he was discouraged and despondent." He said, "I thought if I could do it over again, I don’t believe I would call him in and dress him down like I did. I believe I would take a little time to ask, ‘I notice friend that you are discouraged. I notice you seem to be blue. Tell me what is the matter. Maybe I can help.’" He said, "I didn’t do it. I just dressed him down and curtly told him, ‘You do better or I will fire you!’"
"Well," he said, "that stayed on my mind. Then a little while later," he said, "I have a sweet Christian secretary. And she said to me, ‘Mr. so-and-so, I can’t forget the death of,’" and she called the man’s name, "’Was he a Christian? Was he a Christian?’"
And the head of the company said to me, "Was he a Christian? Was he a Christian? Was he a Christian? Why, the man had been working for me twenty-six years, and it never occurred to me to ask him ‘Are you saved? Are you a Christian?’"
He said, "That day got to weighing on my heart and in my head." He said, "I made a new resolution in my life. I’ve been down there in that Baptist church and been a deacon all these years. But here a man in my employ, working by my side twenty-six years, and yet when my secretary said, ‘Is he a Christian?’ and I don’t know!" He said, "I I changed my life, and I changed my ways! And I’ve been trying to redeem the time," he told me. "And that’s the reason I am here. From that hour until this, I have given my life, my life, trying to tell men about Christ, about Christ."
There is a time in every man’s life when somehow the Lord has opened the door of his heart. And when that time comes, the Lord always has me or you, He always has a servant who is ready to speak the word! Our trouble is we fail God. We let Him down. We don’t speak it. Some other day. Some other time. Some other hour. But it is not convenient now [Acts 24:25].
Around the corner I have a friend
In this great city that has no end
And he is lost, a fine strong man
But he is lost.
And I always planned to speak to him about God’s love,
Of Christ who came down from heaven above
And how He died on the cross to pay
The sinner’s debt. I think each day,
‘Somehow I must speak my heart to Jim;
Tomorrow I will have a talk with him.’
Tomorrow comes and the cloudy cares
Clutter my day with busy affairs.
The day is gone and again I avow,
‘Tomorrow I will speak to Jim somehow.’
My friend is lost.
He does not know the peril he risks.
He must not go year after year like this,
And die before I tell him how truly I desire to see him give his heart
To Christ, repent, believe, and make a new start.
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes;
And the distance between us grows and grows.
Just around the corner, yet miles away.
Here is a telegram sir: ‘Jim died today.’
While I delayed thus came the end.
Jim lost a soul, and Christ lost a friend.
[Adapted from "Around the Corner"; Charles Hanson Towne]
Some other time, tomorrow; some other day when it is convenient, but not now. "Not now, not now. I am too busy, pastor. Don’t look for me tomorrow night for that visitation. I’ve got something else to do." "Don’t look for me to go soulwinning, to invite people to the revival, preacher. I’ve got money to make. I’ve got bonds to care for, and I’ve got a job to do. Don’t look for me. Don’t look for me. When I have a convenient season, some other day and some other time [Acts 24:25]," and God’s lost slip through our fingers and die without Christ. My last word: God has an appointed time for you, for you, for my soul, for your soul. God has an appointed time. You listen to this word here in Ecclesiastes: "There is a time to be born, and a time to die" [Ecclesiastes 3:2], the appointments of God.
"Ha! Ha! I don’t believe in that, preacher! I believe my life and my soul are in my hands! I turn it just as I please. That saying you preachers try to preach about God’s running this thing and God’s appointments and God’s predestinating love and care that is theological folderol, and I don’t believe it!" Well, I think it’s commendable in a man to try to be self-sufficient. And like a little ant gazing up at the universe, he can say all manner of things, but I don’t know whether you have thought it through very carefully or not when you say it. Tell me, fellow, did you choose the century in which you were born? Did you choose this twentieth century to live in instead of the eighteenth century or did somebody choose it for you?
Tell me, did you choose your sex? Did you? "Yes, sir, preacher, I chose to be a man. That’s the reason I am a male."
"You see, preacher, I chose to be a woman. That’s the reason I am a female." Are you right sure about that? Or did somebody choose it for you? "You see, preacher, my eyes are gray. I chose to have gray eyes." Are you mighty sure about that? "I didn’t want brown eyes or blue eyes, preacher; I chose them to be gray. I did that." Are you mighty sure? By taking thought, could you add to your stature? "Preacher, I wanted to be just 5’10, just exactly 5’10. I didn’t want to be six feet." Brother, you don’t know me, I wanted to be six feet, I wanted to be twice as big as I was. It just surprises you how little in your life you run. There is a providence, there is an appointment of God overriding. I can’t enter into its mystery. All I know is He is there and we are in His hands.
And there is a time to be born and God chose it [Ecclesiastes 3:2]. And there is a time to die, and God knows it – Hebrews 9:27 – it is appointed. And we never think of the word, appointed, "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment." All my life I have heard preachers preach on that text. "It is appointed once unto men to die," and they talk about death and the inevitableness of death; "And after that the judgment," and they talk about the judgment. But I never heard a preacher in my life preach on the thing the Book says: "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment!" It is in the hands of God. It is appointed; there is a day and an hour known to God at which time you shall stand in His presence and be judged for the deeds done in the flesh [Hebrews 9:27]. "It is appointed unto men once to die," the appointments of God: the time is in His hands.
In Bozrah there came to his master the servant frightened to death. And the master said to his servant, "Why are you so afraid?" And the servant said, "Oh sir, oh sir, give me your swiftest horse and let me flee to Baghdad!"
"Why?" said the master.
"Because," said the servant. "I met Death on the street today. I met Death on the street today, and he looked at me! I know he’s after me. Oh, master, let me have your fleetest horse, and let me escape to Baghdad. Oh, master!" And the master was kind. He gave into the hands of his servant his fleetest horse. And that morning the servant got astride that fleet stallion and ran as fast as he could, driving at a furious pace to flee to Baghdad!
That afternoon the master met Death on the streets of Bozrah. He walked over to Death and said, "Death, what do you mean by frightening my servant so?"
And Death replied to the master, "Sir, I did not mean to frighten him. When I saw him on the streets here in Bozrah this morning, I was merely surprised to see him, for tomorrow I have an appointment with him in Baghdad!"
"It is appointed unto men once to die" [Hebrews 9:27]. And somewhere, somewhere, somewhere in the hands of God, known to Him is that day and that inevitable hour. And there is an appointed time to be saved. There is an appointed time to be saved [2 Corinthians 6:2]. Just as there was an appointed time when I was born, just as there is to be an appointed time when I shall die [Ecclesiastes 3:2], there is an appointed time for me to be saved. When is it? When is it?
We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that you receive not the grace of God in vain. For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: look, look, behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
[2 Corinthians 6:1-2]
The preacher is here with his open Book. The church is here with its open doors. The choir is here with their announced song. And you are here with your heart opened unto God. When is it? God’s appointed time is now. It’s this morning. Would you make it? Would you meet this rendezvous with God? "Here I am, preacher, and here I come. This is my day. This is my hour. That call is for me. And here I come. Here I come." Into the aisle and down to the front and by the side of the pastor, "I make it now." There is a fellow, bless your heart, man. Bless your heart. Don’t wait until we say, "Come on down." And while we sing, anybody else, come on, come on.