Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-10-63 7:30 p.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing this evening message entitled The Volunteer. And in your Book, if you would like to read with us, on the radio, all of us in this great auditorium are going to turn to Isaiah, the Book of Isaiah, chapter 6, and we shall read together the first eight verses. The sixth chapter of Isaiah, just about the middle of your Bible; this is the story of the call of Isaiah, the incomparable prophet, the city preacher, the court preacher, the poet, the sweetest singer outside of David that Israel ever knew. And this is the story of his call, the sixth chapter of Isaiah; we shall read the first eight verses, something that happened in the reign of King Uzziah. All of us reading together:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.
Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.
And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
The Volunteer: "And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I; send me" [Isaiah 6:8].
This experience one could well entitle "The History of a Converted Soul." He had seen the Lord. He had felt the sense, the weight, the burden of iniquity. God had cleansed him; the coal from off the altar had touched his lips. It was then that he heard the cry of God: "Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?" And this young man Isaiah volunteered: "Here am I, Lord; send me, use me" [Isaiah 6:8]. Any soul that has seen God, has met the Lord, has felt the weight and the sense of sin, has experienced the gift and grace of God in forgiveness, will hear the voice and the call of God, all of us. This is the history of a converted soul. One who has met God and has felt the cleansing power of the grace of the Lord will inevitably feel in his soul the call of the Lord for a ministry, for a devoted service, answering an illimitable, immeasurable need.
Sometimes that call may be a vision of angels, like Jacob [Genesis 28:12-13]. Sometimes that call may be like the burning bush, like Moses [Exodus 3:2-4]. Sometimes that call may be the listening to your name, like Samuel; Samuel, in the dead of the night [1 Samuel 3:2-11]. Sometimes that call may come in the anointing of a prophet, like David [1 Samuel 16:12-13]. Sometimes that call may be in the still small voice, like Elijah [1 Kings 19:12-13]. Sometimes that call may be in the burning in the soul, like Cleopas [Luke 24:18, 32]. Sometimes that call may be like Paul, when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:1-5]. But it’ll always come. If a man has seen God and has felt His cleansing power, and his soul is regenerated, and he’s a disciple of Christ, he will feel in his heart that call of the Lord in some way, in some fashion, in some how. We can’t be Christians without it.
I had walked life’s way with an easy tread,
Had followed where pleasures and comforts led,
Until one day in a quiet place,
I met the Master face to face.
With station and wealth and rank for my goal,
Much thought for my body, but none for my soul,
I had sworn to rule with an iron mace,
When I met the Master face to face.
I had built my castles and reared them high,
Until they pierced the blue of the sky,
I had entered to win in life’s mad race,
When I met the Master face to face.
I met Him and knew Him and blushed to see,
That His eyes full of sorrow, were fixed on me;
I faltered and fell at His feet that day,
While my castles melted and vanished away.
Melted and vanished and in their place,
Nought could I see but the Master’s face.
I cried aloud, "Oh make me meet,
To follow the steps of Thy wounded feet."
My thought is now for the souls of men,
I lost my life to find it again,
E’er since one day in a quiet place,
I met the Master face to face
["I Met the Master ," anonymous]
"In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord. . .high and lifted up. . .and I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I; here am I; send me, send me" [Isaiah 6:1-8]. To be converted, to see the Lord, to meet Him face to face is to feel that call to devoted service in His name.
And you can’t help but hear it, and you can’t help but feel it, and you can’t help but respond. It’s like little David, a boy, a ruddy-faced boy, unshaven lad, keeper of the sheep, a boy [1 Samuel 16:11-12]. Was he twelve? Was he thirteen? Was he ten? Was he fifteen? He was a lad, and being a boy was made a messenger to carry food to his brothers who were in the army [1 Samuel 17:17-18].
And while the little fellow was there depositing in the hands of his older brothers, who were soldiers, the food his father had sent by his hand, there came swaggering out of the army of Philistia on the other side of the Vale of Elah, a giant by the name of Goliath. And he stood there, and he cursed God, and he blasphemed the name of Jehovah, and he dared the people of the Lord to come and to fight! And that boy, that boy, who knew God, who loved the Lord, that boy listened to the blasphemous challenge of that giant from Philistia. And he looked around him: there was Saul, fearful, trembling, afraid; there was the whole army of God’s people cowering. And the boy said, "Why, why is there no one? Is there no one? Then I will fight him!" [1 Samuel 17:23-37]. That’s what it is to feel the surge of the Spirit of God in your soul.
You have a thousand like instances of that today. These, our enemies abroad swagger across the stage of history, and they blaspheme the name of our God, and they challenge our people. And to the amazement of us who believe that God is with us, to our amazement, we see our Sauls, and our kings, and our leaders cower in fear and in trembling. Just to listen to it is to feel in your heart the surge of an answer like David did [1 Samuel 17:32, 37]. You can’t help it, you can’t help it.
It’s like Nehemiah, who was a layman, he was a minister in the court of Artaxerxes. And there came a kinsman from Jerusalem, and Nehemiah asked, "How is the city and the people and the state?" And the kinsman described to Nehemiah what the enemies of God and of the state had done in wasting the people and in destroying the city, and Nehemiah, as he listened, he wept. And Nehemiah said in his heart, "May God use me; send me, to build up the walls of God’s city and to restore God’s state" [Nehemiah 1:1-2:5]. You can’t help it; you feel that in your soul.
Same kind of a thing as Doctor Luke and Silas and Paul, in Troas, in the night they saw a vision of a man from Macedonia, saying, "Come over and help us" [Acts 16:9]. There was no mandate of God; the Lord never said, "That way"; they just saw that man of Macedonia with the cry of a great need. Then the next verse says, "And immediately, and immediately, we sought to go because assuredly it was of the Lord [Acts 16:10]. This is our task, our assignment. Lord send me, use me." You can’t help but respond.
Jeremiah, Jeremiah, when he lifted up his voice for God, Pashhur smote him and put him in stocks, and made him an object of ridicule and derision at the high gate of Benjamin [Jeremiah 20:1-2]. And in stocks and in ridicule [Jeremiah 20:7], Jeremiah said,
Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. O Lord, I am held in derision daily. . .Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name. But His word was in my bones as a burning fire, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay
[Jeremiah 20:14, 7-9]
Whether a man can or not, whether he will or not, there are some things that make him speak out! You just do. You just do. The call is the need, and ah, this hour and its colossal, its colossal appeal for God’s people in the earth now, now. And there is something in the nobility of how God put us together. When we are God’s, when we belong to Christ, when we are sensitive to the leadership of God’s Spirit, there is something in us that just rises to respond.
I remember in a long line queued up before the immigration authorities at Folkestone in England, getting ready to cross the channel in a boat to the other side to France, in that long line queued up there, just soon after the war, the woman in front of me had a little girl, just about so big, little bushy-headed girl with a heavy, heavy mop of hair that was combed down in an unusual way. She had her passport in her hand; so standing there waiting for that long queue to go through, why, I looked at the name on her passport, "Emma Jensen." So not having anything to do, I said, "I see your name is Emma Jensen?"
"Why yes," she said, "how come you to know me?"
Well, I said, "I do not know you, I am an American, as you can see now that I have spoken to you. But I saw your name on your passport. Your name is Emma Jensen."
"Yes," she said. I said, "Is this your little girl?"
"Yes, this is my little girl."
"And you’re going to France?"
"Yes," she said, "I am, I’m going to visit in France."
Well, I said, "We’re going to France too, and I’m just glad to see you." So I asked her, I said, "Where did you live in the days of the war?" She lived in London. I said, "Were you in all of that blitz?"
"Yes," she said. "My family, and my husband, and this little girl, and I, we lived all through the days of the blitz."
Well, I said, "Tell me about it."
Well, she said, "The little girl was born in a bomb shelter, and she has lived most of her life in a bomb shelter." She said, "When we were, for a little while, in our home in London," she said, "one of those bombs, one of those missiles, one of those rockets came over and it exploded near our home and destroyed everything we had." She said, "It killed my husband." And she said, "I thought my little baby girl was dying." And she reached down and took the little child’s hair, and pulled it back; and it was then I could see why she combed it as it was. That little child, that little girl had the most vicious looking scar, from right there clear over the top of her head, that I ever saw. Oh, that ugly looking scar, so vivid and so livid, so angry looking! And she said, "There was my husband dead, and I thought my child was dying, and I facing the future with nothing, our home gone." I began to sympathize with her. "Oh," she said, "no, don’t you do that; don’t you sympathize with me. Don’t you sympathize with me?" She said, "There are many, many others far worse off than I."
Well, I said, "What are you doing? And what did you do?"
She said, "The only thing that was saved out of our home was a typewriter." She said, "I got that typewriter, and I made application in the law school at Cambridge for a job typing." She said, "I thought I could type, and stay with the child, and nurse the child back to health, and then take care of the little girl. So," she says, "I was given the job." And she says, "Day after day and until the wee hours of the morning, I type, I type. That one typewriter was saved. I type, and I make my living typing. And I care for me and this little girl."
Well, that’s no unusual experience except this: I could not but be encouraged and moved by the spirit of that English woman. "Don’t you sympathize with me; there are many others far more stricken than I am." And the nobility of her devotion and the giving of herself to support herself and to take care of that child was admirable beyond compare.
So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When duty whispers low, "Thou must,"
The youth replies, "I can."
["Voluntaries," Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1863]
When that need arises, there’s just something in the soul that responds, "Here am I; send me, use me" [Isaiah 6:8]. That’s what I’m talking about in the kingdom and patience of God. Oh, this critical hour! This day, in which God hath cast our life and our lot, the need is the call: the devotion of young people to the message and ministry of Christ.
Now, it’s not easy. When the Lord answered Isaiah, He assigned him one of the most difficult ministries that mind could imagine [Isaiah 6:9-12]. I haven’t time even to mention it tonight. It was hard; it will always be hard. No man ever takes up the cudgels for right, for God, for Christ, for freedom, for liberty, for salvation, for the great infinite gifts that God has for men, no man ever takes up the cudgels for them that he doesn’t have ten thousand adversaries that assail him. It always has been; it is now.
When I began my ministry, I cannot describe to you the discouragement, the infinite discouragement that settled upon my soul – oh, every Lord’s Day! I don’t exaggerate it when I say, when I began to preach, after preaching the message Sunday morning, the best I could do, I would shut myself up in a room in a home where I’d be staying, and I’d spend the afternoon crying, simply because it was something I wanted to do and couldn’t, a message I wanted to deliver and couldn’t. So discouraged, and all those little churches coming up; oh! the times, if God would have let me, I’d have quit, I’d have quit. It is difficult, it always has been. It was in the days of Isaiah, it is now. But, but, before that chapter ends, and after the hard assignment God gave to Isaiah when he volunteered, the Lord also said, "But there is a tenth, there is one out of ten, that I will give to you, Isaiah" [Isaiah 6:13]. And that’s true with God’s servant in any day and in any generation. We shall always have a response, always, always.
I have preached in the most difficult places, and I have had sometimes the hardest, hardest assignments; but I’ve never yet been in the ministry of Christ in any place, however difficult and however discouraging, that God did not save a remnant. "I will give you a tenth," said the Lord to Isaiah, "there shall be a tenth. They will hear, they will turn, they will respond, they will be saved." And that is the most gracious and precious reward that heart could imagine: these who will turn and be saved, these who will respond, that remnant God will give you when you answer the call of Christ.
For example, I was seated in Oklahoma City in the lobby of the YWCA. And while I was seated there waiting, a woman came in and looked at me, and sat down by me and said, "Are you a preacher?"
I answered, "Yes ma’am."
"Were you ever pastor at Chickasha?"
"Is your name Criswell?"
Well, she said, "You don’t know this, but years ago when you were pastor at Chickasha, you got you a P.A. system, and you preached every Saturday afternoon on the courthouse square." She said, "I ran a beer joint across the street from the courthouse. Oh," she said, "how offended I was, you out there with that P.A. system; but I couldn’t close the door or shut the window. I could hear you no matter what I did!" She said, "I had to listen. And while I was listening I was saved. I went down the aisle at your church, and you baptized me."
She said, "I know you’ve forgotten all this, and you don’t remember me out of so many, but I made my confession of faith in your church, and you baptized me." She said, "I went back the next day and opened my beer joint." She said, "When I began to open those bottles of beer and to wait on those people, my heart smote me." She said, "I closed that joint! I locked that door! I walked away!"
She said, "I now have the concession in the bus station in Blanchard, Oklahoma. And I have a place there where, as God gives me opportunity, I talk to those who come to my counter in the bus station about Jesus. And I give them tracts and verses of Scripture. And God has blessed me in these years since. I just wanted you to know; just wanted you to know."
I met an officer in Oklahoma who said to me, "Are you Criswell? And were you pastor at Chickasha? And were you the minister that preached out there on the courthouse square?"
I said, "Yes."
Well, he said, "Let me tell you, we had a prisoner in the McAlister State Penitentiary, and he was a model prisoner. And we took him before the governor, and the governor pardoned him. And we asked him, ‘What is it that has happened that has made you such a model prisoner?’" And the officer said, that man replied, ‘I was in the Grady County jail at Chickasha, Oklahoma, and there was a preacher down there on the courthouse square preaching the gospel. And I heard him up there in my jail, awaiting my transfer to the state penitentiary. And while he was preaching, I gave my heart to Jesus. And when I entered the state penitentiary, I entered as a Christian man. And I have been a Christian follower of Jesus ever since.’"
The officer said, "Did you know that?"
I replied, "I never dreamed of such a thing."
The officer replied, "I didn’t think that you would."
I meet people all over this country. For example, one of the men who’s a pastor here in Texas wrote me not long ago and said, "I don’t know why I’ve never told you, but listening to you preach on the radio I stopped my automobile and pulled it to the side of the road, and bowed my head over the steering wheel, and I said, ‘Lord, this hour, this moment, I give my life to Thee.’" And he said, "I’m a preacher of the gospel. I went to the seminary. Now I’m pastor of this church. Just wanted you to know, just wanted you to know that it was listening to you preach that I gave my life to be a minister of the Son of God." You don’t know what you do. You don’t realize what you mean. We don’t win them all. They don’t all respond. But God will give you some, just like to Isaiah, "It’s a hard and difficult assignment, but a remnant I will place in your hands" [Isaiah 6:13].
Keep it up, keep it up. And the Lord bless these who offer to God their best, a devoted service in His name.
And while we sing this song of appeal, somebody you to give his heart to Jesus; somebody you, to put your life in the fellowship of our church, while we sing this hymn, you come and give the pastor your hand, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. His vision of God
B. His conviction of sin
C. His cleansing by fire
II. He will hear the call of God
A. Comes in many different ways
III. He will volunteer
A. The need is the call, the call is the need
IV. He will have a heavy and difficult assignment
A. Cry of anguish, "How long?"
1. NEA convention
2. Tragedies in Vietnam
B. Sacrifice gives our faith power