WHERE CAN I FIND GOD?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Sunday will be the last day of this centennial revival. It is Mother’s Day, and at the eleven o’clock hour I will be preaching on Mother’s God, and at the evening hour I will be preaching on The Blood of the Cross. And tonight, the message is entitled Where Can I Find God? And you are going to find that question asked in a story in the sermon itself: Where Can I Find God?
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” [Hebrews 11:1]. That is the way the great faith chapter begins in the eleventh of Hebrews. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God”; by fiat, God spoke it into existence, “so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” [Hebrews 11:3]. In the Greek, that is the finest statement of the atomic theory of substance to be found in all literature. “Without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him [Hebrews 11:6]. “For he that cometh to God must believe that He is.”
This is a message prepared especially for young people. And I am not under any illusion that I can in any wise keep up with them. I do not try. I have some staff members who are foolish enough to try, but they cannot walk now. I don’t do that. I know they live in a too furious, fast generation for me.
Yet one of the ironies of life and one of the strange turns of fate is that in this church we have more young people than any church I ever saw in my life. I’m the pastor and I’m supposed to be leading them. Isn’t that something? You know, it’s just like that preacher that drove up to a filling station in a Model T Ford, and the water and the steam were just blowing out of the radiator, and he got out of the car, and he said to the filling station attendant, “Fill her up with water, I’m in a hurry.” And while the filling station attendant was pouring water in that boiling-over Model T Ford, the preacher said, “Did you see any cars go by here just now?”
“Oh yeah,” said that filling station man, “I saw a big Cadillac go by here ninety miles an hour.” “Well,” he said, “Did you see any other car?”
“Yeah,” said that filling station operator, “I saw a big Continental go by here a hundred miles an hour.”
“Well, did you see another car?”
“Yeah,” said that filling station operator, “I saw one of those Stingrays; man, I saw it going by here a hundred twenty miles an hour.” And the preacher said to the filling station operator, “Hurry up! Fill this car with water! Those are my young people, and I am supposed to be leading them!” Brother, that’s me, I tell you.
I remember one time I was speaking in a series of services to young people, and Mabel Ann, our daughter, was singing with me in the meeting. So after I had done my best speaking to those young people, why, Mabel Ann came up to me after everybody had gone, and she said, “Daddy, let’s just face it. You don’t speak their language, you don’t live their life, and you don’t know their words.” Well, I said, “Honey, that’s the Lord’s truth. Half of what they say to one another, I don’t know what they are talking about.” But I said, “I’m just like that preacher, when a beatnik came to hear him preach, and he liked the sermon. And the preacher was standing at the back of the church, as I often do, shaking hands with the folks as they go home, and that beatnik came by and shook hands with the preacher, and he said, ‘Parson, man, you were cooking on a top burner today. Man, you were going great guns today.’ And the dignified prelate said, ‘What did you say?’ And the beatnik said, ‘I said, “Preacher, you were in orbit today.”’ And the dignified prelate said, ‘I beg your pardon?’ And the beatnik said, ‘I was saying, preacher, you were a gold cat today, and I put a twenty dollar bill in the collection plate.’ And upon that the preacher grabbed the beatnik’s hand and said, ‘Crazy, man, crazy.’”
I’m not a-denying to start off with that they live in a world of their own, but there are some common denominators, whatever age we live in and however our present age. Old or young, a child, a teenager, or an old man, there are some common denominators in all of life, in every house, in every home. One of them is death. I do not bury just old men and old women. I bury children, and often do, and I bury teenagers. Another is trouble; it isn’t just grown people who have troubles, or childish troubles that bring tears to little childish hearts, but teenagers have trouble too. Young people know trouble.
In the city of Dallas, in our newspaper, there was a big black headline, and I summarily, casually looked through the story; one of those violent sins that you don’t talk about in a public audience. Well, I looked at it briefly, dismissed it from my mind, and a few days later there came down to the church a mother with a boy, looked to be about sixteen years of age.
She introduced herself and the boy, and I said, “I’m delighted to have you. Sit down. And what can I do to help? And why have you come?”
She said to me, “I am sure you know why I am here.”
I said, “No, I never saw you before. I do not know you,” but she said, “I’m sure you have read about my son.” Then it came back into my mind, and I said, “What did you say your name was?” and she called her name, and I remembered that newspaper article, and I turned to the boy. I said, “Is your name”—and I called his name.
He said, “Yes.”
Well, I turned back to the mother, and I said, “Mother, what can I do to help?” And she said to me, “Last night my boy came into my bedroom and fell down at the chair where I was seated, and cried, saying, ‘Mother, where can I find God?’”
And I took that question, the title of my sermon: Where Can I Find God? I need God.
And the mother said to me, “When I was a little girl, I attended a Methodist Sunday school, but it’s been so many years ago I cannot remember what I was taught.” She said to me, “I went next door and told my friend and neighbor next door that my boy was in my bedroom on his face, asking where he could find God. And I couldn’t tell him.”
“Would you come,” she said, “and tell him?” And the neighbor said, “I cannot tell him either; but every Sunday I listen to the pastor of the First Baptist Church on television. Take your boy to him.” And the mother said, “I have brought my boy to you for you to tell him where he can find God.”
As a teenager faces a quest like that today, I can so easily understand the confusion of their search. There is the materialist and the secularist, and he is increasingly present in our educational system and in government and in all of the cultural forms of life. There is the ever-present materialist and secularist who avows that “We don’t need God, and we have no place for God. If we have tractors to move mountains, we don’t need faith. And if we have penicillin, we don’t need prayer. And if we have positive thinking, we don’t need God. And if we have the state, we don’t need the church. And if we have manuals of science, we don’t need the Bible. And if we have an Einstein and an Edison, we don’t need Jesus.” This is the blunt and the brazen answer of materialism to the youth today.
And not only that; I can so well, I say, understand the confusion of our young people in their search for God when, in the pulpit and in the theological chair at the seminary, there are divinity professors who say, “There is no living God, for God is dead!” If a blaspheming infidel said that, I would not be surprised. If a loathsome bum were to say that, I would not be surprised. If a communist were to say that, I would not be surprised. But for a professor of theology and a minister of the gospel of Christ to say that is unthinkable! No wonder our young people are confused.
And not only the materialist and not only the modern liberal theologian, but the businessman acts as though God isn’t real. “Money is real, that’s real. And success is real, that’s real. And corporations are real, that’s real. And affluence is real, that’s real. But God is not real.” And as the teenager faces the search, “Where can I find God?” I can understand the confusion into which they inevitably fall.
I want to answer it in three ways tonight. Where can I find God? Where is God? First: I can find God around me, all around me. I can see God. When Sir Christopher Wren, the greatest architect the world has ever known, planned St. Paul, he made the cathedral the center of London, and when he died he was buried in it. And when I visited his sepulcher, I read the Latin inscription above his tomb: Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice: “Reader, if you seek a monument, look around you”; built by Sir Christopher Wren.
If you would find God, look around you: everywhere the glory of His presence. Now, the atheist and the materialist says that all that you see just happened of itself; it made itself. And the pseudoscientists are the strangest breed of men I have ever read after in my life, for they will say, “The first and great fundamental credo of science is that out of nothing, nothing comes.” That’s the first basic axiom of all science: out of nothing, nothing comes. Then they will turn right around and say, “And the universe made itself out of nothing.” Their credulity is extended beyond anything I could imagine. For God’s Book says He created it by fiat: He spoke and the worlds were flung into orbit [Hebrews 11:3]. He spoke and there was light [Genesis 1:3-4] and the glory of the marvelous firmament above us [Genesis 1:6-8]. The psalmist said, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His lacework, His handiwork” [Psalm 19:1]. This is God all around me.
A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite tender sky,
And the rich ripe tint of the cornfields,
And the wild geese sailing high,
And all over upland and lowland,
The charm of the goldenrod—
Some people say, Well, that’s autumn;
But some of us say, That’s God.
A picket frozen on duty,
A mother starved for her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And million who, humble and nameless,
The straight, hard pathway plod—
Some say, Well, that’s Consecration;
But some of us say, That’s God.
[from “Each in His Own Tongue,” William Herbert Carruth]
The eye of faith can see Him everywhere. Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice: look around you. This is the work and the glory of God.
Where can I find God? Not only outwardly, around me; I find God inwardly, inside of me. I find God in my moral sensitivity. And there are no peoples, there are no tribes, there are no families, however degraded, however darkened, but that that moral sensitivity is in their souls: the image of the divine Creator. And those moral equations enter every area of life. There are none beyond it. There are none aside from it. The sensitivity for right and for wrong, to morality, is in every area of life, and the language of life is morally conditioned everywhere.
For example, there was a woman who called the First National Bank concerning some of her investments in the trust down there. And when she called the bank, the man, the trust officer, said over the telephone to her, “What denomination are your securities, and are you interested in conversion or redemption?” There was a long pause on the other end of the line. And the woman said, “Sir, am I talking to the First National Bank or the First Baptist Church?” You cannot escape it. That is God: the moral image God has created in all of us, and the moral sensitivity by which God has made us. Right and wrong, morality, is grounded in the character of God. Right is right and wrong is wrong because of what God is. Men cannot legislate it, nor can men change it. And these false sociologists sometimes come along and teach some of the vainest inanity that I’ve ever read in my life, as though morality and right and wrong were variable, as though they were changeable.
Men do not change the character and being of God, and morality never changes; never. It is never variable. It is unchanging, and it is never relative; it is absolute! What was right yesterday is right today and will be right forever! And what was wrong yesterday is wrong today and will be wrong forever! Because right and wrong, morality, is grounded in the character of Almighty God! What God is, and that what God is is in you, and you are morally sensitive—you can’t drown it. You can’t escape it. It is you. Whatever you are, that is in you; and it is unchanging through the ages and the centuries and the millennia, because God never changes [Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; Psalm 119:89].
Why, I remember reading in the Holy Book, I remember reading of an Oriental king, and he lived in a day when Oriental kings were above reproach on the part of the people. Whatever he did, he had a right to do. And this Oriental king added to his harem a woman who belonged to another man. David saw Bathsheba and lusted after her and brought her into his house and committed adultery with her [2 Samuel 11:2-5]. Then, to hide his transgression, he slew her husband in war [2 Samuel 11:6-17]. He was an Oriental despot, and what an Oriental despot could do—it was the accepted more of the Orient that their king was in all manners above the reach of the people, and if he chose to do that, that was between him and his choice and that’s all. Now, that is the story of human life. However, in the Bible, the next verse says, “But God, but God.” How ever the mores of a monarch Oriental, and how ever the absoluteness of the sovereignty of the king, the Book says, “But God” [2 Samuel 11:27].
And the Lord God sent Nathan the prophet to David [2 Samuel 12:1] and said, “A fourfold judgment.” One: the child shall die [2 Samuel 12:14], but God is not done. Second: Tamar his daughter was raped and ravished and destroyed [2 Samuel 13:11-19], but God is not done. Third: Amnon, her own brother and David’s son, who raped her and violated her, was slain by her brother [2 Samuel 13:28-29], but God is not done. Four: Absalom, the pride of his soul and the heir apparent to the throne, was slain in a rebellion against his own father [2 Samuel 18:9-15], and God is not done. The Lord God said, “And the sword shall never leave thy house” [2 Samuel 12:10], and the story of the house of David is written in blood to this present hour. That’s God.
“But you don’t know me, preacher, and you don’t understand; for I can wrong God, and I can sin, and there will be no judgment on me!” There is no such thing as a man sinning but that God’s judgment awaits him, someday, somewhere, payday someday. That’s God. And Samson was taken by the Philistines, and they bound him, and they put out his eyes, and they made him grind like an ox at the prison mill [Judges 16:21]. For sin binds, and sin blinds, and sin grinds, and it grinds, and it grinds! That’s God. The moral judgment of God in human life is His presence in your soul; and your moral sensitivity, your feeling of right and wrong, is God inside of you.
Not only do I find God around me, outside of me, and not only do I find God inwardly, but I find God above me. Well, well, God above me; around me, in me, above me. Well, twenty-four hours and the world turns over. There is always an upwardness in the heart that is ever up, and there is a downwardness in the soul that is ever down. There is an up-ness in the heart that is always up, and that’s God. I find God not only in the universe around me, and I find God not only in the moral sensitivity in me, but I find God also in the upwardness of His call to my life. And I feel it and have ever since the days of my conscious accountability. I have felt that upward pull and call of God; up there, up.
A farmer in Louisiana captured a wild mallard duck and staked him out on the pond in the barnyard with his domesticated ducks. And that big mallard, staked there in the barnyard, swam around with those other domesticated ducks on the surface of the pond. And when the summertime came, the springtime came, and those big mallards began to rise and to turn toward the north, they saw that mallard down there on the surface of the pond, swimming around.
And those great mallards circled the farm and called to that mallard staked below. The rest of the ducks swam around unnoticing, but that mallard lifted up his head and heard, and he spread his great wings to rise upward, and the stake and the cord pulled him back down. And the next day, another formation of those great mallards saw him there on the pond, and circled the pons, and called to him from the sky! And that great mallard lifted up his head and heard, and spread his great wings, and with a mighty lunge broke the cord; and upward, and upward, and away, and away. That’s the way with the human heart.
There is a call upward, and I have felt it ever since I was a boy. When I was a small lad, I felt that call from God and I answered in confession of faith, taking the Lord as my Savior, and I was baptized on a confession of that faith. And in those days, so small, I felt that call of God. And when I was yet a junior, I gave my heart and life to be a preacher. And I feel that call today, upward, upward, as much as I did when I was a junior boy. That’s God. I must close. I see that everywhere. It isn’t just I—ah, the hearts, the hearts of our children, and teenagers, and young people, and fathers, and mothers, feeling that upward call of God; everywhere.
In a church where I was holding a meeting, there had been a beautiful young girl, in the most affluent home in the city, who had been wondrously converted. Her parents were very affluent and very worldly. And in that revival meeting, the young people announced an all night prayer service, praying for the revival all night long. And on Saturday night, when they were praying all night long for the services on Sunday, on that Saturday night, her father and her mother dressed her up. She had on a beautiful gown, an evening dress; she had on her jewels; she had on her slippers; and the father and mother refused the remonstrance of the daughter who wanted to go to the prayer meeting, and put her in the car, and said to the chauffeur, “Take her to the club for the dance.”
And they put that girl, beautifully dressed, her hair, her gown, her slippers, her jewels, they put her in the limousine and told the chauffeur to take her to the club. And the girl sat there on the back seat of the car crying, and the chauffeur of the family heard her and began to ask her what was the matter, and she told him. And the chauffeur said, “If you will tell me, I’ll turn this car around and drive you to the church and leave you there, and I’ll go to the home and tell your father and mother what you’ve done and where you are.”
She said, “Do it.” And the chauffeur turned the car around and took her to the church and left her there, and he went home with the car to tell father and mother where she was and what she was doing. And you can imagine the strangeness of that sight: all those young people, there for an all night prayer meeting, and that one young girl in her beautiful gown, and her slippers, and her hair, and her jewels just so.
I had walked life’s way with an easy tread,
Had followed where pleasures and comforts led
Until one day, in a quiet place,
I met the Master face to face.
With station and wealth and rank for my goal,
Much thought for my body but none for my soul,
I had entered to win in life’s mad race
When I met the Master face to face.
I had built my castles, and reared them high
Until they touched the blue of the sky;
I had sworn to rule with an iron mace,
When I met the Master face to face.
I met Him and knew Him and blushed to see
That His eyes, filled with sorrow, were fixed on me.
I faltered and fell at His feet that day,
While my castles melted and vanished away;
Melted and vanished, and in their place,
Naught could I see but the Master’s face.
I cried aloud, Oh, make me meet
To follow the steps of Thy wounded feet.
My thought is now for the souls of men;
I lost my life to find it again,
E’er since one day, in a quiet place,
I met the Master face to face.
[“I Met the Master,” author unknown]
That is God. And to answer that call in your heart, in your soul, in your life is to find the abounding answer itself. Where can I find God? I find Him in the answer when I give to the Lord my life. There He is, there He is: with me when I kneel in prayer, with me when I rise up in the morning, with me in every hour of the day, with me in every decision that I face, with me in age, with me in death, and with me in the world that is yet to come. That is God. His name is Immanuel: “God is with us” [Matthew 1:23].
And tonight, coming to give your life to Jesus, down one of these stairways at the back, at the front, on either side; the press and the throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front—ofttimes is it pressed upon our hearts: “How do I become a Christian? How is it that I can be saved?” One: I must ask God to forgive me my sins [Acts 2:38]. Two: I must trust Jesus as my Savior [Acts 16:30-31]. Three: I must openly, publicly, unashamedly confess Him [Romans 10:9-10]. And when I do, I’m saved, I’m saved! To answer God with your life, come, come, come. In a moment, we shall stand to sing our appeal. A father and mother you, bring the whole family with you; and if one of your children is down here at the front, find him, or I’ll call him, and we’ll put the whole family together tonight. Or just two of you, or just somebody one, you, as the Lord shall press the appeal to your heart, as God shall speak and call tonight, answer with your life: “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Make the decision now, where you’re seated. Make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up coming. On the first note of the first stanza, come. Do it tonight. Make it tonight. Some, “I want to take the Lord as my Savior.” Some, “I want to put our home together, we’re coming.” Some, “I want to be baptized.” Some, “I want to answer God’s call, giving my life in a special way to Jesus.” As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, come. Make it now, do it now, and in a moment when we stand up, stand up coming. God bless you in the way. Do it tonight. Do it now. God strengthen and bless as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
I FIND GOD?
I. A message for our young people
and trouble are common denominators, whatever age
II. Can be a confusing search
present materialist and secularist avow we have no need or place for God
the pulpit and seminary modern liberal theologians declare God is dead
businessman acts as though God isn’t real
III. God is in the world around me
you would find God, look around you
Atheist and materialist say all you see just happened, made itself
1. Fundamental credo of
science – out of nothing, nothing comes
Book says He created the world by fiat
1. The heavens declare
the glory of God (Psalm 19:1)
2. Poem, “Each in His
IV. God is in the world within me
sensitivity – the image of the divine Creator
1. Language of life is
morally conditioned everywhere
is grounded in the character of God – unchanging and absolute
1. David and Bathsheba
– “But Godâ€¦”(2 Samuel 11:27)
2. You cannot escape
judgment of God
V. God is in the world above me
call of God upward
mallard duck staked to the pond
own call from God as a boy
affluent girl, chooses the prayer meeting over the dance
Poem, “I Met the Master”