TREASURES IN HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-25-64 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled Treasures in Heaven. In our reading of the Word of God, our Scripture passage began with a beautiful admonition from our Lord:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where you treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The simple contrast that our dear Lord makes is one between treasures upon earth and treasures in heaven, with the earnest admonition that we be rich toward God, though we may be poor toward earth. And the sermon this morning is a discussion of those two treasures: the one on earth, and the other in heaven.
First of all, treasures on earth: our Lord admonishes against the investment of our heart, our interest, our life, our hope, our love, our devotion, our aims, our dreams here in this earth alone because of the exigencies and the erosions of time and providence, and He uses moth and rust and thief just to illustrate the providences and the exigencies that can take away all that we have treasured if our treasures are alone in this earth. If our hearts are invested, if our interests are invested in a field, in a property, how easily it can bring hopeless disappointment.
As you know, for so many years I was a pastor in the country, and I lived with those country people; a providence in my own life for which I am infinitely grateful. One of the big farmers in a church that I pastored had a large field of wheat. And in the planting, and in the growing, and finally in the harvest time, it was much in his conversation what he would buy when that great, vast harvest field was reaped, and his wife entered into the anticipation, and even the children in the glorious prospect. Upon a day when I went to visit in the home, his wife said to me, "You know, last week my dear husband sat down on that little hill and wept his heart out. For," she said, "one day last week a terrible hail storm came and crushed all of that ripening harvest into the ground, and there is not a stalk of it to be reaped." And in his disappointment, the big man sat down on the brow of the little hill overlooking the vast field, and buried his face in his hands, and wept. The exigencies of life, the treasures in this earth.
It is thus in any investment that we could make. A woman came to see me one time here in Dallas. She was an affluent woman. The background of her life had been one of wealth and ease. She came to see me about the possibility of helping her find a job. I said, "You? You?"
"Yes, I." Then that oft-repeated story of having lost everything they possessed, and she was seeking a place in the business world just in order for the little family to exist, to buy bread, to pay rent. Treasures in this life.
Suppose we build them in hopes of our children: "This is an estate, and I shall build it up, and make it large and spacious; and these children shall possess it. I shall bequeath it to them, and they shall make it still larger, and the house and the fame of our family will grow as some have in the history of our American economy." That is in some respects one of the finest ambitions that a father could have for his son: I shall help my son and build a life for him; and his entrance into the world will be spacious, and full of opportunity. It’s a noble thing to feel for your child. If you are a good father, you will have feelings like that. But again, the warning of our Lord about our treasures alone in this life; the child can be prodigal and wasteful, or the child can be taken away in death.
Suppose I place my life in my business; it consumes me. "I’ve got a profession, and I haven’t time for God." How many doctors will tell me that, when I encourage them in the work of the Lord and invite them to the church. "I have a profession, and I haven’t time for God." And how many businessmen are like that? "Pastor, you don’t understand; you’re not a businessman. You see, my energy is poured into this financial effort, and on Sunday I have to rest. Or I have to do other things that my business in the weekday precludes." And his soul and his life, all of the interest and dreams of his heart are in what he’s doing; a business or a profession.
A little boy one time, playing around his mother’s feet, said, "Mother, I don’t think Daddy will go to heaven."
"Well," said the surprised mother, "what makes you think Daddy will not go to heaven? Your daddy is a fine man. What makes you think he’ll not go to heaven?"
"Oh," said the little boy, "Mother, when I ask Daddy to play with me, he says he’s too busy at the store. And when we ask him to go with us on a picnic, he’ll say, ‘I’m too busy at the store.’ And when we ask him to go to Sunday school and church, he says, ‘I’m too busy at the store.’ And mommy, I think when time comes for God to call us to heaven; he’ll be too busy at the store."
The philosophy of an untaught, unlettered child is so true of so much of our lives. "How is it," says the Lord Jesus, when this affluent farmer tears down his barns to build bigger barns, and he says to his soul, "Take thine ease, eat, and drink, and be merry, for thou hast much substance. No worries, everything’s cared for, have three different incomes." And the Lord said, "God shall come and knock at the door of his soul, and say, This night, this night thy soul shall be required of thee. Then whose shall be these things that thou hast assimilated and accumulated? So," said our Lord, "is he that heaps up treasures for himself, and is not rich toward God" [Luke 12:16-21]. That’s what our Lord meant when He said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where the exigencies and the providences of life bring an inevitable loss and disappointment."
Then the Lord turned and made the beautiful and precious admonition, "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where the exigencies of life and the providences of time never waste what God is able to give to us for an everlasting and enduring and eternal inheritance" [Matthew 6:19-21]. Now, there is an infinite joy and an infinite reward in a devotion to God, in a consecration and a commitment to God even in this world, even in this life. Our Lord said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" [Acts 20:35]. And the outgoing spirit, and the generous heart, and the loving and sympathetic and interested soul is in this life and in this world wondrously rewarded, gloriously blessed.
Some time ago, over there in the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Atlantic City, once again, as I had before, I went to the big John Wanamaker store in Philadelphia. That’s one of the most beautiful stores and one of the finest in the world. John Wanamaker himself was one of God’s glorious servants; one of the noblest. Under President Harrison, he was postmaster general for the United States, appointed in 1889. And he accepted the appointment on the condition that every Sunday he’d have the privilege to go back to his church in Philadelphia and teach his Sunday school class. He belonged to the Broad Street Church, which at that time was downtown near the city hall. And in those days, each property owner built his own paving in the street around his property, around his house or his business.
Now, the Broad Street Church to which this boy John Wanamaker belonged had a street – both corners – had a street on both sides that was very shabby and dilapidated, and the old pastor, Dr. John Chambers, was ashamed of it. It made the church look bad, made the place look unacceptable and uncared for. So he’d make appeal from his pulpit that the people come and build a beautiful brick paving on both streets of his church. It fell on deaf ears. And young John Wanamaker decided in his heart – he was a boy sixteen years old – he decided in his heart that he was going to do that for the preacher and for the Lord. He was the son of a man in Philadelphia who owned a brickyard, so he went to all the brickyards and gathered from each one a certain number of bricks. Then, taking what little savings he had, and inviting others, he laid that beautiful paving surrounding that church on both streets.
Then, early Sunday morning, he went down to see what the old pastor, Dr. John Chambers, would say when he saw the beautiful paving. The grand old man of God was walking to church that Sunday morning with his head bowed and thinking about his sermon for that day. And he walked down to the street, and then crossed over to the church. And when he got in the middle of the street, he just suddenly realized he was walking on a new and a beautiful paving. And he put his foot down harder to see if it was real, and then he walked around on it, then he looked up this way, then he looked up that way, and he walked up that way, and he walked up that way, looking at the beautiful paving. And the little boy, the young boy, John Wanamaker, got so interested in the reaction of the pastor, that unconsciously he got in step behind the preacher as the preacher walked up this way and walked that way. And suddenly the preacher stopped and turned around and saw the boy, and he said, he said, "My boy, you had something to do with this. Oh thank you, my boy, thank you, my boy!" And John Wanamaker, testifying, telling that story in later years, he said, "That was one of the finest moments of my life." He said, "I never had such a feeling of reward in my soul." And he said, "From that day until this I have found the greatest joy of my life in devoting my fortune to God," and the rest of his life that far-famed merchantman was God’s glorious steward.
Now that’s what I’m saying: there is joy in this life, there is reward in this earth when our hands are open and dedicated before God. But our Lord says it is even finer and sweeter and better in the world that is yet to come when our treasures are laid up in heaven. Now how would you do that? How would you do that? For everything we have in this earth, we leave behind. As the adage avows, "You can’t take it with you." Everything we have is left behind: the property, the land, the house, the stocks, the bonds, the jewels, the gold, the investments, everything is left behind.
Well, how can one lay up treasure in heaven? How do you get it over there on the other side? There’s only one way, and that is in someone who is going. There’s no other way. It has to be taken by someone who is going. Well, who’s going? Who’s going?
Last Sunday, as you know, I did not speak, I did not preach at the eleven o’clock hour. Dr. James Sullivan was here, and he delivered the eleven o’clock morning message. And when I’m not preaching, I take that time at the Sunday school hour and walk around and just look at our people in their devoted ministry of breaking the bread of life. So last Sunday morning at the Sunday school hour, I just walked around and looked at our people. Well, I walked by the Special Education department; I walked by the Special Education department. That is a ministry we have to retarded children. They’re just so jammed up down there in that little space for them. Please God we’re going to build a fine place for them one of these days. Well, anyway, I walked by the Special Education department, and there are our retarded children; and I thought, "Oh, I’m so glad for this. This is one of the finest things in the world, one of the finest. This is one of the finest." They’re going. They’re going. And when we minister to them, and make possible this ministry to them, that’s treasure over yonder, because they’re going. Only way to get it over there is through somebody who’s going; and they’re going.
You remember the mother that brought that little retarded boy to me? He was there last Sunday; he’s here every Sunday. And she said, "The church in which I grew up, the denomination to which I belong, I took my little boy to Sunday school, and the leaders of the church called on me at my home and said, ‘Don’t you bring that boy back to church anymore. He’s not like us, and we don’t want him. And don’t you bring him; don’t you do it. Now, you stay away, and don’t you bring that boy here.’"
It just killed, it crushed that mother’s heart. And she heard about us, and she brought the little boy to me, and she said, "Could I bring him down here to your church? Could I?"
I said, "Listen, dear, that’s what we’re for. You bring the child here, you bring the child here." So the little fellow came, and then he wanted to give his heart to Jesus, and he wanted to join the church. So she brought him to me, and said, "This is our little boy. And he says he’s found the Lord as his Savior, and I don’t know what to do. Do you think he understands?"
And I talked to the boy. He knew enough to know that he needed Jesus, and that he’d trust the Lord for all the Lord said He was. So I said, "Yes, sir." And he came down the aisle and confessed his faith in Jesus, and I baptized him.
And when I talked to the little boy about joining the church, she said, "But he’s not the only one that wants to join the church. I want to join the church, too. I want to be baptized, too." So when I got through, I prayed, and the mother said, "Would you like to hear the little boy pray?"
Well, I never thought about the little retarded boy praying, just didn’t enter my mind. I always have the children pray; we pray together when we have those little conferences in my study. "Why," I said, "I’d be delighted for the little boy to pray." And I tell you, I don’t exaggerate it when I avow that little fellow prayed the sweetest prayer that you could imagine. And he just cried, and the tears rolled down his face as he prayed. And he prayed for me and thanked God for me, and he prayed for the church and thanked God for the church. Oh, those things! That’s the First Baptist Church in Dallas I’m telling you about.
Well, we must go on. I just walking around, and I saw that ministry to retarded children. They’re going, they’re going, and the investment we make in them is treasure in heaven. Walked around – we have an oral deaf department, children who can’t hear, and they’re being taught how to lip read. We have an oral deaf department; those sweet, precious children, they’re going. They’re going. And the investment we make in them is treasure in heaven. Walked around, and there’s the apple of my eye: the ministry to our Good Shepherd department. That’s the ministry to poor people downtown. You know, I’m asked more about that than any other thing we do in this church.
Wherever I go, wherever people know of this church, they ask me about the Good Shepherd department. It’s a ministry to poor people who are pressed against the downtown church. That’s one of the finest, sweetest ministries in this world, and one of these days we’re going to build a place for them. They’re going. Oh, how many of them are won to Jesus. How many of them are baptized. They’re going. They’re going. This church must never forget its obligation and its ministry to the poor people who are pressed against the heart of this downtown city, against the heart of any downtown city. When the Lord said to the rich young ruler, "If thou wouldst have treasure in heaven, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor; come and follow Me" [Luke 18:22]. They’re going, and the investment we make in them is treasure in heaven.
Our six missions beyond this church, and the great ministries that is represented every time we gather our tithe and our offering together, it is treasure on the other side. I read one time of a vision, and it was so spiritually true. There was a couple who came up to the great divide between us and the other life, and the other world, and the other home. On the other side was the city whose gates are made out of pearl and whose streets are paved with solid gold. And this couple came up to that great divide, the crossover, and they came with such reluctance and such dread and such foreboding, such disappointment, sorrow and anxiety. They came up to that great divide. He was laden down with many, many things that he possessed; and she was clasping to her heart a cast of jewels. And when they came to the angel who stood at the great divide, he pointed to a scrapheap and said, "Now put all that stuff over there."
"Oh," said the man, "on a scrapheap?"
"Yes," said the angel, "we have no use for it here. Put it on a scrapheap."
"Oh, but," said the man, "this is my gold."
"Ah," said the angel, "our streets are paved with that stuff."
"But," she said, "these are my jewels."
"What," said the angel, "those tiny little jewels? Why, we have the foundation stones of our city made out of solid jewels." So with great reluctance they put on the scrapheap everything they possessed in this life, and crossed over. Isn’t that so true?
Carve your name high o’er the shifting sand,
Where the steadfast rocks defy decay;
All you can hold in your cold, dead hand
Is what you have given away.
Count your great conquests on sea and on land,
Heap up your treasure, and hold as you may –
All you can keep in your cold, dead hand
Is what you have given away.
With great reluctance they put it all on the scrapheap and went over saved as by fire.
Then there was another couple. They didn’t have very much. And they came to the great divide, and the angel said, "Put on the scrapheap." And what little they had they put on the scrapheap. Then, when they crossed over, the trumpets sounded, and the people sang, and there was a great throng at the gates of the beautiful city to welcome them and to rejoice with them. And as they shook hands with the people, there were strangers who introduced themselves to them as though they knew them well.
And the dear couple said, "Well, where’d you come from? And how do you know us? We never saw you before."
And the reply, "When we came to this beautiful city, the Lord showed us in the Book of Life these who had made it possible for us to know the Word of God. And in that book we found your name; and you made possible the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God that reached even to us. And we’re here because of you."
How do you get treasure on the other side? Through somebody who is going. There’s no other way: somebody who is going. Oh, when the time comes, either we go to meet the Lord or the Lord comes to receive us to Himself. Is it with anticipation, and triumph, and gladness, and glory, and praise, and everything wonderful and precious? Is it that? Is it that? Listen:
If Jesus should come in the rise of the morning,
When all of the world is engrossed in its care,
How many of us could our Master discerning
turn in our accounts and welcome Him here?
"Dear Lord, I’ve tried to serve Thee faithfully and well."
Or if He should come at the bright hour of noonday,
With a light far more glorious than that of the sun,
How many have eyes that could gaze on His glory,
And hearts that could say, Even so, let Him come, let Him come!
If deep in the night, when the third watch is starting,
A cry should go forth, The Bridegroom is here!
If upward in rapture the bride were departing,
Could we without fear meet our Lord in the air?
Even so, blessed Lord, if I know my heart, I am ready. Come, come. No dread, no crying, all the love of our lives and the hope of our souls, all of it is over there. Treasure in heaven.
Now we must close. While we sing our song of appeal, somebody you, to give his heart to Jesus; a family you, to come into the fellowship of the church; a couple, a child, a youth, you, as the Spirit of Jesus should say the word and lead in the way, would you make it now? Down one of these stairways, into the aisle and down here to the front; would you make it now? Come this morning, while we stand and while we sing.