The Great Condition
July 18th, 1965 @ 7:30 PM
THE GREAT CONDITION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-18-65 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are invited to open your Bible to Matthew chapter 7, verses 7 through 11. There is a vast throng in the First Baptist Church of Dallas, whose service you are sharing over WRR. And the title of the message tonight is The Great Condition, and it concerns the words of our Lord about prayer, Matthew 7:7-11. Now let’s all of us read it out loud together:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?
Now that is a very plain and intelligible and applicable word. There is not anything in the language that needs explaining, and there is nothing that is said here that is not open. The Lord says you do not have to try to steal anything out of heaven. “Ask for it”; that plain. There is no capitalistic word to get a hold of; there is no Eleusinian grip to learn. “Just ask, just ask.” Well, that is interesting, and it causes us pause as we stand before such an invitation. “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be wide open” [Matthew 7:7]. So as we think of the things that we could ask for, is it that simple, and is it that plain? Just ask and you receive?
Now we shall not try to be a theologian tonight, to empty the Scripture of its meaning. And we will not try to cover the plain window, open and lucid, with cobwebs, and dust, and theological, metaphysical, philosophical expositions. For the Lord said, “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find.”
Well, what shall I ask for? I have an open door. “Ask, and it shall be given you” [Matthew 7:7]. So I want increase, and advancement, and honor, and riches. Lord, I think I shall ask for fifty fields, and for five skyscrapers, and for all of the accouterments and embellishments of wealth and influence, five cars and five garages, and a palatial home. Why should I live in this world like an impoverished dwarf, with empty pockets and blind intellect, and poverty-stricken days, and cower before the moth and the worm, and seek the grave in a sycophantic spirit, when all I have to do is to ask, and there is youth, and beauty, and riches, and emolument, and advancement, and fame, and success? “Ask, and it shall be given thee” [Matthew 7:7].
Well, there is something wrong somewhere. If I were to ask the Lord for five skyscrapers, I don’t think He would even give me one. I don’t know whether He would even give me one floor or not. I don’t know whether He would even give me the ground on which one of the things is built. I would be very happy to have that; just the dirt, the soil on which one of these Dallas skyscrapers reaches up toward heaven. And as for beauty, well, that is unthinkable, in my condition. And as for affluence, I am just in the wrong profession. If anybody is going to get rich, he ought not to be a preacher, I can assure you. Well, what is this thing that our Lord means, and what does He speak of when He says, categorically, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you?” [Matthew 7:7]. It is just a matter, the Lord says, of asking and seeking and knocking, of receiving and finding and the doors thrown wide open. You find a very plain and expressive meaning in the passage when you look at it closely.
For first of all, the Lord speaks of a filial relationship: “What man is there of you, whom if his son, if his son … If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” [Matthew 7:9, 11]. So there are two things there. First, there is a filial relationship between a father and a son. Then there is another thing here: the good things that the heavenly Father can bestow upon us [Matthew 7:11].
Now these are the things that enter into that petition, that asking, that supplication: first, a filial relationship, as between a father and a son, or a father and his daughter; a filial relationship. And it would be unthinkable to us, in a household, even one as we have, where the father would be, oh, so aboundingly ready to bestow all of the gifts that he could possess and could bestow upon a child that was recalcitrant; lived in the wilderness, prodigal, every thought and desire an exact opposite of what the father would want to think best. And as I read here in the Holy Word of the Lord, that filial relationship:
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God . . . Likewise the Spirit helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should ask for, we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Himself maketh supplication, intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints, He asks and pleads, according to the will of God.
[Romans 8:14, 26-27]
So the first thing that I learn, when the Lord invites us to ask and to seek and to knock, is that I am to do that as a son. I am to do that as a born again child of God. And having the Spirit of God, as a child of God, then I am taught to ask the heavenly Father according to the will of God [Romans 8:26-27]. It is the relationship filial between a father and his child [Matthew 7:8-9]. Then, according to the blessed Word of our Savior, then the Father will bestow upon us good things, good things, better things, finer things; the best things God shall give us as our Father, bestowing upon us as His children [Matthew 7:11].
Now, in the requests that we make of our Father in His will, they will all be granted, every one of them. When I pray in the will of God and ask in the Spirit of Jesus, every request that I made will be given, every one. Then in my humanity, and in my weakness, and in my infirmity, and above all in my immaturity, I may ask for things as a child of God that the Lord may deny. Being a heavenly Father, and loving us, watching over us for good, He may choose a better thing than what I might ask for in my immaturity.
This little grandson Cris is here tonight. I don’t know sometimes whether I ought ever to refer to him or not in these services. He is very conscious of the fact that I refer to him. Well, anyway, this is something that happened recently. These children look at television, and on television they see more Indians bite the dust, and more highwaymen strung up by the neck, and more bad men shot down by the law than you could ever populate the earth with. It goes on all day and all night, and there isn’t a western movie that is shown that is any count at all if there are not at least fifty bad men that are mowed down by the blazing gun-smoke of the marshal!
All right, he wants guns, so we get him guns, plastic ones. And he wants bullets, so we get him plastic bullets. And he wants all kinds of ammunition, so we buy him all kinds of ammunition. And behind every door there is an ambush, and all over the house there are highwaymen and robbers and thieves and bandits that are biting the dust. So he came to me a while ago, and he said, “Now, Grandaddy, I want a real gun, one that shoots, and real bullets, real ones.” Why, I said, “Son, why, why, son, why, Cris, why, man, not in a thousand years; why, you would shoot us; you would kill us!”
“Oh no, Granddaddy, I wouldn’t shoot you. I wouldn’t shoot mommy. I would just shoot the bad men, and I would just shoot the thieves.”
“Yeah, but,” I said, “I am afraid. I don’t know about buying you a real gun and real bullets.” Well, I want you to know he was the most unconvinced little fellow that I ever tried to reason with in my life, and I haven’t got him to see it yet! He still wants a real gun with real bullets! And I tell you, if we ever bestowed it upon him, we would have some first class funerals in the First Baptist Church. Now, you just watch, just watch.
Isn’t that the part of a wise father, and a wise parent, and a wise family? “Why, son, no! Why, daughter, no!” And there are a thousand requests that are made, that, in the wisdom of the maturity of a great father, would be denied. Isn’t that correct? And aren’t all like that? A child may be immature in his days, but we all are immature in our wisdom as we come to the—as a suppliant—to the throne of grace.
I read this week in preparing this sermon, I read of a great and famous divine, a great preacher, who said, “As I look back over my years, I count God’s greatest blessings to me, that He never answered many of my prayers, though in the days of my young ministry I offered them unto God with great fervor and importunity and supplication. Sometimes the finest, best thing God can do for us is to say, “No, no, no, My child, no!”
Do you remember the story of Elijah under the juniper tree? In his despair and discouragement he bowed his head and prayed God again, and yet again, “Lord, let me die. Let me die. Let me die” [1 Kings 19:4]. What if the Lord had answered that prayer? “Let me die.” Why, beyond that appeal of Elijah to God that he might die [1 Kings 19:4], beyond that was the great ordination of Elisha, upon whom his mantle fell [2 Kings 2:13]. And beyond that prayer, when he prayed, “Lord, let me die,” was Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab and Jezebel over the murder of Naboth [1 Kings 21:17-24]. And beyond the intercession, and supplication, and prayer, and appeal of Elijah that he might die [1 Kings 19:4], was the incomparable story of the chariot of fire and the horsemen and the glorious translation in a whirlwind up to heaven [2 Kings 2:11].
What if God had heard his prayer? [1 Kings 19:4]. All of the greatest, finest, noblest ministry of Elijah had been blotted out? [2 Kings 1:1-2:15]. These better things for us sometimes come to us when God says, “Nay, nay, it is not good. It is not best.” Moses prayed to God that he might enter the Promised Land: “O Lord, let me go over this Jordan. Lord, let me go over this Jordan. I have carried these people as a shepherd carries a lamb in his bosom. I have carried these people for forty years. I have been with them through the wilderness. And now Lord, let me go over this Jordan. Please, Lord.” And Moses pled with God, and the Lord finally said, “Moses, speak to me no more of the matter; for thou shalt die, and not enter the land” [Deuteronomy 3:23-26].
But God let Moses enter the land. Isn’t it an unusual thing, isn’t it a glorious thing, that the two men who stood by the Lord when He was transfigured [Luke 9:28-31], Moses on one side and Elijah on the other side, both of those men had been denied in their prayers? Elijah, denied when he prayed that he might die [1 King 19:4]; and Moses, denied when he prayed that he might cross over Jordan [Deuteronomy 3:25-27, 34:4-6]—and there Moses is in the land of Canaan, glorified, transfigured, with our immortal and risen and glorified Lord; some better thing, some better thing [Luke 9:29-30]. My mind cannot enter into the infinitude of the better thing God did for Moses when He let him enter the land, there by the side of our transfigurated, iridescent Lord [Luke 9:28-31].
And when Paul pled with the Lord to take the thorn out of his side, the Lord said, “No, no.” There are two ways a man can be helped. First: his burden can be diminished. Second: or his strength can be increased. Paul asked for the first: “that my burden might be diminished.” God gave him the second: that his strength might be increased [2 Corinthians 12:8-9]. Sometimes God does that for His saints.
When we ask to be delivered, “No,” says God, “No,” says God, “but I will give you grace, and I will give you strength, all adequate and all sufficient” [2 Corinthians 12:8-9]. And these better things God hath for us; we ask, “O Lord, for success, and for achievement, and for advancement, and for fame, and for all of the things that lift us up in the world”—we ask for those things of God, and yet, the Lord may do that better thing, and we carry the rich treasures of heaven in an earthy, mortal vessel, and maybe one that is bruised and hurt and crippled; maybe we do.
In one of the great assemblies, summer assemblies, in the Southland, I was preaching a summer week time. There were literally thousands of people there, thousands. My remembrance was there were more than twenty thousand people in attendance upon that assembly. And every night I preached to that vast throng of people, and one night the message concerned the devotion of our lives to the Lord. “Is there a youth here tonight who will give his life to Jesus in answering God’s call to be a preacher? Is there a youth tonight answering God’s call to be a witness for Jesus anywhere in the world, home or abroad?” And as I preached the message, God’s Spirit came down, and it was marvelously honored. God honored it with a vast response.
And among the young people who came was a girl, a young woman, who broke my heart. As I received them, shaking hands with them, coming down those aisles, giving their lives to the Lord, there was a girl, a young woman, who came and shook my hand and literally bathed my hand with her tears. She said, “I would love to give my life to Jesus, to serve Him in any way that He would ask, on a foreign field or in a church or any way that He might ask, but nobody would want me, nobody.”
She was disfigured. She was crippled. She could not talk plainly. She was an object of pity; a disfigured, haunting girl. And my tears fell down from my face as I listened to that child talk. What does God think about that? What will God do about that? I will tell you what. God will take the willingness of that crippled, disfigured girl as though she were a Lottie Moon in China, or a Mrs. David Livingstone, the daughter of Robert Moffat, in Africa, and God will write it to her account, the fullness of the reward, as though she had done it herself. Her willingness shall be counted for righteousness!
We are not able to enter into all of the circumscriptions that beset our lives; what we could have done maybe, what we would have done possibly! But Lord, if it is in our souls, then we leave the choice to Thee. And if it is to be like a blind Milton, we shall also write the word and commendation of God, “They also serve who only stand and wait” [from “When I Consider How My Light is Spent,” John Milton, 1673]—maybe the ministry of somebody who just can pray and appeal.
Now we must conclude the message. What of this praying? Well, may I remind you the Lord bestows so many glorious things upon us for which we do not ask? These marvelous blessings I refer to are not God’s “amens” to our supplication. How many of you get out on your knees and pray at night, “O Lord, let the sun come up in the morning,” and then get up––what time, I have no idea––get up, and there the sun rises at 5:03 in answer to your prayer?
Now, how many of you do that? Do you? Did you ever do it in your life? He is an honest boy. He never did that in his life. Why, it just never occurs to us to get down on our knees and say, “Lord, let the sun rise in the morning.” It just rises. It just does. And how many of us get down on our knees and say, “O Lord, remember the seasons, the beauty of the spring, and the luxuriousness of the summer, and the largess of the autumn?” How many of you ever think to do that?
Before we were born, God sent the Lord Jesus to die for our sins [Ephesians 1:3-4; Revelation 13:8]. We never asked for that. And I just woke up into the consciousness that I had two feet, that I had two hands, that I had two eyes, that I had two ears. I never asked God for any of those members. I just woke up into consciousness having them, and there I could wiggle my toes; I wonder how old I was when I first was conscious of my little pink toes down there, wiggling at them. I wonder how old I was.
So many things that are bestowed upon us are given us without our supplication and our petitions. And the petitions that we do bring before God, oh, first of all, that they are in the spirit of the will of our Father; as a son, to ask and to talk it over with God [Matthew 7:11]. “Lord, what is best? And what pleases Thee? Lord, in Thy will, in Thy will, in Thy ministry and service and in Thy name, Lord, what is best? What is good?”
I went to sleep this afternoon, and evidently I had this text in my soul. And this afternoon as I slept, I had a dream, and I can’t quite figure out yet, but the feeling of that dream is the feeling of what I am trying to say now in God’s will. Anyway, the dream was this. I dreamed this afternoon that a father who was dying called his little boy to his side and explained to the little fellow that he was going away to a home far away. And as he explained it to the little fellow, the little boy said, “But father, I want to go with you. I want to go with you.” And the father said, “Son, you cannot come now; but you will someday in God’s time, in God’s way, in God’s will.” And that over and over: “Someday, son, you will come, in God’s time, in God’s way, in God’s will,” and in my dream, the years passed, and the little boy remembered those words of his father. He had no idea what they meant when they were said, but as the years multiplied, he came to understand the providences of life, and he was facing the future and the call upward and home, repeating those words: “In God’s time, in God’s way, in God’s will.”
And I woke up repeating those words: “In God’s time, and in God’s day, and in God’s will.” Oh, to live as I felt in that dream, as that boy grew up to manhood and faced the fortunes of life in quietness and in peace; “In God’s time, in God’s day, and in God’s will”—in His hands, and we leave it.
Dear people, I cannot close without a little word concerning what I think is the exact meaning of this “Ask, seek, and find” [Matthew 7:7]. First: “ask” refers to the gift, what you want, “ask”; but we could not have the gift without the Giver, without the Father. “Seek” is the Scripture word for the panting and longing after the Lord; “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found” [Isaiah 55:6], but we are not only to seek the Lord in our hour of need. “Knock” refers to fellowship and to dwelling, and that is the happiness, and the joy, and the gladness, and the peace that passeth understanding in the life of a child of God: the fellowship, the dwelling. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any one hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in and sup with him, and he with Me” [Revelation 3:20]. “Be careful, anxious, for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ” [Philippians 4:6-7]. To ask is for the gift, but we want the Giver. To seek is to find the Giver, but, oh, to have Him in time of need alone is not enough. To knock is to have fellowship with God, and the peace that passeth all understanding in youth, in age, in poverty, in affluence, in sickness, and in health, in want, in need; however, Lord, it is sufficient. God is with us. Oh, blessed be His precious name!
Now we have gone beyond the time. To sing our song of appeal, prayerfully, earnestly, is to make an appeal to you. Somebody you, take Jesus as Savior tonight [Romans 10:9-10]. Come and stand by me. A family you, putting your life in the fellowship of the church, come. Make it now. One somebody you, “Pastor, tonight I take the Lord Jesus as my Savior,” or “Pastor, tonight I want to be received for baptism” [Matthew 28:19-20] or “Pastor, tonight we are putting our lives in the fellowship of the church. This is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming.” As the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, come tonight, maybe just to give your life in a new way to Jesus. As God shall open the door, come. Make it now, tonight, now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE GREAT CONDITION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. A very plain and simple message
B. Are we then to say there are no conditions?
C. Evidently, something is wrong
1. There is a plain and expressive meaning in the passage
a. The Lord speaks of a filial relationshipII. The child relationship
A. The child can be obedient, tractable, loveable
B. The child can be disobedient, self-willed
C. We are to ask as a born again child of God (Romans 8:14, 26-27)III. The good things
A. Ask according to the will of God and He will bestow good things
B. There may be things the Lord denies (1 Kings 19:4, 21:17-24, 2 Kings 2:11, 13)
C. Sometimes better things come to us when God denies our request (Deuteronomy 3:23-26, Matthew 17:1-4)
1. Two ways a man can be helped (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)
a. His burden can be diminished
b. His strength can be increased
i. Young disfigured girl giving herself to ministryIV. The purpose of prayer
A. Look how much we have and do not ask for
B. The purpose of prayer
C. The meaning of “ask, seek, and find” (Isaiah 55:6, Revelation 3:20, Philippians 4:6-7)