A Cup of Water Only
July 3rd, 1966 @ 7:30 PM
A CUP OF WATER ONLY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-3-66 7:30 p.m.
Now on the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message of the evening entitled A Cup of Water Only. Turn with us, if you are listening on the radio, to the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew chapter 10, and we shall begin reading at the thirty-seventh verse. Matthew chapter 10, verse 37, and we shall read to the end of the chapter. And share your Bible with your neighbor; let’s all read it out loud together, Matthew 10, beginning at verse 37:
He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me.
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.
He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me.
He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward: and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
This, if you look at it carefully, is one of the most astounding of all the statements ever made by our Lord. “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward” [Matthew 10:41].
When you think of Elijah, or Isaiah, or John the Baptist, oh, what a vast concourse in heaven must stand in awe and in reverence in their presence even today! What mighty men, what great work! And yet the Lord says that he that is kind, and gracious, and hospitable, and forbearing, and thoughtful, and sympathetic with the work of a great man of God, for his kindness and for his sympathy and for his thoughtfulness he shall receive the same kind of a reward as God shall bestow upon that mighty man of God. Can you imagine it? Can you conceive of it? “And he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward” [Matthew 10:41]. I can just think in memory, and I can see in mind’s eye some great stalwart man of God, a righteous man who stands for God like the Rock of Gibraltar, and yet the servant of Jesus who would be kind to that man, and encouraging and sympathetic, shall receive a reward commensurate, equal to the reward God shall adjudge to that faithful servant.
Then the climax of it all: “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones”—even the humblest servant of the Lord Jesus—”a cup of cold water only”— because he’s a disciple of the Lord, just because he loves Jesus—”verily, truly I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” [Matthew 10:42]. I repeat that is one of the most unusual and astonishing of all of the things ever said by our Master. When I think of a service for Jesus, and when I think of a great reward at the feet of Christ, I think of things stupendous, and tremendous, and catastrophic, and cataclysmic, but the Lord thinks in those terms not at all; these humble ministries, sweet and lowly and precious.
I could have called this sermon “The Significance of the Insignificant.” These sweet, humble ministries that practically all of us are capable of only are as dear, as meaningful, as significant, as mighty in the sight of God as the great work of an Elijah, or an Isaiah, or a John the Baptist. Now as I begin thinking about this thing that our Lord has said, it comes to my heart: that’s God. Not peculiarly or uniquely here, not just alone here, but that’s God throughout all of this universe. That’s God today. That’s the Lord. That’s how God is.
Now a man is just the opposite. For example, to a man a meteor is a tremendous phenomenon, flashing across the sky with its tail a billion miles long, and they sparkle and they glitter as they wander in its transitory orbit. Oh, what a meteor that is announced and watched and waited for can do to a whole world! But the sun that rises in the morning, that brings to life the birds, the bees, the flowers, the fields, that awakens the world of mankind, that sun arises and shines so simply, and so softly, and so sweetly that it can play on a baby’s cheek and the child never awakens; that’s God. Yet without that sun and without that light and without the warmth of that beam, this whole world would turn into solid ice, and cold, frosty, bitter winds would blow over these oceans of ice beds, the whole earth turned to frost and to snow and to dark. But to us, the meteor would be the thing to see, and the sun is never thought or thanked for. That’s God, and that’s the man.
You find the same thing in all of life, all of life. Here is a little seed that sprouts. Who pays any attention to a seed that sprouts? But the bursting of life in that tiny capsule holds the whole destiny of life in its little hand. God is in the seed, bursting so quietly, so humbly, so hiddenly into life. I tell you, if we had a volcano that burst into flame and into fury and into fire, how we would think and how we would notice it. But nobody pays any attention to the seed, but that’s God—the humble, lowly ministries that the Lord says are great and mighty.
I see it also in the life of our Savior. What kind of a man was He? As I read history, and as you can see in mind’s imagination, can’t you imagine Pontius Pilate riding by in his Roman chariot and all of the slaves doing obeisance to him? Can’t you see Herod Antipas as he struts like a peacock, like some crackpot Napoleon, up and down the streets of Tiberias and driving through Judea and Perea? Can’t you see Herod Antipas? Or could you not imagine an imperious Caesar with the whole world at his command? Can’t you see those men drive by? Can you see also the lowly Lord Jesus walking down a dusty road? Can you see that too? Can you hear Him talk, simple words, simple language? I often think about that when I read these heavy theological tomes and compare them with the monosyllabic words of our blessed Savior.
You know what He would talk about? Little things, little things with God in them; sometimes it would be a wild flower, a lily of the field [Luke 12:27-28]. Sometimes it would be a little sparrow that falls, and the eye of the heavenly Father watching it plummet to the ground [Matthew 10:29]. Sometimes it would be about a little child set in the midst [Mark 10:13-16]. Sometimes it would be about a poor widow and two little mites [Luke 21:1-4]. Sometimes it would be about bread [Matthew 4:4]. Sometimes it would be about a sower [Matthew 13:1-9]. Sometimes it would be about a woman making dough [Matthew 13:33]; little things with God in them. And how was His ministry? “That it might be fulfilled which was prophesied by Isaiah, saying, He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench . . . And in His name shall the Gentiles trust” [Matthew 12:17-21].
I spoke of history and these that march across its page in contumely and in grandeur and in their superior election! Why, I can just see as I read the course of history, this is the country through which Alexander the Great marched with his armies, and look at his train! Or this—this is the great path that Pompey trod, and this is his train! Or this is the marching corps of a Julius Caesar or a Mark Antony, and this is in his train! And this is the path that Jesus trod, and this is in His train: the blind could see, and the deaf could hear, and the leper was clean, and the lost were saved, and the poor had the gospel preached unto them [Matthew 11:5]. That’s Jesus—humble ministries, a cup of cold water only [Matthew 10:42].
Now may I bring it to our own souls and our own lives? What do we purpose for God? “I tell You, Lord, You just look at me. I purpose some mighty thing, some stupendous thing, some cataclysmic thing, some volcanic thing! O Lord, I’m going to do a mighty thing for Thee!” Well, I’m not finding fault. If a man adjudges himself to do some great and mighty thing for God, the Lord bless him in it. I’m not finding fault. I’m just saying that if you are like our blessed Master, the more you are like Him and the more you capture His spirit, the more you will be washing feet [John 13:3-5], humbly ministering, doing some quiet and precious thing for Jesus.
“Where shall I work today, dear Lord?”
And my love flowed warm and free.
And the Lord, he pointed out a tiny place
And said, “Tend that for me.”
And I replied, “Oh, no, dear Lord! Not that tiny place.
Why, nobody could ever see
However my work was done.
Not that little place for me!”
And when the Lord answered, he was not harsh;
He answered me tenderly:
Tell me, precious child of mine,
Are you working for them? or for me?
Nazareth was a little place
And so was Galilee.”
[“Where, Father Today?” Eleanor Scott Sharples, 1921]
I’m not castigating the man that envisions some great and mighty and catastrophic work for God. I’m just avowing that the chances are the nearer you get to Jesus, the more you will aspire to those sweet, humble ministries, a cup of cold water only [Matthew 10:42].
And these things are true in every section of human life. When I was in Athens, I walked around and looked at that Parthenon created by the incomparable sculptor, Phidias. And when I was in the Louvre, I looked at those friezes, and the last time I was in London, I went to the British Museum and looked at those Elgin marbles created by Phidias.
Now those marbles, those incomparable sculptured pieces, were made to go high in the pediment, that triangle where the roof comes to the front. They were made to go in that pediment and around the frieze, all the way, and the people standing below could never see them, save the outline of the front of the sculptured piece. But you look at them in the Louvre in Paris, and you look at them in the British Museum in London. There they are situated so you can look at the back of them; every fold and every little strand of hair is as marvelously wrought in every little detail in the back where nobody would ever see, as in the front where the worshippers in the ancient Greek day could look upon the scene. Somebody asked Phidias one time, “Why is it, why is it that you take such tremendous pains to make these figures so perfect in the back where nobody can see or ever will see?” and Phidias replied, “Yes, but God can see it.” That’s why they were great. And the same thing is found in the great Christian sculpture Michelangelo. Have you seen his Pieta? It was brought to the World Fair in the St. Peter’s Cathedral. Have you looked at that? It lives. It literally lives.
Have you seen his Moses in the church in Rome and Peter in Chains? Have you seen Michelangelo’s Moses? Have you seen his David in the Museum and Institute of Fine Arts in Florence? You can’t imagine that a man could create such life out of a cold stone, out of solid marble, but Michelangelo as he chiseled and worked, and the days and the months and the years passed—and somebody said, “Michelangelo, we’ve been looking at this statue, and it’s been finished for so long, and yet you still are working. These things are but trifles!” And the famous answer of the great artist, “True, trifles. But trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.” That’s God. And it is thus in our testimony for the Savior. The little things, the cup of cold water only, the kindness, the sympathy, the gesture of understanding and remembrance, the thoughtfulness, the being a Christian, capturing the spirit of our Lord; these are great and mighty things in God’s sight.
Do you people remember Lynn Landrum? Lynn Landrum, Lynn Landrum was an editor of the Dallas Morning News, and he was a Methodist. He belonged over here at the First Methodist Church. Lynn Landrum was my friend, and Sunday night after Sunday night as I’d stand up here to preach, Lynn Landrum, as he called it in his column, would “shoe-horn in” to one of the pews there at the back and attend our service on Sunday night. I thought that was the best compliment I ever had when he said he “shoe-horned in” to one of the pews in the First Baptist Church on Sunday night. Oh, that wonderful man, now in glory! Lynn Landrum published, in his editorial column on the editorial page of the Dallas News, one time Lynn Landrum published this. He said there was a boy that belonged to a wretched and miserable home, and he was despised and beat and unwanted, and upon a day the boy left the house and left the home where he was so beat, and whipped, and unwanted, and despised. His home was in Virginia, and he made his way through Virginia, just going as a boy would, anywhere, nowhere.
And upon a day, cold, and wet, and raining, and he was hungry and miserable, he walked up to a farm home and knocked at the door. There was a woman with a beautiful face who came to the door and saw that wretched and homeless boy, wet, and cold, and hungry. She invited him in and she took care of him for the remainder of that day and the night. And that night, that woman knelt with her large family of children and prayed. That was the first time that boy ever saw anybody pray, and he looked between the fingers of his hands to see who the Father was that she was talking to, but there was no man in the house. She was a widow. And the next day, he went on his way, remembering that woman of the beautiful face.
He made his way finally down into North Carolina, and there a farmer, a Baptist deacon, picked him up and put him to work. The summertime came, the crops were laid by, and they had a camp revival meeting, and that boy was saved. And when he was saved, the Baptist deacon said to the lad, “Now, son, you’ve been saved. You’re a Christian now. You must join a church. You must belong to God’s house.”
And the boy said, “But, sir, I don’t know what church to join.”
And the Baptist deacon said, “You ask God, and you make a decision, and you join that church.”
And the boy replied, “Sir, could I have three weeks in which to make that decision?”
And the Baptist deacon said, “Yes. Yes indeed.”
And that boy retraced his steps through North Carolina and up into Virginia, and knocked at the door, and the woman of the beautiful face came to the door. And the boy said, “What church do you belong to? I want to join that church.”
Lynn Landrum said, being a Methodist, he became a great Methodist preacher, joining that church. And one of his converts, I remember the article said, was the famous Bob Schuller out in California; won more people to Jesus than any Methodist preacher that they ever had. And how did he come to be a Methodist? The woman of the beautiful face; “What church do you belong to?” Ah, how these things are true in God!
How does the Lord speak to us? And Elijah stood at the entrance to the cave, and there was a great wind, a tornado, and God wasn’t in the wind. And there was a great earthquake, and the very rocks rent; and God wasn’t in the earthquake. And there was a fire that burned; and God wasn’t in the fire. And in a still, small voice; and God spake to Elijah in the still, quietness of an inward voice; that’s God [1 Kings 19:11-12].
How do we become a Christian? Ah, listen to this, and I’m done. In the story of Naaman [2 Kings 5:1-14], coming with his horses, and his chariots, and his gold, and his silver, and his changes of raiment [1 Kings 5:5], standing at the door of the house of Elisha the prophet of God, “I’m a leper, and there is healing in Israel; tell me what I shall do to be healed!” And Elisha sent Gehazi his servant out to him and said, “Go down to the muddy waters of the Jordan water and dip seven times, and your flesh will come again like unto the flesh of a little child” [2 Kings 5:9-10]. And Naaman was insulted, insulted! As though he had been confronted by a challenge to war, he was insulted. “Why,” he said, “I thought at least he would come out and in some great incantation call on the name of his Lord God and strike the place of the leprosy and heal [2 Kings 5:11]. Or I thought he would send me on a mission with my armies, or I thought he would have me come with thousands of talents of gold and silver and changes of raiment. But to go down to the muddy waters of the Jordan River and wash!”
And he turned, the Bible said, and went away in a rage, driving those chariots furiously back to Damascus, a leper [2 Kings 5:11-12]. One of his servants put his hand on the arm of the great Syrian general and said, “My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great and mighty thing, wouldst thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he said, Wash and be clean” [2 Kings 5:13]. And Naaman pulled back on the reins of those fiery steeds— whoa, whoa, whoa! And turned them around, and went down to the Jordan River, and dipped himself seven times in the waters of the Jordan. And when he came up the seventh time, his flesh came back like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean [2 Kings 5:14]. That’s God! That’s God!
Ah, some great and mighty thing! God bless anybody, anytime, anywhere that can do a cataclysmic, catastrophic, earthquake thing for God. I’m just saying that mostly, it seems to me, when you draw nigh to Jesus, it will be a cup of cold water only [Matthew 10:42]. It will be a sweet and a humble ministry. It will be a coming down an aisle, a kneeling at an altar, an opening of the inward soul heavenward. It will be some sweet and precious thing like the dawn of the morning and the light shining in the soul. That’s God. That’s the Lord.
Our time is spent. And while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you give himself to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], a family you coming into the fellowship of the church, however God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Make it today. In this balcony round, there is a stairway at the front and the back, and time and to spare; come. The great throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front: “Pastor, tonight, I take Jesus as my Savior. I open my heart heavenward,” or “Tonight we’re putting our lives into the fellowship of this dear church.” As God shall say the word and open the door, make it now. Come now. On the first note of the first stanza, come. When we stand up in a moment, stand up coming: “Here I am, pastor, I make it now. I do it now,” while we stand and while we sing.
A CUP OF WATER ONLY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Matthew 10:40-42, Zechariah 4:10
7-3-66I. Unusual text
A. Reward of the humblest servant
B. Significance of the insignificantII. God’s daily blessings in the humble and lowly
A. Meteor vs. sunshine
B. Seed that sproutsIII. God in Christ
A. He Himself
B. His words
C. His teachings (Matthew 12:17, 19-20)
D. His workIV. In our lives
A. Our work
B. Winning others
C. God speaking to us (1 Kings 19:11-12)