Strong in the Lord
October 13th, 1968 @ 8:15 AM
STRONG IN THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-13-68 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. Now, I want you to look at something. First of all, let’s everybody turn to the Book of Joshua, the Book of Joshua. And we are going to read the first nine verses; the first nine verses of the Book of Joshua; now we all have it. Now Lee Roy, I am going to read it. But I want the Chapel Choir to stand and read it with me. Have all of you got it?
Then, I want you to look at this Chapel Choir, up here and at the front. We’ve all got the place? The Book of Joshua; we are going to read out loud my text, the first nine verses. All right? Now Chapel Choir, now stand up. Yes, chapter 1, chapter 1, first nine verses. I want you to look at that; ah, those glorious young people. Everyone has got his Bible. Now we are going to read Joshua chapter 1, the first nine verses. I will lead it, you can come along and read it out loud with me, and the congregation will follow it in your Bible, together:
Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass, that the Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying,
Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.
There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.
Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses My servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.
This Book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
Thank you choir, thank you. "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest" [Joshua 1:9].
I shall speak of the things in which God is cast our life and lot. I shall speak of it under two headings. First, things that dismay, that discourage, that disunite, and disintegrate, and decay. Then things that encourage, things that sustain us and support us, that help us, that work for us, and with us. I speak to myself maybe, but speaking to my own soul, maybe God will bless the word to all of us. Remembering what God hath said to us, "Be strong and of a good courage: be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee" [Joshua 1:9].
First: things that dismay and discourage. What kind of a future is it? You cannot but pause and think, "Great God in heaven, what lies ahead?" Things that dismay and discourage.
The cold, staid, formal, removed, conservative programming, worshipping of our own churches and their refusal to bend, or to learn, or to change. I sat down in a committee meeting and present was the executive secretary of our Baptist denominational work in a great nation, and the Baptist work is dying in that nation, and has been for years and years. In the minutes, I noticed that some of our Baptist leaders had gone into some of those churches and had sought to explore the possibility of following ways that our Southern Baptist Sunday School Board had found blessed of God in involving our people, multiplying teachers, and departments, and visitation.
So I commented on that, I noticed it in the minutes – and I commented on that and said, "What a wonderful thing! If our churches everywhere could learn how to involve people, not just a minister’s work, not just pulpit work, but all of us sharing in it: Sunday school, Training Union, choir, men, women." And I did it in the deepest sincerity. The executive leader of the denomination tore me apart, castigated me, in the most furious of language. And the next day, in the dining hall in the great hotel where our meetings were convening, publicly did it again; came up to me where I was seated at the table, and where everybody could hear him, castigated me again. Why, I would learn from the ignorantist man if he had something to say, if he had a thought, a program, that God might bless, I’d welcome him for it!
When I was in South America, every one of those big Pentecostal churches – I asked the missionaries to take me to see them – they have Pentecostal churches in South America that have thousands, and thousands, and thousands of members, and as I told you they are building a Pentecostal church in Sao Paulo to seat twenty-five thousand people. I want to know what is it that they do in the name of Jesus that God blesses, but these who belong to us – in their spiritual and supposedly cultural superiority – are offended at the thought that they do not have all of the answers, and they’re unbending, and cold, and formal, and dying.
I sat down on the plane coming back to Dallas yesterday, and an American Airlines stewardess came and sat down by me, and said, "You’re my pastor. I belong to your church." I’m sorry she couldn’t be here today. She’s going to get married and she’s in El Paso this morning. But sat down by me, and she said, "In these big cities in the North and the East where I go so often and where sometimes I’ve been stationed, I try to find a church. But," she said, "the churches are cold, and they’re empty, and they’re formal, and they have no young people."
And that especially impressed me, "And they have no young people." O Lord, whatever the program, and whatever the cost, our church ought to be alive and vibrant with its young people. Things that discourage – – nor are those churches going to change their ways, nor are they going to seek out another program, or another method, or another outreach. Nor are they going to involve their people, nor are they going to open their doors to the youth. They’re going to follow that pattern of death, and they are dying, our people; things that discourage.
I read the Washington Post – the great daily newspaper – on the plane as I came back yesterday, and there on the page dedicated to religion was a black headline and a long article about two of our greatest churches in North Carolina. And they have decided to dispense with baptism. It has no meaning to them, so you’re going to church anyway you like; if you have been christened as an infant, fine.
As I read the article, I brought back to mind some of the messages that I have preached here in this pulpit. Those Anabaptists were burned at the stake and they were drowned in the rivers because they baptized like it says in that Book [Matthew 28:19]. Buried with the Lord, and raised with the Lord [Romans 6:3-5], and they called them Anabaptists, rebaptizers, baptizing again, because all the population had been christened, sprinkled as babies. Baptists – – and the only thing that has ever pulled us together and kept us together has been our doctrine homogeneity.
Whether a Baptist church was there, or a thousand miles there, we were together because we were alike. There’s no hierarchy. There’s no ultimate and final authority to govern Baptist people. The only way that we stay together is our doctrinal convictions that arise out of the Word of God, and when we depart from them, we are surely disintegrating. So as I read the article, I remembered the night before when the president of that state convention came to my hotel room and said, "Pray with me. Pray with me. We face such dark and troublous days in our convention."
Many things, ah! How many to dismay, and to discourage, and to fill our souls with fear and foreboding, but we’re not to be that way. "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee" [Joshua 1:9].
Things that encourage and they are as multitudinous, as innumerable as the stars in the sky. One: the consecration and dedication of our people. I shared in the appointment service of our Foreign Mission Board as an attendant, and a spectator, and a yokefellow in prayer, and deepest interest. And at those appointment services, the young men and women, who are set aside and consecrated for that sacred task, are invited to come and give their testimony, their call to the mission field. There were about thirty some-odd of them.
And this young couple, he and his wife standing there together, he had been a pastor in one of our Southern Baptist churches – and as he gave his testimony, he said it was at a service in which they were making an offering for foreign missions at Christmastime. And he had in his hand – as pastor of the church – he had in his hand an offering for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering for foreign missions.
Then he said it occurred to him as he held the offering in his hand that God asked of him "more than money." "More than money," and that phrase burned itself in my soul. "More than money." And then he followed through with his word, and finally felt that God wanted him, and his wife, he said, felt it too, that God wanted them. So they gave themselves, and prepared themselves, and now were being appointed to the foreign field. God wants more than money, and they were there in answer to that call.
Why, you can’t see that. You can’t hear that. Not that you think, "Lord, why have I been dismayed?" Or, "Why have I been discouraged?" Look what God is doing, not has done alone, not shall do in some glorious teacher, but what God is doing now. Look! Look! Then, I began to turn its message inward, and to us, "more than money." I would suppose, that the simplest and easiest way to serve God would be to write a check, and send it in, and be done with it.
Ah, no, no, a thousand times no. The Lord said, "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee [Psalm 50:12]. The cattle on a thousand hills are Mine [Psalm 50:10]. All the gold and silver is Mine" [Haggai 2:8]. It is in the gift of ourselves. It is in the dedication of our lives, our homes, our families, our children, our love, our prayers, our zeal, our devotion, our days, it is the consecration of life that God needs. Not what you have, but you, you, you.
I could not help but remembered the commendation of Paul to the Christians of Macedonia, to whom Paul wrote, saying, "This they did, not as we had thought, but first they gave themselves to the Lord, then they gave unto us by the will of God" [2 Corinthians 8:5]. There is no other way. First, it is ourselves. First, it is we, the consecration of life, of soul, of energy, of talent, of mind, of heart. It is first of ourselves; then, however else God shall prosper us. May the Lord lead us in our giving, in our tithing, in our offering, but first, more than money, it is the offering of ourselves to God.
And in that ministry, I think of you. O, dear God, how many thousands there are in this dear church, who pour their very lives into this ministry. They are teaching. They are leading. They are guiding. They are singing. They are directing. They’re visiting. They’re knocking at the door. They’re praying, and the church is just a summation of the tears, and the prayers, and the consecration of so great a throng of people; giving ourselves to God.
O the bitter shame and sorrow
that a time could ever be,
when I let the Savior’s pity
plead in vain, and proudly answered:
All of self, and none of Thee!
Yet He found me: and I beheld Him
bleeding on the cursed tree,
heard Him pray: Father, forgive them;
and my wistful heart said faintly:
Some of self and some of Thee!
Day by day His tender mercy,
healing, helping, full and free:
sweet and strong, and ah! so patient,
brought me lower, while I whispered:
Less of self and more of Thee!
Higher than the highest heaven,
deeper than the deepest sea;
Lord, thy love at last has conquered;
grant me now my supplication:
None of self, none of self, and all of Thee!
["O the Bitter Shame and Sorrow," Theodore Monod]
In that dedication, and consecration, the pouring of our very lives out for Jesus, this is our encouragement, our sanctification, our setting aside in God’s grace, in this day, and in this generation for the gospel ministry. O Lord, bless, hallow this dear church, and this precious congregation, and our people. Arise, shine for Thy light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon Thee [Isaiah 60:1].
We must sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, coming into the fellowship of the church, putting your life here with us, accepting Jesus as your Savior, asking God to forgive us – and we all need it – asking God to forgive us, pledging faith, love, life to Him, and putting your life with us in the church; as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Come now. On the first note of the first stanza, come. Come. Come, while we stand and while we sing.
STRONG IN THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. So much to dismay
1. Emerging ministries
2. Staid denominations
3. Doctrinal disintegration
II. So much to encourage
1. Foreign mission appointments
2. God’s appeal for life, consecration