The Lost Beatitude
November 8th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
THE LOST BEATITUDE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-8-59 8:15 a.m.
You who listen on the radio are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message in keeping with this great stewardship season of our church year. In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, beginning at the seventeenth verse, is recorded one of the most heart-moving appeals to be found in all the Word of God. Acts 20, beginning at the seventeenth verse:
And from Miletus Paul sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,
Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:
And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house,
Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
Save that the Holy Spirit witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.
Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.
And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.
Just to read that is to feel the tenderness of the scene and to look into the very heart and soul of the apostle in his great love for the church at Ephesus. And just before he kneeled down to pray with them all, he quoted a word of our Savior that is not found in the Gospels, and had it not been for Paul’s retrieving this blessed little sentence, it would have been lost forever. "I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember"; "to remember," he says. That is, it was known to the early Christians, and all quoted by them, "to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" [Acts 20:35]. John closed his Gospel with these words, "There are many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" [John 21:25]. So many things Jesus said and Jesus did are not contained in the four Gospels, just a little of what our Master spoke and did. And among those things that were not recorded in the Gospels is this precious and beautiful sentence from the lips of our Lord: "Remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" [Acts 20:35].
That is typical of the Lord. It sounds like the Lord. It sounds like the Christian faith. It sounds like Jesus and the disciples of Jesus. It is more blessed to give than to receive. It is blessed to receive. All of us who are human would bear witness to a heart that is warmed by even a word given of love and encouragement. "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
He is not comparing something with nothing, but he is comparing a great thing, a wonderful thing, a happy thing, a precious thing that all of us feel when we receive. If somebody comes by and gives you something, like this dear precious couple seated right in front of me; they live out on a farm, miles and miles away from this church. But every time the doors are open, there they are right in front of me. She came by one day last week and said, "Pastor, we have retired and live on a farm, and out there on the farm, we grow many things. And neighbors bring us things, and out of the abundance of the things we have grown on the farm, I have made you some preserves and some jellies." And there they were in a box, all beautifully fixed up and labeled, and she placed them in my hands. Why, I haven’t received anything like that since I was a boy preaching in the country. It warmed my soul. It did me good.
All of us are that way. To receive something is blessed, heartwarming. But our Lord says that it is more heartwarming, it is more blessed, it is more precious to give than to receive [Acts 20:35]. And our Lord knew the inner and deeper spirit of man. It is more blessed to give. I think of a boy and his girl. The girl may be thrilled to receive from the hands of that lad an engagement ring, or a wedding ring, or a box of candy, or a bouquet of flowers. But I tell you, that girl does not get nearly as big a thrill out of receiving from the hand of that beloved boy a gift, as that boy got out of saving up money for the gift, going down, selecting it, buying it, and in anticipation, living a thousand times through that tender moment when he gives it to her. It is more blessed to give.
I saw a picture some time ago on the front of the Saturday Evening Post, drawn by Norman Rockwell, and that was the beatinest picture I think I ever saw in my life. I wish I could describe it for you. Maybe if I do try you’ll recall it to remembrance. Some time ago on the front of the Saturday Evening Post there was the picture of the most beautiful living room you ever saw. And it had on the floor the most gorgeous green carpet that anybody could ever purchase. The door was open and it was pouring down rain outside. And through that open door, with mud up to his knees, followed by his dog with mud up to his underside, there had walked through the door a little boy followed by that dog. And on that carpet, that beautiful carpet, there was mud, mud, mud and water, water, water where the boy had trailed it in followed by his dog. The little boy, with the mud on his feet and on the beautiful carpet, and the water pouring off of him, the little boy was standing at the bottom of a stairway. And he was calling up to his mother and he had in his hand a valentine that he had made. And the little boys’ eyes were so aglow and so filled with anticipation and joy as he looked up the stairway, holding up the valentine he had made in his hand for his dear mother.
Now that’s all of the picture. I wish I could have seen that mother coming down the stairway and what a commingling of emotions in her heart as she looks into the face of that glorious little boy, and at the same time at the mud from his feet and the dog all over the beautiful living room carpet. To give, to give, ah, that little fellow, all of us are that way.
Some time ago, as you remember, I was sent on a mission trip around the world, preaching in these different mission stations, and especially in a preaching mission in Japan. And when I came back, of course, I had many things to say to our congregation about our mission work and the visit that I had made to the mission field. Brother Dolph Johnson, who was the treasurer of the church and the clerk of our church for about thirty-five or thirty-six years, spoke to me one time after it was over. And he said, "You know, pastor, what impressed me most about your trip around the world visiting the missionaries and the mission field?" Well, I thought he was going to describe some things that had happened, you know, and point out some marvelous experiences, but he never referred to any of it. He said, "The thing that impressed me most in your report about your trip around the world was your happening to mention, that as you went around the world, you gave all of your clothes away to the missionaries." I had to pack in two ways. I had to take things for the summer for July and August and the first part of September in the tropical world, and then I had to take things for cold weather because it was very cold in November in Japan. So as I made a trip around the world, why, as I got from one country to the other, I would give to the missionary the clothes that I had so that when I came back to the United States, I just barely had enough remaining to be decent and to appear here and there at home. And to give my shoes to this missionary and my shirt to this missionary and my coat to this missionary, and all the other things that I had to these different missionaries was a wonderful, wonderful blessing to me.
In Africa, I learned, for example, you can get along with a whole lot less than you realize that you have to have, than you think you do. There was a little colored boy that came to the mission Sunday school without any clothes on at all; he didn’t have anything on. And so the Sunday school teacher took the little colored boy and said to him, "Now, sonny, if you come to Sunday school, you’ve got to put some clothes on. Now you go back home and tell your momma, you’ve got to have some clothes on when you come to Sunday school." So the little colored boy ran back to the hut and told his mother that the mission Sunday school teacher said that he had to have some clothes if he came to Sunday school. So in a little while, the little boy came back. He was so proud of himself; he had on some clothes. Guess what he had on? He had on a pair of suspenders. To them, of course, clothing is a decoration. Has nothing to do with covering one’s self or keeping one warm.
To give, to give is more blessed than to receive, to give. And in that comparison, I can see in the life of our Lord that presentation, both of them there together, I can see it for one thing in the occasion when Jesus broke the bread and the fishes and gave to the five thousand [John 6:5-13]. And I can imagine the joy of the five thousand as they took from the hand of our Lord the bread and the fish and ate and were satisfied. But, you know, the one that I think got the greatest blessing out of that marvelous occasion was the little boy who had given to Jesus his lunch [John 6:8-10]. And can you imagine that wide-eyed astonished little boy as he saw the Master take his lunch and those little biscuits, those little loaves, break and break and break and break and give to the people; and then the little fish as He divided and divided and divided until they all had sufficient and enough. That little boy who gave his lunch to Jesus had the more precious and blessed reward than those who received from the hands of our Lord.
I think another incident in the life of our Savior, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" [Acts 20:35], I think of the rich, young ruler as he turned sorrowfully away, but he turned away. He turned sorrowfully away because Jesus asked everything that he had, and rather than part with the world that he possessed, he turned sorrowfully away [Matthew 19:20-22]. Then I think of Zaccheus, who gave his heart to Jesus, and bowing in the presence of the master said, "Master, one half of all that I have I give away." One half, not a tenth, not twenty percent, not thirty or forty, but one half of all that I have I give away. And if I have wronged a man, I restore it to him fourfold [Luke 19:8]. Of the two, which has the greater blessing in this life and the life that is to come?
I think again of an incident in the life of our Lord, comparing those two. Jesus sat over against the treasury, and watched as they gave [Mark 12:41]. He watches you, he watches us all. Jesus sat over against the treasury and beheld as the people gave. Our Lord looks in that financial office as you are totaled up year after year and Sunday by Sunday. Our Savior looks upon it; He looked upon it as they gave into the treasury of the temple. And our Lord beheld, and there were those, who out of the abundance of their lives, made an offering. Out of the affluence and out of the ableness, out of their treasure, out of their bank accounts, they gave. Then Jesus beheld a poor widow who put her entire living, everything that she had; she put her entire living into the treasury of the Lord and lived by faith that God would give her daily bread. And the Lord beheld it and said, "This poor widow hath given more than they all, because they, out of their superfluity, out of their abundance, have given, but she, out of her need and her necessity" [Mark 12:43-44; Luke 21:3-4].
I learned something in my own pastoral experience about that. Once in a while, people who are very poor will come up to me and say, "Pastor, I have read or I have seen or I have heard your appeal, and here is a gift." When I was a young preacher, I used to refuse those gifts. "Oh, no," I would say, "not from your hands. No, you need it, you need it, you keep it." Why, how inexperienced that was in me. Never do that. Never do that. When somebody poor, real poor, comes up and says, "Pastor, I have heard or I have read of this need, and here is a gift," I have learned always take it and bless them and thank God for them for it. And then in my own memory, I can do something in return to encourage them or to give more to them in return. But don’t ever refuse. Jesus commended that poor widow for trusting God for daily bread and giving all that she had to Him.
"It is more blessed to give than to receive" [Acts 20:35]. Then I think of one other in the life of our Lord. I think of heaven and Lucifer, the son of the morning [Isaiah 14:12], walking in the midst of the jewels of life, crowned with honor and glory, the archangel, the cherub, the cherub of all the hosts of heaven. And in his heart lifted up in vanity and contumely and selfishness and false pride, Lucifer, Satan, the son of the morning, I think of him, and all that was given him. And then I think of the other Son of glory, Jesus our Lord, who though He was equal with God, and thought it not a thing to be grasped to be equal with God, but poured Himself out, and made Himself of no reputation, made Himself into the form of a man, into the form of a servant; became obedient to death, even the death of the cross [Philippians 2:5-8]. Of the two, which is the more blessed? Satan, in his false pride and in his contumacious, uplifted spirit; or Jesus, who poured Himself out even unto death? "It is more blessed to give than to receive" [Acts 20:35]. It was our Lord who said, "Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister" [Matthew 20:28].
"Preacher, you don’t have to go around and pat me on the back. And you don’t have to go around and mollify me, because I am not down there in the church for those purposes. I am down there in the church for Jesus’ sake, and I am glad and happy, to pour my utmost and best into those ministries of the church." Why wait on somebody to speak to you? You speak to somebody. Why wait on somebody to be good to you? You be good to someone. Why wait on somebody to make it a friendly church? You make it a friendly church. Why wait on somebody to visit you? You go visit somebody. Instead of waiting to be pampered and petted by other people, you pamper and pet others. You be good to others, you encourage them, you pour of your best into this ministry and see how the church changes. Why, it will be the warmest-hearted church in the world because you are warm-hearted. It will be the sweetest church fellowship in the world because you are sweet. It will be the happiest place in this earth because you make it that way; not to be ministered unto, but to minister. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" [Acts 20:35].
Dear people, may I make an appeal now to you? Your church needs your help. It cannot live and it cannot survive without it. Your church needs you. We need your life and we need your loving support. Your church needs your help in its great missionary enterprises. All of us together, supporting it, make possible a ministry that covers this earth. There are the missionaries; there are our mission institutions; there are our denominational institutions; there are our schools; there are our hospitals; there are orphans homes, there is the preaching of the gospel; all of this work is dependent upon us.
Our own church is dependent upon you. We believe in the educational program of our city and pay taxes to support it, but is it more important that our children be taught reading and writing and arithmetic than it is that they be taught the love of God and the Word of the Holy Scriptures? We spend thousands and millions of dollars in these high schools and elementary schools of our city; this great teaching ministry of our church has just a fraction of the support that our city system has. But of the two, in my humble opinion, this is the more important. Our great ministry here in the church depends upon you, your church needs you. And without you, it will falter and it will fail.
God has spoken to us. "On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no collections when I come" [1 Corinthians 16:2], that the pastor doesn’t need to stand up before the people and pull, and wrench, and screw, and beg, and importune, and plead, and make appeal. "That there be no collections when I come"; when the preacher stands up to preach, all of these things, out of the love of our hearts, we’ve already cared for. When that collection plate is passed, each one of us has done his part as God has blessed him, as God has prospered him. And when the pastor stands up to preach, there is a great congregation of people who have shared in these ministries according as God has made them able. Then there is no need for all of that ding-donging, and all of that begging, and all of that importuning, for this thing has come out of the deep of our own love and of our own souls; which is my humble appeal to you. Oh, blessed, precious fellow Christians and yoke-fellows in this labor in our First Baptist Church, let us not make our giving a part of coercion and necessity, but let it come out of the depths of the love of our soul. Even as Paul said of the Macedonian Christians, "They gave not like we expected, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and then they gave unto us by the will of God. They first gave their own selves to the Lord, and then they gave unto us by the will of God" [2 Corinthians 8:5].
In my beginning pastorate, I went to see three men who had fallen out of church. They had quit coming. The church had evolved into a way where the preacher collected the money; the preacher would go around and collect the money for the church. And when I went there in this little city, I went to see three men in an afternoon, and all three men did the same thing, which made me remember it so well. I went to see a fine, up and coming, vigorous young insurance man; then I went to see a doctor; then I went to see the man that represented that district in the legislature; those three men. When I went to see the insurance man and talk with him a little while, he opened the drawer of his desk and wrote out a check and pushed it across the desk to me. When I went to see the doctor, he opened the drawer of his desk and wrote out a check and pushed it across the desk to me. When I went to see the legislator, he pulled out the drawer of his desk and wrote out a check and pushed it across the desk to me; all three of the men did the same thing that same afternoon. And I did the same thing back. In each instance, I took the check and I pushed it back to the man that gave it to me, and I said, "I haven’t come for your money and I don’t want it; take it back; here." I said, "I have come for you. I want you, and I want your family, and I want the love and devotion of your heart. I have come for you. And if you have anything to give, then you bring it to church, but I am not here for what you have. I want you."
And the next Sunday morning when I stood up in the pulpit to preach, I looked out over the congregation, and there sat the insurance man and his family, and there sat the doctor and his family, and there sat the legislator and his family. Not out of compulsion, not out of necessity, not out of coercion, not as a cold-blooded matter of business – "Here, take it," and you fling it to God as you would to a dog – but out of the deepest love of our hearts.
O God, what should I return unto Thee for all that Thou hast given me? [Psalm 116:12]. Dear Lord, this church, and its message, and its ministry, and its work here and in the earth, God bless it under Thy hands and under ours. Then when God adds us up, and when God totals us up, may it be great for Him and for His cause in the earth. God speed you wonderful people in the way, as you make possible this glorious, financial victory; and thank you, for Jesus sake, amen.
Now we are going to stand and sing a hymn, and while we sing it, while we sing it, in this balcony round, on this lower floor, somebody you, give his heart in trust to Jesus. Somebody you, put your life with us in the fellowship of the church; while we sing this hymn, would you make it now? Would you make it this morning? On the first note of the first stanza, while we stand and while we sing.