With Thanksgiving to God
November 23rd, 1975 @ 7:30 PM
WITH THANKSGIVING TO GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-23-75 7:30 p.m.
To you who have tuned in on KRLD, all over this part of America, we are happy to share with you the service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled With Thanksgiving to God. With me would you turn in your Bible to Luke, the Third Gospel? Matthew, Mark, Luke, turn to Luke, chapter 17, and we shall read verses 11 through 19. Luke, chapter 17, verses 11 through 19. And if on the radio you are where you have opportunity to pick up a Bible, do so; in the living room, in the bedroom, in the house, or if you are even on the highway and could stop the car, and have a Bible in the glove compartment or on the seat by your side, take it and read it out loud with us; Luke, chapter 17, verses 11 through 19. And all of us here in this great auditorium, with these choirs, how wonderful you look and sing, sharing our Bibles together, all of us, let’s read it out loud. Luke 17:11-19, now together:
And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
And fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
No one could read this story of the healing, the cleansing, of the ten lepers, and only one of them turned to give thanks to God, no one could read the story without feeling in his heart, “O Lord, is it possible that I might forget the least of Thy mercies, and the smallest of Thy kindnesses? Lord, is it that I too might be prone to forget to thank God for His wondrous kindnesses and remembrances and goodnesses to us?”
It is a weakness of the flesh that we have a tendency to forget. That is why, through all of the Word of God, the Lord will build institutions and erect monuments that we might remember His grace and His goodness. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus, when the Lord gave to His people the sacrifice of the Passover, the slaying of the lamb, and the spreading, the sprinkling of the blood on the doorposts and the lintels [Exodus 12:3-13], “And it shall come to pass,” says the Lord in the Holy Word,
When your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel, and gave life to the people under the blood. And the people bowed their head, and worshiped.
Lest they might forget, God gave them that holy institution of the Passover.
Then turning to the Book of Joshua:
And the Lord said to Joshua, Out of the midst of the Jordan, that now had become dry so the people could pass over dry shod, they were to take twelve stones; and God spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall tell your children, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land; for the Lord God dried up the waters of the Jordan from before you, until you passed over as God did dry up the waters of the Red Sea.
[Joshua 4:1-3, 21-23]
Then again, in 1 Samuel, after a great victory over the Philistines [1 Samuel 7:10-11], Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” [1 Samuel 7:12].
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
Wither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
[“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” Robert Robinson]
So our forefathers sang in the congregation of the Lord.
Then in the Book of Isaiah, out of which I preach at the morning hour, “Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you” [Isaiah 51:1-2]; the great prophet calling his people back to a remembrance of the blessings of God upon their forefathers. And of course, in the life of our Lord, our remembrance of Him and His suffering for us in the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup; “This is My body, which is broken for you; eat in remembrance of Me.” Lest we forget. “And this cup is the new covenant in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:23-25].
It is in the heart and in the mind of God that His people remember His mercies and His goodnesses to us: so the message tonight, With Thanksgiving to God. We thank our heavenly Father, and especially at this season of the year of our national proclamation of heavenly remembrance. We thank God for the Christian, though humble, the Christian beginnings of our nation. It was under the cruel persecution of the king, James Stewart, that the little band of Pilgrims left for Plymouth. And after three months, crossing the cold and stormy Atlantic, planning to land south, but driven off their course by the merciless winds, finally finding harbor in Cape Cod, off the shores of what is now Massachusetts. They had no heat on that little Mayflower. It was a harsh and cruel journey. And when they landed it was in the dead of a fierce and merciless winter. That winter, of the little band of about one hundred, nearly half of them died. And lest the savage Indian see how their little colony was decimated, they buried their dead away in unmarked graves. And the next spring, the next spring, they planted their first crop. And the little band of about fifty asked heaven’s blessings upon it. And when the fall time came, and when the harvest was gathered, they lifted up their hearts in prayer and in thanksgiving to God for His mercies that had thus provided for them and sustained them. And with the first strength by which they asked God to bless them, they built their little homes, and they built their little church, and they built their little school. And thus the foundation of America was laid in the heart and in the mercies of Almighty God. And we thank our heavenly Father for the Christian beginnings of the greatest nation the earth has ever known, our America.
With thanksgiving to God, we thank our heavenly Father for the sacrifices of those who before us have laid down their lives in our behalf. I have lived through two World Wars, and two other terrible conflicts in which American soldiers were engaged, and in which they died by the thousands. I remember the First World War breaking out in Europe in 1914, our entrance into it in 1917, and the days of the idealism of America to fight a war to end all wars. And we entered into that conflict with song, and with assurance and with victory that God would bless us. But as though that cruel war were not enough, we also were involved in a Second World War that broke out in Europe in 1939, and involved us on December 7, 1941. And our men went across to the east, and went across to the west, by the thousands and by the hundreds of thousands. America then was a different kind of a nation from what it is today. America then still had a feeling in its heart of prayer and of looking up to God. Somehow we have lost that today. We seem self-sufficient today. We seem to have persuaded ourselves that we’ve outgrown the Bible, and outgrown the Savior, and outgrown the need of God. And we have erected for us new standards, and new moralities, and new ways of living and building and working. Ah, but the ways that we know now lead to destruction; they lead to disintegration; they lead to weakness, and finally someday, unless there is a turn in American life, they lead to the dissolution of our nation. But in that Second World War, there was in the hearts of our people a great dependence upon and looking to God.
When the announcement was made that our men would storm the bastion of Hitler, and wade up on the beaches of Normandy, the invasion directed at the heart of the Nazi world, when that announcement was made, there was also a concomitant word and appeal that all of the people of America find their way to their houses of worship and ask God to bless the armed might of America. The announcement came to the church that I pastored then, about two o’clock in the morning. When the telephone rang, and the word came to me, I dressed immediately. And by the time I could get to the church, it’s a church built like this with a horseshoe balcony all the way around; by the time I could dress and get to the church, by the time I walked in the door, it was packed. The balcony round, the lower floor, everywhere people were waiting upon God in prayer, asking the Lord to bless and to stand by the armed forces, the soldiers, and the Marines, and the sailors, and the airmen of America. And the spirit of sacrifice was in our people, and they asked God’s blessings upon the effort that was to preserve for us and for the world our hope of freedom and a better life.
You know, the spirit of the people in that Second World War was almost indescribable for you who live and have grown up in this modern and present generation. I remember a story, whether it could have happened just like that or not I do not know, but it was told by a minister of the gospel at a great convention, and it illustrated the spirit of the people in that day of great sacrifice and looking up to heaven. The story is that after the war a mother went down to the port, down to the sea, down to the harbor to welcome her son back home. And when the boy was wheeled off of the ship, his mother spied him and called to the boy and said, “Son, look, look, here stands your old mother.”
And the boy replied, “Mother, I can’t see you. My eyes are gone.”
And the mother said, “Well, son, stand up and greet your old mother.”
And the boy replied, “Mother, I can’t stand up, my feet are gone.”
And the mother knelt by his side, and then, “Son, just put your arms around your dear old mother.”
And the boy replied, “But mother, I can’t, my arms are gone.”
And the mother cried aloud and said, “Oh, son, this cruel war, you’ve lost your eyes, you’ve lost your feet, you’ve lost your arms.”
And the boy proudly replied, “No, mother, no mother, I gave them away.”
That was the spirit of the men of the Second World War: willingly, gladly, building around us a shield of blood, and of might, and of consecration, that we might live. When I see on a foreign field a cemetery, row after row of American boys who laid down their lives for us, dear God, are we worthy their supreme devotion and their sacrifice unto death?
On the right side of the British Museum as you enter in there is a tribute written by the curator to the men of the British Museum who fell in the war, and as I read that little poem, incised there in the marble stone, it made appeal to my heart:
They will grow not old as we that remain grow old:
Age will not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
[from “For the Fallen,” Lawrence Binyon, 1914]
With thanksgiving to God for the treasure of the love, and the blessing, and the sacrifice of the men who laid down their lives for us and for our country.
And now, with thanksgiving to God in our prayer and supplication that the Lord will no less be good to and remember us in the days and in the years that lie ahead for us, for our children, and for our children’s children. Somehow, if one can read the pages of history and learn anything from them at all, it is this: that a nation lives or a nation dies in the elective purposes and in the imponderables of Almighty God. I think, for example, of the history and of the story of England. How is it that England was so preserved and so blessed, the mother of parliaments, and the mother of culture, and the mother of the evangelization, the missionary enterprises of the world? How did that come? It came to pass under the hands of the living God. Is it not a remarkable thing that when the Spanish armada was raised by the then powerful empire of Spain against little struggling England, that a wind blew it away? A great hurricane swept it from the face of the sea. God did it.
Last summer we walked over the battlefield of Waterloo, the confrontation between England and France, between Napoleon who seemed to be invincible and the Iron Duke of Wellington representing England. And how was it, that unknown to Napoleon and unknown to Marshal Ney, there was a great sinking road that went by. And when the cavalry of Napoleon charged, not knowing of that abyss, not knowing of that deep road, his cavalry stumble into it and fell over, and the army was decimated and ruined. How did that happen except under the mind, and under the eye, and under the elective purpose of Almighty God? What a victory did England win at Waterloo!
Then I think of Dunkirk in the Second World War. Hitler and his Nazi soldiers trained, had the little army of England against the sea, surrounded on every side, and it looked as though the English army would be absolutely destroyed, pulverized; for as the Nazi soldiers surrounded them on every side, against the sea, all Hitler had to do was to bring in his bombers and destroy the army completely from the face of the earth. And just as the Nazi bombers were beginning to take their sites and to roll, there came a fog from the North Sea and from the English Channel, and covered that army by the hour, by the night, by the day, by the days. And the entire army was evacuated out of Dunkirk, and escaped to England, there to join hands with the forces of America and then stormed back across the bastion of Hitler to win for us our final and greatest victory. These things come of the hands of Almighty God.
So it is in the life of America: the little band of soldiers under Washington, winning for us in 1776 and ’77 our independence, and the blessing of God upon the expanding colonies westward, over the Appalachians, buying the Louisiana Purchase, blessing Texas in its War of Independence, finally pushing to the great and vast Pacific. And everywhere that the settler went, there also went the pioneer preacher, sowing the seed of the world, organizing the churches in which we now worship, and building the institutions to which our children now go to school. Oh, what an infinite blessing of God upon our America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea!
[“America the Beautiful,” Katharine Lee Bates]
And now, and last, we shall bring thanksgiving to Jesus our Savior for all that He has done, all that He is doing, all that He has promised to do for us. How could one sing it? How could one say it? How could one shout it? How could one proclaim it? How could one praise God enough for the unspeakable, incomparable, indescribable gift of the love and mercy of God in Christ Jesus? [John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4-8]. Blessing our houses, blessing our homes, blessing our hearts, blessing our work, blessing our children, blessing our every tomorrow. To Him we pray, to Him we look for help, to Him we share every secret desire of our hearts, to God we ask in Jesus’ name to walk by our sides, to stand with us in our hour of need, and to be with us in the day of our death, and finally to receive us with open arms in welcome to glory.
I sometimes think, “O Lord, what do people do without Jesus?” What kind of a funeral service do you conduct without Jesus, where there’s no hope, and no promise, and no tomorrow? Just sadness, just tears, just darkness, just death, just the grave, just nothing. The end, the despair, the night, the darkness, just the abysmal blackness of a despairing midnight, nothing beyond: O God, what Christ Jesus means to us; speaking to our hearts, living in our houses, a companion in every trial. O Lord, what Christ has meant to us! And then dying for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], paying the penalty for our wrongdoing [2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 10:5-10], that we might not die—for death to the Christian is just the gates through which we enter into glory [2 Corinthians 5:8]. All of our sins are washed away [Revelation 1:5; 1 John 1:7]. All of our iniquities are forgiven [Hebrews 8:12, 10:17]. It is just now that we look up in praise and gratitude to God in heaven for what Jesus has done for us.
Upon a time, when I was in Washington, our capital city, I went to the Ford Theater, and I stood there and looked at that box, just right there, in which the president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was seated with his family, watching a play there below. And while he was seated in the box, a man came from behind and placing a gun at the base of his skull pulled the trigger, jumped down on the stage and escaped. And the president of the United States lay mortally wounded, and finally his life gradually ebbed away. A nation, however they might have thought about Abraham Lincoln, a nation was grieved and bowed in sorrow. And on a train they carried his body from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois, from which place he had gone to enter the political arena of America, and there was he buried. And by the side of the railroad tracks of the train that carried the fallen form of Abraham Lincoln, the people gathered in solemn grief by the thousands and the thousands. And along the route of the train, there stood a black Negro mammy, with a little black baby in her arms. And when the train passed by, she held up that little child, and said, “Honey child, honey child, take a good long look. This is the man who died for you.”
All of us have that feeling of gratitude and thanksgiving to God for Jesus Christ our Lord. Take a good long look: this is the Man who died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3]; who struck off our chains of slavery, who elevated us into fellow heirs and fellow citizens in the kingdom of God [Romans 8:17-18], and who has lifted us up to places heavenly, celestially, glorious, in the blessedness of His goodness and grace [Ephesians 1:3]. Oh, who could but praise God for His abounding, overflowing, heavenly remembrance of us! [Ephesians 3:20]. With thanksgiving to God, and with that one leper cleansed, who returned to give God glory [Luke 17:15-16], we also join with him. “Lord, we praise Thee, we bless Thee, we thank Thee. We praise Thy name forever for Thy abounding, unending goodnesses and remembrances of us.”
Do you feel that in your heart? If you do, would you give Him your life in praise and in thanksgiving tonight? “Lord, that You forgive my sins, I thank Thee [1 John 1:9]. That You write my name in the heavenly Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], I praise Thee. And Lord, that I have yet length of days in which to serve and to honor Thee, Lord, I thank Thee now and forever. And in keeping, and in token of that gratitude, Lord, tonight I come forward before men and angels, taking Thee as Savior, putting my life with the people of God in the fellowship of His church.”
Has the Lord spoken to you? Tonight, would you answer with your life? [Romans 10:9-13]. Listening on radio, wherever you are, if God has spoken and called to you, would you say, “Lord, tonight, this hour, I give my heart in trust to Thee”? [Ephesians 2:8]. And in this great throng and congregation in this auditorium, from side to side, down a stairway, down an aisle, “Here I come, pastor, tonight I make that decision for Jesus.” Do it in your heart now, and in a moment when we stand up to sing be the first one to come. “Here I am, pastor, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God. I’m putting my life with you, with the people of this church. May every issue of my life flow out to the praise and the glory of Jesus our Lord.” Coming by baptism, coming by letter, coming by statement, coming by confession of faith, coming by consecration of life, “Here I am, pastor, I make it now. I’m coming now.” May God bless you in the way and angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.