March 15th, 1970 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Acts 18:5, 9, 10
3-15-70 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Godly Encouragement. In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, verse 5, verse 9, and verse 10:
And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the Spirit, and testified to the Jews—
and to the Greeks, and to the whole city of Corinth—
that Jesus is the Christ.
Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee … and I have much people in this city.
That is where I get the title Godly Encouragement; it came from two places, two directions. It came from his brethren. When Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia [Acts 18:5], Paul had been laboring in the merchandising—mercantile city of Corinth, a great ancient Greek city, a heathen city filled with idolatry and lasciviousness. A Corinthian was the ancient Greek word for a libertine; we use the word libertine, they use the word Corinthian. He was in that city, and he was laboring for the Lord. And when Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, where he had left them [Acts 17:14], when they came it encouraged Paul [Acts 18:5]. It was like a fire that burned more furiously and zealously when those two men came down to Corinth to labor with him: that’s one encouragement.
The other encouragement: “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, be not afraid, but speak” [Acts 18:9]. Then the apostle could fall into fear and depression, isn’t that right? There would be no point in the Lord saying to Paul, “Be not afraid, but speak.” No point in it at all unless Paul had fallen into discouragement and into depression and fear. You know, that kind of comforts my heart that God’s apostles and His sainted emissaries also know what it is to be discouraged, and disappointed, and frustrated, and sometimes timidly fearful. So the Lord says to him by night in a vision, “Be not afraid, but speak” [Acts 18:9]. Then He says to him, “I have much people in this city” [Acts 18:10].
That reminds me of the discouragement of Elijah when he sat under the juniper tree and prayed God to die [1 Kings 19:4]. “I am the only one left!” [1 Kings 19:10, 11]. This whole nation and these cities are worldly, and lascivious, and material, and unspiritual, and apostasizing. And the Lord said to him, “Now Elijah, as for that, I have reserved Me seven thousand that have not bowed the knee to Baal and have not kissed his hand” [1 Kings 19:18]. And that’s what the Lord says here to Paul. “Be not afraid, but speak [Acts 18:9]. I am with thee . . . and I have much people in this city” [Acts 18:10]. Well, that’s where I get the subject.
Godly encouragement: I have four, five, six, or seven things to speak about, just according to what that sorry, good for nothing, no-account clock will let me talk. Isn’t that a sight? God’s man hampered by, circumscribed by an inane, impersonal, unfeeling clock. That’s why heaven is going to be heaven; it says “And time shall be no more” [Revelation 10:6]. No clocks up there, we just go on and on and on. I’m going to get me a planet somewhere, and all of those who want to hear a man preach for about forty dozen eons are going to come on that planet and listen to me. I want to do it.
All right, first: ah, you should have been there as I should have been here. The wonderful reports that I have heard from this week, the institute that was held here in this very auditorium; the people who came and were encouraged, interested in the confrontations that God has matched our souls in this generation and in this very hour. I am encouraged in the reports that I have heard. And I am infinitely encouraged in the great crusade in the teeming city of Memphis, that we shared last week. Just a short time, Sunday night through last Friday night, but in that very brief time, there were 1,190 souls that made commitments and wrote it out before the Lord; 461 of them were saved, and 729 of them made other decisions for our Lord. It was a mighty visitation and just the beginning of what God is going to do through the pastors and the churches and the evangelists in our sister city of Memphis, Tennessee.
I believe last Thursday night was the greatest single service I’ve ever looked upon, and I say look upon it: standing there in that high pulpit, in that great coliseum that will seat twelve thousand five hundred people. It was a night where the heavens seemed to be against us. It snowed, it sleeted, it rained. It did everything; it was cold, it was windy, but the people were there.
And when time came for me to give the appeal; I always give the appeal saying, “We will sing a song of invitation.” We never sang any song of invitation, the people started coming, and they came, and they came, and they came. And for forty-five minutes they continued to come. I thought, “Now I’ll give the appeal, and we will stand and sing the song. Then, “I will give the appeal now, and we will stand and sing the song.” You can’t do that when people are coming to the Lord, coming to the Lord, coming to the Lord. I never did get to making that appeal and the people stand and sing the invitation hymn; they just kept coming and kept coming.
The newspaper, the daily newspaper the following morning said that there were 650 people down there coming to the Lord. Many of them, of course, do not fill out those commitment cards. And this heathen singer of mine, after that was over, he said to me, “Pastor, that is unscriptural, we never did sing the invitation hymn tonight.” What do you think about that? That’s the beatenest thing I ever saw in my life, “unscriptural” because we didn’t stand and sing that invitation hymn!
I was reminded of another thing: the tremendous ability and usefulness and power of a junior child. Oh, we had a Junior night, and I said I was going to give a Bible to the junior that brought the most juniors there. So, Lee Roy started off. He presides over the services, and he said, “All you juniors that brought one junior here, you stand up.” So they stood up. Then he said, “All of you who brought 5, why, you remain standing. And then all of you that brought 10 remain standing. All of you who brought 15 remain standing.” Then he got to the twenties. “All of you that brought 20 remain standing, 21, 22, 23,” and they just remained standing. So he couldn’t go on all night, and so he said, “How many did you bring?” and that little fellow said, “I brought 51.”
“How many did you bring?”
“I brought 52.”
“How many did you bring?”
“I brought 55.” Fifty-five! Now the little fellow that brought 51 was crippled, and he walked with a crutch. And that little fellow, he was a little-bitty fellow for his age, standing there in the aisle, ah, he was enthusiastic; he was standing by his flock out there in the aisle, standing on that little crutch. He brought 51. Well, I tell you we gave all three of those, going to give—I just had one Bible—we are just going to give all three a Bible.
And the little girl that brought 55, she belongs to a church where there are not a dozen juniors in it. The greatest, most famous, and biggest church east of the Mississippi River is in Memphis, Tennessee, but that child belonged to a little, tiny church where there are not a dozen juniors. And the church rented a bus, that little old girl did so good, they rented a bus in order that she might bring all those juniors she had together to the services. The power of a junior child, “and a little child shall lead them” [Isaiah 11:6], the Good Book says.
And, ah! some of the most moving experiences and most meaningful: whole families were saved; father, mother, and all the children.
Sometimes little old incidents move me so much. On a night, down the aisle came a father with his son, dedicating his home and his boy to the Lord. And there was a great throng of them. He was about the first one to come, so he was right down there close to me. And standing there with his head bowed and his arm around his boy, there came a teenage girl from way up in the top of the balcony. Made her way down to the front and finally worked her way, and standing there by her father; and when she came and stood by her father, I saw the big man double up his fist and wipe a tear out of his eye. See, I don’t know what it meant. I have no idea what it meant. But I have a girl and she lived through those teenage years, and I know it meant something deep for God.
Godly encouragement: all right, number two to talk about. Tomorrow, in the morning, the Shelby County pastors are going to meet in official convocation. That will be about two hundred pastors and maybe another fifty preachers. And they are going to address a letter to the First Baptist Church in Dallas. They are going to address the letter to you. And they are going to say, “Will you, the pastor and people of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, have every year a pastor’s and staff convocation for a week in your church and let us come?”
One of the pastors said, “I’ll get me a bus and I will bring forty preachers—I’ll do it myself—and let us come there and spend a week with you. Then for our pastors, let’s have men speak to us on the Word of God, and men to tell us how you prepare your sermons, and to show us how you minister in building a glorious church. Then let us bring our staff, if they have someone to help, and you tell us, let your staff lead it. How do you build a Sunday school, and the Training Union, and the choir program, and a recreational program, and a visitation ministry? Let’s come and see how you do it. And every year set aside a week for us and send out the invitation to the entire Southern Baptist Convention, and let all of the pastors who want to come, come, and all the staff members who want to come, come, and have a week and let’s see what it is that God is doing in the First Baptist Church in Dallas.”
Well, the reason for that is very simple. First, because of these recent books that I have written, the pastors in many areas are greatly discouraged. There are attacks on the Bible, the Word of God. There are theologians and ministers of divinity who scoff and ridicule the inerrancy and infallibility of that Book, and they do it in the name of God and in the name of religion.
And there are a thousand other workings that I haven’t time to describe that are entering our churches and our ministries, and the preachers are discouraged. And they want to come here, for this has become sort of a symbol of those who believe in and preach the whole counsel of God, this blessed and Holy Word.
Then of course, they have heard, and many of them have visited, how God has blessed this downtown church, the church that is supposed to die. There is not another one of them growing in the land—just this one. And they want to come here and see how our people pray, and how we attend, and how we visit, and how we teach God’s Word, and how we do it. These are some of the things that are lying back of the desire of those pastors to come here for a week with their staff and to work together, and pray together, and study together, and listen to the affirmation of the Book together.
And tomorrow, officially, they are going to address that letter to our church. Well, I turn it over in my mind. Dear me! What if five thousand of them were to come? And they might. Then you’ve got that same problem we have in our Sunday school. Isn’t that a glorious problem? Got so many teenagers they don’t know where to put themselves.
Got so many pastors that are interested; whenever you think that the group is way out and off, I don’t find a single minister in that entire Shelby County association but is in sympathy with what we are preaching, and what we are believing, and what we are doing—all of them, every one of them, in a great city like Memphis.
Well, we’ve got to hurry if I get along at all. Godly encouragement, the third one: they have heard about our proposed Bible Institute. We are going to build here in our church and in these facilities a Bible Institute. We are going to have a school teaching the Word of God that meets at night. Then we will just see what God does with it in the future. And we will have the finest professors in the land, so many of them belong to our church. They are in Dallas Baptist College; they are in Dallas Theological Seminary; they are in the Southwestern Seminary. And they will come and be our faculty for a glorious Bible Institute.
In the Old Testament, around Samuel and around Elijah and around Elisha was what the Bible calls “the school of the prophets” [1 Samuel 19:18-24; 2 Kings 4:38-44], teaching the Word of God. That’s why we have a Bible. And in the New Testament listen to what the apostle Paul says:
Now therefore, my son Timothy, be strong in the Lord.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
[2 Timothy 2:1-2]
That’s it. The thing that the pastor has been preaching here among many witnesses in this auditorium, on this radio and on television, that holy commitment: “Place thou in the hands of other men who in turn will be able to teach others also.” That’s it; that’s what the Book says [2 Timothy 2:2].
I was very interested when I went through Russia a couple of years ago. I was very interested. How do they continue the work of those churches when they can’t have any Sunday schools? They are not allowed. They can have no literature; it’s not allowed. They can have no seminaries; it’s not allowed. They can have no schools; it’s not allowed. Yet the work is growing, and the churches are multiplying, and they are baptizing their converts, sometimes clandestinely. How does that continue?
And the answer is a simple thing. Around every one of those churches, you will find several young ministers attached. Like the First Baptist Church in Moscow, there are twenty to thirty young ministers there. They can’t go to a religious school; there are not any. They can’t study any literature; it’s forbidden. But they are attached to the church, and they learn by doing. And that’s one reason you will find no liberalism in the Baptist churches in Russia. All they do is study the Bible, and all they do is preach the Bible, and all they try to do is carry out the great mandates of the Word of God; that’s what they do.
Why, as I looked on it, I thought I do believe it might be a blessing what they are being forced to do here in Russia; all they have is the Book, and all they have is the ministry of the Word. Well, it’s a great thing.
While I was in Memphis, Tennessee, I was asked to be the president of a great Christian institution in America. Why, I said I’d rather do it right here in my own church. I don’t want to go way off somewhere hundreds and hundreds of miles away. I’d rather do it right here in my own church, where our people are committed and where we can do what we are saying, not just philosophize about it, or speculate about it, or read a book about it, but do it right here in the First Baptist Church of Dallas. And, oh! There is a great interest.
Now, I have a little thing from God’s Book that I go by; you know, little signs, little things, like Gideon’s fleece? [Judges 6:36-40]. Well, here is one of them. One time I preached here in this church on the thirty-first chapter of the Book of Genesis. I tried to find the sermon last night and I couldn’t…did you? What did you do with that sermon? I have no idea. I always carefully file away my sermons, and I don’t know what happened to that one.
Well, anyway, this sermon was this; it was on the third and the fifth verses of the thirty-first chapter of Genesis. Now the third verse:
And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of Canaan. Go back to Bethel. Return unto the land of thy fathers and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee. I will go with thee.
All right, the next verse:
And Jacob called Rachel and Leah, and he said to them, I see that your father’s countenance is not toward me as it was before.
And the sermon was, whenever God says something to you, He will always confirm it by some kind of a sign; always do it. And there God said to Jacob, “You get up and go back to Canaan, and back to the Promised Land, and back to Bethel” [Genesis 31:3]. And the next verse says that Jacob saw that Laban, for whom he worked, his countenance was not toward him as it was heretofore, and it was time for him to move out [Genesis 31:5]. Now the sermon was whenever God speaks to you, whenever God says something to you, He will always confirm it by some kind of a providence, a sign, a development.
All right, do you remember when I presented to you the program of having a Bible Institute in the First Baptist Church in Dallas? Remember my presenting that within a year? Well, to my amazement, to my amazement, over to my office came Dr. T.A. Patterson, the executive secretary of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. To my amazement he came over there to my study here at the church, and he said, “Pastor, I want to encourage you in something.” He said, “This is a surprise, and the people don’t realize it, but out of about four thousand preachers in the state of Texas—Baptist preachers in the state of Texas, out of four thousand of them—there are just several hundred who have been to the seminary.” Now isn’t that an amazing thing?
Bob Coleman, you would think all these pastors have been to the seminary. You could get that impression. Practically all of them have not been, there are about eight hundred of them out of four thousand that have ever been to the seminary. So Dr. Patterson said to me, “You know what I have in my mind? I’d like for us to have a Bible Institute in West Texas, and I’d like to have a Bible Institute in East Texas, and I thought that maybe that you could have a Bible Institute in the First Baptist Church in Dallas for all of the pastors in North Texas.” Now isn’t that a sight? Now isn’t that a sight?
Why, I had no idea of the statistics; and I had no idea of the thing in the heart of our executive secretary. Yet, after I delivered that message and said we ought to do that here in this church, there comes that executive leader. You see, when God says something to you, He will always confirm it by a sign.
Well, let’s go on. I’ve got me another one; godly encouragement. You cannot know how encouraged I am about this expansion program, this building program. Now Tim you are doing good. I got my letter from you, and man alive! He included five pledge cards. What did you mean by that? Five of them in that letter you wrote to me. Why?
Well sir, I have decided I am going to fill out all five of them, and I am going to do it every year. This year I am going to fill out the first pledge. And then next year, I am going to fill out another one, and next year, I am going to fill them all out. I am going to keep them. I think the Lord made you, put that in your heart to do it.
Well, anyway, about our building program and our expansion program; oh, I am encouraged! “Well, how are you encouraged, pastor?” All right, you look. I have always felt and for twenty-five years I have felt this, and every time it is implemented, God confirms it. See what I say? Just like it is in the Book, when God puts something in your heart, He will always confirm it with a sign. I’ve always felt something about our church; I’ve always felt that if we would have, if we would possess that one ingredient of trusting God for it and believing God in it that the Lord would see it through.
All right, godly encouragement: see that IRS building over there? That IRS building over there? We renamed it the Spurgeon-Harris Building for the first pastor of this church, who died in an unmarked grave. That’s his monument. We don’t know where he was buried. He never was married, but they called him Spurgeon because of the gift of prophecy upon him. And he died—nobody knows where his grave is—so we named that after the first pastor of this church, the Spurgeon-Harris building.
Now when we entered that program, we didn’t have a dime to put in the building, not a dime. We were struggling here with other monumental things we were doing, and we had no money to buy that building. But we bought it anyway.
All right, my sign from heaven: we are doing marvelously with it, marvelously with it. One: for the first time since it is built, all of the space on the lower floor is rented, for the first time it is rented, go over there and look at it! Beautifully rented, our Baptist Bookstore is on the front part of it facing Ervay Street. For the first time the thing is rented. Second: the parking income is about twice or half again as much as our men ever dreamed for. It’s just gone up just like that, and our church is paying for that building gloriously and triumphantly.
All right, second: when we expand these facilities and build them, of course, it will be a great program that we have to support, including a big debt. They have to be paid for it. I am greatly encouraged. “How, pastor?” By the men, strong and dedicated, that God is going to give us as we expand the ministry, teaching, praying, comforting, soulwinning, loving, as God gives us other teenagers, and other families, and other people. They are going to help us.
Let me ask you a simple question. Do you think that the people God is going to give us when we expand this work for Him, that they are going to be drones and chiselers and parasites? I don’t think people like that have much of a tendency to join this church; you’ve got to drive too far down to it. The people God sends us are people who are committed; they want to come. And when God sends us those people, they are going to help us build this building.
Why, take Lee Slaughter over there and that beautiful girl by his side and their two darling children. I’m going to baptize them pretty soon. Why, I don’t look upon Lee Slaughter as joining our church, and now we have a drone here, we have a parasite. I am counting on that man to help us, to roll up his sleeves and get in this thing here up to his neck, investing his whole life and that of his family in this ministry. That’s what I am looking for, and that’s what is going to happen. As we do God’s work, as the Lord has put it on us, laid it on our souls, God is going to send us able, and gifted, and marvelous men and their families. And they are going to be under the burden and under the loving assignment of serving God, and they are going to do it triumphantly.
All right, a sign of confirmation: we bought these properties around here that are expensive, paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for them. And one of the men, one of our finest men came up to me and said, “Pastor, if you will sell these properties, you can already make lots of money on them.” Now, isn’t that something? “You can, already—if you want to sell them— you can make lots of money on them.” Why, I say it is a mistake for any church ever to sell its properties. O Lord, that our people would remember that. Don’t sell your birthright, don’t sell your properties, don’t, don’t!
I held a revival meeting in one of the great First Baptist Churches east of the Mississippi River, and right in the middle of the church complex is a filling station—they have a beautiful corner—is a filling station! And while they are trying to carry on church on Sunday, that filling station is honking, and hawking, and gonking, and selling its wares, and driving in and driving out, and all of the stuff of the noise of the tire, and the slam of the tire tools, and the screech of the engines, and the starting of the motors, right in the middle of church. Well, I said to one of the deacons, I said, “This is one of the sorriest arrangements I have ever seen, to have a filling station on Sunday in the middle of your church.” He said, “Yes, we owned that corner; it was a part of our church, but upon a day, a filling station came along and offered the church a fine price for the corner, and they sold their birthright.”
Now doesn’t that honor the Lord? Doesn’t that honor the Lord? Some bunch of men, somewhere, saw that fine price and sold God’s heritage for money. Now, if you don’t have use for that property this minute, if you do God’s work, you will need it the next minute—don’t ever sell what God has given you in your properties. But buy them and add to them; and the Lord will honor you. I am greatly encouraged.
And, oh dear! I have come to my finest point, and the time is gone. Isn’t that a sight? Oh, dear! I wanted to talk to you about the influence of this church as it has gone out among our brethren. And they hear of us, and some of them come and look at us. And they ask me, “Pastor, where did that prayer rail come from?” And I love to tell them that came out of one of the most moving, weeping experiences of my life. And they ask me about it.
And they ask about this music program, and they ask about our educational program and all the rest of these things that we do here in this church that they have heard about. And they ask me about the Book, and preaching the Bible, and about you. Oh! I wish I had time to say what I tell them; it’s glorious, godly encouragement.
Well, we are going to sing our song now of appeal, and a family you, to put your heart and life and prayers with us, come. A couple you, a one, somebody you, as the dear Lord would open the door and lay it upon your heart, come. Just make the decision now, and when we stand up in a minute, you stand up coming. Come down here by me, “Here I am, pastor, I give you my hand. I’ve decided for God and given my heart to the Lord.” Or for any reason the Lord would lay the appeal of invitation upon your soul, come, and the Lord bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Silas and Timothy – their coming an encouragement (Acts 18:5)
B. Encouragement from the Lord Himself (Acts 18:9)
1. Exactly what God said to Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-18)II. Encouraged by recent events
A. This week – good reports from Institute of Youth Conflict
B. The Memphis Crusade
1. 1,190 commitment cards; even more who didn’t fill them out
2. Thursday night – forty-five minute invitation
3. The power of a junior child
4. So many moving incidentsIII. Encouraged by my brethren
A. Letter of appeal from Shelby County Pastors’ Conference
B. The battle they face – spirit of apostasy, worldly indifference
C. Pastors wanting to come hereIV. The Bible Institute
A. Old Testament schools of the prophets
B. Method of Paul in the New Testament (2 Timothy 2:2)
C. Will of God confirmed by an outward sign(Genesis 31:3-5)
1. Dr. T. Patterson
2. I was asked to lead an institution – I’d rather do it here
3. The way they do it in RussiaV. The building program
A. A sign – the good investment in the IRS building
1. Whole thing is rented out
2. Income from parking rentals