The Lord Standing By
March 14th, 1954 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W.A. Criswell
3-14-54 7:30 p.m.
Now in our preaching through the Word, we’ve come to the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Acts. Now you find it, and we shall read it together out of God’s Book, the first eleven verses. The first eleven verses of the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Acts. Acts 23, from the first verse through the eleventh verse. Pastor is going to preach tonight on standing by the Lord: The Lord Standing By Us. You’ll see the text. All right, are you ready? The twenty-third chapter of the Book of Acts; all right, all together:
And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?
And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest?
Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.
But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God.
And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also in Rome.
Now, I want to add to that one other passage. If you want to turn to it, it’s in the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Acts. The twenty-seventh chapter, and I’m going to start at the twentieth verse and read through the twenty-fifth:
And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was taken away.
But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have harkened unto me . . . but now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life . . .
For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as He told me.
And that text, in both places, there stood by him the Lord, "And the night following, the Lord stood by him and said, Be of good cheer, Paul" [Acts 23:11]. And the same text: "For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve saying, Fear not, Paul" [Acts 27:23-24] Fear not: the Lord standing by; and that’s been God’s shepherding care for His people through the centuries, and through the millennium, and through the ages, and through all time. In the hour of need, He is standing by.
When Hagar, with Ishmael her son, was cast out and wandered throughout deserts of Beersheba not bearing to look upon the starved, famishing, thirsting face of her dying son, she laid him down in the shade of a little desert bush and withdrawing herself, the Bible says, about a bow shot distance, she bowed her head and wept before the Lord [Genesis 21:14-16]. And while she cried, there came a voice out of heaven saying, "Hagar, Hagar, why weepest thou?" And she replied, "Because I cannot bear to look upon the face of my boy as he dies." And the Lord said, "Hagar, lift up thy face." And the mother lifted up her face, and there was a fountain of water in the midst of the burning sand in the deserts of Beersheba: the Lord standing by [Genesis 21:17-19].
When Elijah fled from the face of Ahab, in the days of the terrible drought, he came to dwell by the brook Cherith, but there was nothing to eat. There was a famine in the land. And the Lord sent His ravens and fed Elijah [1 Kings 17:1-6]; the Lord standing by.
When the three Hebrew children were cast into the fiery furnace, when the king, Nebuchadnezzar, looked through the burning door and saw those three, bound Hebrew believers in God cast into the fire, he cried saying, "Were they not three? But I see four! And the face and the countenance of the fourth is like unto the Son of God;" the Lord standing by [Daniel 3:8-24].
When Stephen was stoned to death, as they beat His broken body into the dust of the ground, he lifted up His face and – the only time in God’s Word where it says Jesus stood in glory, in heaven – the Book says Stephen saw the Lord Jesus, "standing at the right hand of the throne of God:" the Lord standing by [Acts 7:54-60].
And in this passage in the life of the Apostle Paul, beat and imprisoned, smitten on the mouth, blasphemed, disowned and dishonored, cast and tossed around as a thing of no consequence, as an enemy of his people, as a traitor to his nation – in the nighttime, the Book says – "the Lord stood by him" [Acts 23:1-11]. And a few years later after languishing in the prison at Caesarea, placed on a ship to be sent to Rome to be tried for his life – fourteen days and nights, a terrible storm, without sun or stars or light – and when all hope had vanished that they might be saved, the Book says there stood again by the apostle, the Lord saying, "Paul, be of good cheer, be of good cheer" [Acts 27:1-25].
You see Paul had stood by the Lord, and now in his hour of need, the Lord is standing by Paul. Paul stood by the Lord when he became a Christian in Damascus – when he sought to preach the gospel of Christ to His people in Damascus. They made a conspiracy to destroy his life and to take his life from the earth. They let him down in the night by a basket and so he escaped, but he was standing by the Lord [Acts 9:1-25].
On his first missionary journey, they stoned him at Lystra and dragged him out for dead, but Paul was still standing by the Lord [Acts 14:6-20]. On his second missionary journey, they beat him and Silas until the blood run down, put him in stocks and chains, thrust him into an inner dungeon, but he was still standing by the Lord [Acts 16:16-34]. On his last missionary journey, coming to Jerusalem here for the last time, they seized him and would have beat him to death had he not been rescued by the colonel of the garrison there of the Roman legions in the city of Jerusalem [Acts 21:27-35]; but he was still standing by the Lord. And in the last letter that he ever wrote to his son, Timothy, he says:
At my first answer no man stood by me . . . I pray God, it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me. And He strengthened me . . . and the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom to whom be glory forever and ever.
[2 Timothy 4:16-18]
And having written this, he put his head on the block and became an apostolic martyr to the faith of Jesus Christ. The Lord stood by him, and as the Lord received the martyred spirit of Stephen, so the Lord received the glorious soul and spirit of the Apostle Paul. You see, God never lets us down. When we stand by Him, He stands by us. The old psalmist said, "I am old. Once was I young; but in these years, I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread" [Psalm 37:25].
And in the thirteenth [chapter] of Hebrews in the fifth verse, "For He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." You stand by the Lord, and the Lord will stand by you. Young man, you stand by the Lord; young woman, you stand by the Lord, and the Lord will stand by you.
One of the mothers said to me, "Ah, that you’d say a word to my daughter." The daughter came to me. This was her problem: she was at that age where she was blooming and blossoming into womanhood, conscious of the boys, wanting to be popular. She came to me and asked, "What do you think? My mother opposes it. What do you think? I want to dance. What shall I do?"
This was my reply to this young woman, here tonight, this was my reply: "All you have to decide in your heart is the kind of people you want to be with, and the kind of a boy you want to fall in love with, and the kind of a home that you want to have. There are a lot of boys that meet their wives on the dance floor. I know that. I admit that. There are a lot of homes that are made on the dance floor. I know that. But, girl, there are some boys that are not looking for a wife on a dance floor, and I know a lot of boys like that – lots of boys. You’ll find them at Baylor University by the hundreds and the hundreds. You’ll find them in this church by the scores and the scores. There’s not every boy that’s looking for a wife and a sweetheart on a dance floor. There are a lot of boys that are looking for a girl who’s given her life to the Lord Jesus, who loves the church and the work of the church, and who turns aside from questionable social amusements; and you’ll find a boy like that if you’ll trust God. Put your life in His hands; walk in His faith. You stand by the Lord, and see if the Lord won’t stand by you."
Saul said to Abner, the captain of the hosts, "Who is this stripling? A ruddy-faced, unshaven boy in his teens, coming out there to champion God against the hosts of the Philistines?" Abner said, "I don’t know. I never saw him before" [1 Samuel 17:55-56]. So they brought the stripling before Saul. And Saul said, "Who are you, and where is your father?" And the boy said, "My name is David. And I’m a shepherd. I’m the youngest son of Jesse of Bethlehem" [1 Samuel 17:57-58]. And Saul said, "You, a stripling, a boy? You dare to go out to meet this giant and man of war from Philistia? You? You?" [1 Samuel 17:31-33]
And the boy replied, "I was keeping my father’s sheep, and there came a bear to destroy the flock, and God delivered the bear into my hands. And there came a lion to destroy the flock, and the Lord delivered the lion into my hands. And the same Lord God that delivered into my hands the lion and the bear, the same Lord God will deliver into my hands, Goliath" [1 Samuel 17:34-37]. Tall man of war whose spear was like weaver’s beam, whose sword was taller than a man’s head, whose shield weighed beyond what a man could bear – "God will deliver him into my hands."
That boy ran across the little valley between the two armies, stopped at Elah, picked up those five round stones, put them in his little leather satchel, went up the slope on the other side. And when Goliath saw him, he was insulted, insulted. "You? You? Why today," said Goliath, "I’ll feed your carcass to the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, you!" [1 Samuel 17:40-44] And the boy replied, "You come to me with a sword and with a spear, but I come to you in the name of the Lord God of hosts" [1 Samuel 17:45-47]. And the Lord stood by the boy. He didn’t let him down [1 Samuel 17:48-54].
He won’t let you down. You trust Him. You believe in Him. He’ll see you through. See if He doesn’t. Young man, stand by the Lord. Girl, stand by the Lord. And the Lord will stand by you. In manhood and in womanhood, you stand by the Lord and the Lord will stand by you. All of the trials and fortunes that happen to other people sometimes come to us. The day, the night, somewhere, sometime, all of the ills you see around you, the heartbreak, you shall experience them. We all do. You stand by the Lord, and the Lord will stand by you.
In the little church where I grew up, we had testimony meetings often, almost every Wednesday night. I used to share in them as a little fellow – stand up, quote a passage of Scripture or say something in my heart of gratitude for the Lord Jesus – testimony meetings. One night in the little town where I lived, a burglar tried to rob one of the stores on the little main street. The town marshal, who lived right across the street from us, the town marshal tried to prevent the robbery, and the robber shot him. And the next morning when our little town awoke, they went down there to open up the store, and they saw the town marshal, in his own blood, cold and dead. On a post there, holding up the porch of one of the stores, there’s a streak of blood all the way down that post where when he was shot by the burglar – leaning against the post and falling to the ground – the blood coming out of his heart stained that post all the way down to the sidewalk. It was a tragic thing for us and for our neighbors right across the street.
She was a blessed, Christian woman, and they belonged to our church. She had several little children, and in just a little while she was to be a mother again. At the testimony meeting in our little church on Wednesday night, I was seated right close to her on the same bench with her. She got up to testify, and I remember for the years since what she said. She stood up, and she told us there in our Wednesday prayer meeting, she said, "This great sorrow that has come upon us, I haven’t been prepared for it. I have nothing in the world – nothing, nothing – but the Lord is helping me, and the Lord will see me through."
Do you suppose He did? You know that He did. "I have been young and now I am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread," [Psalm 37:25] the Lord standing by. And in old age, and it comes; in senility, and it comes; the end of the way, and it comes – He’ll be standing by when nobody wants me and nobody cares for me. In age and in death, when even my own family and this blessed church will say, "Let us put our dead out of our sight." As much as Abraham loved Sarah, he went to the sons of the Hittites and said, "Let me buy from you the cave of Machpelah that I might put my dead out of my sight," out of my sight, out of my sight [Genesis 23:1-9]. Who shall care for me then? Who? It shall be the Lord standing by, the Lord standing by.
I went to see an old man that belonged to our church, and finally his eyes had gone blind. And in his age lying there, invalid and blind, I took his hand and knelt down by his side; and I prayed for him that the healing presence of Jesus might be with him. And he shook my hand and said, "Wait a minute, pastor. Oh, no, pastor! Don’t pray that. Don’t pray that!" he said. "Don’t." He said, "My eyes are gone, and I can’t see; and my health and strength are gone, and I can’t walk; and my family are gone and I’m by myself; and my friends are all on the other side. Pastor, don’t pray that. Pray that the Lord Jesus will take me soon. I want to go. I’m ready to go! Pray that God will liberate me that I might go soon."
I did. "Lord," I prayed, "this blessed brother in Christ, this man who trusts and loves Thee, he’s blind and can’t see; he’s weak and can’t walk. He’s old and his life is spent. He’s forlorn and homeless, and his friends and family are all gone. O God, take him to Thyself. Liberate him and let him go." And the Lord answered prayer. It wasn’t long until he slipped away, and I buried him in the faith and in the patience of Jesus.
When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me.
When the world is tossing me
Like a ship upon the sea,
O Thou Who rulest wind and water,
Stand by me.
In the midst of tribulation,
Stand by me.
When the hosts of hell assail,
And my strength begins to fail,
Thou Who never lost a battle,
Stand by me.
In the midst of faults and failures,
Stand by me.
When I’ve done the best I can,
And my friends misunderstand,
Thou who knowest all about me,
Stand by me.
When I’m growing old and feeble,
Stand by me.
When my life becomes a burden,
And I’m nearing chilly –
["Stand By Me," Charles Tindley, 1905]
Bob Miller is a city boy, raised in the city. He never heard those old-timers sing way out in the country, way up in the hills. I never heard one of them say "Jordan" in my life. You know how they pronounced it if you’ve ever been with those old-timey people:
When my life becomes a burden,
And I’m nearing chilly Jerd’n,
O Thou Lily of the Valley,
Stand by me.
["Stand By Me," Charles Tindley, 1905]
"For there stood by me this night the Lord," the Lord [Acts 23:11]. Ah, fella, we offer Him to you, your Savior. The fellowship of this people, the glorious comradeship of this church, we offer Him to you. Would you stand by Him? Would you?
While we sing our hymn of appeal, anywhere, somebody you, somebody you, "I’ll take Him tonight as my Savior. I’ll follow Him. I’ll stand by Him. I’ll put my life in the fellowship of this church." Would you do it tonight? Would you so? Is there a family of you? Is there one somebody of you? Is there a youth or a child? As God shall say the word, shall make the appeal, would you come and stand by Him and with us? Would you so while all of us sing this hymn together, while we stand and while we sing?