The Golden Tomorrow
May 28th, 1978 @ 8:15 AM
2 Timothy 4:6-8
THE GOLDEN TOMORROW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 4:6-8
5-28-78 8:15 a.m.
Along with the great number of visitors this morning, we welcome the other thousands of you who are listening to this hour on the two radio stations. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church bringing the message entitled The Golden Tomorrow. In the last letter that Paul wrote, in the last chapter, verses 6 through 8, are these famous and marvelous words:
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]
The thought of the message is this: it does not matter where the Christian stands; always there is a better day in front of him.
The second Corinthian letter describes in great detail the many sufferings of the Lord, the many sufferings of the apostle Paul for the Lord. Beaten, stoned, imprisoned in manacles and chains; most of his ministry not preaching the gospel out to the people, but chained to a Roman soldier. Yet in that same second Corinthian letter he writes, "For we all, with open face, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord" [2 Corinthians 3:18]. That’s almost unbelievable that a man, any man, could be like that. With all of his sorrows, and imprisonments, and stonings, and beatings, and sufferings, he looked upon the face of the Lord and was changed, was transformed from glory to glory to glory. Every day was a better day, every vision was more complete. And he lived in that way of one glory added to another glory, and that just the introduction to yet another glory – himself being changed more and more into the image of Christ Jesus. Imagine that! Every day a better day, no matter how stoned or beat or imprisoned, in suffering, yet every day a better day. And you find that, dramatically, in the passage that I’ve just read in the second letter he writes to his son in the ministry, Timothy.
He is facing execution; he is in a Mamertine dungeon in Rome. As a Roman citizen, instead of being crucified he’s going to have his head cut off. And on the Ostian Way, where the church of St. Paul is now located – there, they severed his head from his torso. And yet as he faces that ultimate execution, he does so in triumph, in victory: there is yet a better day! He says it, "Henceforth, beyond this execution, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness," [2 Timothy 4:8], always a golden tomorrow.
The best song is yet to be sung; the best poem is yet to be written. The best sermon is yet to be preached. The bravest deed is yet to be done. The finest race is yet to be run. The best game is yet to be played. There is always a better tomorrow. To live in that kind of buoyant optimism through the days and the years and the lifetime is to exhibit the very heart and spirit and soul of the Christian faith: better, onward, upward, God-ward, Christ-ward, heavenward, always in the spirit of conquest and victory. It is triumph for the child of God.
One of the great Christian poets of all time, as you know, was Robert Browning. Each time a volume of the poetical works of Robert Browning are published, each time it is published, the book closes with his "Epilogue". It was the last poem that he wrote. Just before his death illness, he read it to his sister and his daughter-in-law. And the third stanza is this:
One who never failed to face breast forward,
Who never doubted clouds would break,
Who never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.
["Epilogue," by Robert Browning]
That’s victory! A better tomorrow, always – wherever the Christian stands. Wherever you are: if you believe in Christ, tomorrow is a better day.
Now life can be drab, and dour, and sour, and defeated, and disappointed, and dejected, and gloomy, and dark, and we can live in that way. Do you remember the first stanza of this poem of Lord Byron? The most pampered and petted of all of the royalty I suppose, that ever lived; he was the darling, not only of Great Britain, but of Europe. Do you remember the first stanza of this poem?
My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flower and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief
Are mine alone!
["On This Day I Complete My Thirty-sixth Year"; Lord Byron]
Now do you remember the title of the sermon, the title of the poem? It is "On My Thirty-Sixth Birthday," and soon after that he died. Can you imagine life being like that?
Take another instance: Conrad Aiken is one of the great modern American poets and novelists. Listen to him as he writes:
Well, I’m tired,tired of all these years,
The hazy mornings, the noons, the misty evenings,
Tired of the spring, tired of the fall,
The music starts again, I have heard it all.
["Sonata in Pathos"]
You know how old he was when he wrote that? He was twenty-six years old. Life can be drab, and drear, and gloomy, and dark, and defeated, and every day is a sorrier day than the day before. But life also can be victorious, and full of gladness and joy and anticipation! And every day can be a better day: we can be happy and triumphant in it.
Remember this joke? There is a medicine show and the fellow is up there, selling an elixir. It is rejuvenating; it keeps you alive and young and vigorous and active. And as he’s up there selling his rejuvenating elixir, why, he says to the crowd gathered there before him to whom he’s selling it, "If you don’t believe what’s written on this label, look at me! I’m three hundred fifty years old." And an incredulous listener turned to his helper and said, "Did you hear that? He says he’s three hundred fifty years old. Is that right?" And his helper replies, "Sir, I don’t know. I’ve only been with him a hundred forty-nine years." That’s marvelous! That’s great!
Robert Browning again:
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!"
["Rabbi Ben Ezra"]
That’s great! That’s the way life ought to be: better with every passing day.
Now there are glories of youth and we rejoice in it. Alexander the Great was thirty-two when he conquered the world. Isaac Newton was twenty-four when he formulated the law of gravity. Benjamin Franklin was twenty-six when he wrote Poor Richard’s Almanac. Charles Dickens was twenty-four when he began publishing his Pickwick Papers; and he was only twenty-five when he wrote his great book – novel, Oliver Twist. Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson was thirty-three when he drafted the Declaration of Independence. William Cullen Bryant was eighteen when he wrote "Thanatopsis," Thanatopsis, the first poem of importance, written on the American continent. Cyrus McCormick was twenty-three when he invented the reaper. And as though that were not enough for young people, look at this: 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, the organ, and the harpsichord. And Richard Wagner at seventeen years of age, was composing overtures played by some of the greatest orchestras of Europe. And soon thereafter – before he was twenty, he was writing symphonies and operas. There are glories of youth.
But there are also glories of age, a golden tomorrow: every day a better day. Immanuel Kant was seventy-four when he wrote his finest philosophical works. Verdi was eighty when he wrote Falstaff; he was eighty-five when he penned his Ave Maria: Goethe was eighty-one when he completed his Faust. Tennyson was eighty when he wrote "Crossing the Bar." Michelangelo was eighty-nine when he completed his greatest work in St. Peter’s in Rome. Titian was ninety-eight when he painted the historic picture of the Battle of Lepanto. Thomas Edison at eighty-three was still filing patents at the United States Patent Office. President John Quincy Adams was a vigorous congressman at eighty-four. Gladstone, Palmerston, and I can remember when Winston Churchill, with those two great predecessors, was prime minister of Great Britain in his middle eighties.
Caleb was eighty-five when he said to Joshua, "Give me this mountain" [Joshua 14:12]. What mountain was he talking about? It was Hebron, where the Anakims lived, where the giants lived! Forty years in the wilderness had not bound his vision, or lessened his faith, or dulled his youthful zest, or diminished his physical powers. Every day is a better day, a golden tomorrow in the Lord.
Henry W. Longfellow, who was writing poetry at seventy-five, wrote this:
For age is an 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.
There is no time in life that is any better than any other time; but every day ought to be a better day. And as you go along from childhood, to youth, to manhood and womanhood to old age, every day is a golden tomorrow. Isn’t that a marvelous way to be? And isn’t that a glorious way to live? For you see, those who have the love of God in their hearts, always they live in the best of life. And God has marvelous things for us when we’re children. He has wonderful things for us when we’re teenagers. He has more glorious things yet for us when we’re in the strength of manhood and womanhood. And He has the best for us when we come to old age and declining years. That’s God!
I saw that one time so beautifully in the life of a marvelous businessman. In Knoxville, Tennessee is a famous department store, such as some of the department stores we have here in Dallas. In Knoxville it is the Anderson Departments Store. And when I was graduated from the seminary, I was placed by the Southern Baptist Convention, on the Board of Trustees of Southern Seminary from which I had gained my last degree. And going to the meetings, they were presided over by that marvelous man, Mr. Anderson. One of the reasons that I was so interested in him and loved just sitting there looking at him – his pastor at that time was Dr. F. F. Brown, one of the godliest men that our Southern Baptist people has ever known.
He’d take his Bible, Dr. Brown would, and preach on the streets, preach on the street curb. Well, the First Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, is an elite church; it’s right by the University of Tennessee. And some of the members said it was beneath the dignity of their pastor, that he take his Bible and preach out there on the street: "The pastor of the First Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, shouldn’t be out there on the street corner with his Bible open, preaching the gospel." So when that was heard and when that was said, the next time that he stood on the street corner to open his Bible and to preach the gospel, guess who walked up and stood by his side? That Mr. Anderson, who owned the big, exclusive department store in the city of Knoxville; standing by his pastor, preaching the gospel on a street corner. I like that. I like that. Anyway, I’m just telling you why I loved to go to the meetings and just look at that great, godly layman.
Well, I was present at the last meeting over which he presided. And he was retiring from the leadership of our board of trustees. And after the session was over and the work of the seminary was done, he made a little swan song; beautiful talk, a farewell, just moving. And the last thing that he said, he quoted this precious 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]
That’s the last time I saw him; but a magnificent memory do I have of that godly layman.
Life is at its best when we’re living it in the Lord and every day is a better day, and a finer day, and a golden day for the Christian, no matter where he stands. And now, the climactic conclusion of it all – this passage in the apostle Paul: our finest day and our greatest day is the one yet to come. As marvelous and abounding as have been the outpourings of the Lord upon us in this life, they are as nothing, and God says so. They are as nothing compared to the glories that shall be revealed in us in a life that is yet to come. Every day is a better day, it’s a golden tomorrow for the child of the Lord; and especially and triumphantly is that true when we come to the end of the way.
Would you believe this? I was in Baylor Hospital, praying for one of the sainted members of this dear church; a godly man whom I had known, of course, since the day I came to be pastor of the congregation. I held his hand after I had visited with him and I began praying. And as I prayed, as you would think, as you would expect, I was praying for him that God would lay hands of healing upon him, and raise him up and send him back to us. In the middle of my prayer – in the middle of my prayer, he stopped me. He put his other hand on mine, and kind of shook me and broke into my intercession and said, "Dear pastor, don’t pray that. Don’t ask God to raise me up or to make me well or to heal me, don’t." He said, "I have lived my life; and I want to go to be with Jesus. I want to greet those who are watching and waiting for me, and I don’t want to be in this old broken down house any longer. Pastor, pray that the Lord will release me, that I can go to be with Jesus." So I closed my prayer, "Dear Lord, as You have blessed him in these years of his life of service for Thee, Lord bless him now as he’s translated to serve Thee in heaven." And soon after, God released him to be with Jesus. I love that.
For us who have found refuge in Christ, death is a coronation. It’s a translation. It’s a liberation. It’s a coming up higher; it’s a going to be with the Lord. It’s seeing Jesus face to face; it’s walking down golden streets. It’s looking in the face of the Lamb on the throne. It’s drinking from the river of life. It’s eating from the fruit of the tree whose leaves even are for the healing of the people. The golden tomorrow: wherever the Christian stands, every day, every coming day is a better day, it’s a triumphant day, it’s a sweet and precious day.
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, 57-58]
Serving the Lord in childhood, like little Samuel, serving the Lord as a little boy, as a little girl. Serving the Lord as a teenager in youth as young David, playing the harp to his sheep and the very angels bowed down their ears to hear that lad sing; serving the Lord in youth as David. Serving the Lord in manhood and in womanhood as the great throng of you are doing today. Serving the Lord in old age, as Paul writes to Philemon, and refers to himself from his prison in Rome, as "Paul, the aged," sending back to Philemon a runaway slave that he had won to Jesus in the prison in Rome. Serving the Lord in old age and serving the Lord in heaven; isn’t that what the Book says? Revelation 22 and verse 3, "And His servants shall serve Him; their names in their foreheads, and they shall reign with Him forever and ever."
We’re not going to sit down on some cloud with some kind of a halo over our heads, thumping some kind of a harp; there is a whole universe of God to administer. And that’s what we’re going to do in heaven serving the Lord, administrative responsibilities – all kinds of errands, all kinds of assignments, all kinds of work in obedience to our blessed Lord; there as here, loving Jesus. The only difference is, this flesh veils His face; I can’t see Him with my natural eyes. It’s only in my spiritual body, my resurrected body that I can look into His face and walk in His presence and live in that mansion called the New Jerusalem. What a prospect! The Christian is never defeated; he’s never down. He’s never in the abyss. Always it’s a better day, it’s a golden tomorrow. From wherever he stands, the rising of the sun shall see us that much closer to Jesus and that much more conformed to the image of His grace.
And that’s the glorious life into which we invite you in the name of the Lord. To give your heart to the Lord Jesus, to put your life with us in this pilgrimage, to belong to this fellowship of God’s redeemed, a family who has chosen to come, a couple who has prayed it through, a somebody you that has decided for Jesus this morning, in a moment when we stand to sing, on the first note of the first stanza, would you make that decision for God now? And come and stand by me, right there, "Pastor, I give you my hand; I have given my heart to the Lord."
"Pastor, we have decided to place our life, and lot, and destiny, and worship, and love and prayers in the circle of this wonderful church, and we’re coming." In that balcony round, there’s time and to spare; on this lower floor, into that aisle and down to the front, when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. Stand up walking down that aisle, stand up making that first step and God will do the rest. He has promised, and He won’t fail.
One of my staff members said to me, "Pastor, when you make that invitation, would you make it clear how somebody can be saved?" Whenever God tells us how to be saved, He always does it in one simple sentence. And it is this, "I look in faith to Jesus. I trust in the goodness and grace of the Lord Jesus. I believe that He was raised from the dead. I believe that He is in heaven. And I accept Him in His promise of forgiveness to me. He writes my name in the Book of Life. He will walk by my side. He will see me through. I will trust in the Lord Jesus and I give Him my heart and life. I do it now." That’s the way into the kingdom.
“There’s life for a look at the Crucified One.”["There is Life for a Look"; Amelia Hull] We are saved by the commitment of our lives to Him, and He does the rest. The church doesn’t save us – preacher doesn’t save us, ordinances don’t save us – Jesus saves us. And when I look in faith and trust to Him, He saves me; He does it then. It’s that simple; but oh how preciously meaningful, walking in the way of the Lord, walking with Him in childhood, walking with Him in youth, walking with Him in manhood and womanhood, walking with Him in old age, walking with Him into the night. Come, God bless you as you give your heart and your life to the blessed Jesus. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.