Occupy Till I Come
November 4th, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
OCCUPY TILL I COME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-4-62 8:15 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled Occupy Till I Come. It is a text in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Luke. And if you would like to turn to the Third Gospel, the Gospel of Luke chapter 19, beginning at verse 11, you can follow the reading of the passage. Luke chapter 19, verse 11:
And as they heard these things, He added and spake a parable, because He was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
And he called his ten servants, and delivered unto them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, that he commanded those servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.
And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.
And he said likewise to him, Be thou also, reign thou also over five cities.
And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept hid up, laid up in a napkin:
For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up where thou layedst not down, and reapest where thou didst not sow.
And the lord said unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked, good-for-nothing, slothful servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:
Why therefore did you not give my money to the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with interest?
And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
(And they said unto him, Lord, he has enough already, he has ten pounds.)
But I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
And those enemies, that would not that I reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
That is almost an exact and identical page out of history. And the Lord has taken the story and woven it into a parable teaching the substance of the kingdom of God. You see, the nineteenth chapter begins, “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho” [Luke 19:1]. The incident that the Lord knew all of His life started at Jericho.
When the Lord was born, Herod the Great reigned beyond the birth of Christ about four years. And in the days of our Lord’s exile in Egypt, when as a baby He was carried down into Egypt—while the Lord was in Egypt as a baby, Herod the Great died in Jericho [Matthew 2:13-15]. Herod had slaughtered most of his own family, most of his children. And even at the last, he changed back and forth his will, designating the few remaining boys as to who would have which part of the kingdom. Up until the very last, Herod Antipas was to receive the kingdom. But in the last moment, just before Herod expired, he changed his testament and designated Archelaus, one of the younger boys, Archelaus as the heir of the kingdom.
Archelaus left Jericho, this very place where Jesus is, and he went to Rome in order to receive from the hands of Augustus Caesar the kingdom. While he was there making appeal for it, there were representatives who inveighed against it. There were also those who accompanied Archelaus who pled for him. Augustus honored the wishes of Herod and gave to Archelaus the southern part of Palestine, with the title of ethnarch, and he gave the northern part of Palestine to Herod Antipas. And that was why, when Joseph and Mary came back from Egypt, Joseph was afraid to go into the southern part [Matthew 2:22]. He wanted to raise the little Boy in Bethlehem where He was born, but he was afraid to do it because Archelaus proved himself, as so many feared, to be a terrible and a bloodthirsty man. Upon his return he slaughtered all of his enemies.
And after about ten years of reign, the Caesar took away the southern kingdom from the rulership of the family of Herod and put Roman procurators over it, of whom Pontius Pilate was one. Now that is the historical incident, and this parable of the Lord Jesus is almost identically like that story that Jesus of course knew from the days of His infancy. You see, there were those who thought that the kingdom of God would immediately appear because, “Look at Jesus. Look at Jesus.” And their idea of the kingdom of God was a reign, a sovereignty, a rulership in which the Roman yoke would be broken off, all of the enemies of Israel would be slain, and the people of Jacob would be returned to their lost and primeval glory. And their idea of Jesus being the Messiah was a sure and certain thing. “Why, here’s a man that can raise the dead [John 11:43-44]. If our soldiers are slain, He can lift them up to their feet again. Here’s a man that can feed five thousand other men with a few loaves and a few fishes [John 6:8-13]. We don’t need to worry about provender. We don’t need to worry about logistics. We can’t lose. This man is a born messiah!”
The explosive words of John the Baptist announcing the kingdom [Matthew 3:1-2], and those disciples adding fuel and fire to the flame, well, you can easily see how all Israel could be persuaded that, “If we’ll follow this man, he will lead us into those glorious heights, the establishment of the kingdom right now.” Now when the Lord knew all that, and of course He did, because they thought the kingdom of God should immediately appear, that kind of a kingdom; why, He told them this parable [Luke 19:11-27]. The meaning of the parable is very evident. The kingdom, God’s kingdom, the kingdom over which Christ shall reign as Messiah, is not coming immediately. It’s going to be like a nobleman who goes into a far country to receive a kingdom for himself, and someday he will return. And when he returns he will call before him all of his servants that they may give an accounting of their stewardship.
Now that long space in between, the postponement of the kingdom because they slew their Messiah, they rejected the kingdom of God [Matthew 27:22-50], and the coming kingdom is in the future; the appearing of the kingdom was postponed, for God’s people rejected the King and the kingdom. But it is certainly coming some of these days. At an hour known to God, the Lord Christ shall descend from heaven, and we shall have in our earth, in our presence, we shall have a great King, and we shall have an ultimate and a final kingdom [Revelation 19:11-22:21]. But in the meantime, in this time, in this age and dispensation of grace, we have what the Bible calls a stewardship. The Lord hath placed in our hands His mysteries, and His grace, and His work in the earth.
May I read just two passages to illustrate how they refer to this? The Bible refers to this, the authors of the Scriptures refer to our work now as a stewardship: “Let a man so account of us,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, “as stewards of the mysteries of God. And it is required in stewards,” just one thing, “that a man be found faithful.” And in 1 Peter chapter 4 and verse 10, “As every man hath received the gift, so minister the same, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” [1 Peter 4:10]. Or in the words of the lord in this parable, “He called all of his servants, saying, I am going away, and I will return as a king, but occupy till I come” [Luke 19:13]. And he gave to one man a pound and to another man a pound, and all of them had a gift from God, all of them. And they were to use it until the lord should come or until the lord should ask them for an accounting [Luke 19:15].
Now, that is a very simple description of our task, and of our ministry, and of our assignment in the earth. God hath given into our hands the stewardship. And we’re to use it until the Lord shall call us for a reckoning unto Himself. And everything we have came from God. Just exactly what did I do to build this house in which I live? He gave me my eyes. I didn’t make them. He gave me my hands. He gave me my feet; all of the house in which I live I am to occupy until that great day of reckoning. The land is God’s land. The sunshine is God’s sunshine. The air is God’s air. Even time is God’s time. And the breath I breathe is given me of the Lord.
These things God hath placed in my hands, and I am to use them. I don’t possess them. I can’t keep them, but I am to use them for the while that He assigns me my task in the earth. Then someday, then someday our King shall reign over His people, and we shall be subjects of our visible Lord in that glorious day [Revelation 11:15].
And what will the kingdom be like? Well, the Bible will give us a beautiful picture of its ultimate form, the great shining city in which we shall live [Revelation 21:9-23]. It has streets made out of gold, it has gates made out of pearl [Revelation 21:21]. It has foundations studded with precious stones [Revelation 21:19-20]. It is a beautiful home that God hath prepared for His people. But, mostly, mostly, it is a divinely ordered society for a redeemed people. And to enter that kingdom, the Lord is preparing a divinely prepared people. That’s what God is doing with us now. That’s why this life, so insignificant in itself, and so brief compared to eternity, and so insignificant in the amount of things that we touch and deal with, that’s why this life is important—because God is preparing His people for a divinely ordered society [1 Corinthians 6:3].
You surely get a good idea of that from this parable. There are some of them, who are faithful that are going to be assigned over ten cities and some of them over five cities [Luke 19:17-19]. And some of them are going to be refused and rejected! They are unworthy and unfit [Luke 19:24-26]. That’s the kingdom of God. And the things that we have down here in this world are to be the instruments by which God reckons with us, and God tests us, and God judges us. Do you think that this nobleman needed the money that these servants returned to him? How much is a pound? Well, shows you the devaluation of money. I suppose when this translation was made, a pound was a good translation of this Greek word “m-n-a, mna, mna.” A pound now is worth about $2.83.
A mna was a figure of money equal to a hundred Greek drachma or a hundred Roman denarii. And a drachma was worth sixteen cents, and a denarius was worth sixteen cents. It was a full day’s pay. Shows you how labor has come up too. So a mna would be worth about sixteen dollars. Now this nobleman that had the kingdom, do you suppose that he needed that sixteen dollars? No, for the purpose was not that the nobleman needed the money. But the purpose was that the steward might be developed, that he might be found worthy. And God gave into his hands these things in order that he might be tested according to the faithfulness of his stewardship.
Do you think that God needs anything that we have? In the fiftieth Psalm God says, “The beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills; if I were hungry I would not tell thee” [Psalm 50:10, 12]. Do you think that God is so impoverished and He lives in such vile necessity that God has to take what we have in order to get by? Do you suppose that? Everything in the Bible about this thing of the use of possessions and stewardship is diametrically the opposite. God could get along without any of us. And God could carry on His work without a thing in the world from us.
For example, can’t you remember that, when the Jewish people brought their gifts to the altar, many of them were burned up with fire? Burned up, a burnt sacrifice, a whole burnt offering unto God, but it had to be the best that the man could give. It had to be the best of his flock, even though it was burned up [Leviticus 22:18-20]. Wonder what God was teaching the men there? That He needed that offering? Why, the thing was burned up [Leviticus 1:13]. God was teaching His people that what they possessed was a [oikoinomia], it was a stewardship, and they were to use it for the glory of the Lord. And the best was brought to the Lord as a token of that faithfulness [Malachi 1:13-14].
Sixteen of the parables of Jesus out of thirty-eight are of that same thing. And one verse out of every six in the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are of that same thing. Whenever we get the idea that stewardship is a way that God has invented to get blood out of a turnip, we haven’t got the great idea of the Lord. For stewardship is to develop our people in their faithfulness of the use of their possessions to God. May I illustrate that? There was a farmer who had six boys. And he worked those boys day and night. And a neighbor farmer said to him, he said, “Man, you don’t have to work those boys that hard to raise a crop.” And the farmer replied, “Sir, I’m not raising a crop. I’m raising boys.”
That’s exactly what God is doing with us. “I am not scheming,” says God, “to get blood out of a turnip as though I could not run My program without the gifts of these people. What I am trying to do is to grow a great group of spiritual men and women in order that they might be fitted to enter My kingdom some glorious and consummating day.”
All right, for a moment I want us to look at that. What kind of a thing is it that God is trying to develop down here in the church and in the earth? Well, it is very apparent. I never saw a spiritual church in my life that financed its program with bazaars, and bingo, and lottery, and raffles, and pie suppers, and dinners by which everybody brings in food—then you pay and then the church gets the money for the food. Isn’t that a magnificent way to finance the kingdom of God? And that reflects the spiritual life of the people. Look at the people! They are worldly minded, and they are material, and they are grasping. They seek to finance their church by bingo which is gambling; by lotteries which is another kind of gambling; by raffles which is another kind of gambling; by all kinds of schemes and methods because the people have lost the sense of their stewardship to Almighty God.
And it reflects, you can see it just as plain. But where are spiritual churches that do things like that? Where are they? Spiritual people have developed in an altogether different world, and they live in a different atmosphere. And the kingdom and its work is financed by the persuasion that, “I am a possessor of these things that ultimately belong to God, and this is an expression of the faithfulness of my stewardship. And to God we dedicate these precious gifts.” And this thing of bringing a tithe into the storehouse is not only a way to extend God’s kingdom in the earth, but it is a way to open the windows of blessing from heaven [Malachi 3:10]. And God blesses our church because of the faithfulness of our people in their stewardship. We have a praying church. We have a reverential church. We have a soul-winning church. We have a devout people. And the reflection of that is found in these great days of stewardship. Why, I could not conceive of our announcing, “We’re having trouble down here at the First Baptist Church financing God’s work in the earth. Therefore we’re going to have a bingo party at seven-thirty o’clock Wednesday night. Let’s all come down here with our dimes and our quarters, and let’s see if we can’t make up the deficit.” Or, “we’re going to have an oyster supper or a pie supper,” or, “We’re going to have a bazaar or a raffle down here,” or, “We’re going to sell cookbooks.”
You don’t need to say beyond that, that the church is dead and that the people have lost their sense of commitment to God. It announces itself like a sign emblazoned in headlights. No, this thing is a matter of the devotion of our souls, a praying people, a Bible honoring people, a Christ loving people: Sunday by Sunday, according to the Word of the Lord; on the first day of the week, we are dedicating to Jesus a proportion of what God hath placed in our hands [1 Corinthians 16:1-2]. And the spirituality of the congregation is reflected in its devoted stewardship; just like it is here in the Book.
Now let me say a word and then we must close. Let me say a word about that ultimate day, that consummation. There are three kinds of people here brought before the Lord. First, there are those who would have nothing to do with it: “We will not have this man to reign over us” [Luke 19:14]. There are worlds of people just like that. “We are not going to have the Lord Jesus as our King, much less are we going to accept any stewardship from His hands, much less are we going to return any token of our faithfulness to Him. We will have nothing in it!” And they take everything that they have, and they live it up. They live it up. And when they come to the end of the way and they’re judged before God, they’re cast out. They will not be in the kingdom. They are out. One of the most tragic things in prospect that mind could imagine: “I refuse God. I refuse the sovereignty of the Lord, and I refuse a stewardship under His hand. I will not have this Man reign over me.” Well that’s one.
Second: there are those who do nothing, nothing. They’re not vile. They’re not vicious. They’re not blasphemous. They just don’t do anything. “Lord, here is that pound You gave me. And I did not do anything with it. I did not bring anything back. I just give You what first You gave to me” [Luke 19:20]. Why, it’s another tragic thing. Here’s the limb and it doesn’t bear any fruit. You cut it off. Here’s the vine. It doesn’t bear any fruit and the branch is cut off. Here’s this fellow and he doesn’t do anything for God, and he’s no use. He’s unfit. Oh, what a loss, what a loss! What you don’t use, you’ll lose. Close your eye, and after a while unclose it, take off the bandage, you can’t see out of it. Tie your arm down here to your side. Don’t use it for a while. After a while you can’t ever lift it. The very nerves have atrophied. We are spiritual pygmies, tiny little fellows that never did grow; like a babe that never did develop. Oh, how pitiful, how pitiful!
Then the third: “Lord, I took this gift,” and how small, sixteen dollars. Let me tell you something I’ve learned since I came to Dallas. To tithe when you’re not rich is easy. If you’re rich, it’s hard. There’s not one man who makes lots of money out of a hundred thousand who’ll give a tenth of it, because it’s hard to do it. If you made a hundred thousand dollars, to give ten thousand dollars of it is hard. If you made a dollar, to give a dime of it is easier, easier. This man had sixteen dollars, sixteen dollars. And he brought to the Lord, in the providences of God, he brought to Him a hundred sixty dollars, using what God had given him. And the Lord was blessed by it, and commended him, and gave him a large portion in the kingdom that is yet to come [Luke 19:16-17], because he had taken what little that he had and had made it count for God. And the Lord multiplied it, and multiplied it, just like He does all of us.
There are very, very few great affluent givers in our church. But when we give, and you give, and I give, taking our sixteen dollars that the Lord has bestowed upon us, and we just add it together, oh, how much it counts in the kingdom and patience of Jesus. So Sunday by Sunday, it’s not large, I know. We’re not rich like some people are, but Sunday by Sunday, as a token of our stewardship to God, occupying till He come [Luke 19:13], using what He has given us for Him, Sunday by Sunday, Sunday by Sunday, the Lord sanctifies and hallows that faithful return [1 Corinthians 16:1-2].
I listened to one of our men who heads one of our institutions, a devout, humble, Christian man. And he put in the hand of his little boy a nickel to take to Sunday school. And when the Sunday school and church service were over and they were at home, the little boy had the nickel in his hand. And the dad sat down with the little boy and said, “Son, you’ve got the nickel in your hand. Why didn’t you give it to Sunday school?” And the little fellow said, “It’s mine. I’m going to keep it and I’m going to spend it for something I want.” And the father had a wonderful idea. He took the boy into his study, and he showed him the globe of the world. And in the home, they had had students who now were on the mission field. And he said to the little boy, he said, “Sonny, here is Nigeria. Do you remember,” and called the name of a missionary, “remember he was in our home, remember him? Well, he’s there in Nigeria, and he’s depending upon your nickel for support.”
And then he went to Rhodesia, and then he went over here to Japan, and down there in Brazil, and all around the world. And he said, “Now, son, you’ve kept your nickel to yourself, and all of these God’s servants, they have to go without because you didn’t give your nickel.” Well, when his dad got through talking to the little boy, it was just more than he could contain. And the little fellow with tears and just breathing heavily said, “Oh Daddy, oh Daddy, next Sunday I’ll take this nickel, and Daddy, you’ll give me another nickel to take with it, won’t you?” That’s what we are doing. I realize that the pledge practically all of us can make is very small. I know that. A tithe of what we make is not much. But oh, this is our dedication to the work of God in the earth.
And God takes it, and He blesses it here in this holy place in the support of our blessed ministries. And He takes it and He blesses it in our nation. And He blesses it in the foreign field. And He sanctifies and hallows that devotion everywhere. Not because it is much, but because it comes from the love, and the reverence, and the thanksgiving of our souls. As Dr. Fowler says in his prayer so often, “Lord, of Thine own do we give unto Thee.” “Occupy till I come” [Luke 19:13]. God, sanctify and bless our people as in these days we prepare greatly, magnificently, prayerfully to underwrite God’s work in this earth.
Now while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you to give his heart to the Lord; somebody you to put your life in the fellowship of the church; while we sing, would you make it now? “Here I come, pastor, and here I am. Today I give my heart to Jesus.” Or, “Today I put my life in the fellowship of the church.” Would you make it now? Come this morning, while we stand and while we sing.
OCCUPY TILL I COME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The story of Archelaus: from Jericho to Rome
B. Jesus passing through Jericho
1. People expected kingdom to appear immediately (Luke 19:11)
2. In response Jesus told this story
C. The meaning: the kingdom postponed
1. In the meantime God has given us a stewardship (1 Corinthians 4:1-2, 1 Peter 4:10, Luke 19:13)
2. Our assignment in the earthII. The coming kingdom
A. Shining city
B. Divinely ordered society for a redeemed people
1. God is preparing His peopleIII. Purpose of God: development of faithful stewards
A. The nobleman did not need the small sums
1. God does not need anything we have (Psalm 50:10, 12)
2. Old Testament sacrifices burned up
3. God is trying to grow us that we might be fitted to enter His kingdom
B. Here in the church and in the earth
1. Giving one of the best indications of spiritual growthIV. Three groups at the consummation
A. Those who would have nothing to do with it (Luke 10:14)
B. Those who do nothing (Luke 19:20-23)
C. The faithful stewards (Luke 19:16-19)