THE BEST WAY IS GOD’S WAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 16:1-2
11-13-55 8:15 a.m.
I need not deny before you that when we come to this season of the year, my soul trembles before the Lord. For one thing, maybe, I grew up in a little place in a little church. My people were poor people. And the magnitude of the ministry and the outreach of this congregation is far, far away and beyond anything that I ever knew or experienced in my life.
There are so many thousands and thousands, not only of people but of churches, who look to us. They watch us. They see us. They inevitably refer to us as the key church in our faith, in our communion, in our denomination. They expect us to lead all of the other churches however strong those other churches may be growing. They expect us to be exemplary. They expect us to excel. They expect us to be paragons, to be excellent in all of the example we set before them.
But beside that, beside that, at this time of the year more than any other time does there come before my heart, my mind’s eye, all of these people who look to us for support and help: our entire mission program, and our institutions – the eight missionary opportunities by which we seek to further the cause of Christ in our own city – eight of them. I never thought when we began this missionary work in our Jerusalem that we would ever carry to the proportions that we have already.
Then when I think of our own ministry in this downtown church – the children who increasingly come here, the babies that the mothers bring here, the young people who turn their faces here, and the many, many hundreds and hundreds of families who build their religious life and hope around this blessed place – I say, when I come to this season of the year, I am frank to confess that my soul trembles before it.
But we need not for this thing is of God like all the other work here is of the Lord. The Lord has blessed our soul-winning appeal. The Lord has blessed this educational program, our teaching and training ministry. The Lord has blessed our giving. The Lord has never failed us in these stewardship appeals.
It’s as one of our men said in a deacon’s meeting as we were talking about pulling away from this 50-50 program, half for missions and half for us. One of the humble and godly men in our midst rose and said, "The Lord has never let us down yet. He has never failed us yet. Why should we stagger at the promises of God now? Let’s go on, make it bigger, and finer, and more for the world than we ever have before." And we did, and God blessed it. That was last year.
This year, it is larger than ever. Our church is bigger than ever. Our people are. I could pray and would be sorely disappointed in my soul were it not true that we grow in grace as we grow older in years. We are growing in this grace also. So, this morning, out of the first Corinthian letter, I lay upon your heart how God wants us to do it: "Now, concerning the collection," now concerning this stewardship, "as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye, "First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas." "As I gave order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye" [1 Corinthians 16:1].
What? What? This is God’s way which is the best way. "Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come" [1 Corinthians 16:2]. The best way is God’s way. The best plan is God’s plan. It would be inconceivable for the Lord to lay upon us this enormous burden of a worldwide ministry and not give us somehow, someway, to achieve it.
God has a plan for everything that He’s ever done in the world. When He makes a little flower, He’ll grow it according to a plan. When the Lord raises corn in the field and wheat in those vast, vast acres, He’ll raise that corn according to a plan. God will do it in a way. When the Lord makes His world, He does it according to a plan, and when God makes His vast solar systems, He’s got great laws and plans by which He does it.
And it’s the same with God’s church in the support of the responsibilities the Lord lays upon us. He has a plan, and this is it: "Upon the first day of the week . . ." [1 Corinthians 16:2]. It’s a periodic plan: on the first day of the week, on the Lord’s Day.
I wonder why the Lord’s Day? Because that’s His day. That’s the day that He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-10]. That was the day that turned disaster into triumph and darkness into the light of the glory of God.
That’s the day that He appeared to Mary Magdalene [Matthew 28:1, 9]. That’s the day that He appeared to all of the women [Luke 24:1-10]. That’s the day He appeared to Simon Peter. That’s the day that He appeared to the two on the road to Emmaus [Luke 24:13-32]. That’s the day that He appeared to the ten disciples gathered in the upper room [Luke 24:33-43], and that’s the day, one week later, that He appeared to the eleven disciples, Thomas being present [John 20:19-28].
That’s the day that in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts the church gathered together to break bread to observe the Lord’s Supper [Acts 20:7]. That’s the day that the sainted John said, when he was in exile on the Isle of Patmos, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day" [Revelation 1:9-10]. That’s His day: God’s day, our Savior’s day. It’s the Christian day; it’s our day.
God’s plan is: "Upon the first day of the week" – on the Lord’s Day, periodically, every seventh day – "on the first day of the week let every one of you" [1 Corinthians 16:2]. It’s a personal plan: "every one of you." I don’t do it for somebody else. They’re not to do it for me. There are responsibilities that I have unto God. There are responsibilities the Lord hath laid upon you. "Every one of you" – each one of you: it is a personal plan.
So many times we are of the persuasion, now, this father, this wage earner, this is for him. But these little children, well, they are not of age. They have not arrived. They do not have these responsibilities.
We’re getting away from that in this church, and we’re doing it according to the plan of God. "Let each one of you," and that includes our young people and our intermediates, and it includes our juniors, and it includes our little, little children. They have a way dear and precious in the sight of God, and it is for them, too. "Well, pastor, yes, but they learn more by doing something than by all of our preaching and teaching in the world."
When I was pastor in Oklahoma before coming here, in our blessed church there, I had the love and the great encouragement and support of a godly deacon. I’ve always been missionary in my soul. When I was in school, I belonged to the volunteer band; and some of the dearest friends I have in this earth, I grew up with them and went to school with them, and they’re now on the foreign fields. And when I went to that church, it had not been taught largely to give to missions – great fundamental ministry but they had not been taught largely to give to missions. They hardly supported the Cooperative Program and all.
So one of the first things I sought to do was to lead the church into a tremendous missionary program supporting God’s cause in the earth. And I had the support, and the prayers, and the encouragement of this godly deacon. And one day talking to him, I asked him, "How is it that you’re so different from the rest? You just so different in your heart and spirit as I preach these things and plead for these things and try to get this church to give to these things. Why is it?"
And his answer was this. It surprised me. He said, "Preacher, this sounds silly. This sounds silly." But he said, "When I was a little, little boy, a small, small boy," he said, "I heard a missionary preach about China. And he made an appeal for China, and he took up an offering for China."
And he said, "As a little, little boy, I took the one nickel I had and I gave it to the missionary for China." And he said, "You know, as a boy, I felt that I had an investment in that far-away country." And he said, "From that day until this, I’ve always loved and had an interest in China and the missionary cause of Christ in China."That came from a boy’s nickel. It made an impression upon him. Why, those things are always true. The things I see today do not nearly bear in my soul those everlasting marks that the things that I saw and heard when I was a child.
"Each one of you" [1 Corinthians 16:2] – that’s all of us. Man’s not to forget his wife as though she had no part in the increment God gives to the family. She works; she toils. It’s partly hers also. It’s all of us – every one of us.
And when those cards are filled out, they’re to be filled out for every member of the family, and every member of the church, and every member of the Sunday school, and every little boy, and every little girl, and every father, and every mother. It’s all of us! That’s God.
"Upon the first day of the week let every one of you" – that’s the Lord’s way – "let every one of you lay by him in store" [1 Corinthians 16:2]. We are to sit down; and whatever the Lord places in our hands, we’re to set aside: "This is for God. This is the Lord’s. This isn’t for me. I rob God when I take this. [Malachi 3:8]. This is set aside."
"Let every one of you lay by him" [1 Corinthians 16:2] – pull it out. "This is the Lord’s. It isn’t mine." And if we don’t do that, if we don’t do that, we’re taking what belongs to God and we’re spending it on ourselves. We’re buying a car with it, or buying a house with it, or we’re buying a coat with it, or we’re buying something else with it. We’re spending it on ourselves, but it isn’t ours. It belongs to God.
"Let every one of you lay by him" [1 Corinthians 16:2]. Take out for God. This is His part. This is His. And if we don’t do that, if we don’t do that, I am fearful for us. Personally, I’m fearful for us. God has a way of collecting [Malachi 3:9-11]. He just does. I don’t know how or when, but somehow, God judges His people [Haggai 1:5-11]. And when we don’t do right by Him and when we’re not honest and fair with Him, somewhere, sometime, God collects [Galatians 7-8]. He just does.
I’m thinking of that thing that happened out here in one of our rural districts. There was one of those blasphemous, unbelieving farmers. And in the fall, he wrote a letter to the county paper, and he said, "I dare you to print this letter."
And this is what the letter was:
Dear Mr. Editor,
On Sunday, I plowed my field. On Sunday, I planted my field. On Sunday, I cultivated my field. On Sunday, I harvested my field. And on Sunday, I marketed my produce. And I had a better crop and got a better price than I’ve ever had in my life. Now I dare you to print this letter.
And sure enough, in the next issue of the county rural paper, there came his letter just as he had written it. But underneath, the editor had written this one little sentence: "Editor’s Note: God does not always collect His debts the third week in October."
And then I picked up this old country doggerel:
If God gets His’n and I get mine,
Then everything’ll be just fine.
But if I get mine and keep His’n too,
Then what do you think the Lord’ll do?
I think He will collect. Don’t you?
And that’s the honest truth. That’s the honest truth. There are things that’ll come along. There’ll be an illness. There’ll be a disaster. There’ll be a turn of fortune. And everything that you thought you’d taken away from God, there it is. There it is – seized.
Ah, it’s no way to do. It’s not God’s way to do. Take it out. Take it out. "Why, children, this is for us and this is for God. And let’s starve before we would take it from God." Then see if it’s there. You’ll have more than you ever had in your life. "Lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him" [1 Corinthians 16:2].
What is God’s plan? It’s proportionate: "as God hath prospered him." I must sit down and take out God’s part. What shall it be? What shall I take as my standard, this proportion upon the first day of the week, every one of us laying out for God as God hath prospered him?
Well, you know, there’s never been an exception to it. Way back there in the long, long ago day, in the [fourteenth] of Genesis, listen to it:
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine –
a picture of the body and blood of our Lord. He was priest of the Most High God. He was the priest after the order of which Jesus was [Hebrews 6:20] –
And he blessed Abraham and said, "Blessed be Abram of the Most High God . . .
And blessed be the Most High God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand." And Abram gave him tithes of all –
way back there in the beginning. –
And Jacob said, ‘"The Lord’s in this place . . . This is God’s house’ . . . and he called the name of the place ‘Bethel’" [from Genesis 28:16-17, 19]. And this stone [Genesis 28:18, 22], he set it up in memory of that vision that he saw of the angels in glory [Genesis 28:12-15]. And in the end of it: "And of all that Thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto Thee" [Genesis 28:22]. In the seventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews: "And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that He liveth" [Hebrews 7:8].
Proportionate. What shall I take as this is sacred for God? This is it: "Out of the increase God shall put in my hand, I will give to God one-tenth of it" [from Genesis 28:22]. It’s for Him. "That there be no gatherings when I come" [1 Corinthians 16:2].
When the preacher stands up to preach the gospel, declaring the whole counsels of God, he’s not to stand up there in that pulpit ding-donging for money. He’s not to stand up in that pulpit begging a hard, miserly people for money. He’s not to do it. That’s not God’s way. The Lord would be displeased if I did it, and God would not honor you if you forced me to do it.
God’s way is the best way: "That there be no collections when I come" [1 Corinthians 16:2]. When I stand up there to preach the gospel, our people shall have dedicated to Christ at least a tenth of what God has given to them. And when the preacher stands up, we’ve done that and our hearts are ready for the blessing.
How shall I come before the Lord, and how shall I bow down before the great high God? In the beginning, Abel brought the firstling of his flock, a lamb from his own bosom, and he laid it upon the altar of the Lord in the beginning; and he approached God having brought a present in His name [from Genesis 4:4].
We’re doing the same every Lord’s Day. Upon the first day of the week, as God hath made us able, we’re here in this house having brought the firstlings of our flock, having brought a present to lay at His blessed feet. It represents us, and it represents what we have: all of it God’s.
Now, Mr. Souther, let’s sing a stanza of a song. And while we sing this stanza of the song, while we sing that appeal, somebody, you, give his heart to Jesus. Somebody, you, put your life with us in the church – in this balcony around, as God shall say the word, lead the way. Did you hear today? Would you make it now then? "Pastor, today, I take the Lord as my Savior," or, "Today, I’m putting my life here in the church." While we sing this song, would you come and make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
WAY IS GOD’S WAY
season of the year my soul trembles before the Lord
Those that look to us for example
Those that look to us for support and help
Lord has blessed us in our stewardship appeals
has a plan for everything – including the support of the church
Text begins with a strong word diatasso – "to give order"(1 Corinthians 16:1)
"Upon the first day of the week"(1 Corinthians
That is the Lord’s Day(Matthew 28:1-6, 9-10,
John 20:11-20, 26-29, Luke 24:13-32, Acts 20:7, Revelation 1:10, 12-13)
the Lord has laid upon each of you
Every member of the family
aforethought, providing – take out God’s part
has a way of collecting
"As God hath prospered him"(Matthew 25:14-30,
The proportion has been the same from the beginning(Genesis
14:18-20, 28:22, Leviticus 27:30, Malachi 3:10, Matthew 23:23, 2 Corinthians
8:1-9, Hebrews 7:8)
from a nagging, continuous nuisance to an act of worship