Lessons Alongside the Lord
November 9th, 1975 @ 7:30 PM
LESSONS LEARNED ALONGSIDE THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-9-75 7:30 p.m.
There are thousands of you who are listening to this service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. We welcome you and pray that the Lord will bless to your soul the message of the pastor tonight. It is entitled Lessons Learned Alongside the Lord, just through the years and the years walking with Jesus.
In these days of our stewardship appeal, the men asked the pastor to preach a sermon on stewardship. And at a morning hour, about three or four Sundays ago, I did so. Then also the appeal is made that sometime there be a message to our hearts on the evening hour, in an evening hour, on this glorious subject of what we have before God, loving our Lord in heart, in hand, and in gift. So it is a delight to me tonight to share in that service. And the sermon will be something like a testimony out of my own soul: Lessons I Have Learned Alongside the Lord.
Now I want you to turn with me, and read with me in the Bible, to Mark, the Second Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12, and we shall read the last verses in the chapter; beginning at verse 41, reading to the end of the chapter, through verse 44. Now if you don’t have a Bible, look on the page with a neighbor and let us all read it out loud together. Mark, chapter 12, verses 41 through 44. Now all of us out loud together:
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
And He called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
When Mark wrote that last sentence, he did it powerfully. There is a tremendous contrast in the word perisseuontes, translated here “abundance and abounding superfluity,” “Out of their abounding, overflowing superfluity they gave.” But the contrasting word usterēseōs, “Out of her destitution,” literally, “out of her want and need she gave all that she had, even all of her living” [Mark 12:44]. I would suppose the Lord knew her in the same way that He knew the woman from Samaria [John 4:6-7]: just by spiritual intuition. And this dear woman gave to God everything that she made [Mark 12:44], and prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread” [Matthew 6:11]; like Elijah depended upon the ravens to feed him [1 Kings 17:4, 6], so this poor woman who lived alone gave to God everything that she had [Mark 12:44], depending upon the Lord to feed her and to take care of her. And the Lord said that was not presumptuous; He said it is a faith to be commended and emulated by all of God’s people.
Jesus was an adventitious teacher; that is, He did not sit down and prepare an outline of a program of theology that we are to learn and to follow. But He was adventitiously prompted to say what He would say; that is, as people came by, or as the thing arose, He would speak concerning it. He was a peripatetic teacher. He would walk through the days of the life, and He would talk to the disciples about the things that they and He saw. For example, walking by they saw a man blind from his mother’s womb. And the disciples asked, “Lord who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” [John 9:1-2]. And then the Lord talks to them about the elective purpose of God in our lives, with this man, “That the glory of God might be revealed in him” [John 9:3], a peripatetic teacher, just teaching as He walked through the days of the life. A rich young ruler came to Him, “Lord, what must I do to inherit eternal life? [Mark 10:17]. One thing you lack: your possessions stand between you and heaven. Give them away, get rid of it, and come follow Me, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven” [Mark 10:21]. And then Jesus talked about the young man who chose the world rather than to choose God [Mark 10:22-27]; a peripatetic teacher. He would speak to Nicodemus the greatest sermon on the new birth [John 3:1-21]. He would speak to that woman from Samaria the greatest message on spiritual worship [John 4:4-26]. He was adventitious in His teaching, He was peripatetic in His teaching; as things would arise, He would lead us into a deeper revelation of the wisdom of God.
Now this is an instance of it. Sitting there, watching the people as they gave into those great trumpets in the temple, He noticed that those who came out of their riches and from their superfluity, from their abounding abundance, they would give something to the Lord. And He noticed that poor widow who gave to God everything that she had. And He spoke to His disciples, saying that she gave more than all the rest; for they out of an abounding abundance and superfluity gave to God something that cost them nothing, but this woman gave her life’s bread, depending upon God to take care of her and see her through [Mark 12:41-44].
Now I’m going to take out of my life, walking along with the Lord, lessons that I have learned that have meant so much to me through the years and the years. It’s the same kind of a thing as the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, and suddenly the Lord walked by their side. And as they walked with the stranger, who was the Lord Jesus Himself, He spoke to them out of the Book, out of Moses, out of the Prophets, out of the Holy Scriptures the things concerning Himself [Luke 24:13-27]. Now this message is like that: walking with our Lord through the years and the years, the things that I have learned from His gracious hands.
All right, the first one: I can so well remember the first spiritual conflict I ever had in my life, the first one that I can remember. I was a child, a child, a five year old child. And I was on my way to Sunday school with a nickel in my hand that my father had given me to give to the Sunday school. And the little boy who walked by my side said, “What are you going to do with that nickel?” I said, “I’m going to give it to the Sunday school. My father placed it in my hand to give to the Sunday school.” And the little fellow said, “I wouldn’t do that, I wouldn’t do that.” He says, “My father gives me a nickel every Sunday to give to Sunday school. But you know what I do?” He says, “I buy an ice cream cone with it every week, and I don’t give it to the Sunday school.” Well, I said to him, “What does your father say?” He says, “He doesn’t know it, he doesn’t know it. He thinks that I give that nickel to the Sunday school; but I don’t. I keep it, and then in the days of the week,” he said, “I buy an ice cream cone.” So he said to me, “Now you see that nickel that your daddy gave you to give to the Sunday school? You keep it, you keep it, and then you buy you an ice cream cone next week.”
Well, I said, “What would my father say?” He said to me, “Your daddy will never know it. He’ll never know it. And you just make as though you gave that nickel to the Sunday school, and then you keep it, and you buy you an ice cream cone.” I have never had a temptation commensurate to that in my born days, not in my born days. I looked at that nickel and thought about that ice cream cone. It was a war; it was a struggle in my heart. That was my first spiritual confrontation. You know what, God be praised, oh! I’m so glad I can tell you this: I turned that over in my heart in deepest, earnest confrontation before God, and I said in my heart, “I don‘t believe I could lie to my father. If my father who was a good man, a humble man, but a good man, if my father asked me about that, I don’t believe I could lie to him, I don’t believe I could.” And then second, “He gave it to me to give to the Lord, and I don’t think I could keep it.” So when I came to Sunday school, I turned in that nickel, and I turned it in the following Sunday, and every Sunday by which I went to church with a nickel from my father to give to the Lord. That was my first one. And the lesson: Malachi 3:8, “Will a man rob God?” Would I keep for myself what belonged to the Lord? No, I will not.
All right, lessons learned alongside the Lord: when I was seventeen I went to Baylor as a young minister, and Kermit Metuchen could not preach at the Mount Calm Baptist Church, that’s a little town this side of Waco. And he sent me. And I preached, and I had my first response in my life. A young fellow came down the aisle and I was so glad, I was so happy, it was my first response. And when he came to me, he shook my hand, and he said, “God has called me, I’m going to be a Presbyterian preacher.” Dear me, what effect I have upon people; he’s going to be a Presbyterian preacher. And he did, and he made a good one. Well anyway, when I had preached that day and the evening was come, there was a train, I’d come up on a train and was going back on a train. After the service was over, the people returned to their homes, mostly farmers, and the chairman of the deacons gave me a ten dollar bill; and that was my stipend. And he apologized, he said, “I wish I could give it more, I wish I could make it more. But we just don’t have it, and this is the ten dollars for your preaching for us today.” I gave it back to him. I said, “Under no conditions will I take it, I don’t preach for money. I don’t preach for money.” Why, he said, “This is a privilege for us to give you this ten dollar bill. It should be far more; I apologize for it not being more. Take this ten dollars, it is so small.” I said, “Sir, I will not do it. I don’t preach for money.” You know what, I don’t think, even though I’d given my life to be a preacher, I don’t think I had ever thought through how in the world am I going to live if I don’t take something from the people? I’m going to preach for nothing, no, no salary, no anything. I just hadn’t thought that through. Well, when I left I had a hat, and he had taken that ten dollar bill and put it in the brim of my hat. And it was sticking out of the brim of my hat. So, everybody’d gone, he had too, and I went to the train, caught my train back to Waco; my mother had taken me to Waco and put me in school down there. And I remember taking that ten dollar bill, and I said to mother, “Mother, this is given to me for preaching the gospel and I can’t take it. What shall we do with it?” And Mother said, “Well, let’s give it to the work of the Lord.” So we turned it in to a church there that we attended in Waco.
Well, you know what? I have never in my life ever grasped for anything preaching the gospel. When I came here to the church over thirty-one years ago, they started me at a salary that they were paying Dr. Truett, ten thousand dollars a year. I said, “I will not take it. I will not take it. I don’t want to come into this church and receive the same salary that the great Dr. Truett did.” I said, “Lower my salary to seventy-five hundred dollars a year, and that will be pleasing to me, and I think pleasing to God.” So I started off in the first few years here, I made seventy-five hundred dollars a year. I have never been grasping in my life. Has God blessed me beyond any other minister in the world! I don’t know of a minister in this earth that has been blessed more financially, outwardly, inwardly, upwardly, downwardly, earthly, heavenwardly, than I have. God honors those who honor Him. Now the text for it: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all of these things shall be added unto you” [Matthew 6:33]. Put God first in your life, test Him, try Him, depend on Him and see if He will not add to you all the other things that you need, and abounding abundance beside [John 10:10]—lessons learned alongside the Lord.
All right, now again. One time in the congregation, there came up to me a poor, poor, poor family. She and her husband, and she had her little ragged children around her, and she placed a gift in my hand for the Lord. I refused it. I said, “I will not take it. You are so needy yourself, you’re so poor, I will not take it.” It was a worthy gift. It broke their hearts, it just killed them. They hurt. And you know what? I learned a lesson then, I have never, ever forgotten: when somebody loves God enough to make a sacrificial gift for them, for the work of the Lord, take it, take it. Then if I have opportunity, help them, and encourage them, and do good by them; but never refuse that gift, never, never, ever. It may come out of their direst need, like this woman here, but however the poverty of their homes abounds to their liberality, never refuse it, never say, “No,” always take it, and bless the name of God for it, and pray the Lord’s blessings upon them for doing it. Then if you can help them on the side, or in a way that they don’t realize it, do that; but never refuse the sacrificial gift. Isn’t that what the Book says? “Neither will I offer unto the Lord that which doth cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:24]. And out of our poverty and need sometimes, God fits for us our greatest blessing when we give out of the destitution of our life.
Now, lessons learned along the way. You know, not many days ago I was in a service, and I was seated right down there, and there was a bunch of bushy-headed, blue jean boys sitting on either side of me, just like typical modern American boys. They just, you know, bushy-headed, open collar, and blue jeans, you know; man, they just feel so insulted if you say, “Man, you ought to dress up, you ought to put on a tie, a collar and tie, collar and tie, and shirt, and coat.” No, no, they were just like these modern kids are: they were down there at church in a beautiful service, in a beautiful church house, and open at the collar, and blue jeans on, you know, and I was sitting there all dressed up among them, you know. Well, the collection plate came by, the collection plate came by, and when I saw the deacon on that side passing the plate over to the deacon on this side, I thought, “Well, he’s sure going to get a dry water hole here, these kids, passing that collection plate down among those teenagers like that.” You know what I saw? You know what I saw? Every one of those teenagers—you know the pants in these blue jeans are just as tight as a band—you know, every one of those teenagers went down into that pocket like that and every one of those teenagers pulled out a dollar bill, each one of them pulled out a dollar bill and put it in that collection plate. Thank God I have a rule in my life that I have followed for years: there is never a collection plate that passes me by in any church anywhere but that I put a dollar bill in it. I put a dollar bill in it. And when those boys put a dollar bill in the collection plate, I put a dollar bill, too. Now, I think it a crime, I think it an insult that our people take these plates, and they go through the congregation, and after they’ve been half the way back there’s not a thing in the world in it, not anything in it, not anything in it. You watch the collection plate that goes by you, and there’s not anything in it; it is empty. “But pastor, you don’t understand. I give in my Sunday school class, or I give some other place.” That’s all right, give in some other place, put your tithe and your offering in some other place; but when the collection plate passes you, put a dollar bill in it, every one of you put a dollar bill in it, put a dollar bill in it. When the deacons come back with those plates and they’re piled high with dollar bills, man, people look at that and say, “The church, God is sure blessing those people how liberal they are.”
“But pastor, you don’t understand. I can’t afford to put in a dollar bill.” But you can, but you can. When you go eat, what do you pay? What do you pay for a hamburger? I pay, man alive, I used to buy hamburgers for a nickel. You don’t buy them now for a nickel. There are a thousand things that you do along the way, a thousand things that you do along the way, and incidentally, you pay a parking lot attendant, or you pay a theater, you do a thousand things with it. You will not miss that. Make it a rule in your life, make it a rule in your life, just as I have made it a rule in my life: there is no collection plate that passes by but that I’ll put a dollar bill in it. Isn’t that what God says in the Sermon on the Mount? “Give to him that asketh thee, and he that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” [Matthew 5:42]. And when these collection plates pass by in the church, you go into your pocket or go into your purse, and take out a dollar bill, and put it in it. And it will bless your doing, and it will bless the church, and it’ll bless the kingdom of God; lessons I have learned along the way.
Now, my time is almost gone, and I’ve just got started good. When I was in the seminary, when I was in the seminary, I was pastor in southern Kentucky. And in those days, Austin Crouch was the executive secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention. Austin Crouch came up to southern Kentucky with D. B. McKinney, who headed the music program and other of the leaders in our Baptist denomination headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. And they formed a team that went through southern Kentucky in stewardship rallies, in associational meetings, and to my great delight and surprise, they asked me to be a member of the team. So, we went to the different associations in southern Kentucky, meeting in associational rallies, presenting the cause of God in stewardship, in tithes, and in offerings. Well, we went to an association in Kentucky. I don’t know to this day exactly where that place is. It was back, back, back, back in what they call the knob country, low hills. And the people were all their lives living back there in those backwoods. And if you know anything about those Kentucky preachers in the backwoods, man, man, they are agin’ tithing. Ah, they look upon it as a heresy. Well, Austin Crouch stood up at this associational meeting, and he delivered one of the finest addresses on giving and on tithing that you could ever hear. And when Austin Crouch, our executive secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention, delivered his address and sat down, right in front of me stood up a big mountain of a man. He was a gargantuan man; he was a Goliath, a tremendous man. He was dressed in a blue serge suit that he had worn at least twenty-five years. It was so shiny that when he sat up I could see my face mirrored in the seat of his pants. A great big giant of a man stood up. And he addressed the moderator of the association. And when he did my heart fell. “Oh,” I thought, “this great big mountain man is going to cut Austin Crouch down. He’s going to ruin every appeal that this man of God has said. This is going to be catastrophic; it’s going to be terrible, O Lord, when this man gets through.” You know what he did? That big mountain man stood up there and addressing the moderator of the association, he turned around and looked at the brothers and sisters that were filling the little country church, and he said, “My brothers and sisters, for the years and the years I preached agin’ tithing.” I’d give anything if I could mimic, if I could imitate the brogue of that Kentucky mountain man. He said, “For years and years I preached agin’ tithing.” Then he said, “As I was plowing out in the field, it came to my heart, I’d been preaching against something that I’ve never tried. Why don’t I try it?” So he said, “I talked to my wife, and I brought in my family, and we coveted with God that we would tithe for a year.” Then in the language of that mountain man, he said, “And God blessed my flocks, and God blessed my fields, and God blessed my herds, and God blessed my home, and God blessed my family, and God blessed my heart.” And he said, “I called in a friend and a neighbor, and I told him what I had tried, and what God had done for me. And I persuaded my neighbor to try God too.” And he said, “After a year when he had tithed,” he said, “and God blessed his flocks, and God blessed his fields, and God blessed his herds, and God blessed his family, and God blessed his heart.” Then he said, “I called my church together, and I told them what God had done for me. And I told them what God had done for my friend. And I said to the church, Would you try it? Would you try it? And the church made a covenant with the Lord that all of them would try it for a year.” And then he said again, “And God blessed our flocks, and God blessed our fields, and God blessed our herds, and God blessed our hearts, and God blessed our homes.” I tell you, when that big mountain man got through talking, I, seated back of him, was crying like a child. I had thought when he stood up that it meant the decimation and the destruction of what Dr. Crouch was trying to do. Instead, when that man got through telling how God had blessed his flocks, and how God had blessed his fields, and how God had blessed his family, it was one of the most moving testimonies, encouraging, I had ever heard in my life: lessons learned alongside the Lord.
What that big mountain man had found in God, we also can find too. When we offer Him our hands, and offer Him our hearts, offer Him our homes, offer Him our lives, “Lord, bless as only God can bless.” The Lord answers from heaven, He honors His Word. And to those who look in faith and trust to Him, there is always an infinite, a precious, a heavenly reward [Hebrews 11:6].
Our appeal to your heart tonight, does God speak to you? Does God say something to you? Does the Holy Spirit press an invitation upon your soul? Will you answer tonight with your life? [Romans 10:9-13]. Will you? Will you? “Here I am, preacher, and here I come.”
“Pastor, God has spoken to me, and I’m answering tonight.” Is it to give your heart in trust and faith to the blessed Jesus? [Ephesians 2:8]. On the first note of the first stanza, come. Is it to bring your family into the heart and the circle and the circumference of this precious church? On the first note of the first stanza, would you come? Is it to give your life to a special calling, a special dedication from heaven? Would you answer with your life? “Here I come, here I am.” As the Holy Spirit shall say the word, as God shall make the appeal, make the decision now in your heart. And on the first note of the first stanza, come. “Pastor, I want to be baptized.”
“Pastor, I want to accept the Lord as my Savior.”
“Pastor, I want to join the church.”
“Pastor, I want to give my life in a new dedication to a task and assignment that the Lord has called to me.” Do it. Make it now, answer now, come now. On the first note of the first stanza, down one of these stairways, or down one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor, here I come.” Do it now, make it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.
LEARNED ALONGSIDE THE LORD
I. Jesus was an adventitious teacher
A. The man born blind (John 9:1-3)
B. The rich young ruler
C. Nicodemus (John 3:1-21)
D. The woman from
Samaria (John 4:4-29)
C. Here in the story of
the widow’s mites
II. Lessons I have learned through the
years (Luke 24:13-35)
A. My first spiritual
1. A boy with his
nickel (Malachi 3:8)
B. Preaching at Mount
1. Refusing to
take the ten dollars (Matthew 6:33)
C. Never refuse a
sacrificial gift (2 Samuel 24:24)
D. Blue jean boys and
the empty offering plate
1. Always put in
a dollar (Matthew 5:42)
E. Austin Crouch in
stewardship rallies in southern Kentucky