Are Our Youth Worth It?
March 16th, 1986 @ 8:15 AM
2 Timothy 1:1-7
ARE OUR YOUNG PEOPLE WORTH IT?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 1:1-7
3-16-86 8:15 a.m.
It is a gladness to welcome the multitudes of you who share this hour on radio, and we praise God for your sympathetic and listening ear. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing a message concerning our young people. We are going to read together, and let us turn to 2 Timothy. Second Timothy, the first chapter; 2 Timothy, chapter 1, and we shall read the first seven verses together. Second Timothy chapter 1, verses 1 through 7. And on the radio, wherever you are, if you can read out loud with us it would bless your own heart. Now let us stand in the presence of the Lord and read out loud together 2 Timothy , verses 1 through 7:
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]
Now wait just a minute.
“Our Lord, before we are seated, this is possibly the most meaningful of all of the messages I have ever brought in these forty-two years. So help me, and bless us together. In Thy gracious and saving and wonderful name, amen.”
Now we may be seated.
In the high priestly prayer of our Lord recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John, in the nineteenth verse the Lord says, “For their sakes I”—and the Greek word is hagiazō. The identical, congruous word in Hebrew is qadosh, translated in our English Bible “sanctify.” “For their sakes I set Myself apart, I consecrate Myself, I give Myself to this work” [John 17:19]. And the title of the message: Are Our Youth Worth It?
This is a sermon, this is a message about us and our ministries here in the church. I have a precedent for that in the Bible. When Paul wrote his epistles, he did not always write about the deity of Christ, or about the atonement, or about regeneration, or about eschatology, the coming again of our Lord. So very much of what he wrote in the epistles in the Bible, so very much concerned the life of the people. For example:
- In 1 Corinthians he writes about petty divisions [1 Corinthians 1:10-17].
- about court cases [1 Corinthians 6:1-8],
- about the unmarried life [1 Corinthians 7:8-9, 32-34],
- about food offered to idols [1 Corinthians 8:1-13],
- about veils for women and cutting their hair [1 Corinthians 11:5-6].
- He wrote about a case of incest, where a boy was living with his father’s wife, his stepmother [1 Corinthians 5:1-8].
- He wrote about getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper [1 Corinthians 11:21].
- And finally, in that one letter, he wrote about the collection that he was taking for the church [1 Corinthians 16:1-3].
We can be so heavenly-minded that we are of no earthly use.
On Sunday, April 20, through Sunday, April 27, through Sunday May 4, the pastor is leading our church in a $4,000,000 offering those two weeks: Sunday, and a middle Sunday, and the last Sunday. The $4,000,000 offering is for our young people. It is for our teenagers, ages thirteen through eighteen or nineteen. And it is for their youth building, the old Salvation Army building. It is for to pay for it; it is to renovate it; it is to furnish it. And that is a costly assignment: $4,000,000, in those two weeks.
You could easily ask, and it would be normally to respond, “Are they worth it?” That’s the title of the message. This $4,000,000 offering that we are to make the last part of April, first part of May, are they worth it; $4,000,000? It all depends upon how you look at it.
There was a man complaining about the cost of his son. It was always something: he had to have a football, or he had to have a basketball, or he had to have a pair of shoes, or he was going on a retreat; it was always something. It was expensive, and the father was complaining about it. And the man to whom he was complaining said, “I understand. I had a boy, and he was expensive. But,” he said, “now he doesn’t cost anything, not a dime. You see,” he said, “we buried my boy last week.” It depends upon how you look at it. And to have the privilege of responding is a boon from heaven.
“Now, pastor, why do you present that this early, this Sunday of March 16, when you are not to take up this offering until April 20?” There are two reasons for it. One is to prepare for it. We have so little time in which to do it. Our church program is always intense; but it seems to me it is doubly intense now. This coming Thursday, as you heard our assistant pastor make announcement, this coming Thursday we’re all in prayer meetings over the city for our revival. The next day, this Friday, we are in a big missions banquet here at the church. The next week, March 24 to 28, we’re in our pre-Easter services. This will be the seventieth year we have held the services at noontide. April 6 to 13, March 30 is Easter Sunday, and I don’t want to do anything but to preach a sermon on the resurrection on Easter Sunday—I’ve always done that. After Easter Sunday, the next two Sundays, April 6 to 13 are our revival meetings. And immediately after the revival meeting is this $4,000,000 offering for our young people.
There’s another thing about that: “You could not have chosen a more inauspicious and inappropriate time of the year in which to do it.” It’s income tax time, and psychologically it’s the worst time in the world that you could think about taking up an offering for the Lord. But I have to do it now, there’s no other time. And that’s why this early presentation at this morning hour.
There’s a second thing: not only are we preparing for it, beginning now, but we are to pray for it. This message today is an appeal that God will bless us with success in our response; that we have a prayerful response. I do not think that we will succeed in any other way. It is God who must work with us. It is God who must help us. It is the Lord God who will give us the victory. And we need to pray for it. It is of vital importance that we do so.
The man, a well-to-do man, was standing in a big city on a street corner. And on the same street corner was a ragged urchin street boy, selling newspapers. At that time you could buy your newspaper for five cents. He was selling newspapers for five cents. And the rich man standing on the corner, noticing that ragged boy, turned to the little fellow and said, “Son, I’ll match you, whether I give you double for your paper or nothing.” He put down a coin, rich man put down a coin: if both of them come up heads he gets his paper for nothing; if both of them come up tails he gets his paper for nothing; if one is heads and one is tails, why, he gets double for his paper. So he says to him, “I’ll match you, whether I give you double for your paper or nothing.” And the ragged boy said, “Mister, I, no, no, I can’t do it.” Well, that kind of intrigued the well-to-do man, and he said to the lad, “I’ll match you whether I give you a quarter for your paper or nothing.” And the boy shook his head and said, “No sir, I can’t do that.” And the man said, “Well, son, I’ll match you whether I give you fifty cents for your paper or nothing.” And the boy thought, and said, “No, no, mister, I can’t do it.” By that time they had a crowd around them, listening to it. And the rich man said, “Well, son, I tell you what I’ll do: I’ll give you a dollar for your paper or nothing. I’ll match you whether I give you a dollar for your paper or nothing.” And the boy considered a long time, and then answered, “No, mister, I can’t do it. I can’t afford to lose.”
I am exactly like that. I cannot afford to lose, not in this appeal. “Well, why, pastor, do you feel that this is so vital and so important?” Because we have a dear and beloved member of our church, Mrs. Ruth Ray Hunt, and she has said, “I will give you $2,000,000; I just ask that the church match the $2,000,000, dollar for dollar.” From her, one interested, consecrated Christian woman: “I will give you $2,000,000.” She believes in our youth, our young people, and she believes in their future and in their destiny—“and I will give you $2,000,000.” She asked from the thousands of us a response: that we match dollar for dollar what she gives.
If we fail in that, I don’t see how I can lift my head from shame: I don’t see how I can come before the Lord and say, “We are thus not interested. We’re not interested in the destiny of our young people. We’re not interested in their future, and we’re not going to respond, even though we have been encouraged to do so with a $2,000,000 gift.” Whether we had a $2,000,000 gift or not, I need to respond personally. I need to do it.
When David came to Mt. Moriah, Araunah’s threshing floor, where the Lord God said to him, “Build there an altar to the Lord” [2 Samuel 24:18], when David came to Araunah’s threshing floor, Araunah rose to meet him. And when David said why he had come [2 Samuel 24:21], Araunah replied, “My lord and king, it is yours without payment. You take it. I give it to you” [2 Samuel 24:22-23]. And David replied, “I will not offer unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:24]. It is not right for our people to go into a program such as a place for our young people, and we don’t respond. I need to respond; it is morally right for me to respond. I need to have a part in it.
Jesus is interested in that response. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Mark is told the story of our Lord as He sat over against the treasury and observed how the people gave [Mark 12:41-44]. He was interested then; He is interested today. We have a Lord who is interested in the common things of our lives, and that is one of them.
There are concomitants and corollaries about our response that is infinitely blessed. There is not only an immeasurable encouragement for the building up of the work of Christ among our young people, but in our response there are liberated blessings for our church. What we’re doing now is we are taking the rentals from our parking buildings and using them to pay for the youth building. The youth building costs $4,600,000.00. It takes $900,000 to remodel it; it takes $100,000 to furnish it. What we’re doing now is, we are taking the rentals from our parking buildings and using it to buy the building, to remodel it, and to furnish it. Our income is consumed in that arrangement. In the meantime, the money for which it was purposely arranged to keep up our facilities, in the meantime our properties are deteriorating, and they are doing it in a tragic way.
What we can do if we respond to this $2,000,000 matching gift from Ruth Ray Hunt, and we succeed in our response, all of this income that we receive from our parking buildings will be used to help us in our facilities in the church. For example, this last week the host of our church came to me and said, “If we continue in the work we have here in this kitchen, we need fifty thousand dollars to remodel our kitchen, to bring it up to date.” It’s being over so long a period of time, it is being increasingly useless. Where do you get $50,000? Our young women say that “Our lodge at Mt. Lebanon is literally rotting down, and we would like to use it, and others in the church would like to use it. Every week we’d like to use it. It is useless now, but it takes $100,000 to remodel and remake our lodge at Mt. Lebanon.” Where do you get $100,000? Our Burt Building right there, that eleven story building on the other side of the plaza, our Burt Building: there has been nothing done to that Burt Building in over a generation. The windows are about to fall out of their rotting sills. Our junior children meet in that building. The elevators are there as they have been from its beginning when it was built sixty or seventy years ago, and the elevators are so old you cannot even find parts for them. You need $500,000 for those elevators. You need the money for the revamping of that building, if our children are going to use it. Where do you get that money?
I can’t come to the church again and again and again and say, “I need $50,000 for the kitchen, and I need $100,000 for Mt. Lebanon, and I need $500,000 for the elevators, and I need other thousands of dollars for the windows.” I cannot do that. The church finally would become weary of the appeal. All we have to do is to respond to this youth matching gift; then we will have the money from our rentals to take care of every syllable of that, every part of that. There’s no piece of it that we cannot easily do if we will respond to this $4,000,000 appeal.
We need, of course, to keep our church in repair, this sanctuary. This church is old. The organization of the church is about one hundred seventeen years old, and this sanctuary in which we meet, this sanctuary is, will soon be, a hundred years old, this sanctuary. When you go outside and look at the dedication on the stone, it was built in 1890. It is old. But I rejoice in it. It is no hurt or offense to me that we worship in an old sanctuary. I do not mind it being old. I just think we ought to keep it clean and in beautiful repair.
Think of the years and the years of God’s service in this sacred place. Dr. Truett preached behind this pulpit forty-seven years. I have been here—this is my forty-second year behind this same pulpit. In the days of Dr. Truett, President Woodrow Wilson came and sat down where you are seated in this congregation. In these days of my pastorate, President Gerald Ford came just to attend services here in our church. How many have been converted here? How many have been saved? How many have found the will of God for their lives? This is a sacred place. And to care for it, and to keep it in repair, and to keep it clean and polished, worthy of the Lord, is an assignment that blesses my heart. I do not mind its being old. I do not mind that it was built in 1890. I rejoice that I can serve in a place where our forefathers have been so graciously and wondrously blessed.
Now our work: there will be mailed to our people, on Friday before the thirteenth of April, there will be mailed to our people a card, and the back side of the card reads: “An investment in youth (our church and our hope for tomorrow).” 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, there at Federal and Ervay Street. Now we need to pay for it, to renovate it, and to furnish it. The total cost is $4,000,000, 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, the front side, “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.’ Psalm 127:3, ‘Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord.’ Then it reads: “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, please accept my pledge”—and then fill it out—“to be paid during the ten months of April 1986 through January 1987, which equals two tax years. I am enclosing a part of my pledge even now, with this beginning gift of”—then fill it out, and your name.
Haven’t you heard me preach for forty-two years here, “I believe in confirming signs? When you do something that is in the will of God, God will do something to confirm it, always. It never, ever will fail. A confirming sign from heaven: here is a letter from a man I do not know. His name is Clayburn Johnson. I found one thing about him: he’s a Catholic. That’s all I know. He sent me this word: “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. Love, Clayburn Johnson.” And it is a check for $500. From a man I don’t know, from a man who is a Catholic, from a man who just heard about our youth building and sends this beginning check, he says, for $500, which means $1,000 for us: it is matched dollar for dollar by dear Mrs. Ruth Ray Hunt. This is our vital assignment and we cannot fail.
There was a lord bishop of the Anglican Church presiding over the London diocese. His name was Dr. Winnington Ingram. He was in Scotland for a vacation, and as he walked over the hills of Scotland, he came across a shepherd and his flock. And they began to walk together, this lord bishop of the Anglican Church and this humble shepherd. And as they walked, the lord bishop said to that humble keeper of the sheep, “I also am a shepherd,” and the shepherd looked at the stranger incredulously, and said, “You are a shepherd?” Then he asked, “How many sheep do you have?” and playfully, the lord bishop, thinking of his big diocese in London, he said to him, “I have over a million sheep.” The Scot shepherd gulped in amazement, “You have over a million sheep?” Then he asked him, “What do you do at lambing time?”
When I read that, I thought, “That’s a good question. That’s a good question.” What do you do with your young people? What do you do with the stream of them that pass by on the sidewalk? What do you do with them when they come to visit the church? What do you do with them when they make friends with one another? What do you do with the lambs? What do you do? And I have, I have a very plain and simple answer: if we do not take care of them, we are going to die as a church. We will not have a church; there will be no destiny and no future and no tomorrow for this congregation. We will gradually die. And I do not know of a more sorrowful providence overwhelming our cities than that our great lighthouses for Christ die in them.
I want to see this church live. I want to see it prosper. I want to see it glow and grow and go! But to do so, we must take care of our lambs. We must take care of our young people: they are the church and our hope for tomorrow. We can do that if each one of us will respond.
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 the swarming skies.
[from “God Prays”; Angela Morgan]
If we respond, God will respond. He looks upon our hearts and our souls, and if He sees us dedicated, God does something. And what I am asking God to do is, in our new leadership with Doug Wood and Warren Samuels and the other leader that is coming to join us, and with these wonderful young people—what I am believing in is that God will bless our church as we have never seen a church blessed in this earth. I had a man last week tell me, he said, “I believe the First Baptist Church in Dallas could have the greatest youth program of any church in the world.” And I concur!
How many churches have a $6,000,000 youth building? How many churches have leaders such as we’re building in our congregation? And look at them: there’s not a one of them, not a one of them but is worth millions of dollars, each one. And to do it is one of the greatest privileges we have in our lives, and it’s in God’s hands and ours.
We’re going to sing us a song now, and while we sing the song, to give your heart to the Lord Jesus, to come into the fellowship of our wonderful church, to answer some call of God in your heart, to reconsecrate your life to the blessed Savior, when we stand in a moment to sing our appeal, on the first note of the first stanza: “Pastor, here I stand, here I come, here I am. I just have been moved of God in my heart to answer with my life, and I am coming this morning.” Make that decision now in your heart, and if you’re in the balcony round, or on the lower floor, down one of these aisles, down one of these stairways: “Pastor, this is God’s day for me; and here I am.” Do it, and the Holy Spirit bless you and angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.