STOOPING TO CONQUER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-1-63 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the early morning service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Stooping to Conquer. It is a message on a text in the ninth chapter of Psalms and the twelfth verse: “He forgetteth not the cry of the humble” [Psalm 9:12]. A reading of some of the other passages in that Psalm carry the same spirit:
I will extol Rhee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will show forth all Thy marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in Thee: I will sing praise to Thy name, O Thou Most High.
He shall judge the world in righteousness; He shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness.
The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.
They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee: for Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek Thee.
He forgetteth not the cry of the humble.
[Psalms 9:1-2, 8-9, 18, 10, 12]
From the tenor of the psalm you can easily see the background of the sermon; stooping, bowing, humbling ourselves to conquer.
There are two kingdoms presented in this world. One is the kingdom built by force of man; and sometimes the threatenings of these who seek to overwhelm us are dire and terrible. And they are so assured that the future belongs to them. By subversion and infiltration, by war and terror and bloodshed, by overwhelming force and violence, it is their promise to themselves and their boast to the whole world of civilized men that the world belongs to them.
But there is another kingdom, and equally true and equally so did the leader of this other kingdom say that the world one day would belong to Him, that the kingdoms of this world would become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and that He would reign forever and ever [Revelation 11:15]. Now to us, all of us who have placed our trust in Jesus, to us the kingdom of the future, the way of the future, lies with our Lord. And the message this morning concerns the nature of that kingdom and the kingdom citizens who shall comprise it; Stooping to Conquer. “He forgetteth not the cry of the humble” [Psalms 9:12].
What is that kingdom like? What are its citizens like? What are we to expect of it and in it? What kind of people enter into it? It’s a comfort to my heart and an untold blessing to my soul to speak these words this day. First of all, the blessed ones in that kingdom, who are they? “And seeing the multitudes, Jesus went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him: and He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying, makarios”; that’s one of the richest words in the whole Bible. I started to take time out of the sermon this morning to expatiate upon that word, but I finally decided I didn’t have time to do it all; so I’ve left it out, but it hurts my heart to do it. “Makarios, makarios, the poor in spirit”; happy, favored, endowed, “blessed the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [Matthew 5:1-3]. Makarios they that mourn: for they shall be comforted [Matthew 5:4]. Makarios the meek”—what an amazing kingdom—“Makarios the meek: they shall inherit the earth” [Matthew 5:5]. He said so; the terrible meek. “Makarios they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” [Matthew 5:6]. Blessed these who come and sit in God’s house and say, “Pastor, my heart is thirsty for the Word of God. My soul is hungry for the gifts of heaven. Break to us God’s bread of life; fill us with water from the fountain of everlasting blessedness” [John 6:63].
“Makarios they that hunger and thirst. Makarios they the merciful [Matthew 5:7]. Makarios the pure in heart: they shall see God [Matthew 5:8]. Makarios the peacemakers: they shall be called the children of God” [Matthew 5:9]. Oh, what a difference the kingdom of our blessed Jesus!
O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!
But what to those who find?
Ah this—Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is
None but His loved ones know.
[“O Hope of Every Contrite Heart,” Bernard of Clairvaux]
“Makarios, makarios, blessed, blessed, blessed.”
Who are the great ones in the kingdom of Jesus? Who are the mighty ones? Who are they who are exalted? Who are these who sit on His right hand and on His left? Who are the great ones, the mighty ones in the kingdom of our blessed Lord? That’s why I had you read the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of John.
When you harmonize the life of Christ—and in a Sunday not far off, I shall begin preaching through the life of Christ every Sunday night for a long time, if God will let me have breath and strength; every Sunday night I shall be preaching through the life of Christ—when you harmonize the life of Christ and follow the story of the Lord, why He washed their feet is very apparent [John 13:4-17]. When they came to the Lord’s table to break the bread of the Passover and to eat the flesh of the offered lamb [Matthew 26:17-20], they, they fell into an altercation about the seating arrangement. Doesn’t that sound so modern and so natural? They fell into a discussion and an argument about the seating arrangement, and that precipitated a quarrel about who would be greatest in the kingdom of God [Luke 22:24]. Who’s going to sit on His right hand here? Now who’s going to sit on His left hand here? And who will be next to those who sit on His right hand and His left hand?
So the disciples fell into what the King James Version calls “a contention” [Luke 22:24]. They fell into a contention about who was going to be greatest in the kingdom of God. And it was then that Jesus put aside His garments [John 13:4]. There is no more humiliating experience in life—did you know this?—than to put aside your garments. A man may be thus and so dressed up in all of his finery and with his brass buttons and his gold braid; but when he takes off his clothes, I don’t know why, it’s a part of human nature; it’s the most humbling experience in the world. Jesus laid aside His garments, girded Himself with a towel, and began to wash the disciples’ feet [John 13:4-5]. And He said, “I have given you an example for you to do just as I have done [John 13:15]. The Master and Lord is surely above His disciples; and if you call Me Master and Lord, then do as I say; and wash one another’s feet” [John 13:13-14].
The reason we do not accept that as a church ordinance is because the disciples interpreted the words of Jesus in the New Testament that we might know what to do in the church, and the disciples never did otherwise than make that a teaching of our Lord and not an ordinance. So we do not do it in the church as an ordinance; but we accept it as the disciples did. This is the spirit of a child of God: to wash one another’s feet.
These are the great ones; these who bend the lowest and who stoop the deepest. I have a motto I write in my Bible: “He stands best who kneels most. He stands strongest who kneels weakest. He stands longest who kneels lowest.” Stooping to conquer, washing feet. These are the great ones in the kingdom of our Lord: these who bow, God’s meek and humble ones.
As you know, I went one time to Calcutta, India. Among other reasons and among many reasons, I was so interested in going to Calcutta because this is the place where our first great modern missionary of modern times began his work, William Carey. He landed in Calcutta in 1793. He tried to establish a mission there, but the opposition of the East India Company of England was so great and the opposition of government was so great, that after seven years he finally turned aside and went up a tributary of the Ganges river, a mouth of the Ganges, eighteen miles, to a Danish settlement, called Serampore. And there William Carey spent the rest of his life.
So I went up the river to Serampore to look upon the work of William Carey. I just cannot imagine, I just cannot conceive of a man doing the mighty thing that that first modern missionary did. For one thing, there’s a great college there, and the campus, the college that he built. Then there is his pulpit where he preached the gospel for so many scores of years. But the most overwhelming thing is to go into the library and look in the library. Here is the Bible that he translated into twenty-six different languages, twenty-six different languages! He opened the Word of God to over three hundred million people! Twenty-six different languages. Here is the Bible? There, there, there, there, there, there, there. He translated the Bible. Then as though that were not enough, here were dictionaries, and lectionaries, and lexicons, and grammars that he had made of the languages into which he had translated the Word of God. I was simply overwhelmed! It is just beyond my imagination that a man could do that, so much for Jesus.
Then I went to his tomb. I went to his grave. And I stood there at the grave of William Carey in Serampore. And to my amazement, he had written on his grave these words: “A poor, miserable, helpless worm; on Thy kind arms I fall.” You cannot describe, you cannot place in language the response of heart just to look upon the effort and life of God’s great, and to behold how humble, how bowed, how meek, how without loss of personal pride they live: God’s great ones, stooping to conquer. “He forgetteth not the cry of the humble” [Psalm 9:12].
A third thing now: we’ve spoken of the blessed ones, “Blessed, makarios, are the poor in heart, they that mourn, the meek” [Matthew 5:3-5]. We have spoken of God’s great ones, the humble, the self-effacing, those who bow, those who stoop [Psalm 9:12]; now we speak of the acceptable ones, those who are welcome into the presence of the great Lord God. Who are they? Well, it’s an astonishing thing, it’s an amazing reversal. These are the acceptable ones: not the elder brother, but the prodigal son [Luke 15:11-32]. What a reversal! What a reversal! The elder brother could boast to his father, saying, “Neither at any time did I transgress thy commandment. I stayed here at home, I served thee, I worked hard and well, I never at any time disobeyed thy commandments. And here I am, but you never made for me any feast, and you never slew for me any fatted calf, and you never put any ring on my finger, and you never gave me any gorgeous raiment, and you never accepted me with such gladness, and such song, and such music, and such shouting. And yet I have been here all the time, and you don’t know my worth, you just don’t know how fine a son I am. And you just don’t realize it. I’m better than anybody you ever saw. There just never was anybody in this world that has a son like me. Tell you I’m the best, and you haven’t recognized it, and you haven’t done any of that, and here I have been all of this time” [Luke 15:28-30].
Isn’t that strange? And then he turned to that prodigal, and he said, “But that filthy brother of mine that ought to be cast out and washed down the drain, and he smells of the gutter, look at him! You accept him back into the family, when he doesn’t belong in a family, and he ought not to be here with us. And now look what you’re doing, look what you’re doing.” The elder brother, elder brother [Luke 15:28-30]. But the prodigal, but the prodigal, who had wasted his substance in riotous living and had found himself in a hog pen, in the dust, in the dirt, in weeping, and tears, and crying, and mourning, and confession, “O God!” And he came to his father, and he said, “I am not worthy, Lord, I am not worthy. Why, I could not be a son anymore. Make me a servant; but give me enough to eat, and let me come back home” [Luke 15:13-21]. The acceptable ones: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” [Luke 15:24]: God’s acceptable ones, stooping to conquer [James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6], dying to achieve [Matthew 20:16].
You know, I can stay here all morning long and illustrate that in the Word of God. Not the proud Pharisee, but the humble publican. And the Pharisee stood, raised his eyes to God, and said, “Lord I thank Thee I am not like other men, look at me.” But the publican would not so much as lift his eyes to heaven, but beat on his breast, saying, “Lord, be merciful to me the sinner” [Luke 18:9-13]. And that article there in Greek, you don’t have it in English, “Lord be merciful to me a sinner” [Luke 18:13], that article there in Greek is one of the most pertinent articles that the inspired apostle ever wrote. He said, “Be merciful to me the sinner,” as though nobody else in the world had sinned, “I am the only one.” He went down to his house justified, said the Lord; the acceptable ones [Luke 18:14].
Or the story of Simon the Pharisee, and while he gave the feast for Jesus, and they were there, there came off the street a harlot, a prostitute, and she bathed His feet with her tears, and dried them with her hair. And the Lord Jesus blessed her, and sanctified her, and forgave her, and sent her out pure and forgiven, as though she had never sinned; much to the offense of Simon the Pharisee [Luke 7:36-50].
Or the day of the cross, when the Sanhedrin, and the Sadducees, and the Pharisees, and the scribes in their learning, and in their pride, and in their vanity paraded up and down and exulted in the death of the Lord [Matthew 27:42], but the traitor and malefactor and robber and murderer turned to the Lord and said, “Master, when You come into Your kingdom, could it be, could it be, could it be there is a place for a sinner like me? Lord, could it be, could it be?” [Luke 23:42-43]. The acceptable ones.
Not Simon Peter in his pride, “Lord, all of the other disciples may deny Thee, but I will never deny Thee” [Matthew 26:33-35]. And the Lord says to Simon Peter, “And Simon, and Simon, and Simon, when you are broken down, when you are broken down, when you turn”—you have it translated “when you are converted”—“when you turn, strengthen thy brethren” [Luke 22:31-32]. Simon in his pride, no use to the blessed Lord; but Simon in his brokenness, in his bowing, in his bitter tears and praying, Simon, God’s great preacher and servant, stooping to conquer [James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6].
I have so much more to say; I say it just briefly. This is the way to touch the power of God: down, down, stooping, bowing. Like the woman with the issue of blood, they pressed Him and jostled Him on every side, standing; but she, “If I just touch the border of His garment, I will be healed” [Matthew 9:20-21; Luke 8:43-44]. And immediately the Lord said, “I perceive virtue has gone out of Me” [Luke 8:46]. Bowing, stooping to touch the power of God and thus to experience the presence of our Lord.
I want to read to you from my studying this week, I want to read to you a poem. The man who wrote it was not a Christian; he did not believe in Jesus. And you’ll see it in the poem. But what he’s writing about and whom he’s writing about, he couldn’t get away from. The poem is entitled “The Washerwoman’s Song.” I never heard of it before. You listen to it, listen to it, listen:
In a very humble cot,
In a rather quiet spot,
In the suds and in the soap,
Washed a woman full of hope;
Working, singing, all alone;
In a sort of undertone.
“With the Savior for a friend,
He will keep me to the end.”
Not in sorrow nor in glee
Working all day long was she,
As her children three or four,
Played around her on the floor;
But in monotones the song
She was humming all day long;
“With the Savior for a friend,
He will keep me to the end.”
It’s a song I do not sing,
For I scarce believe a thing
Of the stories that are told
Of the miracles of old;
But I know that her belief
Is the anecdote for grief,
And that Christ will be her friend
Who will keep her to the end.
Just a trifle lonesome she,
Just as poor as poor could be;
But her spirits always rose
Like the bubbles in the clothes,
And, though widowed and alone,
Cheered her with the monotone,
Of a Savior for a friend
Who would keep her to the end.
I have seen her rub and scrub,
On the washboard in the tub,
While the baby, sopped in suds,
Rolled and tumbled in the duds;
Or was paddling in the pools,
With old scissors stuck in spools;
She still humming of her Friend
Who would keep her to the end.
Human hopes and human creeds
Have their root in human needs:
And I would not wish to strip
From that washerwoman’s lip
Any song that she can sing,
Any hope that song can bring;
For the woman has a friend
Who will keep her to the end.
[“The Washerwoman’s Song,” Eugene Ware]
Of the two—the man who wrote it was a high government official—of the two, which had you rather be? I would rather be the washerwoman, in the suds, washing clothes in the tub, with the Savior for a friend, who will keep me to the end. Stooping to conquer [James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6], bowing to be blessed [Psalm 9:12]; these are God’s favored ones, makarios, makarios, makarios, blessed, blessed, blessed.
Now while we sing our song of invitation, somebody you, to give his heart to Jesus, to put his life in the fellowship of the church, on the first note of this first stanza come and stand by me. Make it now, make it this morning, welcome in the name of our Lord; come, while we stand and while we sing.