Practicing the Promises of God
November 7th, 1965 @ 10:50 AM
PRACTICING THE PROMISES OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-7-65 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Practicing the Promises of God. One of the beautifully, meaningful phrases of the theological world is “practicing the presence of God.” And I have changed one word in it, from the presence of God to the promises of God; Practicing the Promises of God. It is a message concerning our acceptance of a proposition that God makes to us. The Lord, not one time, but many times will say, “Try Me. Test Me. Prove Me.” Or as the psalmist sang, “O taste and see that the Lord is good” [Psalm 34:8]. And some of these things that God has invited us to prove, to test, are things within the reach of all of us. Some things of a high and a spiritual nature; some things of a profound and theological nature are oft times so removed and so recondite that we feel it becomes a matter of vast and almost illimitable erudition, both intellectual and spiritual, to grasp them, to seize them, to hold them, to know them. But there are some things that are very mundane, terrestrial, of this life and time. And God invites us to try God, to test God, to prove God in these areas that are available to us all, and see for ourselves whether God keeps His promise. Now that is the background of the subject, Practicing the Promises of God, and the message this morning is one available and open to the least and the humblest and the poorest among us. “Do this,” says God, “and see.” Now the verse, Malachi 3:10:
Bring ye, bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse…
and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts; if I will not pour you out a blessing,
if I will not open you the windows of heaven, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
This is a very plain invitation and nobody could mistake it. “You try Me,” says the Lord; “You test Me,” says Jehovah; “You prove Me,” says the Almighty, “and see if I will not open the windows of heaven, and pour you out such blessings, that there shall not be room enough to receive them” [Malachi 3:10].
Now, He speaks here of material blessings: “If I will not bless you here and now, materially, terrestrially,” that’s what He is talking about. “I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground” [Malachi 3:11]. Down here in this world, not up there somewhere, down here; “the fruits of your ground,” the soil on which you walk. “Neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field” [Malachi 3:11], not some celestial acreage planted outside the golden gates, He is talking about a field made out of dirt; the ground, the soil, down here in this world where we live.
You know we sometimes have a persuasion that religion concerns ephemeral things, and peripheral things, and celestial things, and God’s up there somewhere beyond the stars, and when the preacher preaches about God, he’s talking about the clouds, and the spheres, and the starry universes, but it has nothing to do with us down here, for God wouldn’t deign to look upon this evil and terrestrial dirt and soil and ground. You know where you got that idea? We are of course the inheritors of Greek civilization and Greek culture. And no small part of Greek philosophy revolved around that very persuasion that spirit was good and ethereal and celestial, but matter was evil and mundane. And neither the twain must ever be confused with the other. That is Greek philosophy.
There is not a syllable of that in the Bible. There is not a hint of that in the Bible. God must like matter; He created it [Genesis 1:1]. God must like humanity; He made it [Genesis 1:26-27]. God must like things anatomical, and physical, and terrestrial, and material; He created it [Hebrews 11:3]. I didn’t invent it. No man brought it here. It was flung into existence by the fiat of God! [Genesis 1:3-31]. You won’t find any hint of that Greek philosophy in the revealed Word of the Lord, for the Lord is concerned with our well-being. He is concerned with our anatomical health, healing, and watching over and caring, and the houses in which we live, and the shelter under which we abide, and the bread we break, and our lying down, and our rising up, and our going out, and our coming in. That’s our God! And He is not interested just in those high spiritual conceptions that concern the seraphim and the cherubim and the angelic hosts, but God is interested in us, in our daily lives, in our well being and our prosperity. And that’s why the Lord comes down to earth to say to us mortal men, “You try Me, you prove Me, and you see, if when you bring a tithe of your possession and lay it at My feet and place it in My hands, if I will not bless you a thousandfold; here, now, where you live” [Malachi 3:10].
In a magazine that I happen to pick up––not one belonging to our Baptist people—it was a magazine of another group altogether different from us. As I rapidly turned the pages, I fell upon a name: H. Z. Duke. He was the founder of the Duke and Ayer system of dime stores. And through the many years of my pastorate here, I have stumbled across his tracts ten thousand times. He was a godly deacon in this congregation, H. Z. Duke. And when I saw that name, I stopped and I read the article. It was an astonishing one! H. Z. Duke was a very wealthy man, a shrewd businessman, and he went around the country long years ago encouraging businessmen to tithe.
And upon a day, so this article said, he was in Palo Pinto County, and he was delivering a businessman’s testimony concerning tithing, under a brush arbor. And after he had delivered his testimony, the missionary, his name was Kuykendahl, the missionary took the businessman in his buggy and began to drive away to another place that Mr. Duke was to speak. And as they sat side by side in the buggy, following old Dobbin or old something, why, Brother Duke said to the preacher, “Brother Kuykendahl,” he said, “Brother Kuykendahl, do you believe in tithing?”
“Yes sir,” said the preacher, “I surely do.”
“Brother Kuykendahl,” said the deacon, “Do you preach tithing?”
“Yes sir,” said Brother Kuykendahl, “I preach tithing.”
“Brother Kuykendahl, do you practice tithing?”
And the preacher shamefacedly confessed, “No Brother Duke, I do not. With shame and reproach I answer, I do not. For you see,” said the preacher, “for you see, I have thirteen children at home, and when we sit down to eat there are fifteen mouths to feed. And I have to pay for the keep of my own horse and buggy. And I make but one hundred twenty-five dollars a month, and I cannot support my family on one hundred twenty-five dollars a month and take out of it twelve dollars and a half. No, Brother Duke, I believe in tithing and I preach tithing, but I don’t practice it. I cannot. I am not able.”
And our godly deacon said to the preacher, he said, “Preacher, let me make a proposition to you. This coming month, when you receive your salary of a hundred twenty-five dollars, you take out of it twelve dollars and fifty cents for the work of the Lord. And you live on the one hundred twelve dollars fifty cents that remains. And if you find that you miss it, and if you find any lack in the family, and if you need any help, you just write me a word, and you say, ‘Brother Duke, I am faithfully tithing, but my family is suffering,’ or ‘I miss the money,’ or ‘I cannot do it.’ You just write me that letter, and I will send you all of your tithe back.”
The preacher said, “Oh, Brother Duke, I,” and when he hesitated, Brother Duke touched him and said, “Preacher, you don’t need to be hesitant. I’m a very wealthy man. I have a large chain of stores, and it would be no financial burden to me at all. You just accept my word that I will support you if you find any lack or any need. And write me the note and I’ll send the money to you by return mail. Just trust me for it and try it.” And the preacher reached over his hand and said, “Brother Duke, I’ll trust you for it. I will try it.”
So Brother Kuykendahl started out. He got his first check of one hundred twenty-five dollars, and he took out of it twelve dollars and fifty cents and gave it to the Lord. And the next month he did the same thing. And the next month he did the same thing. And then some marvelous things began to come to pass. For some reason that he couldn’t explain, the one hundred twelve dollars fifty-cents, went farther than the hundred twenty-five dollars used to. And he’d go to a place to preach with his horse and buggy, and there’d be somebody who’d tie a crate of chickens on the back of his buggy. And in another place, somebody would put a ham underneath the buggy seat. And at another place there’d be a godly woman that’d fill his buggy full of home-canned fruit. And one time when he returned back home from one of his preaching missions, there drove up a man with a big load of corn and said, “Brother Kuykendahl, God so blessed me this year, I don’t have corn cribs to hold it. And I’m bringing this big load for you.” And he said down the road came another man with a big load of hay, and he said, “Brother Kuykendahl, I brought this hay for your cow.”
And then the preacher said, “For some reason that I don’t understand, we didn’t have any doctor’s bills that year.” And then he said, “For some inexplicable reason that I don’t know, the children’s clothes didn’t seem to wear out so rapidly.” He said, “We had our finest and our best year.” And he said, “Upon a day while I was driving down the road with old Dobbin, with that buggy,” he said, “while I was driving down that road, I began to think, ‘Why, here I am, trusting a deacon. Here I am, trusting a man. He said if I would tithe, that if I lacked or had any need, just to say the word to him, and he would supply it all. But God had made that promise to me. God had made it. And here I am,” said the preacher, “here I am trusting a man more than I trust God.”
Well, Brother Kuykendahl said, “I came to myself, and I changed my faith from that to a man to the Lord God.” And he said, “You know, from that hour until this, the Lord has wonderfully blessed me. My salary has increased through the years, and my family has been cared for through the years, and the Lord’s abounding blessings have enriched our lives ever since.”
That was the article I read. I believe every syllable of the spirit that lies back of it. I always have believed it, even in days in my beginning ministry when I had great difficulty with the doctrine. In one of my early pastorates, I would take a promise like that, and I would preach it. “Bring the tithe to God’s house, and try Me,” says the Lord, “if I will not pour you out a blessing there is not room enough to receive it” [Malachi 3:10].
I used to stand up as a young fellow and preach that message. And in this particular church where I was pastor, there was an able and gifted deacon. And when I’d get through, he’d come around and remind me about such and such member in the church, “You see him? He was a faithful tither and he’s bankrupt! And not only is he bankrupt in his business, he is bankrupt every way; in his soul, and in his heart, and in his life he’s bankrupt! Yet you stand up there in the pulpit and say, ‘If a man will tithe, God will bless him.’ How about that man?”
And the same thing would happen in the deacon’s meeting. When I would stand up in the deacon’s meeting, and ask our men to lead out, and to show the way by their example in the great giving program of a great world-wide mission, and I’d plead with those men to tithe, he’d stand up in this meeting and say, “Yes, is that right? That so? How about such and such?” And he’d name that man. It cut me down. It cut me down. I had a hard time, and I couldn’t understand why, because I read it in the Book, and I believe in the ableness of God and the faithfulness of the Lord. And yet, “That man, what about that man?”
Dear people, upon a day, upon a day, when I was preaching in the pulpit of the church and the Spirit of the Lord came upon us in unusual power, there came down the aisle that man, that man, broken up, the fountains of his soul broken up. He came and put his arms around me. And with many sobs and many tears said—and listen to what he said. He said to me, “Young pastor, young pastor, I used to be in the very heart of this church and in the very heart of the work of God. And I loved the Lord, and I walked with the Lord, and I gave a tenth of all God gave me to the Lord.” Isn’t it amazing he should have said that? Because he had no idea that this deacon was using him as an evil illustration of how God doesn’t keep His promise! He said that to me, “And I used to give God a tenth of all the Lord gave to me. Then,” he said, “I became affluent, and I began to prosper, and it seemed too much to return to God, and I kept it for myself.”
Then he said, “Things disastrous began to happen to me. And it is not only that I have gone bankrupt in my business, but things began to happen to me of a disastrous nature; things in my soul, and things in my heart, and things in my life.” And he said, “Pastor, I’m here. I’m bankrupt every way; spiritually bankrupt every way.” Then the purpose of his coming down the aisle, “But by the grace of God, young pastor,” he said, “I’m beginning again back there where I left the Lord. And this is my covenant: I shall tithe again. And this is my covenant: I shall walk with the Lord again. I shall seek His face back there where I left Him. There shall I return to find Him.” And for the remainder of my pastorate there, and I suppose for the years since, he has been God’s man with God’s blessing upon him.
Oh, but you say, “Pastor, the lie to what you’re preaching is demonstrated and headlined in a thousand wicked and prosperous families who not only do not tithe, they don’t even think about God!” Well, that’s what the Lord’s talking about, He is talking about this.
Your words have been strong against Me, said the Lord.
You say it is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept the ordinances of the Lord?
And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.
That’s what God’s talking about here: all of these wicked people who prosper, and they don’t tithe, and they don’t give any return to God. “Look at them, preacher, that’s the lie to every syllable that you’ve said.”
“Yea,” says the Lord, “Yea?” Don’t you ever think otherwise! God collects, God collects. It may not be next Friday night. It may not be next Saturday afternoon. It may not be this coming October. It may not be this year or the next, but God collects. In His time and in His way, God collects! And not only in our individual lives; you just don’t know these lives. You just don’t know these groups. If you did, if you did, you’d be in an altogether different persuasion than you are when you look at things on the outside. God collects. If the man does not return to God what belongs to God, God collects in His day, in His time, in His place, in His hour, and in His will. And what God does about individuals and groups, God does about nations. God collects.
When Pearl Harbor was flashed over the radios and the whole world was plunged aghast into its last terrible holocaust, I heard from lip to lip, time and again, “Look, this is our reward for our missionaries’ endeavor in Japan? This is how it comes back to us? All of those missionaries we’ve sent, all those Bibles we’ve printed, all those efforts we made to Christianize a Japanese nation, here’s our reward: Pearl Harbor and this awful war!”
Well, we just made inquiry about that. When you add up all the denominations, and all the individuals, and all the Christian people of all of the years gave for the Christianization of Japan, when you add it up; everything that everybody gave through all of the denominations through all of the years, it never amounted to as much as the cost of two of those battleships that lay on the bottom of Pearl Harbor. God collects. There was a time when Japan could have been won to God and become a Christian nation. America refused! God collects.
For the missionary evangelization of China, and Vietnam, and Indonesia, and Laos, and Cambodia, we have not given as much as two cents a year per person. And God is collecting now. God collects. If there is no God of judgment, there is no God at all! And if God does not run this universe, then He does not exist!
In these recent days, as you know, I have walked around and looked in West Germany, and in East Germany, and in West Berlin, and in East Berlin. I went through Germany just a little while after the Second World War: from horizon to horizon, those great cities—Hamburg, big as Chicago, Munich, Frankfurt, Hanover—one vast illimitable sea of rubble. And today after these years, and more than twenty years after the close of this World War, and to this day, walk through Berlin, great jagged saw-toothed walls that once were magnificent buildings. The Brandenburg Gate, once the center of a triumph, at the head of Linden Avenue, one of the great beautiful areas of the world, now alone in desolation. And as you walk around that stricken and grieved city and look upon that horrible and indescribable wall that separates the East from the West, how could such a thing have ever come to pass? How could ever such a thing be?
You see, God lives, and God judges, and God weighs these things in the balance of His scales. And it was centuries ago that the Lord God said to Abraham, “And he that blesses thee, will I bless; and he that curses thee, will I curse: and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed” [Genesis 12:2-3]; God’s people. And they seized God’s people. There has never been a nation in the history of the world that took God’s people and mistreated them, and persecuted them, and despitefully used them, and slew them but that God’s hand came down in fearful judgment upon that nation, and upon that people. And God took Germany for what they had done in cursing God’s chosen people. God took Germany and He shook it like a cat shakes a rat. And the sorrow of it, and the heartbreak of it, and the awesomeness of it is spread before view to this present day: that’s God, the Lord God of judgment; God collects.
That’s why it greatly interested me, this young minister in our church who heads our mission of love and appeal to the Jewish people, Brother Tom McCall, that’s why it interested me when he found himself so much in sympathy with the seizure of Martin Bormann, whom they have just recently discovered in Argentina. And as Adolf Eichmann was brought to trial before the eyes of the whole world for the millions that he slew among those dear people, so Martin Bormann, responsible for the death of between five and six million souls, ought to be brought to trial like they did at Nuremberg—the judgments of Almighty God; God collects.
“Ah, but preacher, His eye is not on me. I am an exception. I shall go my way, and I shall employ my time, and I shall live this life and shut God out.” Will you? Will you? He holds the whole world in His hand, and in that world, and on that globe, and riding it around God’s sun, I live, and I die, and I am judged. As the author of the Hebrews said, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” [Hebrews 10:31]. Oh, how infinitely better, infinitely better to open our hearts to the blessings of glory; open our houses, open our hands, open our lives to the infinite magnitude of the largess of God, and let God fill our souls, and let God fill our barns, and let God fill our hands, and let God fill our lives––how infinitely better. “Lord, I trust Thee for it, and here I am. And here I come with God’s tenth in my hands.”
And that leads me to my second avowal. Not only does God say “Prove Me, and test Me, and try Me, and see if I will not bless you” [Malachi 3:10]; not only does God mean materially, physically, terrestrially, mundanely; but God also means inwardly, soul-ly, heart-ly. The “us” who lives on the inside of this earthly tabernacle, God will bless us inwardly. Did you ever notice this? The third epistle of John, just a little one: “The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” [3 John 1-2]. Aren’t you glad he doesn’t say that about a whole lot of us? “Gaius,” says God, “I pray and I wish that you may prosper and be in health even as thy soul prospereth.” Man, most of us would be sick all the time, sick all the time. If we prospered on the outside as God knows we are in the inside, we’d be sick all the time, and we’d be poor as church mice. Wonder where that phrase came from?
But here is a man, here is a man whom God has blessed in his soul, and he prospers in his soul. And the elder says to his beloved friend Gaius, he says, “Gaius, I could wish no better thing for you; I could pray no more earnest prayer for you than that you might prosper” [3 John 1-2]. Isn’t that a strange thing, God would be interested in our prosperity? And this godly and sainted John would be praying for the prosperity of Gaius. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? I thought God was just interested up there somewhere but not down here where we are. That’s the Christian faith. God seeks our well-being. And here John is praying for the prosperity and for the health of this good man Gaius, even as Gaius’s soul does prosper [3 John 1-2]. Oh, how fine, how fine. And that’s what God does when we come before the Lord remembering Him.
For one thing, and all of these are inward blessings, for one thing I am blessed in my soul with the grace of gratitude. Lord, I wouldn’t take the world for my two hands; thank You, Lord. I wouldn’t take the world for my two feet; thank You, Lord. I wouldn’t take the world for my two eyes; thank You, Lord. I wouldn’t take the world for a thousand other blessings that number like the stars in the sky and the sands on the seashore for a multitude; thank You, Lord. Gratitude, gratitude, sympathy, the grace of sympathy, as the Samaritan came by and ministered to that man left by the side of the road to die [Luke 10:30-37]; thank You, Lord. And here is something for that man. And the dedication of our lives to Thee, this is a part of me, Lord, that I bring, and it represents the dedication of all of me to Thee. And worship, as the ninety-sixth Psalm says, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts” [Psalm 96:8]. And intercession; “My prayer to God for my people is that they might be saved” [Romans 10:1], and something, Lord, used that they might know Thee. Oh, the graces that God bestows upon us in our souls when we are faithful in this devotion. I must hurry.
And the last: there are celestial blessings, there are heavenly blessings, there are material blessings; God has promised them. There are spiritual blessings, inward blessings; God has promised them. There are celestial blessings. There are heavenly blessings: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” [Matthew 6:20], says the Lord, “treasures in heaven.” You mean it is possible for a man down here in this world to lay up treasures in glory? “Yes,” says God, “treasures in heaven.”
That Sunday morning when the collection plate was passed, old Brother John Raskus put a hundred dollars in the collection plate and whispered softly, “I’ll see you in heaven.” And those who were seated around old John Raskus smiled and said inwardly, “You know, old John Raskus is getting senile.” And that afternoon when they spoke to their friends about what old John Raskus had said when he put that hundred dollars in the collection plate, all of them agreed that that hundred dollars that John Raskus gave that morning might be found in many places, but it’d never be found in heaven. Not that old John Raskus wasn’t going to heaven, he was one of the most saintly men that the church ever knew—and it’s a shame there weren’t more godly Christian deacons like him—but he just wouldn’t see that money anymore in heaven. And the following Sunday afternoon when old John Raskus was translated with a heart attack, all the parishioners agreed that he was joined to his Maker but not to his money. For you see, seventy dollars of what old John Raskus gave that morning didn’t even get out of the town where old John Raskus lived. Some of it was paid to the electric service company because the church used a great many lights. And some of it, Bill Adams the janitor, pocketed. And then some of it the filling station operator put in his cash register when the pastor came by and filled his car full of gasoline. Thirty dollars of it got out of town, that’s right. Some of it was used to buy literature from the Sunday School Board, and some of it went to a Baptist college nearby. And some of it passed through the hands of the treasurers at the seminaries, even though they didn’t know it belonged to John Raskus. And then of course some of it was taken down to a bank and turned into funny looking foreign currency, and somebody whispered, “This is for overseas missions.”
Well, John Raskus’s money went lots of places all right, all right. But the parishioners were right when they agreed not any of it ever got to heaven. That is that’s what they thought, but old John Raskus didn’t agree. For you see, walking down the streets of glory one day, old John Raskus was met by a man he’d never seen before, and that fellow came up to old Brother John Raskus and shook his hand and said, “Thank you, John. Thank you, John.” It seemed that down here in this earth that old man was a lonely sort of a fellow, and he didn’t know anybody and nobody knew him. And one Sunday night, just walking down the street, oppressed and dark in his soul as well as in the darkness of the night, he went into the church house just to get out of the dark. And while he was there, the dark got out of him, and he was saved. “Thank you John, thank you.” And as old John Raskus walked down the golden streets, he said, “Now isn’t that something? I believe I got more out of that electricity than the service company did.”
But the other came as a surprise even to John. Walking down those golden streets, there came up to him a young man that shook his hand and said, “Thank you, John. Thank you, John.” It was the young fellow who worked at the filling station, and John hadn’t even thought about him. And the young fellow said, “John, you know the pastor used to come by and I’d fill his car with gasoline. And while I filled his car with gasoline, the pastor talked to me about my soul and won me to Jesus. Thank you, John, thank you.” And as old John Raskus walked down the streets of glory, he said, “You know there may be more come out of buying gasoline for my pastor’s car.”
Well, that was just the beginning. That was just the beginning. The investment began to pay a thousandfold dividend, day after day after day, as old John Raskus walked down the streets of glory. There’d be a young college student, “Thank you, John, thank you,” and there’d be a young seminary student out preaching the gospel of the Son of God, grab old John Raskus by the hand and said, “Thank you, John, thank you.” And then to the overwhelming amazement of the godly deacon, there were people of the strangest speech and of the strangest garb coming up to old John Raskus and shake his hand and say, “Brother Raskus, we came to know Jesus because of the missionaries sent by you dear people. Thank you, John, thank you John.” And John Raskus is still reaping a dividend off the investment that morning of the hundred dollars he placed in the collection plate.
That’s God, the Lord who sits above the circle of the earth [Isaiah 40:22]; the Lord who reigns in the heavens of the universe [Psalm 103:19]. These things are in His hands. And when God says there are treasures in heaven laid up [Matthew 6:20], God sees to it that every remembrance, and every gift, and every faithful response is angelically recorded, and it carries its own infinitely precious reward. Oh, try it. Try it. Try it and see. O “Taste and see that the Lord is good” [Psalm 34:8]… “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse . . . and prove Me, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” [Malachi 3:10]. Try, taste, and see that the Lord is good.
Our time is passed, and while we sing this hymn of appeal, somebody you give your soul to Jesus. Somebody you consecrate your life to the blessed Lord Jesus. A family you to come into the fellowship of the church, as God shall say the word, shall press the appeal to your heart, make it this morning. Make it now. In the balcony round, down one of these stairways, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” In this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I come, pastor. I give you my hand. I give my heart to God.” As the Lord shall open the door and lead in the way, I will be standing right here, come. On the first note of the first stanza, come. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.