March 15th, 1970 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W.A. Criswell
3-15-70 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor, proud to be, bringing the message, glad to do it, entitled Godly Encouragement to a congregation that was described by somebody who came to the eight fifteen service this morning and they have been attending another church all their lives, they said, “One thing about the First Baptist Church in Dallas, you do not go to sleep when you attend the services.” Well, I thought that was a compliment in a sort of a way. Godly Encouragement; and the title comes from something that the good Lord did and something that happened to God’s apostle in the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, verse 5, verse 9, and verse 10:
Now 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 everybody in that city of Corinth—
that Jesus was the Christ.
Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, hold not thy peace:
For I am with thee, and I have much people in this city.
[Acts 18:5, 9, 10]
Godly encouragement, it came first from his brethren. Paul was in the city of Corinth by himself [Acts 18:1], one of the great, great cities of the ancient world, a merchandising, mercantile city. But he left Silas and Timothy, his son in the ministry, in Macedonia, and after they had completed their mission in the Roman province of Macedonia, they came down to Achaia, the Roman province of Achaia [Acts 18:5]. And in the city of Corinth, when they arrived, their presence and their words and their encouragement did something to the apostle Paul, and the spirit within him rose like a fire that rages. And he began with increased fervor and dedication to testify to the people of the city of Corinth that Jesus was the Christ [Acts 18:5]; godly encouragement from his brethren, godly encouragement from the Lord Himself.
“Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid” [Acts 18:9]. Now that does my soul good to know that the ordained and God chosen apostle and the emissary of the Lord from heaven fell sometimes into discouragement and depression and fear, for there’s no reason for God to say to him, “Be not afraid, but speak” [Acts 18:9], unless he was afraid and did know discouragement, and despondency, and frustration, and sometimes despair. So the Lord spoke to him in the middle of the night and said, “Do not be discouraged or despondent or fearful, for I am with thee” [Acts 18:10]. Then He added, “I have much people in this city” [Acts 18:10]. It’s an exact thing as the Lord God said to Elijah the prophet who sat under a Juniper tree and asked to die saying to God, “I am the only one left in the land. All of the others have apostatized, and I am by myself.” And the Lord God said, “Now you stand up and I have a commission for you, and you get on your way. And as for your word that you are alone, I have seven thousand I have reserved for Myself who have not bowed the knee to Baal, and who have not kissed his hand” [1 Kings 19:4-18]. “For I have much people in this city” [Acts 18:10], godly encouragement.
Well, I am encouraged. I am greatly encouraged. I am vastly encouraged. I am aboundingly, overflowingly encouraged. And I am encouraged for lots of reasons. So I’ll just start out with the first one, then go to the second one, then go to the third one, and we’ll just go just as long as that sorry, no-account, good-for-nothing clock will allow us to go. One of the things that God says about heaven, one of the reasons that it is heaven, the angel lifted up his hand and swore that there would be time no more [Revelation 10:5-6], just going to have forever. And the Good Lord’s going to give me a planet somewhere, and I’m going to stand on that planet and preach about five eons without stopping, and everybody that wants to come, well, you come on my planet and sit down for a generation or two, and let’s just listen to what God has done for us. Well, you never get through telling it.
Godly encouragement, I am greatly encouraged, and my spirit rises within me. First, because of some of the things I’ve seen and heard these last few days with my own eyes and with my own ears; I’ve heard of great things and blessings of the Lord among you here this last week. They tell me this Institute of Youth Conflict, with the parents of our teenagers, that this last week’s been one of the greatest weeks in the life of our city and of our dear church. Ah, that’s marvelous and encourages my soul.
Then, of course, this last week we’ve been in an “Encounter Crusade,” a New Life crusade in the city of Memphis, Tennessee. Began last Sunday night and went through last Friday night, and ah, what a meeting we had! In so brief a time, just Sunday night through Friday night, we had 1,190 who committed themselves by filling out a card, committed themselves to the Lord; 461 of them were saved, and 729 of them made other decisions for Christ, and a multitude beside that who didn’t fill out a commitment card. Ah, it was glorious!
And I think Thursday night, last Thursday night was one of the sublimest heavenly of services I’ve ever been in in my life. When the invitation was mad, the people started coming, and every time you’ve ever heard me give an invitation, I press the appeal and say we will stand to sing. For forty-five minutes, I was trying to make that final appeal and say, “We will stand and sing the invitation song.” I never got to make it. We never got to sing. We never sang any song of appeal at all. I didn’t feel that I should stop those people coming and give an invitation and say, “Now, we’ll stand and sing the song.” They just came, and they came, and they came, and they kept on coming. The daily newspaper in the morning issue the following day said that there were six hundred fifty down there at the front giving their lives to the Lord. Many of them do not fill out commitment cards. It was a heavenly sight just to stand there in that high pulpit, rung around with those people in that coliseum that’ll seat twelve thousand five hundred people, and just see them come, just come, and keep on coming. Why, it is like a piece of glory itself.
And I learned something that I have known all along, but I learned it anew in that crusade. I learned again the strength and the power of a junior child. Ah dear, we had a junior night, and I said, “I’m going to give a Bible, I’m going to give a Bible to the junior that brings the most juniors with him.” So that night came and the time to give out the Bible, and Lee Roy emceeing the services said, “All of you juniors that brought one, you stand up.” So they stood up. Then he said, “All of you that brought five, you remain standing.” Then, “All you who brought ten remain standing.” And, “fifteen,” and “All you that brought twenty remain standing. Twenty-one. Twenty-two. Twenty-three.” And they were still standing. So he turned to one of those youngsters and said, “How many did you bring?”
He said, “I brought fifty-one.”
Turned to another one, “How many did you bring?”
“I brought fifty-two.”
“How many did you bring?”
“I brought fifty-four.”
That little fellow who said he brought fifty-one, he was standing in the aisle, and he was shepherding his fifty-one juniors there. Now that’s the cutest little fellow you ever saw in your life. He was crippled, and he walked on a crutch. And just go around just like he had three legs using that crutch, standing there in the aisle, superintending his fifty-one juniors. Why, I had one Bible, I couldn’t fail to give those; “Man,” I said, “charge them to me. Get me two other Bibles, and we’re going to give them to each one of these three children who got over fifty here tonight.” I had the little girl come up, and I asked about the one that I gave the Bible to that had fifty-four juniors present. I found out she belongs to a little tiny church, and there are not a dozen juniors in the church that that child belongs to. But you know what the church did when they saw what that youngster was doing? The church hired a bus, the church rented a bus for that little girl to bring her fifty-five friends to that crusade. Why Millie, we just don’t know yet what those junior boys and girls are able to do. It’s just marvelous, just glorious.
And, of course, in a response like that, you see so many things that just move you so. There were a whole family saved, father saved, mother saved, and all the children saved, the whole family saved. And maybe because of some of things in my own life; one night I invited fathers to bring their sons and give themselves and dedicate that boy to the Lord. And down the aisle came a man who being the first was standing right there at that platform where I was preaching. And there was a throng all the way around, and he’s standing there with his arm around his boy. From way back, way up at the top, came a teenage girl down the aisle to that throng and worked her way little by little through the crowd and came down and stood on the other side of that man, evidently, her father. And he put his arm around her standing there and in a moment doubled up his fists and wiped a big tear out of his eye. You see, I don’t know what it meant. But I’ve been a father of a teenage girl, and I thought, “God’s done something great! God has done it again.” And the big man wiped a tear out of his eye. Aw, what a marvelous world to live in where God blesses, and where God works, and where God saves. Just to be around when God is doing it is an infinite and benedictory remembrance. I’m encouraged.
All right second: I’m encouraged by my brethren. In the morning, tomorrow morning, all of the pastors of Shelby County Association, and there are about two hundred of them, and in that Shelby Association is Memphis, Tennessee, they’re going to meet in the morning about ten o’clock, and as they convoke officially, they are going to write an official letter to the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And officially, the Shelby County Association of Baptist Pastors is going to ask the pastor and the people of the First Baptist Church in Dallas to provide for our fellow pastors and all of our fellow staff members a week every year to gather here in this church for a week every year, and the purpose of it will be to encourage our pastors in the faith, and in the preaching of the Bible, and in the ministry of the Word, and then to show their staff members how we build a great Sunday school, and a great Training Union, and a great music program, and a great recreational program, and a great mission program. They want to come here and spend the week here with us and just let God say to us what He wants to say, and show us what He wants to say, and that we learn to do it in a way that God can bless it.
Oh dear, think of that. Those preachers and I understand it. They also, like the apostle Paul and like me, they fall into discouragement and frustration. There is so much today spoken against the infallibility and inerrancy of the Word of God. Our own divinity professors are doing it. Our own teachers and colleges and seminaries are doing it. And the preacher is discouraged. And there’s so much of apostasy, and so much of drifting away, and so much of getting out into the extreme left field, the churches are beginning to hesitate, and the gospel of Christ is beginning to be compromised. And the people are beginning to feel lost. And I understand exactly why it is that the people are turning toward this church and this ministry here.
One is due to these books I have recently written on the infallibility, and inerrancy, and the inspiration of the Word of God, that’s one. And the other is, the only downtown church in this earth that anybody knows anything about that is growing is this one here, the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And those pastors are asking that we set aside a week every year and let them come and let them bring their staffs.
In one of the meetings that I attended in Memphis, one pastor stood up and said, “I’ll bring forty of my fellow pastors myself. We’ll get a bus, and we’ll come over there and spend the week with you.” How do you like that? Say, wouldn’t that encourage your soul? Doesn’t that do something to you? Seeing him, we’ll respond just like a, just like a harp and the harpist plucks the strings. That’s the way my heart responds. Ah, ah, then I get to thinking what in the world. You see they want us to send this invitation out to all the pastors. What if five thousand of them came or ten thousand, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. And what if we had a thousand educational directors and two thousand staff members; they all came here at one time? Man, I like the problem.
Did you ever hear of Baptist pallets? I see some of you have been out in the country revival meetings too. Why, we would take that gymnasium and just put them down like cordwood, just let them sleep there. And we’ve got houses, and homes, and we’ve got halls. Ah, why, I just never thought of such a thing, and yet those pastors say, “Do it for us, and for our staff, and for our churches, and maybe we can get something of the spirit of triumph, and conquest, and victory in teaching and preaching the Word of God.” I’m encouraged! I’m greatly encouraged.
Well, another one, the third one: I’m greatly encouraged. My spirit rises within me. Some of my brethren heard of the appeal I made to our church that we build here, and organize here, and further here in this church a Bible Institute. In the Old Testament, there were the schools of the prophets around Samuel and Elijah and Elisha, schools of the prophets [1 Samuel 19:18-24]. That’s where that Old Testament came from. They wrote down the words by inspiration from the lips of Moses, and from the lips of God’s servants, and they preserved it, and they taught it line upon line, precept upon precept to those young prophets [Isaiah 28:10]. The schools of the prophets, that’s what it’s called in the Old Testament.
And in the New Testament, when I turn to the word of the apostle Paul to his young son in the ministry, young Timothy, he says, “Therefore, my son, 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 exactly! The testimony of the Word of God and the truth of the revelation of the Lord that has been delivered here among these thousands of witnesses on radio, and on television, and the thousands that come here every Sunday in this auditorium, that thing, “faithfully commit to other men, who shall be able to teach others also” [2 Timothy 2:2].
Ah, what an open door! In our own church, we have some of the finest theological teachers and professors in the world. They belong to this very church. Some of them are teaching in Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. They belong here. Some of them are teaching in Dallas Baptist College. They have their PhD’s from some of the great universities of the earth. They belong here. Some of those learned theologians in Dallas Theological Seminary belong here. There is no limit to the depth and the breadth of the teaching of these things that God has committed to us. There’s no limit to the commitment of those same things to other men if we have the heart to do it, and I’ve got the heart to do it. My soul is greatly encouraged.
Now, I have a little something in my own heart and life that I got out of the Book. Long time ago, I spoke to our congregation, and I tried to find the sermon. I don’t know what has happened to it. I’ve lost it, which is a rare thing with me because I carefully file my messages away. But sometime ago I spoke to this church about the will of God, and a facet of it that is inevitable I think, and always true. It is a concomitant, a corollary, an addendum to the Word of God that ever attends it. And it is this, that when God says something to you, and God hath a will for you, and He wants you to do something, God will not only say it to you, He will not only put it in your heart, but He will confirm it by an outward sign. If the thing is of God and He says it to you, He will always confirm it by an outward sign, some providence, some turn of fortune, and here was the passage that I spoke on.
In the thirty-first chapter of the Book of Genesis, it says, “And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return and go back to Bethel. Return unto the land of your fathers, go back to Canaan; and I will be with thee” [Genesis 31:3]. All right, the next verse. “And Jacob called Rachel and Leah, and he said unto them, I see that your father’s countenance is not toward me as it was before” [Genesis 31:4-5]. Jacob was working for Laban, and when God said to Jacob, “Jacob get up and go back home where you belong to the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, go back to Bethel where I appeared unto thee. Go back” [Genesis 31:3]. That’s in that verse, and the next verse he says to Rachel and to Leah, “I can see that your father’s countenance is not toward me as it has been before. It’s time for me to leave. It’s time for me to get out. It’s time for me to be on my way. It’s time to move” [Genesis 31:4-5]. And I think that’s true. Whenever God speaks to you, He will always confirm that revelation, that vision, that word by an outward circumstance. Something will happen to confirm it.
Well, bless your heart, when I delivered that message here to our congregation some few months ago, that I felt that we ought to have a school here in our church for the teaching of the ministries of the Word of God, and every night we have this school, and we organize it as such, and what the future of it day and night, I don’t know, but we ought to start a Bible Institute here in this church teaching the Word of God and the ministries of that blessed Book; there came to my study over here Dr. T. A. Patterson, who’s the executive secretary of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He came to my study, and he sat down, and he said, “Pastor, you know I’ve been thinking about something. We have about four thousand preachers in the state of Texas. Four thousand Baptist preachers in the state of Texas,” and he said, “Contrary to what all of us think, there are relatively few of them who’ve ever been to the seminary.”
Did you know that? Why, I never dreamed of such a thing. There are fewer than eight hundred of them out of four thousand who have ever been to seminary. Dr. Patterson said to me, “You know what, I’ve got it in my heart, I wish we had a Bible Institute in West Texas where all those preachers who’ve never been to the seminary, where they could be called together and taught the way of the Lord in that Book, and how to preach that Book. And I wish we had a Bible Institute in East Texas.” And he said, “Pastor, I’ve just been turning over in my heart, I wonder if you could organize a Bible Institute in the First Baptist Church in Dallas and all of our preachers in North Texas could come and be taught how to preach the Word of God.” What’d I say? When the Lord speaks to you, and when God says something for you to do, He will always confirm it by an outward circumstance. There’ll be a providence; something will happen to confirm what God has said. And I think that’s God’s will for us.
Why, bless your heart, this last week while I was in Memphis, Tennessee, I was asked about being the president of one of the great Christian institutions of this earth. Why, I’d rather do it here. I’d rather do it right here. I’d rather stay right here, and with you and with this dedicated and consecrated and gifted staff, and in the city of Dallas. I’d like to take our people and our staff and our consecrated leadership, and not just speculate or read books or even write them; what I’d like to do is to take the great church in Dallas and its dedicated committed people, and here demonstrate, demonstrate what God is able to do when we are faithful to the holy revelation.
You remember when I was in Russia about two years ago? I found an astonishing thing in Russia, an amazing thing to me! They don’t have any literature. The government will not allow it to be printed. They can have no Sunday schools. The government will not allow a Sunday school. They have no colleges, no religious institutions, and they have no seminaries. But the Baptist churches over there in Russia are growing, and they’re proliferating. One of those officials said in practically every little town in Russia, somewhere, maybe just a little handful in a house somewhere, but practically everywhere you will find a little Baptist church. And they are growing under oppression, they are growing. Well, it was an astonishing thing to me. No literature, no Sunday school, no visitation allowed, no propagation outside of those four walls, no anything allowed by the government, but they’re blessed of God.
Well, you know what I found out? Every church, every one of those churches, they have a little coterie, a little handful of young preachers attached to the church and to the pastor. The First Baptist Church in Moscow, for example, will have from twenty to thirty young preachers attached to the pastor and the church. And they can’t study as they can all of those proliferated courses offered in the seminary, but they do this; they study the Word of God, they study the Book, and they learn how to preach it and how to teach it. And they learn how to visit and how to make appeal for Christ, and that’s why you have no liberals. You have no half-infidels in the Baptist churches of Russia, because those young preachers are taught just the Book. And their ministry is how to reach the people for God. Well, I thought, “You know, that’s not very bad, is it, for a preacher to know the Bible and for him to be trained in how to preach the Bible, and how to minister the Word of God from that blessed Book.” I’m encouraged, oh, I am. What God hath in store for us!
Did you know this time [is] just practically gone? One other, one other; I’m encouraged. My soul is lifted up. God’s going to see us through in this expansion and building program the young Brady spoke of a moment ago. There is something for twenty-five years I’ve always felt. I haven’t been able to succeed in it all together, but I’ve always felt it. And every time our church has had enough faith and enough trust to do it, without exception, God has blessed it aboundingly.
All right, look at this. That building right cater-cornered from that front door was called the IRS building, and without a dime, without anything, because we were committed over our heads and up to our necks, we went over there, and we bought that building. It’s a new day in this church. It’s a new day. It’s a new era. It’s a new epoch. We went over there, and we bought that building, that one right there across the street. One of the biggest buildings, it covers a half a block, half a city block, it’s an enormous building. It’s a lot bigger than anybody realizes. You got to get up there in the air and look down to see just how big that building is.
We bought that building, and what has happened? First, for the first time since the building is built, the whole thing is rented, all of it is. Go over there and look how nice that looks. Our Baptist bookstore facing Ervay Street, every area, every foot in that building is rented for the first time since it was built a few years ago. Hank Dickerson and some of his men have done a magnificent thing. All right, second; the income we are receiving from the parking rentals in that building are about half or third again as much as our men ever thought for. Why, we’re going to pay for that building and nobody realize it, nobody know it. You see, that’s God. That’s the Lord.
One of my men came to me the other day and said, “Pastor, you know these big lots you’ve bought around here. If you want to make some money, sell them now. You can sell them for a lot more than what you paid for them.” Isn’t that something? Isn’t that something? But no church in the earth ought ever to sell its property, never. That’s your birthright. That’s what God has given us. And you ought never to sell your properties, never.
I was holding a revival meeting in one of the great, great First Baptist Churches in one of the great cities east of the Mississippi River and right there in the middle of the thing is a filling station open on Sunday. A beautiful corner lot with the sanctuary, the auditorium here and the educational buildings there, and right there at that corner this filling station open on Sunday, screeching the tires coming in, going out, all of those pumps a-working and a-making noise and the hammers and the tire tools slapping on tires and taking them off, the people coming and going, right there in the middle of the church. I said to the deacon, the chairman of the deacons who is taking me out to dinner, I said, “That’s the worst thing I ever saw in my life. That’s the worst thing I ever saw in my life.”
“Well,” he said, “Pastor, that’s the Lord’s truth, and we sold that lot in days past because we got a little money for it.” And they sold the lot to an oil company for that filling station. Where is the money they got for it? The Lord only knows. I bet you the deacon couldn’t tell you, but for the enticement of a few dollars, sell God’s heritage. Don’t ever sell your properties. If you don’t need them now, you’ll need them tomorrow. You don’t know what lies ahead for these churches. I think, Dr. Estes, I think one of the things God is doing is this.
By law and the Supreme Court, a little more interdiction all the time, by law you can’t teach the faith in the public school system. You can’t teach religion in the public school system, and I’m glad. I don’t want an infidel or some of these Jehovah Witnesses, or some of these thousand others; I don’t want them teaching my child the faith. I just don’t want it. I don’t want it. I think God is doing something. I think God is forcing our churches and our homes to accept that responsibility, and I’m ready to accept it Dr. Estes. You make one of the greatest, and you’re doing it, one of the greatest public school systems here in the city of Dallas, and God bless you in it, but right by your side, I want to build one of the finest religious school systems that the earth ever saw, right here in this church. And when you do it here, that’s why the preachers want to come here. We want to see how you do it, and when we do it here, they’ll do it there. And God will bless us, and God will bless them.
Now I have to conclude. It’s way past time. That’s why I don’t fear going over here and building that tremendous parking building. God will do the same thing again. And that’s why I don’t fear the tremendous program that lies ahead. We don’t have the money to do it now, I know. We’re going to do our best now, we’re going to do our best. That fellow Ken Boren sent me a letter about the building fund, and I opened it when I got home yesterday, and he enclosed five pledge cards to me in that letter, five of them, five of them. That’s the beatenist thing I ever saw in my life, five of them for one critter like me, five of them.
Well, what I’m going to do is this, I just decided, well, I guess this is of God. I’m going to fill one out of them this year, then I’m going to fill another one out next year, and going to fill out the next year, and the next, and the next, I’m going to fill out all five of those cards because I think God’s going to bless me. I think God’s going to bless me financially, and I’m going to do good this year. And God’s going to bless me financially, and I’m going to do better next year. And God’s going to bless me financially, and I’m going to do better next year. Yes, the Lord’s going to do that. And you know when I pray for me, I’m going to pray for you, “Lord, bless those businessmen at our church, and bless them financially because we are going to need lots of money.” The Lord prosper you. And He will do it. Yes, God will do it. That’s the way He does things.
Now I’ve got to close. One observation; as we go into this gigantic program, oh, it involves so many millions of dollars, why, the Lord has put a hope, an encouragement, an uplift in my soul. Bless you when we expand this work, and all those teenagers come, and those Young Marrieds come, and these adults come, and our children come, and God sends us families here from the ends of the earth. Why, did you know, they’re going to help us? They’re not drones and parasites and chiselers. There’s nobody comes down to this church but that really wants to come. They have to drive miles and miles and pass up a dozen or more churches to get here. Every one of them that comes wants to come. And he’s coming with a dedicated heart. And with his help and encouragement, I’m going to be helped and encouraged. Why, it’s a great thing what the Lord is doing for us. I say again, I’m just glad that I can be around when God has chosen to do it. I am much encouraged.
Well, bless God, I believe I’ve got a new case of religion. I just feel it. I just feel it. Oh dear, I could just shout all over this place! You sweet choir, Lord bless you all. And a fellow asked me last week if I’d leave this church and go be president of a great institution. Why, I’d be, I ought to have my head examined if I did that. Isn’t that right? Don’t you say, “No.” Oh dear! Isn’t it great to be a Christian? Last Friday night I preached on that. Got my name in the book, on the glory road, told them when I bid them goodbye, “I may not see you down here, but I’ll meet you on one of those golden streets in glory, and we will talk about what Jesus has done for us.” Has He done something for you, and you know it? “Died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], I know it. Want to give me a new heart, and new life, and a new love, and a new vision, I know it. And I’m coming today, and here I am.”
In the balcony round and on this lower floor, in the aisle and down to the front, make it now. Do it now. A family you, a couple, or just one somebody you, while we sing that song, when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. “Here I am.” A whole family is coming today or just you, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.