What Shall We Do with the Child?
May 11th, 1986 @ 10:50 AM
WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH THE CHILD?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-11-86 10:50 a.m.
Well, did you know also I announced two years ago last April that we were going to have all of our balcony finished with all the beautiful chairs, luxurious up there? Well, it is supposed to be done only two years and one month late. It is supposed to be done this coming week. And it is going to be interesting to see whether or not when we come to church next Sunday that that balcony is completed. Oh, I am looking forward to that! It is going to be red. Our carpets are red. Our cushions are red. This pulpit is red. These steps are red. That is going to be red. Any color is just great, just so it is red.
Well, it is a wonderful privilege to have a day dedicated to our wonderful mothers. In the seventh book of the Old Testament, the Book of Judges, we are going to read together the first part of the thirteenth chapter. If your neighbor does not have a Bible, share it with him. We are going to read verses 2 through 8. The title of the sermon is What Shall We Do with the Child? And if you are watching on television or listening on radio, get your Bible and read out loud with us. The Book of Judges, chapter 13, verses 2 through 8. Now together:
And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not.
And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.
Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:
For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.
Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A Man of God came unto me, and His countenance was like the countenance of the Angel of God, very terrible: but I asked Him not whence He was, neither told He me His name.
But He said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.
Then Manoah entreated the Lord, and said, O my Lord, let the Man of God which Thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.
And that is the subject and the text: What Shall We Do with the Child?
We can look through a microscope at the foundation principles and parts and constituents of life itself. We can see the cellular structure of our anatomical being. We can look at the cells, and at the protoplasm, and at the nuclei, and at the cytoplasm. We can even distinguish the chromosomes. These are the foundation blocks of human life. We can also look at the human blocks of the nation, and of society, and of the church. They are our children, our teenagers, and our young people. The world bids for our children. How would the brewer continue his nefarious trade if he is not able to entice our young people to drink? How would the distiller continue in his terrible business of sowing drunkenness among our people if the distiller was not able to encourage our young people to drink? How would the tobacco industry fare with any prosperity if they are not able to teach our children to use their very unhealthy product? What would the drug pusher do if he is not able to encourage our children to use their terrible product? What would the white slave traffic do if they could not find recruits from our girls? It is a tragic come-to-pass what the world bids from our children.
Who bids for the youth of the land?
Body and soul and brain,
Who bids for the precious children,
Young and without stain?
I bid, say the city streets.
I’ll buy them one and all.
I’ll teach them a thousand lessons:
To lie, to skulk, to crawl.
And I’ll bid higher and higher,
Said crime with a evil grin.
For I like to lead the youth
Through the damning paths of sin.
They shall roam in the streets to pilfer.
They shall plague the broad highway,
Till they grow too old for pity
And too ripe for the law to slay.
[from “The Children’s Auction,” Charles Mackay]
The world bids for our children, our teenagers, and our young people. What does the world do with our children? What can it do? The record through all history and even today would break the heart of a man made of stone.
In the days when I was studying Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written, it was thought for centuries that the New Testament Greek was a special kind of godly language because it was different from classical Greek; say, different from Plato, or Herodotus, or Thucydides, or Aeschylus, or Aristophanes. It is a different kind of Greek. But as the days passed and the archaeologists began to dig in those sand dunes and in those tels in the Middle East, they began to see from the papyrii—the paper from the papyrus plant, the papyri of the day—they began to see that the New Testament is written in the language of the people. It is called koinē Greek, common Greek. Well anyway, in my studying, I was in a course being taught that koinē Greek from the papyri. And I was surprised and overwhelmed by reading the actual words of what I had come across several times in history itself.
They had a law in the Greco-Roman Empire that if a father did not want his child, the child that was born, he could expose it. And by exposing the child, they meant you could set it out in some isolated place for the dogs to eat it or for some wild animal to devour it. But what happened in many instances was that an unscrupulous family would take that infant and break its bones and distort it and misshape it; and then as it grew, set it out in the streets to beg. And that is the way they made a living; was through the pity that some of those people in the Roman days would have upon so terribly distorted a child. What can the world do with the child?
Take again: I was the guest of one of the kings of a big tribe in West Africa. He had a compound in which he housed more than forty wives. And while I was there, being entertained, I looked at his recent wife. She was a girl, absolutely not more than thirteen years of age. And I inquired about that girl, the latest wife of that king. And I was told that a man in the tribe owed the king some money and could not pay it. So he sold the king his little daughter for the debt. And I asked, “Well, could that be unique, or is that a general practice?” And I learned it is a general practice; you can sell your child for money: what the world can do with a child.
When I was in India in one of those big cities, I was in a large foundry, a big steel complex. And in one of the tremendously big buildings were forges—forges, such as you would see in a blacksmith shop where the man is making horseshoes; forges. And as I looked at those forges, the workmen there were children. They were nine, ten, eleven, twelve years of age. They were children; blackened, working over those fires and flames. And as I looked at it in amazement, I was told that not one of those children will live beyond, say, thirteen or fourteen years of age; not one of them, because of the fumes to which they are subjected; the smoke and the fire. They will die before they reach the middle of their teenage years.
Alas, to think upon a child
That has no childish days,
No happy home, no counsel mild,
No words of prayer and praise.
Born to labor, err strength become
Or starve, such is the doom
That makes a many a hopeless home,
One long and living tomb.
For here the order was reversed
An infancy-like age,
New of existence but it’s worse,
One dull and darkened page.
Written with tears and stamped with toil,
Crushed from the earliest hour,
Weeds darkening the bitter soil
That never knew a flower.
[from The Old Brewery and the Mission House at Five Points, Stringer and Townsend 1854; I.M.]
What the world can do with a child? Anything! A child can be made into a fanatical Fascist, or a goose-stepping Nazi, or a revolutionary communist, or an Islamic terrorist, what the world can do with the child.
Now you expect me—and I am glad to be thus the messenger—you expect me to say what Christ can do with the child. And I love the assignment. What the Lord can do with the child. The Lord can make out of the child a beautiful and precious believer. In my first pastorate, dated in the midst of the depths of the terrible Depression, in western Oklahoma, in one of those county seat towns, as I walked, and lived, and ministered among the people, the poverty, the joblessness, the hunger, the nakedness, the coldness, the homelessness of those poor people was beyond anything that my heart could bear. That’s when I started a ministry among the poor. I have continued it for these fifty years since. We do today; we have twenty-five chapels supported by this dear church. Whenever you bring a gift to the Lord and place it before our blessed Savior, a part of that, a worthy part of that goes into those twenty-five chapels. I started it then in the midst of the Depression; started it in the wagon yard; those poor, poor, poor people and their children. And what God did with those poverty-stricken families was like the coming of the kingdom of heaven itself—the wonderful thing that God did with those dear people and their children.
One of the little girls, a little teenager, was named Ila Mae Everett. This was before the day of penicillin and antibiotics. In those days, if one had a bad, bad case of pneumonia, that one died. I just buried them. Well, this child picked up that dread virus and lay dying. The amazing thing about the youngster, facing inevitable death, facing the grave, facing the darkness of the night, facing the end of life, that precious little thing looked up into heaven itself, saw the Lord Jesus, saw the angels, saw the glory of God, saw the river of life. And dying in the most beautiful and triumphant way that mind could describe or heart could imagine. Think of it: a child, a little girl, dying and dying gloriously, triumphantly, beautifully: what God can do with a child.
In her poverty, she lay down.
Toil-stricken, though so young,
And words of human sorrow,
Fell trembling from her tongue.
There were spacious homes around her,
But pomp and pride swept by
The poor deserted room,
Where she lay down to die.
[“Morning on Earth,” extract from The Ascent of the Spirit, by Mary Howitt]
What God can do with a child; a beautiful presence, a marvelous remembrance; what God can do with the child.
And let me speak just once more out of the ministries of my life. Returning many years ago from the Southern Baptist Convention, seated on the plane, a very distinguished looking and richly dressed man sat down by my side. He was of a humor to talk. So he began talking to me. Finally, he exclaimed, “So you are a preacher.”
I said, “Yes.”
Well, he said, “What kind of a preacher are you?”
I replied, “I am a Baptist pastor.”
“Oh,” he said, “so you are a Baptist. Well,” he said, “you know, in the little town in Eastern Tennessee where I grew up,” he said, “there was a girl who gave birth to an illegitimate child. And in that day, it was to be an outcast. She was disgraced. And the girl went to the edge of the town and there rented a shack and took in washing and supported that little baby boy. And as the years passed, she took in washing, she educated that boy. We called him little Willy. She sent him through grammar school. She sent him through high school. She sent him through college, taking in washing, educating little Willy. And,” he said, “did you know that little Willy became a preacher, a Baptist preacher? And did you know,” he said, “I hear that he is a wonderful preacher.”
Well, I said, “What’s his name?”
And he called little Willy’s name.
I said to him, “Did you know I have just heard that wonderful preacher deliver the annual sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention?” That man, that illegitimate baby, little Willy.
Well, as the days passed, I was called to be pastor of this dear church. And I was invited to hold a revival meeting with that preacher, that wonderful preacher; biggest church in the biggest city in the state. And while I was there, holding that revival meeting, I asked some of the deacons, I said, “Did you ever see your pastor’s mother?”
“Oh, yes,” those godly men said to me. “Yes, when he came here to be our pastor, he brought his mother.”
And he said, “Not in your life have you ever seen a man so good, so kind, so thoughtful, so tender to his mother. And he cared for her until she died about a year ago.”
I said to myself, “Oh, dear! I wish I had come a year earlier.”
I would love to have seen that glorious mother. I would love to have just touched her hands that for those years took in washing to support her little boy, Willy.
What God—what God can do with a child! And we thank God for the wonderful mothers who guide them in the way of the Lord.
If I were hanged on the highest hill,
I know whose hands would comfort me still,
If I were damned in body and soul
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
I know whose tears would come down to me,
And if I were lost in the blackest night,
I know whose love would lead to the light,
My mother, my sainted mother.
[“Mother ‘O Mine,” George Henry Johnson]
And for the child of a Christian home, to dedicate life, and strength, and days, and fortune, and future to the blessed Savior is one of the highest, dearest privileges God could ever bestow upon us.
And that is our invitation to you, this Mother’s Day, God’s Day, precious day, invitation day, loving Jesus day, serving the Lord day, joining the church day. “This is God’s day for me, and pastor, I am on the way.”
May we pray together? Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Savior, what miraculous things can God do with our children; missionaries, preachers, pastors, evangelists, doctors, lawyers, professional men, laborers, painters, carpenters, ditch diggers, but all of them Christian. God just looks on the heart, not on the face. And when we are faithful to Thee in whatever our assignment or calling, the Lord is honored and pleased. And our Savior, in this precious moment when we wait before Thee, when we sing our hymn of loving appeal and invitation, may God once again honor the hour with a gracious harvest. Thank Thee for it, Lord Jesus; in Thy saving and keeping name, amen.
Now Brother Denny, we are going to sing us a song. And while we sing that hymn, in the balcony round, there is time and to spare; down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I am.” Do it, make the decision now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.