Concerning the Collection

Concerning the Collection

October 13th, 1985 @ 10:50 AM

1 Corinthians 16:2

Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
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NOW CONCERNING THE COLLECTION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Corinthians 16:2

10-13-85    10:50 a.m.

 

This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message entitled Now Concerning the Collection.  In the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthians letter, beginning at verse 50—1 Corinthians 15:50:

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

But, behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump;

for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.

[1 Corinthians 15:50-52]

O Death, where is thy sting?  O Grave, where is thy victory?

 [1 Corinthians 15:55]

 

Now concerning the collection… as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.

Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

[1 Corinthians 16:1-2] 

In God’s revelation, it is all the same.  It is all the same.  Man put a chapter heading between those two passages.  But for one thousand three hundred years, there was no chapter heading there.  There were no paragraphs.  There were no verses.  There were not even any spaces between the words.  It was all the same revelation from God.

There are many scholars who say the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is the greatest revelation in all God’s Holy Word.  It is the greatest chapter in the Bible.

It is of a piece, in the same breath with the sixteenth chapter of the Book of [1] Corinthians: the great revelation concerning the coming of our Lord, the rapture of His saints, the translation of us from this mortal life into immortality, the putting on of the new body in Christ, the resurrection from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:1-58]; at the same time and at the same breath that he speaks of that, he speaks of the collection in the church [1 Corinthians 16:1-4].  They’re both inspired alike.

We have a tendency to compartmentalize our religion.  This part is sacred, and this part is profane.  And this part has to do with the world; this part has to do with God.  This is mine, and this is the Lord’s.  And these are the words I speak when I speak about God, and these are the words I speak when I speak about myself.  There’s no such thing as that in the Bible.  The great verse that ends the tenth chapter of 1 Corinthians says: “Whatever you do, all of it, do to the glory of God” [1 Corinthians 10:31].  Whatever it is, this on Monday or this on Saturday or this on Sunday, it’s all the same before the Lord.

The Lord would make a pronouncement, a great, mighty delivery, a message [Mark 10:1-12], and the next thing, He would be blessing little children, holding them in His arms [Mark 10:16]—both glorious in the Lord.  The Lord would be feeding the five thousand [Mark 6:34-43], and the next minute, He would be watching a poor widow bring two mites as her total living offering to the Lord [Mark 12:41-44]—both of them, in the same breath, in the same life.  It is as much for me to love and honor God as I work, as it is as I pray.  Both of them are to be done to the glory of the Lord Jesus.

In my first pastorate out of the seminary, between the church and the parsonage, every day and especially on Sunday, we’d pass by a little church house.  And on the inside of that church house, there was a congregation, and they were of a nature and of a type to sing and shout and praise until after midnight every Sunday.  Every Sunday when I’d drive by, why, we’d be going home, and they’d just be getting started good, and it was just marvelous.  I thought they’d just praise and shout and sing until after midnight, every Sunday night.  But the church was in disrepair, it needed painting, and they didn’t have any pastor, and the thing was run-down.  So I talked to one of the men, and I said, “Why don’t you paint your church, and why don’t you repair it, and why don’t you make it look nice?  And why don’t you call a pastor?”  He said, “Well, that’s hard to explain.”  He says, “When we get together there in the church, we shout and we sing and we praise God, but when we pass the collection plate, nobody will put anything in it.  So the church looks run-down, and we don’t have enough money to call a pastor.”

Now I’m submitting to you, even as a youth, it seemed to me that it was as much of the service and praise and worship of God to put something in the collection plate, as it was to pray and sing and shout until past midnight.  It’s just both the same.  All of it is in the inspiration and revelation of God.  And I worship God just as sincerely and as deeply as when I bring a tithe and an offering and dedicate it to Him, as when I kneel and bow in prayer and intercession.  And that’s why he writes like this.  And it’s a wonderful thing that he says:  “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia” [1 Corinthians 16:1].  So God has an order in it.  He has a program in it.  He has a purpose in it.  He has a plan in it.  And I’d be surprised if it came from God, and He didn’t have a plan in it.  He has a plan in everything else.

  We say God created this universe above us [Genesis 1:1], and you look at it.  There is a purpose and a plan and an order in the whole universe [Genesis 1:14; Psalm 8:3]: these planets that revolve around the sun and these moons that revolve around the planets—all of it in God’s purposed order, in God’s purposed plan [Isaiah 40:26].  And even the tiny minuscule of life, the tiniest flower is made according to a plan and an order of God.  And there’s not a fruit that grows in the earth that isn’t brought forth by some plan and order of the Lord [Genesis 1:11-13, 29:31].  God does that in everything.  He does it in our spiritual lives.  I am saved, then I am sanctified, then I am glorified—all of it in order [Romans 8:28-30].

Wouldn’t it be an amazing thing if God sent the church out into this world with a commandment and a commission to evangelize the whole earth, and He gave no way for us to support it?  From the beginning, God has always done that.  Back in the days of the patriarchs, Abraham, before Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God, gave a tithe of everything that he had [Genesis 14:17-20].  Four hundred years later, in the giving of the law, the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Leviticus closes: “The tithe is holy unto the Lord” [Leviticus 27:30].  A thousand years later in the days of the prophets, Malachi said: “Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, and see if I will not open the windows of heaven, that there will not be room enough to receive it” [Malachi 3:10].

In the days four hundred years later, the Lord Jesus—He said this, “You ought to have done: bring a tithe to the Lord” [Matthew 23:23].  In the days of the apostles, they brought and laid at apostles’ feet—the people, all of their gifts before the Lord [Acts 4:34-35].   And in the kingdom that is forever, in Hebrews 7:8: “Here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.”

That’s God.  Everything He does is moving according to an order and to a plan.  So he begins:   “As I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so do ye.  Upon the first day of the week. . .” [1 Corinthians 16:1-2].  That’s God’s day.  That’s the Lord’s Day.  That’s a blessed day.  That’s a happy day.  That’s a glorious day.  That’s when God’s people come together for the praise and worship of the Lord, on that day.  And isn’t it a marvelous thing what God hath done to give us an opportunity to share in His kingdom work?  God doesn’t need us.  He could do it without us.  God could have given to the angels the commission to evangelize the world, build up His kingdom among men.  And God certainly doesn’t need anything that I have.  They tell me, in the fiftieth Psalm, that everything in the earth belongs to the Lord: the cattle on a thousand hills, the gold and the silver [Psalm 50:10-12, Haggai 2:8].  There’s not a deposit of wealth in the earth but that God knows is there and every atom of it.  All of it is known to the Lord.  And He doesn’t need what I have.

I think of what is wealth in the earth, and what are possessions in the earth?  This generation uses it and they can’t keep it, then the next generation has it and they use it.  Then the next generation has it and they use it.  And what we have in our generation, we’re going to leave behind and somebody else will use it.  Then how does it work in the kingdom of God, that I am blessed by it when it is personalized in me?  When I have what I possess, and I dedicate it to God, it becomes a part of me, and what I have as a part of me, I can dedicate to the Lord.  I can use it for His glory, and I’m blessed by it.  And on the first day of the week, what a privilege to come before the Lord with a tithe and an offering in my hand: “On the first day of the week let every one of you—let every one of you” [1 Corinthians 16:2].

Now I have sought to portray and present this to our people so many times until, when I came to that part of it, I thought I’d just leave it out.  And one of the staff members, talking to me about our stewardship program, learning that I was thinking about doing that: “Oh, pastor, don’t do that.  That’s what we need.”

But, I said, “I have said it so many times.”

“Well, it needs to be said again and again and again.”

And I thought about Isaiah—what they said about Isaiah was: “Here a little, there a little, precept upon precept on precept” [Isaiah 28:9-10].  That’s the way they said Isaiah taught.

Well, I guess that the best way for us to teach is to say it and then to say what we have said and then repeat what we’ve said: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you.”  You see, I believe in the inspiration of every word of the Scriptures—all of it, not just this part’s inspired and this part’s not inspired.  Every syllable of it is inspired.  Every word of it is inspired [2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21].  And when the Lord God says: “Therefore on the first day of the week let every one of you” [1 Corinthians 16:2]—every one of you.  Then God means that: every one of us.

We’re somebody in God’s sight.  We might not be anybody in anybody else’s sight, but in God’s sight, we’re somebody.  We’re one and precious in His sight.  God doesn’t think of us in terms of gobs and bucketfuls and oceans full.  God thinks of us one at a time.  You—He knows your name [John 10:3].  He counts even the hairs in your head [Matthew 10:30].  He knows all about us.  He loves us.  God is for us.  He died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 2:20].  If there wasn’t anybody else in the world, He would have died for me.  Every one of us, we’re somebody in God’s sight.

I think of us sometimes in terms of the gospel message.   The gospel of Christ is the gospel of the one lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7] and the one lost coin [Luke 15:8-10], and the one lost boy [Luke 15:3-32].  We are born one at a time.  We are born again one at a time [John 3:3, 7].  We die one at a time.  We are judged one at a time [2 Corinthians 5:10].  And we’re welcomed into glory one at a time [Luke 16:22].  “Let every one of you.”  And that’s one of the great lessons that we can learn in our family life.  Each member of the family is one.

Now there is a tendency—and used to be far more than it is today—there is a tendency of the father to say, “I receive the check.  And therefore, I’m going to give to the church.”  That’s not right because his wife is somebody one, and that teenager is somebody one, and even the baby is somebody one.  They all belong to the family, and they all share in the family life.  However a father may receive a check or the mother may receive a check; the whole family contributes to the domestic life of the circle of the home.  All of them do, the father does, that’s right.  The mother does also, and the teenager and the baby, they all are somebody one in the family.  And when we give to the Lord, each one, every one, ought to bring before the Lord an offering in His sight.  It’s a beautiful thing to do it that way, to sit down and each one has a part.

Now let me tell you something about children and about rearing that child.  The state fair is going on right now.  And on a Saturday—let’s say, yesterday—on a Saturday, the family goes out to the midway.  And the youngster is there, and they have peanuts, and they have popcorn, and they have candy, and they have hotdogs, and they have hamburgers.  And they have the merry-go-round, and they have the big Ferris wheel, and they have all the rest of it, and after the day is done, why, that youngster has spent $25, $35.  That’s a great thing, that’s a marvelous thing—at the fair and the youngster had a big time.

So the next day is today.  The next day is Sunday, the Lord’s Day.  And they go to the Lord’s house, and the dad gives to that boy or that youngster fifty cents or a dollar or a dime or a quarter.  And that’s the offering that the young fellow brings to the Lord’s house.  You don’t have to say anything, man, he’s learned that lesson well, and he’s learned it forever.  Peanuts and popcorn and the merry-go-round, the Ferris wheel and the hotdogs and all the rest of the stuff—that’s big business.  That’s $25 or $35.  But God’s business is a little business!  That’s a dime business.  That’s a quarter business.  That’s a dollar business.  He’s learned it well.

Man, what God says is: sit down with that family and divide up what God hath placed in our hands.  And dad, you take this part of it, and mother, you take this part of it, and son, you take this part of it, and sweet daughter, you take this part of it, and little baby, you take this part of it.  “Pastor, you mean to tell me that you would come to God’s house with a baby and an offering?”  Well, I don’t know of anything finer than that the nursery division of the church also have a worthy part in doing God’s service in the earth.  And when the baby comes and you deposit the baby in the arms of that keeper back there and the nursery director back there, why, you have an offering pinned to its ditty, fastened to its clothing.

At the 10:50 service this morning, for the first time in my life—I never had anything like this before in the fifty-eight years I’ve been a pastor—for the first time in my life, that father and mother brought their little boy Colin to be dedicated to the Lord.  And there, with a big safety pin about that big, on the front of the child’s tummy, they had pinned a dollar bill.  And they said to me, “This is his first tithe.”

Man, that’s great!  That’s great.  And it’s just what God says: “Let every one of you” [1 Corinthians 1:2]—every one of you.  And for the father in the home to say, “I make the money, and I’m going to give and leave the other family out,” is such a hurt to the kingdom of God and the teaching of our precious children.  You’ll never do a finer thing in the earth than just to follow what God says.  And dad and mom and daughter and son and baby, all of us are going to have a part.  And we’re going to come before the Lord every Lord’s Day, on the first day of the week with a dedicated offering in our hands. “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him” [1 Corinthians 16:2].  When I read that in Greek, I could hardly believe what he says there.

You have in your library, many of you, a thesaurus—you know, a treasury of words of synonyms and antonyms, a thesaurus.  That’s that Greek word right there.  I was amazed because I had forgotten that he used the word “thesaurus,” thesaurus.  It means “treasure,” treasure.  So on the first day of the week, this is the treasure that belongs to God.  Maybe a little bitty treasure to me, but, in God’s sight, when I dedicate it to Him, it’s a beautiful and a precious thing; the size of it has nothing to do with God’s acceptance of it.  To do that is a blessing, and it blesses everybody.

Now I want to say a word here that you say, “Well, you’re just meddling now, preacher.  You’re just carrying on.”  But I’m telling you the God’s truth, this is my reaction to things.  When you turn aside from that, what you turn aside to is an inevitable—because the church has to have support, and this is God’s way to support it—and when you turn aside from that, this is what you’re going to turn to: you’re going to support your church by rummage sales, and by raffles, and by all kinds of dinners and oyster suppers, and to-dos, and strawberry festivals—and worst of all, gambling.  You’re going to support it by bingo.  One of the tremendous obstacles that we have in this state and most other states is you have difficulty passing laws against gambling because the church supports itself with gambling, with bingo.  It’s unthinkable and inexcusable!

Well, that’s what happens to you when you turn aside from what God says to us and then you turn to all those other things.  And they are something!  Some time ago in Life magazine, they were depicting a New England church.  And they were supporting the church with kissing bees—kissing bees.  Well, I thought what in the world would you go to the church for and you have a kissing bee?  Well, what they did, they took all the girls in the church, and they auctioned them off.  And whoever paid the highest response, give the most money would get to kiss this girl, and then get to kiss that one, get to kiss that one.  They call it a kissing bee.  And I thought: “Man alive, wouldn’t it be awful to belong to that church and be an ugly girl.”  They’d have to pay you to kiss her—be terrible, be awful, be terrible; kissing bees.

And this came out.  There was a church that supported itself by a strawberry festival.  And of course, they were doing it to make money, to support the church.  So the church came out in the bulletin, and it announced, and it said:  “Concerning our strawberry festival, due to the high price of strawberries, we’re going to serve prunes instead.”

And of course, when you have an oyster supper to support the church, why, you’ve got to make money on it somehow.  So the oysters are very few and far between.  And the soup, you know, has a whole lot of water in it because you’ve got to make money, you can’t serve high-powered oysters.  So at this oyster supper, why, one oyster said to another, “Pal, where are we?”  And the other oyster said, “Well, we’re in an oyster supper for the church.”  And the first oyster said, “Well, then, what are both of us doing here?”  These things are ridiculous.  And they are an insult to God, I think.  I can’t imagine, and yet that’s almost universal.  From one side of Christendom to the other, that’s what you see, that’s what you hear, that’s what you look at.  That’s what they do.  And it is so contrary to the Word of God.

Now let me get down to us—talking about us, me and this staff here.

The Lord spake unto Aaron: Thou shalt have no inheritance in the land.  Thou shalt have no part among them.  I am thy inheritance.  And I am thy part.

Behold, I have given the children of [Levi all] the tenth in Israel for their inheritance and for their service and for the service of the congregation.

The tithes of the children of Israel I have given to the Levites for their inheritance.

Thus speak to the Levites and say unto them: When you take of the children of Israel, the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance;

Ye shall offer up of it for the Lord a tenth part of the tithe, a tenth part of the tithe.

[Numbers 18:20-26]

I am to tithe by the commandment of God.  As though that were not unique, why, Nehemiah does the same thing when he reinstitutes the worship of the Lord:

We should bring the first fruits to the chambers of the house of God; and the tithes of our ground, unto the Levites.  And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites when the Levites take the tithes, and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of God, to the chambers, into the treasure of the Lord.

[Nehemiah 10:37-38]

I am under commandment to tithe.  I am.  Not just our people—I am to tithe.

Now, let me tell you something.  As you know, the entire programming of the church has now been placed upon my shoulder and in my hand, so, I’m trying to build the church.  And some of our leaders, as you know, are called to other places.  So, we’re carrying on.

Well, for the first time in the fifty-eight years I’ve been a pastor, and the first time in the forty-one years I’ve been here, why, I thought I’d just start working with our church and working with our staff intimately.  So I asked the business office over there, “How is our staff doing?  How is our staff doing?  These paid workers of the church—how are they doing?”  So they gave me a list.  And this is the members of our church staff who work for the church, and this is how much they give to the church.  And to my horror, and to my infinite disappointment and to my hurt, there’s no small part of our own staff that does not tithe.  They don’t dedicate a tenth of what God has given them to the Lord, in contradiction and in violation of the plain law of God that He writes here in the Book of the Lord: “A tenth—the tithe I am to offer unto the Lord.”

I am to do that.  I am under commandment to do it.  And it is a tremendous weakness on the part of our church when we would encourage others to tithe, but we don’t tithe.  The staff doesn’t tithe.  I looked at some of them, and they are so generous.  Some of our members of our staff give twenty percent of what they make—twenty percent of it to the Lord.  And they’re the ones that are the most marvelously blessed.

 If I could be honest about my own part in it, I was dumbfounded at how much I had given to the church.  Last year I gave to our Lord $31,000.  I was so grateful; I had no idea of it. None at all!  It just mounts up as you give Sunday, by Sunday, by Sunday.   It just multiplies!  And it is amazing how it does, and I have not been impoverished, and I have not lacked, it has been a blessing.  And it is a blessing in every man’s life; God somehow doesn’t deceive us when He says, “You bring that one-tenth that is sacred to God, and I will open the windows of heaven, and your heart will not be able to contain the blessings that will be poured out” [Malachi 3:10].

 I have said this ever since I’ve been a student of the Word of the Lord.  You won’t be able to keep that tithe, you won’t do it.  You won’t do it.  God will collect it.  I don’t care who he is.  One of the rich men, as I said about a week ago, one of the rich men in our church was talking to his friend, and the friend lost $150,000,000 in recent days!  One hundred fifty million dollars!  Think how much better it would have been had he taken that $150,000,000 dollars and given it to the work of the Lord.  You’re not going to keep it.  There’ll be something that’ll happen.  There’ll be an illness; there’ll be a bad investment.  There’ll be a misjudgment; you are not going to keep it.  It is infinitely better, infinitely better to come before the Lord and say, “Lord, this is not mine, nor will I rob You of it, nor will I steal if from You, this is Yours.”  Now Lord, this other part, bless it with divine wisdom and direction and help from heaven.”   And believing in God, He will do it!  He will do it!  Nine-tenths of what you have will go further every day of your life than ten-tenths of it.  God is in it!  And that applies to me, not just to you who are lay people of the church but your pastor.  I’m under commandment to do it!  This staff is under commandment to do it!  And all of us are to appear before the Lord on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, with a beautiful, loving, dedicated tithe and offering to His blessed name.

Now I must close.  There’s one other part here.  On the first day of the week let everyone of you—every member of the family—lay by him in store, treasure for God, as God had prospered him, as the Lord hath prospered him, as God has prospered him [1 Corinthians 16:2].  God has wonderful gifts for His children.  He has His best gifts for His children, as the Lord hath prospered us.  “Now pastor, you just wait a minute, you just wait a minute!  You say God has His best gifts for His children, then what about Lazarus, who grooms in misery and in poverty?  And what about Divies, the rich man, who lives in luxury? [Luke 16:19-21]. And you say the best gifts are for His children?”  My brother, God’s not done yet!  Read to the end of the chapter; read to the end of the chapter.  Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom, that’s the Jewish Talmudic word for “heaven,” where God is.  And the rich man, with his selfish grasping, he is in torments, forever! [Luke 16:22-31].  Ah, Lord, the best gifts, the best gifts God has for His children, and whatever the providences of life, if you are a child of God, the Lord is good to you in what happens to you.

Have you ever been to Kilgore, over there in East Texas?  When you look at Kilgore, it is a sea of derricks; the whole landscape is covered with derricks.  That was where they discovered oil, those gushers, ten thousand barrel gushers, just one after another, over there in East Texas.  Well, I was over there speaking in the church; I was the guest of a godly man in the congregation.  And that evening, why, he took me home for supper.  And it was an old time farmhouse, he was an old-timer himself, living on that East Texas farm.  And on the front porch he had a swing, an old time swing, and he and I were seated out there, on the front porch, in that swing.  And the house was built upon an elevation, and you could see those derricks, a whole ocean of them, out there in front of us.  And the godly old man began to talk to me, and he said, “Preacher, you see all those derricks out there, from side to side.” He said, “They cover the land of my neighbors whom I’ve known all my life, they cover their farmlands. “  And he said, “When they were drilling those wells and bringing in those big gushers, why, they drilled those wells up to my farm line.”  And He said, “See it down there, up to the line of my farm.  And when they got to the line of my farm, every well they drilled was dry, dry, and my neighbors were immensely wealthy, and I live here in poverty on this East Texas farm!”  He said to me, “Preacher, I thought God had forgotten me, and God was unkind to me, and I seethed with anger against God because my neighbors were immensely wealthy, and I toiled on this cheap farm here in East Texas with my family.” But he said, “Wait a minute preacher, wait a minute.”  He said, “You see all of those farms there, covered with all of those derricks?”  He said, “There’s not a one of my neighbors, there’s not a one of my neighbors, but has broken up his home, everyone of them. They’ve broken up their homes, everyone of them.  They’ve broken up their homes, and the children are in law courts now, fighting before the judge about the inheritances.”  And he said, “Their lives, when they moved away, some to Dallas, some to New Orleans, some of them to San Francisco, some of them all over.   They fell into deepest sorrow and domestic ruin.”  But he said, “You know, preacher, you’ll see it tonight, in a minute.  When we go in to eat supper, you’re going to meet my wife of all these years, and years, and years, and years.   And all of my children have come back home to eat with us because they know you’re going to be here tonight.  And when you sit down, when you sit down, you’re going to sit down to one of the sweetest, loveliest, dearest families in all of the world.”  And then he said, “Preacher, you know what, now I say the best thing God ever did for me was when they were drilling those oil wells and they got up to my farm, and when they came to the line on my farm, they were dry.”  God’s best gifts.

You see, God has a different reaction to and a different value on worldly things than what we do.  We think, “Oh, man!  Look at all that, and look at all that, and look at all that!”  And the chances are all that that, and that, and that are an unmitigated, indescribable, immeasurable curse.  It’s a rare thing that wealth is a blessing to a family, it’s a rare thing.  It’s a rare thing that wealth is a blessing to a child.   “Best thing God ever did for me,” that old man said, “was when they were drilling wells, came to my farm, and they were dry, and you’ll see it in a minute when you break bread with my family.”

O Lord, how do I learn those things?  As I mentioned many times, I began my work as a pastor in the Depression.  I started preaching when I was seventeen, and when I was eighteen, I was called to my first little country church, and then called to my second little country church, and I had those two country churches.  Well, that was in 1928 when I started, and 1929 was the “crash” and then the years that followed after, why, I was in the Depression. I lived with the people, and I know all the sorrows that attended those tragic days.

Well, in those days of the Depression, the bank went broke, went bankrupt.  And the banker said, “Oh, I am ruined, I am ruined, I am ruined!

And his friend said to him, “You’re ruined, you’re ruined, oh, he said, you are ruined!  You are ruined!  You’ve been caught embezzling, and they’re going to send you to the penitentiary.  You are ruined!”

 “Oh no,” said the banker, “I have never stolen a penny in my life, and I wouldn’t.  No!  No!  Not that!”

 “Oh,” said his friend, “I, I understand now, you are ruined!  Those three precious, darling children of yours, they’ve all been killed at one time in an automobile accident, I can understand!”

 “No,” said the banker, “My three children are just beautiful and well and at home.”

 “Oh,” said the friend, “Now I know.   You are ruined!  Your wife has an incurable disease and is dying!”

“No,” said he, “my wife is in the best of health.  No!”

“Oh, said his friend, “Now I understand.  You are ruined!  You have the incurable disease, and you are facing death.”

“No,” said the banker.  “No, no.  I’ve never been in better health in my life.”

“Well,” the friend said, “What do you mean then, you are ruined?”

And the banker said, “I have lost my money.”  And the friend, in contempt, turned away.

So you have lost your money, and you are ruined?  Let me ask you an honest question, or let me ask it to myself.  What would I take for my two eyes?  Just what would I take for them?  If you were to offer me the world, I wouldn’t exchange it.  I’d rather have my two eyes than the whole world.  And what would I take for my two hands, and what would I take for my two feet?  And what would I take for the breath that I breathe?  Man, I never bought my eyes!  God gave them to me!  I did nothing to earn my hands or my feet or my breath!  God gave them to me!

And talk about being rich—to be the undershepherd of this wonderful church—just to walk in and out before these godly people, to be up here with these saints, Lord!  Lord!  I’d rather be what I am than to be president of General Motors, or head of the corporate board, or to be prime minister of England, or the king of any nation that ever lived.  I’d rather be the undershepherd of this church, I’d rather be pastor of the congregation than anything in the world.  O Lord, how infinitely good You are to us, and the riches that have come to me in my life are in your life too.  Remember that song Doug had us sing,

Count your many blessings,

Name them one by one!

And it will surprise you

What the Lord hath done!

[from “Count Your Blessings,” Johnson Oatman, Jr.]

 

And even in our sorrows, and in our tragedies, and in our hurts, and in our disappointments, God is purposing some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40].  Learning!  O Lord, our Savior cried [Luke 19:41, John 11:35; Hebrews 5:7-8].  Isn’t that remarkable, strong man?  Our Savior cried!  He had a broken heart.  He went through the sorrows that most of us could never even enter into and finally was nailed to a tree [Matthew 27:32-50; 1 Peter 2:24].  Yet, out of those sorrows and tears and blood and finally death, have come the blessings that enrich us and the world [2 Corinthians 8:9].  My brother, we have so much for which we are grateful to God.  Praise His name, bless the Lord.

 So he concludes it, that there be no gatherings when I come [1 Corinthians 16:2].  No need for the apostle to hammer at us, to ding-donging us.  No need at all!  If he were to come here to this dear church, he would find the sweetest people in the earth, Sunday by Sunday, dedicating to the Lord a treasure that belongs to God; a tithe and an offering given to Him.  And for it, the Lord, bountifully, abundantly, blesses us with remembrances, precious, untold.

Now my invitation; “Pastor, how do you do that?”  How could such a thing be?  That’s why we read just now the beautiful passage in 2 Corinthians chapter 8, “The poorer they were, the more they give” [2 Corinthians 8:2].  He called it the abounding poverty, multiplied their giving to the Lord.  And this is the way they did it, he says, “Not as we had thought for, but they first gave their own selves to the Lord, then they gave according to the will of God [2 Corinthians 8:5].  Always, it has to start there; always, it has to start here, a start in your heart, a start in your love for God; a start in your trust and faith in Him.  First, you give yourself to the Lord, then all of the beautiful things that follow after, follow after in God’s grace and goodness.  And that’s our invitation to you.

We’re going to have a prayer in just a moment for our orchestra to make a place for you, and then at the end of that prayer, we’re going to stand and sing an invitation hymn.  And in that hymn, this is our appeal; to give your heart to the Lord, to take the Lord Jesus as your Savior, or to be baptized according to His great command and Commission [Matthew 28:19-20], to come into the fellowship of our wonderful church, or to answer the call of the Holy Spirit in your life, when we stand in a moment and sing that appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come.  And may God bless you and sanctify you and angels attend you in the way.  Now let us pray.

Our Lord in heaven, it is such a wonderful thing, and such a precious thing, such a beautiful thing, such a wonderful thing, that God hath done for us.  All the riches of heaven are at our command, and all the benedictory blessings of glory are ours to share.  And even the providences of life that sometimes seem so tragic and so heavy have in them blessings that are known but to God.  O Lord, remember our people, all of us, our fathers and mothers, our teenagers and young people, our children and our babies, the whole congregation, the whole family of God.  Lord, bless us all in the faith, in the work, in the way.  And we praise Thee Lord for Thy remembrance of us, both now and in the hour of our death and in the world that is yet to come.  How much Lord, do we lean upon Thy kind arm.   Remember us in our need and bless us every step and every day of our lives.  And make this moment now of appeal, make it beautiful Lord, in Thy sight, with these who come.  And we will praise Thee for the answered prayer and for the harvest You give us, in our Savior’s wonderful name, amen.

All right, are you ready?  Let’s stand then and sing.