The Golden Tomorrow
May 28th, 1978 @ 10:50 AM
2 Timothy 4:6-8
THE GOLDEN TOMORROW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 4:6-8
5-28-78 10:50 a.m.
The title of the message is The Golden Tomorrow. And as a background text, one of the most famous of all of the words ever said by a man who followed the Lord; he is in the Mamertine dungeon in Rome. He is facing execution. This is the last letter that he writes to his son in the ministry, Timothy, and he says in the last chapter of the letter, verses 6 through 8:
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that Day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing
[2 Timothy 4:6-8]
Wherever the Christian stands; wherever, always there is some greater day, tomorrow, "God having prepared some better thing for us" [Hebrews 11:40]. You see it so marvelously and poignantly and effectively demonstrated in the life of the apostle himself. In the second chapter, in the second Corinthian letter, in the eleventh chapter, the apostle enumerates there a long series of the sufferings that he has suffered for the Lord. He has been stoned. He has been beaten. He has been in prison. He has been in the deep, shipwrecked a night and a day. He has been ostracized and outcast and persecuted [2 Corinthians 11:23-27]. And yet he writes in that same second Corinthian letter this incomparably meaningful verse: "But we all, with open face, unveiled face, behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, and are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord" [2 Corinthians 3:18]. What a marvelous way to look upon his life; filled with persecution and imprisonments and sorrow: and yet, beholding the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, felt himself transformed into that image from glory of this day to the glory of tomorrow’s day, to a greater glory on some future day; from glory to glory to glory, changed into the image of the Lord; that better day, always tomorrow [Hebrews 11:40].
And you have it poignantly illustrated, dramatically illustrated, here in his last words. Facing execution, not by crucifixion, because he was a Roman citizen, but by having his head severed from his body; facing execution, he writes of that better day, that golden tomorrow: "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord . . . shall give me in that Day" [2 Timothy 4:8]. Wherever the Christian stands, in any day of his life, in any age, in any circumstance, always there is a better day tomorrow, a golden tomorrow. The best song has yet to be sung. The best poem has yet to be written. The best sermon has yet to be preached. The finest race has yet to be won. The best game has yet to be played. The bravest deed has yet to be done. Always, there is some better tomorrow. And wherever we stand, at whatever age in our life, our best days are yet to come.
You have that so beautifully expressed in the last poem written by the great Christian poet Robert Browning. Whenever his poems are published, this "Epilogue" always closes the volume. He read it to his sister and his daughter-in-law just before he died. And the third stanza of the "Epilog" is this:
One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.
[from "Epilogue," Robert Browning, 1889]
Always a better day, a golden tomorrow. Now life can be drab, and drear, and sour, and dour, and dark, and depressing, and defeated, filled with despair and regret. Life can be unhappy and bitter, and we can live that way, defeated; every day a bad day, and the next day even worse. Our lives can flow in a channel that is gloomy and dark and defeated. Do you remember this first stanza of the poem by Lord Byron? He was the most pampered and the most petted of all of the royalty in Europe I suppose that ever lived. He was the darling of Great Britain, and he was the darling of continental Europe. Do you remember the first stanza of this poem?
My days – he writes – are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief
Are mine alone!
[from "On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year," George Gordon (Lord) Byron, 1824]
Do you remember also the title of that poem? The title of the poem is "On [This Day I Complete] My Thirty-Sixth Birthday," and he died soon after. His whole life, with all of his royalty and his wealth and his splendor and his fame and his gifts, his life was dour and defeated, and he died in dejection and despair.
Did you ever hear this? Conrad Aiken, an American poet and novelist of our generation, he wrote:
Well, I’m tired
Tired of all of these years
The hazy mornings.
The noon, the misty evenings
Tired of the spring.
Tired of the fall.
The music starts again
I have heard it all.
["Sonata in Pathos," Conrad Aiken]
You know how old he was when he wrote that poem? He was twenty-six! Life can be yellow and sour, full of gloom and despair and darkness.
But life can be triumphant. It can be victorious. It can be filled with expectancy. It can be better with every passing day. And it can be filled with vigor of heart, and expectancy of soul, and triumph of spirit; life can be glorious! I heard of a medicine show, and the fellow was up there selling a rejuvenating elixir: it would keep you young. It would make you well. It would give years to your life. It would make you happy. And he held a bottle of it in his hand, and he said, "If you don’t believe what is written on this label, just look at me. I am three hundred fifty years old." An incredulous listener turned to his helper and said, "Is that so? Is he three hundred fifty years old?" And the helper replied, he said, "Sir, I don’t know. I’ve only been with him one hundred forty-nine years." Life can be filled with vigor, and interest, and anticipation, and triumph. Robert Browning again, in his "Rabbi Ben Ezra":
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith "A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!’
[from "Rabbi Ben Ezra," Robert Browning, 1864]
Our best times are yet to come. Our greatest days are yet to be. The best day is the one coming up; our golden tomorrows. Wherever the Christian stands in his life, the best days are yet to come. I admit that there are glories that belong to youth, and their achievements are to be acknowledged.
· Alexander the Great was 32 when he conquered the world.
· Isaac Newton was 24 when he formulated the law of gravity.
· Benjamin Franklin was 26 when he wrote Poor Richard’s Almanac.
· Charles Dickens was 24 when he began publishing his Pickwick Papers, and was only 25 when he wrote his famous novel Oliver Twist.
· Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he drafted the Declaration of Independence.
· William Cullen Bryant was 18 when he wrote that "Thanatopsis," the first poem of importance written in America.
· Cyrus McCormick was 23 when he invented the [mechanical] reaper.
· Wolfgang Mozart at four years of age was writing great music, and at five years of age astonished the royalty of Europe with his playing on the violin and the organ and the harpsichord.
· Richard Wagner at 17 years of age was composing overtures played by the greatest orchestras of Europe; and soon after, before he was 20, was writing symphonies and operas.
Now there is no doubt but that youth, and sometimes even childhood, is crowned with glory. And they deserve the honor and fame accorded them. But wherever we stand in life, there is a better day yet to come. There is a golden tomorrow.
The glories of age are no less marvelous than the glories of youth.
· Immanuel Kant was 74 when he wrote his finest philosophical works.
· Verde was 80 when he produced Falstaff, and he was 85 when he penned his Ave Maria.
· Goethe was 81 when he completed his Faust.
· Tennyson was 80 when he wrote, "Crossing the Bar."
· Michelangelo was 89 when he completed his greatest work in St. Peter’s in Rome.
· Titian was 98 when he painted one of his greatest paintings, the historic picture of the Battle of Lepanto.
· Thomas Edison at 83 years of age was still filing patents at the United States Patent Office.
· President John Quincy Adams was a vigorous congressman at 84.
· And Gladstone and Palmerston, and I remember Winston Churchill, prime ministers in the middle years of their 80s.
And old Caleb was 85 when he said to Joshua, "Give me this mountain" [Joshua 14:12]. What mountain? "Give me this mountain." It was Hebron. And Hebron was where the Anakim lived, and the Anakim were the giants! And old Caleb, 85 years of age, says to Joshua, "Give me Hebron, the home of the Anakim." Forty years in the wilderness had not drowned his vision, lessened his faith, dulled his youthful zest, or diminished his physical powers [Joshua 14:10-11]. Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, still writing poetry at 75, wrote these words:
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
[from "Morituri Salutamus," Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1874]
There is not any time that is not a great time. There is not any day that is not a wonderful day. Wherever the Christian stands, tomorrow is a golden tomorrow. Our finest days are yet to come.
I watched in my first years, having graduated from the seminary, I watched the presiding leader of the board of trustees of our Southern Baptist Seminary from which I had just been graduated. When I was graduated, I was placed on the board of trustees of the seminary, and this man presided over the trustees. His name was Anderson, and he owned the exclusive and large and, over there, far-famed department store, the Anderson Department Store in Knoxville, Tennessee. What some of these famous department stores are here in Dallas, the Anderson Department Store was in Knoxville – is in Knoxville, Tennessee. I had heard a good deal about him. For example, I remember his pastor telling something about him. Dr. F. F. Brown was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Knoxville, Tennessee; a true and God-blessed pastor. He loved the Lord. He was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention and never able to preside over it because he was not well. Well, Dr. Brown preached on the street. He would take his Bible and go out on a curb of the street and preach the gospel. Some of the people in the First Church at Knoxville, Tennessee, which is an elite church right by the University of Tennessee – some of the people felt it was beneath the dignity of their pastor that he would take his Bible and stand on a street corner and preach the gospel. It was just beneath the calling of the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Knoxville. Well, Mr. Anderson heard about it, what they had said about the pastor. So the next time the pastor went out on the street and opened his Bible and began to preach, guess who came and stood by his side to uphold his hand and to encourage him in his street ministry? It was Mr. Anderson himself, the owner of that far-famed department store. Well, as the years passed, the day came when he retired from his place as chairman of the trustees, and retired from the trustees because of his age. And I sat there and looked at him. And after the business of the trustees was done, he gave his final little talk, said his last words, sweet and precious and endearing. And when he had finished his little talk of love and appreciation and now God’s speed, he closed it with this beautiful, beautiful poem:
Let me grow lovely, growing old–
So many fine things do:
Laces, and ivory, and gold,
And silks need not be new;
And there is healing in old trees,
Old streets a glamour hold;
Why may not [we], as well as these,
Grow lovely, growing old?
["Let Me Grow Lovely," Karle Wilson Baker ]
Our best days are yet to come. Our finest hours are tomorrow. Our vistas are bright. Our days are golden. Wherever the Christian stands, always the best day is yet to come. And if that is true in the days of our pilgrimage, if the best of God is given to us who look in faith to Him in this life, then how much more is it true when we lift up our faces and look forward to the golden tomorrow with Jesus? Always some better thing God hath prepared for us [Hebrews 11:40].
I was out at Baylor Hospital visiting an old saint in this church. And after the visit, I took his hand and began to pray. And as you would expect the pastor to pray, I prayed for him that he would have strength; that the Lord lay hands of healing upon him and raise him up and send him back to us. In the middle of my prayer of intercession for him, that God would heal him and raise him up, he put his other hand on my hand and shook me, and broke in and said, "Pastor, don’t pray that. Don’t pray that." He said, "Pastor, don’t pray that I get well." He said to me, "My life is lived. My task is done. My work is finished. And this old frame, this old body, this old house, it’s a burden to me." He said, "I want to be liberated. I want to be translated. I want to go to be with Jesus. I want to be with those who watch and wait for me. Now," he said, "pastor, I want you to pray that God will liberate me, and that I will be free of the drag of this old body, and that I will go to be with Jesus." So I bowed my head again. And I prayed, "Lord, the task is done. The work is finished. And the burden of this old body, full of such illness and age and aches and pains and sorrows; Lord, liberate him, and let him go to be with Thee." And God answered that prayer. It was not long until his spirit fled away from us to be with Jesus. "Some better thing God hath prepared for us" [Hebrews 11:40]; wherever the Christian stands, tomorrow is a better day.
Day by day, we are getting nearer home; day by day, we’re drawing closer to Jesus; day by day nearing that great coronation and consummation. Every day is a better day, it’s a golden tomorrow for those who look in faith to the blessed Lord. That’s why the apostle cries so triumphantly:
O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?
. . . thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my brethren, beloved, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
[1 Corinthians 15:55-59]
Serving Him here in strength; serving Him there in heaven. But, whether here or whether there, serving our Lord; serving the Lord in childhood, as little Samuel; serving the Lord in youth, as the shepherd boy David, playing to his sheep on his harp, singing those songs we have in the Bible, when the angels bowed down their ears to hear that boy play and sing, serving the Lord in youth; serving the Lord in manhood and in womanhood, as the great throng of our people in the sanctuary this morning: serving the Lord in a faithful witness in old age, growing lovely, growing old; and serving the Lord in the world that is yet to come.
Is it not written in the Book? In the twenty-second chapter of the Revelation, and the third verse: "and His servants shall serve Him: . . .[His] name shall be written in their foreheads . . . And they shall reign with Him for ever and ever" [Revelation 22:3-5]; serving the Lord in heaven; a better day, a golden tomorrow [Hebrews 11:40]. There is no caricature of the Christian life and faith and hope than this: of some fellow on some kind of a cloud with some kind of wings, and some kind of a halo, thumping on some kind of a harp, as though in the world to come all that remained was just to sit there on that cloud. There is no intimation of that in the Bible, none!
When the Bible speaks of our final rest, it is a description of the people of God as they entered into the Promised Land: rest in the sense that we are no longer cramped by this body; no longer hurt by its illness and its age, but we are free. We are at home. To do what? To serve the Lord. The administration of the whole universe God has committed to our care; all of these planets that are to be rejuvenated; all of these suns that are to be flung into a new orbit; all of these deserts that are to blossom as a rose; all of these old burned-out stars that are to be made anew. And the vast multitude of God’s redeemed through the ages and the ages, the administration of God’s whole universe is going to be given to us in that world that is yet to come, in that golden tomorrow [Revelation 3:21, 20:6]. And that is our life as fellow pilgrims in the way. When we have strength, serving Jesus; when we are weak, witnessing to the loving grace of the Lord Jesus; and when we are translated, walking down golden streets, with an address from some glory road or boulevard or some hallelujah square, working for our Lord, serving our blessed Jesus. There as here, wherever the Christian stands, tomorrow is a better day, a golden tomorrow God hath prepared for us [Hebrews 11:40]. What a marvelous way to live. What a glorious way to serve. What a heavenly way to spend our days, with every one of them better than the day before.
And that’s our invitation to your heart this morning. Life can be drab and drear, and out in the world it always turns like that. But in Christ, there is life and light and glory [John 1:4, 2 Corinthians 3:18]. Heaven here and heaven there, forever; made possible for us through the love and mercy and grace of our blessed Savior.
Of the thousands that have listened to this message on television and radio, do you know the Lord? Have you given your heart in faith to Him? Does He walk with you and you with Him? Wherever you are, listening on the radio in your car, watching this televised service in your living room or bedroom; right where you are, would you stop the car, pull to the side of the road and say, "Lord Jesus, today, forgive me, save me, help me to be a Christian, walking in the faith of Your grace." If you are at home, down on your knees, say, "Lord, be good to me. May my life count for Thee, fill me with the presence and the glory of God; forgive my sins. Write my name in the Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], and in this day as in tomorrow’s day, may I serve Thee all of the days of my life."
And in the throngs that are in God’s house this morning, from the balcony down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front. "I’m coming, pastor, I’m taking the Lord Jesus as my Savior. I open my heart to Him. He said He knocks at the door of my heart [Revelation 3:20]. I hear His voice, I open the door. Come in, Lord Jesus, live in my heart."
Having given your life to the Lord, to be baptized as the Lord says in His Book [Matthew 28:19-20]; and to belong to the church, the company of God’s redeemed; your wife, just a couple; your friend, just the two of you; the family, the children, all. In a moment when we stand to sing, may the Holy Spirit so guide you that you will gladly and wonderfully respond. "I believe in God. I accept Jesus as my Savior. I want to be counted among the redeemed of the Lord, and I am coming." Make the decision now in your heart, and when we stand, on the first note of the first stanza, take that step down that stairway, down that aisle, "Here I am, pastor, I make it now." May angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE GOLDEN TOMORROW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 4:6-8
A. From where the Christian stands, there is always a better day tomorrow(Hebrews 11:40, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 11:22-27, 2 Timothy 4:8)
1. Robert Browning’s "Epilogue"
B. Life can be drab, sour, dark, defeated, filled with despair and regret
1. Lord Byron’s "On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year"
2. Conrad Aiken’s "Sonata in Pathos"
C. Life can be bright, victorious, filled with expectancy
1. Robert Browning’s "Rabbi Ben Ezra"
II. Glories of life
A. There are glories of youth
1. Their achievements are to be acknowledged
B. The glories of age are no less marvelous than those of youth
1. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s "MorituriSalutamus"
C. There is no time that is not a great time
1. Blessed by the best in this life
a. Mr. Anderson and Dr. F. F. Brown
b. Karle Wilson Baker’s "Let Me Grow Lovely"
2. Anticipating the best in the life to come
a. Dying saint, "Pastor don’t pray thatâ€¦pray God will liberate meâ€¦"
b. Day by day we are drawing closer to Jesus(Hebrews 11:40, 1 Corinthians 15:55-59)