Facing the Future with God
January 4th, 1970 @ 8:15 AM
FACING THE FUTURE WITH GOD
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1-4-70 8:15 a.m.
In this first Sunday of the new year, you who are listening to the radio are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor presenting the outline of the work that God has laid upon us for this and these immediate years. The title of the message is Facing The Future With God. And as a background text, but just that, in nowise is this a sermon of exposition. It is a background text. In the eleventh chapter of Deuteronomy, God says, through His servant Moses, as His people face the Promised Land:
For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence thou camest out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot—
by irrigation raising the water out of the Nile and so irrigating—
But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven:
It is a land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year, today, even unto the end of the year
God’s eyes look upon it, and they like thought, expressed so many years later by David, is in the thirty-second Psalm, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with Mine eye” [Psalm 32:8]. What a magnificent and wondrous and yet awesome revelation of God as we read it here in this Holy Book. Look up there. God is above us. Heaven is always above us. And God sees us, and His eyes are upon us from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Isn’t it a tragedy that when time came to trust that same Lord Jehovah God and to enter in to possess the land, that at Kadesh-barnea they failed, they forgot [Numbers 13:26-14:35], and for forty years they wandered aimlessly without purpose in the wilderness [Numbers 14:30-35, 32:11-13]. But having learned that lesson at the Jordan [Joshua 3:14-17], and at Jericho [Joshua 6], their trust came to fruition, and God honored and blessed them [Joshua 23:1-3].
Well, we have come to the time that God has struck for us, sounded for us a trumpet call, a plain assignment, and one part of it I speak of today. This year we’re going to fling dirt, we’re going to dig holes, we’re going to pour concrete. We’re going to build buildings, and the time is now. There is never a perfect time for any kind of work, never. There’s either a war going on, or there are strikes, or there are labor difficulties, or the market is depressed, or interest rates are high, or money is scarce, or there are difficulties and discouragements. It is never a perfect time. But, we are not proposing to take counsel with our fears and our difficulties. God’s Word says, “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap” [Ecclesiastes 11:4]. You look for that exact and propitious moment to sow your seed or to reap the fields, and it’ll never come. There’s always a cloud in the sky or a wind over the horizon.
T.J. Jackson, Stonewall Jackson, of whom Robert E. Lee said, “If I had had Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg, I would have won the war,” T. J. Jackson, one of God’s greatest men, a great Christian man, T. J. Jackson said, “At dawn we storm the ramparts!”
But one of his aides said, “But General, it is raining.”
And Stonewall Jackson said, “But it’s raining on the enemy also.”
We’re not looking at our difficulties or at the times. We’re looking at God’s work and assignment for us. It’s an amazing thing about human psychology; you can talk yourself into anything or out of anything. One of the stories that intrigued me was of an immigrant from Italy who was selling hot dogs. Being an immigrant, he had difficulty with the language, and having difficulty with his language, being hard of hearing, he didn’t listen to the radio. And having trouble with his eyes, he didn’t read a newspaper. But he knew how to make good hot dogs. So he put his stand on the side of the road, and he put him a sign saying what good hot dogs he had to sell. And he stood on the side of the road, and anyone came by, he said, “Mister, want a hot dog? It’s-a so good!” And he flourished. And he doubled his order for bread, and he doubled his order for meat, and he put in an order for a new stove. “Business was-a so good.”
He sent his boy to college. And his boy came home from school. And he listened to his father putting in those orders on the telephone. “Double the bread, double the meat, and a bigger stove.” And the boy from school said, “Why, Father, you don’t understand these times. We’re in a great recession. The international situation is tragic, and the domestic situation is worse. Halve the order for the bread, halve the order for the meat, and cancel the order for the cook stove.” So the hot dog immigrant, the Italian, took down his sign, didn’t stand any longer on the highway, and business fell off precipitously. And the old man said, “This-a me boy, he’s-a smart-a. Indeed we are in a great depression.”
As long as there are mouths to feed, the grocery man has a great opportunity. As long as there are babies to be born, the people who sell bottles and diapers have a great opportunity. Even the guy that makes safety pins has an open door. And as long as there are people any day, anytime, any hour, in any condition, we have an open door. The time is now.
As I thought through this message—and these last two weeks I’ve had plenty of time to think it through—lying there in bed staring at the ceiling, I made an acrostic of our proposed program. G-O-A-L; goal. G for goal, O for objective, A for our available resources, and L, locating our strengths and our weaknesses.
“G,” our goal: that’s the great vision, that’s the dream. And our vision and our dream is the fulfillment of God’s heavenly mandate for us, the Great Commission [Matthew 28:18-20]. We’re to win the people to Jesus. We’re to baptize them in the name of the triune God, and we’re to teach them the mind that was in Christ Jesus, everybody. God never overlooked or excluded a soul anywhere. That is our great goal [Acts 1:8]. Here in our Jerusalem, in our Samaria, in our Judea, in our whole earth, that’s our program, our great goal, G, goal, our great goal is reaching people for Christ.
“O,” objective; the difference between a goal and an objective is this. The goal is the dream, the vision, the great mandate and assignment. An objective is a measurable piece of the goal. Our objective, measurable piece of the goal; in some areas, it’s a new department; in some areas, it’s another choir; in some areas, it’s a ministry in a mission. And in the area that I’m talking about now, that measurable objective, it is a vast building program. There on the San Jacinto side it is an eight story educational building, there. On this side, on the St. Paul side, it is a parking building and a ministry for our teenagers. This building costs three million dollars. The parking building costs about a million dollars. And our teenage expansion program costs a million dollars. You kids are million dollar babies. Reckon you’re worth it? We think so. And that’s why we’re doing it.
With regard to the parking building, we can erect it at a subsidy to this church of twelve thousand dollars a year and we pay more than that this minute for our present parking building. We will make it self-parking, build another parking building on the St. Paul, Federal side as large as the one we now have. You go up in one and down in the other, and it’s self-parking. We can do it for twelve thousand dollars a year. Why haven’t we already done it? There’s no man in the church that can answer that question. It is lethargy and confusion and lack of direction. We’re going to do it. We have dillydallied, and waited, and discussed, and committed long enough. We’re going to fling dirt now. We’re going to pour concrete. We’re going to get started. G, O, A, L, our goal which is our dream, our objective which is a measurable part of that goal.
“A,” our available resources; you have to have wherewith to do it. They’re larger than you realize, and most and always that’s true. It is astonishing what plain, ordinary common people can do. Our available resources; we, you, the multitude of us. Isn’t it an astonishing thing? In the disciples of Jesus there is no priest, there is no theologian, there is no man of the schools or of the seminaries. Isn’t it an amazing thing no man of influence, or means, or wealth? Isn’t that astonishing? Have you been to Europe? Have you looked at those cathedrals in Europe? They are the most awe inspiring, physical masonry pieces of structure the world has ever seen. Who built them? Nobody knows. Nobody knows. They were built by plain, common, ordinary people. Our available resources are vaster than we realize, you!
G, O, A, L; locating our strengths and our weaknesses, looking at it, comparing it, checking on it. For example, a strength, the Median Adult Division said we can reach more people. They went over the Cotton Exchange building and rented a large area and beautified it, embellished it. It’s a beautiful place, just go over there and visit it. So they took a Median Adult department and put it over there and made five instead of four. And I visited the new department. I visited the one they put in the Cotton Exchange building. There’s another unit praying, working, visiting, teaching God’s Word, reaching people for Christ. That’s a strength!
Looking at us, locating our strengths and our weaknesses, this is a possible weakness. As I hear our people discuss the program and especially the building on the San Jacinto side, some of them say, “I am afraid that we may be making a mistake in building a large dining hall.” Well, let’s look at it. There are five reasons for a tremendous dining hall. One; when you build it there ought to be many smaller dining halls. There are many times half a dozen different groups meeting down here at the same time. We ought to have at least six or eight smaller dining halls. They ought to open out to make a great dining hall. That’s one reason for it to be large.
Second; if you have a dining hall, it has to be high, the ceiling has to be high. If you don’t, when you get to a low ceiling in a big room, you feel like you’re in a gun barrel, feel like the thing is going to fall on your head. It has to be high. But instead of wasting the height, build you a mezzanine around it and use the mezzanine just as you use the lower floor. That’s what we’ve done in this auditorium. The modern church house almost always is without a balcony. I say that’s a colossal waste of money and space. Look at this auditorium, there’s a balcony swung all the way around it. And there are more than a thousand individual seats in that balcony. It was smart to build it that way. It is smart to build that dining hall that way. Put a mezzanine around it, then our people can be seated here, and they can be seated all the way around it.
Why build it? The third reason: if we’re not going to make it larger than the one we now have, which is kind of like a postage stamp to our present work, then two other tremendous reasons. One: when you study the New Testament Church, it was a koinōnia, and they called it that. It was a communion, it was a fellowship—sometimes translated communion, sometimes translated fellowship—the church is a koinōnia, it’s a fellowship. And when you read that New Testament, you will find a word in the New Testament—agape—and in these latter days, I’m beginning to see it once in awhile spelled out in English, agape. Agape is the Greek word for “love feast.” When the people met together, they broke bread, they loved one another, and they ate together [Acts 2:42]. I would love to have a place in this church where once a week at least the whole congregation could gather together and break bread with the pastor. At least every Wednesday night there is an open agape koinōnia, and our people bring their families and break bread with the pastor. And around those tables we have our prayer meeting service, our midweek hour. One of the sweetest opportunities, as I read God’s Book that I could ever imagine, when you build your church like it says in the Bible, you will have a marvelous congregation.
Then one other, a fifth reason why the largeness of the dining hall: someday, someday you’re going to have to build a new church auditorium, you’ll have to. The floor on which you now are seated is made out of wood. All of that work above us, the ceiling is made out of wood. All of these frames were made out of wood. Had we not gone into those frames a year or so ago, every one of those windows you see would have been falling out into the street. Someday you’ll have to build a new church auditorium. What are you going to do when that time comes? In two years that it would take you to build that auditorium, the church could lose its very momentum, come to a grinding halt. I don’t know what could happen to us in two years.
But if we have a great hall over there, the church can meet over there and do just as well, as prolifically, as felicitously as we do here, never stop a beat or a march. Then over there, we can have all of our dramatic programs, and our great musical nights, and our choirs use it ten times as much as we do now. Whenever you have those things in this auditorium, you have to tear up the front of the auditorium. I don’t like that. I think God’s place of sanctuary and worship ought to be set in a certain way and left that way. But over there you could do as you please, have a great stage and a great commanding performance of any kind. These are things of the wisdom of God. When we do this, let’s do it magnificently and wisely and well; G-O-A-L, our goal, our measurable objectives, looking at our available resources and locating in God’s wisdom our strengths and our weaknesses, checking on ourselves.
Now, such a program demands of us a financial ability. We have to measure up. Well, how do you do a thing like that? Do you know of any church in the earth that is proposing a five million dollar building program? I do not. I do not. Well, how do you think we could face such a stupendous outline such as that? I think we can do it in the power and the resources of Almighty God. I don’t think we can do it in ourselves, but I think with God’s help, looking to God, looking to God, I think we are well able. I am like Caleb and I am like Joshua, in that we are well able to possess the land [Numbers 14:6-9].
Now, there are two ways that I want us to do it. We already have a finance committee appointed. I want to divide that finance committee into two working units. One a unit, a committee, to lead us in a giving program, and second, a committee to help us prepare and sell first mortgage debentures. I speak of each one of them briefly.
The committee of the finance appointed in our giving program; this year, in the months of March and April, we give everybody in this church and every friend of the church an opportunity to help us raise these buildings to the glory of God. This coming March, this coming April, and the card will be a three year pledge card, over these three years, seventy, seventy-one, and seventy-two, these three tax years, this is a pledge I will make to give to that building program. Then each year, we will review it in the spring. Every year there are but a thousand new people to join the church, and every spring for those three years we’ll review it in the spring. If I made a pledge, maybe I can add to it, maybe I have to take away from it, maybe I have to change it, but review it each spring, but the pledge is for three years. Then there will be memorials, any number of them in these buildings, and many of us in memory of someone we love or in honor of someone we love, we can make a worthy gift and dedicate a hall, a department, a great program to that someone. This is the giving part of the work.
Now the other committee concerns our debentures, our bonds, our first mortgage notes. It is my proposal that the five bank presidents who belong to our church form a committee and they prepare these first mortgage notes, and we sell them at five and a half percent interest. I have through the mail yesterday, from the savings company in which I am putting aside money for this building program; I have a note from them. If I have a passbook savings account compounded every day, it will yield 4.86% a year. If I buy a savings certificate, they will pay me compounded interest 5.38% a year. What I want us to do is to sell these first mortgage notes paying 5.50%, just a little above what you can get at the bank and what you can get in the savings account. Now that’s not as much as you’ll be able to get out in the speculative market, but we’re not in the speculative market, and we’re not making money. What we’re doing is doing this for God. So the appeal to every member of the church and every friend of the church is twofold. One, will you give something, and second, will you save something and invest it in God’s program?
Now, when they buy these notes, I think we ought to make it possible for them to cash them in at any time. If you needed the money, bring it to the church. But in order to do that, to be solvent, to be liquid like that, we have to give. For, ultimately, every one of those notes has to be paid, and that’s why we must do both. We must give, and we must save for God. There’s a genius in that. Look at this. The Young Adult director came to me and said, “If I have five departments, we will give you ten thousand dollars a year on the building program for each one of the five departments. If I have six departments, we’ll give you ten thousand dollars a year. If I have seven departments, we’ll give you ten thousand dollars a year. If I have eight departments, we’ll give you ten thousand dollars a year.”
Well, how in the earth do you have the departments and you don’t have the departments? How do you get the money when you don’t have the departments? That’s why you go in debt. We go in debt, and build a building, and organize the departments, then with the help of the new people, and the new partners, and the new prayers, and the new families we’re able to pay the debt. They share it with us. That’s why going in debt.
Now, I must close. To me, in my praying and in my devotions, as I bow my head before God, I have the deep personal conviction as the pastor, and as a Christian, and as a believer in Jesus, I have the deep personal conviction that I have the right to expect God’s blessings upon us when we do our best for Him. It is no longer to me a prayer, “Now, Lord, if. Now, Lord, perchance. Now, Lord, possibly. Now, Lord, maybe.” I have no feeling like that when I take it before God. I have this kind of a conviction. “Lord, we are doing our best for Thee. It is a great program, and a great ministry, and dear God, we have a right to claim the promise that the Lord will be with us [Matthew 28:19-20], and that His presence will work with us, and that God will see us through. And Lord, offering to Thee our best, we have the right to expect God’s Holy Spirit to work with us.”
And in this common intercession, I think we are unbeatable and invincible. Prayer is the union that binds us together with cords of gold to the throne of God. Prayer is the great transmission line to the powerhouse in heaven. Prayers are the hands that are lifted up for God to fill. Prayer is the great moving genius that knits us together in one great heavenly fellowship. That’s the communion. That’s the koinōnia. That’s the binding cord that puts us in lock step. Today, every day of this year, from the beginning of it as God looks down upon us to the end of it at the time of the consummation when victory and triumph crown our faithfulness, I am ready, I’m committed. It is now for God to bless, to guide with His eyes [Psalms 32:81].
Our Lord, in these days past we have been frightened at what the Lord seemingly was leading us to do, but we’re not afraid any longer. There are giants to overcome [Numbers 13:31-33]. There is a land to possess, but God is with us, and He makes us well able [Numbers 14:6-9]. So thank Thee, Lord, for the victory even before it comes to pass, to the glory of Jesus and to the saving of souls, in His dear name, amen [Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8].
Now let’s sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you in the balcony, on the lower floor, to give your heart to the Lord, to come into the fellowship of the church, if for any reason the Spirit of Jesus presses upon your heart the appeal, you come. On the first note of the first stanza, step into that aisle and down here to the front, and by the side of the pastor, “We’ve decided, pastor, and we’re coming.” God be with you as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.