Are Our Youth Worth It?
March 16th, 1986 @ 10:50 AM
2 Timothy 1:1-7
ARE OUR YOUTH WORTH IT?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 1:1-7
3-16-86 10:50 a.m.
Are Our Youth Worth It? Are our young people worth the sacrifice? Second Timothy, chapter 1, the first seven verses; now, before the Lord, let us all stand and we will read God’s Word together; 2 Timothy 1:1-7. Now together:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;
Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
[2 Timothy 1:1-7]
Remain just for a minute. Our Lord, in all the years that I have been an emissary, we have never faced a more critical moment than this. So bless the pastor and our people as we open our hearts God-ward, and may the Lord speak to us; in Thy blessed name, amen.
In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of John, the Fourth Gospel, is recorded the high priestly prayer of our Lord, and in the nineteenth verse our Lord says, “For their sakes—for their sakes, I”—and in the Greek New Testament, it is hagiazō. Had He spoken it in Hebrew, he would have said qadosh. They are congruent, equivalent words, whether Old Testament or New Testament. Translated in our King James Version, sanctify, “For their sakes I sanctify Myself” [John 17:19]. That is, “For them, I set Myself apart. I dedicate, I consecrate my life for them” [John 17:19]. And that raises the question, are our youth worth that consecration? This message concerns us in the church. It is not an exposition of a great doctrinal revelation. It concerns the ministries of our congregation.
As I read the Bible, there is great precedent for what the pastor seeks to do today. For example, in the first Corinthian letter, Paul does not write exclusively about atonement, or the deity of our Lord, or regeneration, or eschatology, the coming again of Christ. But he writes about things concerning the life of the people.
- He writes, for example, about their petty divisions [1 Corinthians 1:10-17].
- He writes about a court case [1 Corinthians 6:1-8].
- He writes about the unmarried life [1 Corinthians 7:8, 9, 32-34].
- He writes about food offered to idols [1 Corinthians 8:1-13].
- He writes about women covering themselves with a veil or cutting their hair [1 Corinthians 11:5-6].
- He speaks of a case of incest, where the son of a father is living with his father’s wife, his stepmother [1 Corinthians 5:1-5].
- He speaks about getting drunk at the Lord’s table [1 Corinthians 11:21].
- And he finally speaks about the collection, the raising of money for the church [1 Corinthians 16:1-3].
Sometimes we can be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly use. We don’t face the actual realities of a congregation whose life is centered in the earth.
So this morning we are going to speak about us. On Sunday, April 20, through Sunday, April 27, through May—Sunday, May 4—two weeks, Sunday and a middle Sunday and a concluding Sunday—on that Sunday, we are to raise four million dollars for our young people, for our teenagers, ages thirteen through eighteen or nineteen. And the purpose of the offering is to pay for, to remodel and to furnish our youth building, four million dollars. When we think of a project like that, do we also suppose they are worth it? That is a very large offering, four million dollars. And as we look at these boys and girls, we must conclude they must be costly. Are they worth it?
I one time heard of a father. He was complaining of what his son was costing him. The boy was always wanting something, and what he wanted, his father had to pay for. The boy wanted a football or he wanted a basketball or he wanted to go on a retreat or he had to have new shoes. And this father was complaining about what his boy cost. And the man to whom he was complaining said, “Well, I also had a boy, but now he doesn’t cost me anything. My boy was like yours. He was always wanting something, and it was always costing. But he doesn’t cost me a cent now, for you see,” said the father, “last week, we buried my boy.”
They cost because they are ours. They are given to us. They belong to us. They are blood and soul and fiber and bone and life of us. They are we, tomorrow, and the investment we make in them is like an investment in the soul of life itself.
It can be easily asked, “Why do you present such an appeal this Sunday, March 16, when the actual offering will begin on the twentieth of April? Why do you begin this early?” The answer is twofold. First, we must prepare for it, and there is so little time because of the intensity of our church program. The life of the church is filled every day, all the weeks, but especially now.
For example, just a moment ago, Lee Hunt made the announcement that this coming Thursday, we are having prayer meetings over the metroplex for our revival. Then the next day, on Friday, we are having an all-church mission’s banquet. Then the next week, we have our seventieth annual pre-Easter services here in this sanctuary. Then comes Easter Sunday, and like these beautiful girls sang, I always prepare a sermon on the resurrection of the living Lord on Easter Sunday. Then immediately follows our revival meeting, the first Sunday in April, April sixth through the second Sunday in April, April 13. And then is this offering. There is no time except now to present it to our people.
A second reason is we need to pray for such an offering as that. I could not pick out in the course of the year a more unfelicitous, insalubrious, more difficult time than the one that we are going to assign ourselves for this four-million-dollar offering. It is income tax time, and that is the most unhappy moment of the year. Nobody hates to pay interest and nobody hates to pay income tax more than I do, and right in the middle of that income tax time, we are taking up a four-million-dollar offering here in the church. That is why I got to pray for myself, and I got to pray for our appeal. Actually, we don’t get any further in any of our work than what we ask God to bless, to pray for it, to make it an object of prayer, to ask God to work with us in it.
There is not anything that we face that is of more vital importance than that we succeed in this offering. I heard of a man, a well-to-do man in one of our great cities who was standing on the street corner. And right there, also, was standing a ragged urchin, a poor boy of the street. He was hocking his newspapers. At that day, they sold for five cents apiece, and he was selling his newspapers. And the rich man standing there on the corner looking at the boy turned to the lad and said, “Son, I’ll match you whether I pay you double for your paper or nothing.”
And the boy said, “No, mister. I can’t do that.”
Then the man said, “Well, son, I’ll tell you, I’ll match you whether I pay you twenty-five cents for your paper or you give it to me.”
And the boy said, “No. No, mister. I can’t do that.”
And the man upped it. He said, “Well, son, I’ll match you whether I give you fifty cents for your paper or nothing.”
And by that time, there was a little crowd that gathered around the boy. And the boy said, “No, mister. I—I can’t do that.”
Then the man finally said, “Well, son, I’ll match you whether I give you a dollar for your paper or nothing.”
And the boy considered it and then finally answered, “No, mister. I can’t do that, for I can’t afford to lose.”
That is the exact way that we are. We cannot afford to lose. We have a four-million offering to make, and we cannot afford to lose. Now, why?
The first reason is there is a dear, God-blessed prayer partner in our church by the name of Mrs. Ruth Ray Hunt, and she has given us two million dollars, and asks that we match it dollar for dollar. Mrs. Hunt is one woman, a dedicated one woman in our congregation, but she believes in our young people. She believes in their destiny. She believes in their work, and because of that consecrated commitment, she has given to us two million dollars, asking that we match it dollar for dollar.
There are thousands of us. There is one of her. And if the thousands of us do not respond, how can I lift my head from shame and ignominy and embarrassment before the Lord? And how shall I come here to be a pastor of this congregation when we are not willing to match what that precious Christian woman has done? To me, I could not stand here in gratitude and in thanksgiving and in praise to God if the thousands of us would not answer an appeal like that. “I need to give!” exclamation point and period. “I ought to give.”
When the Lord said to David, “You go to Mount Moriah, and there, where Araunah has his threshing floor, build an altar to the Lord God” [2 Samuel 24:18]. That is the place where later the temple was built [2 Chronicles 3:1]. It is the place today toward which all of the Jewish people at that Wailing Wall, where they face in prayer, that place. God said to David, “You go and build an altar there” [2 Samuel 24:18]. And when Araunah saw the king coming, he bowed himself to the ground and said, “My lord, O king, you take it. I give it to you. You take it” [2 Samuel 24:22-23]. And King David replied, “I will not offer unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:24]. I do not think that it is right for our people to accept a great building like that, and we pour nothing of ourselves into it. It costs us nothing.
The Lord is interested in how we reply and how we respond. In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, the Bible says that Jesus sat over against the treasury and observed how the people cast, gave, into the treasury [Mark 12:41-44]. The same Lord in heaven is no less interested now than He was then in how our people give. “I ought to give. If our church has that youth building, I ought to have a part in paying for it. I ought to do it. I am morally obligated to do it. And if I don’t, it is because I am not true to my faith and to my commitment to the Lord.”
May I point out a second thing? Not only are we given two million dollars for these young people, and we have been asked to match it dollar for dollar, but we can liberate our church in a—in a host of marvelous blessings for our people if we will respond. What is happening now at this moment in our church is this. That Salvation Army building cost four million, six hundred thousand dollars. It will cost nine hundred thousand dollars to remodel it. It will cost a hundred thousand dollars to furnish it. What we’re now doing is we are taking the money from the rentals of our parking buildings, and we are buying that Salvation Army building. That’s where the money now comes from. But that money that comes to us from our rentals is to be used for and is dedicated to the upkeep of our properties. And because we are consuming that money in buying that building, our properties and our facilities are rapidly deteriorating, and a thousand other things that is desperately needed we see pass by in tragedy because we are giving nothing to the purchase of that youth building.
Let me give you an example. This last week, an appeal was made to me for our kitchen. That kitchen, just as you see it now, has been used down there for years and years and years, and it needs to be remade. It needs new equipment, and it will cost fifty thousand dollars for that kitchen.
And I have been asked as of last week for fifty thousand dollars for the kitchen. Where do I get fifty thousand dollars? Take again. The week before that, our young women met, and they made an appeal to me for one hundred thousand dollars for our lodge at Mount Lebanon. We have a spacious lodge out there, but there’s no plumbing in it that will work, and the thing leaks, and it is rotting down. And they tell me we will use that lodge as a retreat every week, we and the other areas in our church. We will use that, and we desperately need to do it, but it is unusable now. It is uninhabitable now. And we need one hundred thousand dollars for that lodge. They asked me for it. Where do I get one hundred thousand dollars?
Or take again our Burt Building—that’s that eleven-story building right there, our Burt Building; the windows are rotting, and they will fall out unless we do something to that Burt building. And not only that, but our juniors, all of our children, our boys and girls, meet over there in that building. For us to ignore them, to forget them, is unthinkable. The elevators in that building were placed in there sixty years ago. So old are those elevators, you cannot find parts for them, and it will cost five hundred thousand dollars to replace those elevators. And the men come to me and say, “Pastor, we need five hundred thousand dollars for those elevators, and we need thousands of dollars to replace those windows. And we need other thousands of dollars for these children, these juniors that meet over there.”
What is the matter? I cannot come to the congregation, and every Sunday, I make an appeal for money; fifty thousand dollars for the kitchen, a hundred thousand dollars for the lodge, five hundred thousand dollars for the elevators, other thousands of dollars for other areas in the church. I cannot do that. It doesn’t please God to do that. Now what do we do? We planned this thing in a way that God would help us take care of all of our needs. We have an income from our parking buildings of over a million dollars a year, and the purpose of that income is that we take care of the Burt Building, we take care of our kitchen. We take care of our lodge. We have the income. It is provided for. What has happened is, rather than our people responding to the need of our young people, we are taking our money and buying the building with the money that ought to be used for the care of our facilities.
May I point out, if I may, just one other? This building in which we worship was erected in 1890. There is a big, beautiful plaque out there, a cornerstone right there at Ervay and San Jacinto, dedicating this building in 1890. It’s an old house of worship. I have a reaction on the inside of my soul to the oldness of this building and the oldness of our facilities. I’m proud of it. I’m glad for it. It thrills my heart before God as I thank Him for this church, one hundred seventeen years old. And I thank the Lord for this sanctuary that is old. I—I rejoice in it. Dr. Truett stood back of this very pulpit desk and preached here for forty-seven years. During his ministry, President Woodrow Wilson of the United States came and worshiped God in this place. I am in my forty-second year as his successor preaching behind this sacred desk. In my pastorate Gerald Ford, President Ford, came to Dallas to worship here in this church.
Nor could I have time to describe these that have been saved, families that have found the Lord, many of you here in divine presence. “This is the very place—that’s the very seat where I was when I opened my heart to the Lord Jesus.” I do not mind the age of our church. I love to look at it. It’s an old, old building, soon to be one hundred years old. But I don’t mind that. I rather rejoice in it. The only thing is, I think, we ought to keep it clean and beautiful and furbished and nice and repaired. And for the building to fall into deterioration dishonors God, and is a reflection of our own unhappy and unwilling response. I love to think of our men seated down in these different committees, and we have the money. It’s been arranged for.
We have the money coming in month after month after month to take care of all of our facilities, all of them: the lodge, this building, every other building, our kitchen, everything. It is provided for. We just need to do what, under God, we ought to do; namely, when we buy a building and when we project a program, that we share in it. I need to do it. We need to do it. I am morally obligated to do it. And for me to try to come before God with nothing, “Shall I offer to God that which doth cost me nothing?”—is not right.
And for me and for us to respond to this appeal is the rightest thing that I could ever, ever think for. We have in our programming, we have a card that will be sent to each member of our church, and it reads like this, after about a month, you will receive a card, and it reads like this; on the back side, “An investment in youth,” and in parenthesis underneath, “Our church and our hope for tomorrow.” Then it reads, “We have a great group of young people. Thank God for them, every one. We have a great church. Praise God for His blessings upon our people. We have a great youth building, the purchased Salvation Army building. Now we need to pay for it, to renovate it, and to furnish it. The total cost is four million dollars, which is our exciting, inspiring youth challenge. God has given us a double blessing through Mrs. Ruth Ray Hunt. She has pledged to match, dollar for dollar, every penny we give to our youth building.”
Then on the other side is, “Our investment in youth, our church and our hope for tomorrow.” Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” Luke 2:52, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature.” And Psalm 127:3, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord.”
Then the pledge, “Because I believe in the dynamic young people of our First Baptist Church, and because I desire to be a vital part of their spiritual growth and future, and because I can double my offering through the matching gift of Mrs. Ruth Ray Hunt, and because I love Jesus, accept my pledge of—“and then in parenthesis, “To be paid during the ten months of April 1986 to January 1987,” which equals two tax years.
Haven’t you heard me say ever since you’ve been here, “I believe in confirming signs”? If a thing is of God, God will confirm it by a sign from heaven, always; always, a confirming sign. This is a confirming sign. I do not even know this man, except I found out that he was a Catholic. His name is Clayborn Johnson, and this is the note that he wrote, “This isn’t much for a First Baptist contribution, but I intend to do it again later. Anyhow, the youth center is a wonderful plan, and I am delighted to start with this little bit.” And he encloses a check for five hundred dollars; a Catholic. I don’t even know him, but he heard about what we were doing, and he says, “I want to start with this gift of five hundred dollars, and I’ll add to it later.” To us, this is a thousand dollars. It will be matched dollar for dollar by Mrs. Hunt. Anything we give will be doubled, a confirming sign from heaven. The Lord is with us, and the Lord is working for us.
I could not think of a more happy assignment than that. “Pastor, these young people, they are to be loved and to be cared for.” The world makes a bid for them beyond anything that I ever knew when I was growing up, drugs and alcohol and promiscuity and worldliness. Everything that Satan could think for has he come up with to woo away our young people. And God says, “They belong to Me, not to darkness; to life and light, not to promiscuity and drugs.” Dear God, and if we have any hope for our church at all, it lies in these young people that God hath given us.
I was interested in the strangest kind of a story, kind of a little funny thing that I read last week. Long time ago, there was a lord bishop of the Anglican Church, and his diocese was in London. His name was Dr. Winnington Ingram, and this lord bishop of the Anglican church of London was on a vacation in Scotland. And while he was walking around the hills of Scotland, he came across a shepherd and his sheep. So the lord bishop began walking by the side of the Scottish shepherd. And as they walked, why, the bishop said to the shepherd, sort of playfully, he said, “I am a shepherd also.”
The Scotsman looked at him incredulously and said, “You are a shepherd?”
Then he asked, “How many sheep do you have?”
And the bishop said, “Oh,” and he thought about his London diocese, and he said, “about a million.”
And the Scotsman gulped in amazement and said, “A million? You have a million sheep?”
“Yes,” said the lord bishop. “I am the shepherd of over a million sheep.”
Then the shepherd asked, “Well, sir, what do you do in lambing time?”
You know, I have been turning that question over in my mind, oh, ever since I read that little story. It is a good question, don’t you think? It is a good question. “What do you do in lambing time?”
What do you do about your children? What do you do about your young people? They pass by on the sidewalks. They drive by in their cars. You see them every day that you live. What do you do about your children? What do you do in lambing time? And that is our heavenly answer. Lord God, as I live before Thee, and as Jesus has touched my heart, Lord God, I do sanctify myself to be responsible for them; they are our hope and our church of tomorrow. If we have any hope, if we have any church, it lies in them. “For their sakes I sanctify, I consecrate, I dedicate Myself” [John 17:19].
May I make one last observation? God looks down upon us. God sees us, and how we respond. He writes it in His book, and it becomes our destiny and our eternal future. Dear Mrs. Hunt, with two million dollars: “I give it to you,” she says, “for our young people and their work.” All we are asked to do by the thousands of us is to match the gift dollar for dollar. And if we will respond—if we will respond, God will bless it. He will make it a marvelous and incomparably precious victory for Him, for us, and for our boys and girls,
And the Lord God whispered
And said to me,
“These things shall be,
These things shall be.
“Nor help shall come
From the scarlet skies
‘Til My people rise,
‘Til My people rise.
“My arm is weak,
I cannot speak
‘Til My people speak.
“When men are dumb,
My voice is dumb.
I cannot come
‘Til My people come.
From over the flaming earth and sea
The cry of My people must come to Me
Not till their spirit break the curse
May I claim My own in the universe.
But if My people rise
If My people rise
I will answer them
From these swarming skies.
[from “God Prays,” Angela Morgan]
If there is in our hearts and souls the disposition to respond, the consecration to care, the thousands of us to have a part, we will lay at the feet of Jesus the most incomparable victory that our church has ever won.
As you know at the 8:15 service, they sing, these kids sing. Our teenagers sing. They sing up here in our choir. And while I was preaching, I turned around and looked at them, just looked at them. And I thought as I looked at them, “There is not one of them but that is worth millions and millions of dollars, not one.” Every one of them, just pick any one of them, just pick any one of them; any one of them is worth a fortune, any one of them. And God has given us hundreds of them. O Lord, how could I stumble, or fail, or hesitate, or tremble before so great a blessing? Our young people and our marvelous opportunity to help them; to grow them up in the Lord; to provide for them, and if each one of us, thousands of us; if each one of us will respond, we will lay at the feet of our Lord the finest victory we have ever won.
I do not know of a church in the world that has a six million dollar youth building dedicated just for them, but we can have, right there. And we are building a wonderful staff to guide them; a marvelously group of gifted men. Lord in heaven, may it be that when the time comes and we offer our people this appeal, they rise by the thousands and say, “Lord, thank You for the opportunity to help. It is a privilege. It is not a burden. It is a gladness in my soul to respond.”
We must close, and always with an appeal to give your heart to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], to come into the fellowship of this precious church [Hebrews 10:24-25], to answer a call of the Holy Spirit in your heart. In a moment, when we stand to sing our invitation hymn, in the balcony round, down one of those stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, God has spoken to me today in my heart, and I am answering with my life.” May angels attend you and the Spirit of God encourage you as you come.
We are going to pray, and then after the prayer we will stand and sing our hymn of appeal. Our wonderful Lord in heaven, when we look upon our children here in the church, and when we see these young men and women, these teenagers, Lord God in heaven, there is not one of them but is of infinite value and worth, and the Lord has made us rich in giving us these boys and girls. And our Father in heaven, as You look down upon us, may You find us worthy, the trust that You place in us in committing our young men and women to us. We pray for the congregation in Thy presence even now, and when we sing this hymn of appeal, may the Holy Spirit do His office work of inviting, convicting, guiding, winning, saving, regenerating, encouraging [John 16:7-15]. And may the angels in heaven rejoice in the sweet, sweet harvest God gives us [Luke 15:10]. Thank You for it, Lord, in Thy saving and keeping name, amen.
As the Spirit of the Lord shall open the door and lead in the way, answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.