April 5th, 1987 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-5-87 8:15 a.m.
And we no less thank the Lord for the multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and I am the pastor bringing the message entitled Abounding Life. In the passage of Scripture that we read is one of the most unusually beautiful and meaningful verses to be found in all the Word of the Lord. Jesus said to this Samaritan woman:
Whosoever drinketh of the water of this life shall thirst again;
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I give him shall be in him a well of water—a fountain of water—springing up into everlasting life.
“Whosoever drinketh of the water of this life shall thirst again” [John 4:13]. There is a sadness about life that is incontrovertible; it is always with us. We try to cover it with mirth and laughter, drowning it in a thousand experiences, but just beyond and over and through, there is that feeling that ever accompanies all of life, a sadness, a melancholy, ever attendant to our ways.
When God became a man, the Bible describes Him as a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief [Isaiah 53:3]. And just beyond all the experiences of our life, you’ll always find that attendant; melancholy and sadness.
Just blue, God, just blue.
Ain’t prayin’ exactly just now,
Tear blinded, I guess,
Can’t see my way through.
You know those things
I ask for so many times.
Maybe I hadn’t ‘or
Like the Pharisees do.
But I ain’t stood in no marketplace.
It’s just between me and You.
And You said, “Ask.”
Somehow I ain’t askin’ now.
As I hardly know what to do.
Hope just sort of left,
But faith’s still here,
faith ain’t gone too
I know how ‘tis
A thousand years
Is a single day with You.
And I ain’t meanin’ to tempt You
With “if You be.”
And I ain’t doubtin’ You,
But I ain’t prayin’ today,
Just blue, just blue.
That so typifies human life and is so illustrated and traumatically seen in the life of the most successful and exalted of all the kings who ever reigned. “Whosoever drinks of the water of this life shall thirst again” [John 4:13]. In the life of Solomon, an unlimited Oriental monarch could take all of the facets of human life to their ultimate extremity. In the life of Solomon, he carried every facet of experience to its utmost and then wrote it down.
He said, “First I gave my heart to search out wisdom” [Ecclesiastes 1:13]. And when he had gained wisdom, more than all who had ever lived before him, he says, “In much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow” [Ecclesiastes 1:18]. He set his men to watch the heavens and to plat the sidereal spheres and to learn all of the secrets of the universe. And other men he sent down into the mines to search out the deep things in the bowels of this creation.
Not only that, but he gave himself into every analytical experience in human life. And when he had done his utmost in searching out truth in God’s creation, every boundary he reached just faded away into other extended boundaries. And when he climbed the highest mountains, the stars were as far away as they were when he began the ascent. “Much wisdom is much grief: and in much knowledge there is much sorrow” [Ecclesiastes 1:18].
Then he says, “I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure” [Ecclesiastes 2:1]. And he gave himself to every kind of indulgence the human mind can think for. And then the verdict, “I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, It has no meaning” [Ecclesiastes 2:2].
He sought in his heart to give himself to wine and to drown the sorrows and melancholies and disappointments of life in drinking [Ecclesiastes 2:3]. And found that in his drinking he found still yet more sorrow and disillusionment. Then he said:
I made me great works; I builded me houses; and I planted me vineyards:
I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees. . .
I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees.
He built a splendid, glorious, magnificent empire. It took thirteen years just to build his house [1 Kings 7:1]. Not only that,
I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born
in my house.
He had one thousand four hundred chariots and had fourteen thousand runners [2 Chronicles 1:14]. Not only that:
I had great possessions. . . above all that were before me.
I gathered me silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of provinces. . .
He made gold and silver and diamonds and jewels as common as rocks in Jerusalem [2 chronicles 1:15].
And whatever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy. . .
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity—
and emptiness and sterility—
and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
Then he concludes with one of the saddest results, reports in human literature,
Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labor which I took under the sun.
[Ecclesiastes 2:17, 20]
What a tragedy!
The world rolls round forever like a mill;
It grinds out life and death and good and ill;
It has no purpose, heart or mind or will.
Nay, it doth use man harshly, as he saith?
It grinds him some slow years of bitter breath,
Then grinds him back into eternal death.
[adapted from “The City of Dreadful Night,” James Thomson]
That is when we drink of the water of this world.
It’s a strange fallacy that comes into the heart of everyone. “If I just had more, I would be happy.” “If I could build me a gilded palace, if I could sit down in a golden chair, if I could have an ivory stool on which to place my feet, if I just had more, I would be happy.” Nothing could be further from the truth. As Augustine says, “O God, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and we are restless until we rest in Thee.” The attempt to feed our souls and our spiritual lives on the husks of materialities is one of the vanities and futilities of the world.
There is only one answer and that is found in Jesus our Lord. This world is not geocentric; the earth is not the center of it. This world is not heliocentric; the sun is not the center of it. This world is Christocentric; Jesus is the center of it. “All things were created by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. And in Him all things consist” [John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17]
And we will never find rest until we rest in Him. Jesus is the answer to every human problem. There are two kingdoms in this earth, in this creation. There is the kingdom of this present life, our present living. And there is a kingdom of God. And we need to transfer our citizenship out of the kingdom of this world into the kingdom of God. “Our citizenship,” said Paul in Philippians 3:20, “our citizenship is in heaven.”
You know I came across something that so poignantly illustrates that, the changing of citizenship. There were two Frenchmen. And one of them said, “I’m going to change my citizenship. I’m going to be an Englishman. I’m going to belong to England.” So he did. And when his French friend saw him the next time, he said, “So you are now an Englishmen?”
“Yes,” said the Frenchman who’d changed his citizenship. “I am now an Englishman.”
“Well,” said his French friend, “you look just the same to me. I don’t see any difference in you.”
And the English new citizen said, “Ah, but you don’t realize. Yesterday, as a Frenchman, Waterloo was a defeat. Today, as an Englishman, Waterloo is a victory,” changing citizenships, becoming a part of the kingdom of our Lord.
Now in a few minutes that I have, I want to show you what that’ll do to you; when you come into the kingdom of Jesus and when you belong to the kingdom of our Lord. As my text says:
Whoever drinks of the water of this life shall thirst again: But whoever drinks of the water that I give him shall never thirst; but the water I give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.
I want to show you what a difference it’ll make in the sorrows, and the hurts, and the disappointments, and the tragedies that overwhelm us in this life.
You began, I notice, the service this morning with a hymn by Fanny Crosby, “Praise Him, Praise Him!” In that book out of which we sing our songs, there are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, there are thirteen hymns in there by Fanny Crosby: “Blessed Assurance”; “He Hideth My Soul”; “I Am Thine, O Lord”; “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior”; “Praise Him, Praise Him!”; “To God Be the Glory”; “Safe In the Arms of Jesus.” They sang that at my grandmother’s funeral.
What kind of a woman was Fanny Crosby? All of her life, she was blind. And on the other side of a sea, there was another woman, an English woman named Frances Havergal. And Frances Havergal and Fanny Crosby were dear friends. And upon a day, Frances Havergal, over there across the sea, wrote a letter to Fanny Crosby, and this is what she wrote in the letter. She put it in poetry.
Sweet blind singer over the sea,
Tuneful and jubilant, how can it be
That the songs of gladness which float so far,
Are the notes of one who may never see
“Visible music” of flower and tree…
How can she sing in the dark like this?
What is her fountain of light and bliss?
Her heart can see, her heart can see!
Well may she sing so joyously!
For the King Himself, in His tender grace,
Hath shown her the brightness of His face…
Dear blind sister over the sea,
An English heart goes forth to thee.
We are linked by a cable of faith and song,
Flashing bright sympathy swept along;
One in the East and one in the West,
Singing for Him whom our souls love best…
Sister! what will our meeting be?
When our hearts shall sing and our eyes shall see!
[“A Seeing Heart,” Frances R Havergal]
Could you think of anything sweeter or more triumphant than that? I don’t know how it would be to be blind all my life. Blind. And yet out of the heart and soul of that blind woman, these marvelous, ecstatic expressions of love and faith in the Lord Jesus.
Dwight L. Moody’s singer was Ira Sankey, Ira Sankey. In the last years of his life, he was blind. And before he died, upon his last illness, Fanny Crosby, blind Fanny Crosby, came to see him. And I read a description of that meeting. He was upstairs on his deathbed, and he said, “Fanny Crosby is here. I hear her voice.” And the two sang together, praised God together, had the Bible read to them and rejoiced in the goodness and grace of our Lord. Isn’t that a wonderful way to be? Whatever the providences of life or the sorrows or disappointments, we are rejoicing in Him. That’s the water that God gives us to drink. When we drink of the water of this life, we thirst. When we drink of the water God gives us, we are forever rejoicing in Him [John 4:13-14].
It’s a strange thing. The wonderful life that we have in Christ is absolutely unrelated to material possessions, has nothing to do with materiality at all. Whether I’m poor, or whether I’m blind, or whether I’m sick, or whether I’m unable, or whether I’m crushed, nothing; just happy in Him. My heart and soul lifted up to Him, serving the Lord, glad in Him, has nothing to do with materiality, with money or success. Emolument, fame, progress, all of these things that the world covets this life has nothing to do with that.
You’ve heard me say, “As I sat one time in a mission meeting in the heart of Africa, by my side was Dr. Theron Rankin, who headed then our foreign mission board. And up there was a brilliant young fellow giving a report, a physician, a doctor, a missionary doctor. And Dr. Rankin said to me, “You look at him real good like. You look at him; listen to him.” He said, “That young fellow was one of the most brilliant of all the graduates of a famous medical school in the East. And when he received his medical degree, there were clinics and hospitals and institutions that sought for him. But he gave his life instead to be a medical missionary.” And at that time, the salary of a missionary was one thousand dollars a year, a thousand dollars a year, a whole year, a thousand dollars.
He came to see me here in Dallas. And I presented him to you in this church. And when I did, I said, “I don’t feel worthy to stand in his presence. It is a life absolutely unrelated to materiality.” It binds us, meaning, and its fountain, and its living, and its glory, and its abounding grace and love in things above, in God, in Christ, in the Lord.
Could I say one other thing? “Whoever drinks of the water of this life shall thirst again” [John 4:13]. Its rewards are so evanescent, “But whoever drinks of the water that I give him, shall find in his soul a fountain of water rising to everlasting life” [John 4:14]. Isn’t it a marvelous thing, the preventing grace of our Lord? I’m not talking now about His saving grace. O God, what a wonderful thing that You died for me [1 Corinthians 15:3], that in Your blood my sins are all washed away [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5], that I can stand in the presence of God in heaven, my great and final Judge, washed white in the crimson of the life of our Lord, justified [Romans 4:25], accepted for His sake [Ephesians 4:32]. What a wonderful thing redeeming grace [1 Peter 1:18-19]: Christ died for me, bless His name; saved me, praise Him forever. Gave me the hope of heaven [John 14:3], O God, how wonderfully good.
But there’s another kind of grace; preventing grace. By that I mean what God does for us here in our earthly pilgrimage, in this life, not only saving grace, washing our sins away [1 John 1:9], but preventing grace, His goodness and His mercy and His direction along the pilgrim way, as we go through the days of this journey.
It’s like this. There was an assembly of evangelists, and one after another they were speaking of God’s marvelous goodness to them in saving them. One of the evangelists stood up and described the drunkard’s hell in which he lived and how Christ saved him out of a drunkard’s grave. Another one stood up, an evangelist, and spoke of his life of crime and imprisonment and how Jesus had saved him out of a life of crime and imprisonment. And another one stood up and spoke of his life in the world with prostitutes and gamblers.
All of those things that when I hear men speak about them I rejoice in it. I praise God when they testify, “I was in the depths and the Lord raised me up.” “I was a drunkard and He saved me.” “I was in the world and He lifted me out of it.” Oh when I hear men speak of those marvelous things, I just praise God. Isn’t it wonderful what God can do with a drunkard and a whoremonger and a criminal? And I just praise God.
But while they were in that meeting that I’m trying to describe and one evangelist after another was speaking of how the Lord had lifted them up out of the miry pit, set their feet on a rock, had marvelously saved them, one of the men stood up and he said, “I want to thank God for what He did for me. I want to thank Him that He saved me from a drunkard’s hell; I have never been drunk. I want to thank Him that He saved me from a criminal’s life; I have never lived in a life of crime. I want to thank Him that He saved me from all of the things that distress and hurt in the sinful life of this world. I want to thank God that He saved me to Himself when I was a child, and all of those things that hurt, I have never experienced.”
Dear people, I praise God when I hear a man say, “Christ saved me out of a drunkard’s grave.” And I praise God when I hear men testify, “He saved me out of a dark life of crime and prison.” I thank God. But sweet people, I had a thousand, thousand, thousand times rather hear a man stand up and say, “I thank God for His preventing grace. I have never been a drunkard, and I have never been a whoremonger, and I have never been a criminal. God was good to me, and spoke to me, and saved me, and kept me and prevented me from all of these dark things that can so hurt a heart, and a home, and a family, and a life”; preventing grace, delivered and blessed in the way.
Oh dear people, there is nothing as sweet and precious as to drink at the well of the water of abounding life [John 4:13-14]. There is nothing so blessed as to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn of Him [Matthew 11:28-30]. Through our tears, and through our sorrows, and through our age, and ultimately through our death, Jesus is dear, and near, and sweet, and precious. He gives us victory and joy through it all [Romans 8:37].
And that is our appeal to you. This day, this solemn Sabbath day, “Pastor, this day I accept the Lord as my Savior, and I’m giving my life in trust to Him” [Romans 10:9-10]. Or, “Pastor, this is my family, and we’re all coming into the house of God, into the family of the Lord today.” Or, “The Lord has spoken to me and I’m answering with my life” [Ephesians 2:8]. In this moment when we sing our song, on the first note of the first stanza, come. May angels attend you in the way, may the Holy Spirit make you happy in Him. Welcome, a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-5-87I. Sadness attends and overshadows everything we do (Isaiah 53) II. King Solomon a dramatic example
A. His opportunities for indulgence, achievement unlimited
1. Able to carry human experience to its utmost extremity
2. Was filled with ennui and weariness
B. Hear what he says
1. In much wisdom is much grief (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18)
2. In carnal pleasure is vanity and futility (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3)
3. In great works is sterility (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6)
4. In many hosts, servants is emptiness (Ecclesiastes 2:7)
5. Material possessions of no profit (Ecclesiastes 2:7-11)
6. In his greatest successes he found despair (Ecclesiastes 2:17-20)
1. Tragic fallacy of man who thinks if he had more he would be happier
2. Material can never satisfy the spiritualIII. The difference Jesus makes
A. Universe is not geocentric, but Christocentric (Colossians 1:16-17)
B. A change in citizenship (Philippians 3:20)IV. What it means to our hearts to drink the water of life
A. Sorrows, tragedies of life become meaningful, explicable
B. Experiences known in heart and soul will be unrelated to material things
C. God bestows preventing grace