April 5th, 1987 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-5-87 10:50 a.m.
We welcome once again the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are a part today of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor, delivering the message from God’s Word. It is a textual sermon today, from the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John, verses 13 and 14:
Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water, 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 fountain of water, abounding, springing up into everlasting life.
"Whosoever drinketh of the water of this life shall thirst again" [John 4:13]. There is a sadness and a melancholy and a want and a lack in this life that we cannot obviate. Shelley, the poet said, "Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought." However we may seek to drown the experiences and fortunes and exigencies of life in comedy or in laughter, beyond and over and beside is always that sadness, melancholy."
Our Lord God in heaven was made a man. And, the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah described Him as "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." There’s no exception to that in human life. A sadness attends everything that we do:
Just blue, Lord, 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 oughter’ expected,
Like the Pharisees do,
But I ain’t stood in no marketplace.
It’s just between Me and You.
You said, "Ask."
Somehow I ain’t askin’ now.
And 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.
Dear God, Just blue, Just blue.
How much of our life is like that? There’s an overshadowing sadness that attends our every day and our every way.
"Whoever drinks of the water of this life shall thirst again" [John 4:13]. There could be no more traumatic or dramatic portrayal of that text – that Word of the Lord – than the life of the greatest king who ever lived; King Solomon. He was an Oriental potentate. He possessed an unlimited monarchy. And, he could take every experience in life and press it to its utmost extremity. He drank out of every cup and labeled it. He sailed every sea and charted it. He made pleasure and indulgence and riches and success and fame do their utmost. And, when he had experienced it to the utmost, to the limit, he was filled with ennui and weariness. He writes of it extensively.
He says, "I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things under the heavens" [Ecclesiastes 1:13]. And, after he had won more wisdom than all they that were before him, his verdict in much wisdom is much grief: ". . .And he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow" [Ecclesiastes 1:18].
He sent men to watch the stars and the heavenly spheres, and plot them in their celestial paths. He sent men to dig in mines into the bowels of the earth. And, after he had done his utmost to pass every piece of wisdom and knowledge through the analysis of understanding, he says, "It just increased my grief and my sorrow." To every horizon that he came, he just looked at the farther horizon beyond. And, when he climbed every mountain, the stars were as far away as though he had just begun.
Then, he said, "I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore, enjoy pleasure. . ." [Ecclesiastes 2:1]. And, when he had done his utmost to find the meaning and the wealth and the preciousness of life in mirth and in pleasure, he said,
I said of laughter, "It is mad"; and of mirth, "What good does it do?" Then, I sought in my heart to give myself unto wine, to drown the sorrows of life in alcohol and in drunkenness and in excess, . . .and, I found that to be vanity and futility.
[Ecclesiastes 2:2, 3]
Then, he says,
I made me great works, I builded me houses, I planted me vineyards. I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees. . . I made me pools of water. . ."
[Ecclesiastes 2: 4-6]
And, when he had done that, he had found that life had no more meaning or fullness.
His palace – It took those workmen thirteen years to build it. And, after he had looked upon all of his great and mighty works, they just reminded him of the sterility and futility of life. "I got me servants and maidens and had servants born in my house" [Ecclesiastes 2:7].
He had 1,400 chariots and 14,000 runners. And, with all of the attendants, life was still empty and meaningless. He adds,
I had great possessions. . . Above all that were before me:
I gathered me silver and gold and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces. . .
Whatever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not from my heart any joy. . .
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and the labor that I labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
[Ecclesiastes 2: 7, 8, 10, 11]
Then, finally, he writes one of the saddest verdicts of human life:
Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Yea, I hated all of my labor I had taken to do. . .
Therefore, I went about to cause my heart to despair for all that I had done under the sun.
[Ecclesiastes 2:17, 18, 20]
What a tragedy! And, all human life is like that. Benjamin Disraeli, one of the noblest statesmen who ever lived, said, "Youth is a mistake. Manhood is a struggle. And, old age is a regret." A pessimist wrote:
The world rolls round forever like a mill.
It grinds out life and death, 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.
[from "The City of Dreadful Night," James Thomson]
Life is like that. And, if you haven’t found it, you will. "Whoever drinks of the water of this life shall thirst again" [John 4:13]. Its emptiness and its sterility and its meaningless and, its nothingness will increasingly press itself like a judgment, like a darkness upon you.
One of the fallacies of mankind is this. "If I just had more, I would be happy. If I could build a gilded palace, if I could sit down in a golden chair, if I could have an ivory stool – if I just had more, I would be happy." But, the more you have, the more you want. And, the more you want, the more dissatisfied you become. It is impossible to feed the soul on husks. It is impossible to grow the spirit in materialities.
Augustine said, "O God, Thou has made us for Thyself and we are restless until we rest in Thee." And, that’s why our Lord said, the second verse, the first one:
Drink of the water of this life, and you will thirst and thirst and thirst.
But whosoever drinks of the water that I give him shall never thirst, but the water I give him shall be in him a fountain, a well, a water bursting forth into everlasting, abounding life.
Oh, what a difference Jesus can make in a life! This world is not geocentric. The center of it is not the planet earth. This world is not heliocentric. The center of the universe is not the sun. This world is Christocentric. Its center is the Lord Jesus Christ. As the Holy Scriptures say, He created: "By Him were all things created, and in Him all things consist, subsist, hold together" [John 1:31; Colossians 1:16-17]. The center of the world and of human life and purpose and destiny and heaven and forever is the Lord Jesus Christ. And, what a difference He can make in our lives, when we change citizenship from this earth to the kingdom of God!
As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20: "Our citizenship is in heaven, from whence we look for our Savior." What a difference: A change in citizenship! What a difference Jesus can make in human life!
I read a crazy thing last week. There were two Frenchmen – two Frenchmen who were talking. And, one said, "I’m going to take out citizenship in the British Empire. I’m going to be an Englishman." Well, he did. And, the two were back together again and the Frenchman said, "I am now an English citizen."
And, his Frenchman friend said, "Well, you don’t look any different to me. You look just the same to me as you did before."
"Oh, but," said the French man who is now an Englishman, "you just don’t know the change that is wrought. Yesterday, when I was a Frenchman, Waterloo was a defeat. Today, now that I’m an Englishman, Waterloo is a victory." That kind of a difference is made in our lives when we change our citizenship, when we begin following and loving and serving the Lord Jesus.
Now, in the few minutes that I have, may I speak of what that will mean in your heart, in your home, in your life when you drink at the well of the water of life? First, all of the sorrows and hurts and tragedies in life become meaningful, explicable. There’s a reason back of them. Every tear that falls and every agonizing hurt of life becomes meaningful when you love the Lord Jesus and follow Him.
In our hymnbook out of which we sing, I counted the songs by blind Fanny Crosby. There are thirteen of them, some of the most beautiful hymns in the world: "Blessed Assurance"; "I Am Thine, O Lord"; "Jesus Is Tenderly Calling"; "Near the Cross"; "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior"; "Safe in the Arms of Jesus" – my dad, my father, said that’s the song they sang when his mother died – just on and on. All of her life she was blind.
On the other side of the sea, in England, is another wonderful hymnist, a woman named Frances Havergal. I looked in our hymnbook, and one, two, three, four – one, two, three, four, five – five. There are five hymns in our hymnbook written by Frances Havergal, one of which is "Take My Life and Let It Be, Consecrated Lord to Thee." Well, anyway, Frances Havergal, over in England, wrote a letter to blind Fanny Crosby . And, she wrote it in verse. And, this is what she wrote – Frances Havergal to blind Fanny Crosby:
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 glass?
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 Havergal]
Think of being blind all the days of your life, having never seen. And, yet, out of the hurt and the sorrow of such blindness, such wonderful notes of joy and praise arise. That’s what Jesus can do in human life – turn our tears and our sorrows into jubilant praise and song.
Dwight L. Moody had a wonderful singer named Ira D. Sankey. The last years of Sankey, he spent in blindness. One day, he called from upstairs. He was dying. He said, "I hear the voice of Fanny Crosby." Blind Fanny Crosby had come to see him just one last time. And, I read of their meeting. They sang together. They praised God together. The Bible was read to them. And, they rejoiced in the love and grace and goodness of God together. That’s what Jesus can do for you. There will be meaning, purpose in every sorrow we know in life – God just fitting us for heaven.
A second thing: "Whoever drinks of the water of this life shall thirst again" [John 4:13]. Its emptiness will increasingly press the truth upon you. "But whosoever drinks of the water I give him shall never thirst. It will be a fountain of water rushing, abounding, overflowing in everlasting life" [John 4:14]. The experiences that you know will be absolutely unrelated to material things, have nothing to do with it at all – nothing. Whether you’re rich, whether you’re poor; big house, little house, all of the material things of this world have no relation – none at all – to how you are in your heart and in your soul, none at all.
The incomparable great preacher in Constantinople – first in Antioch, then in Constantinople – Chrysostom, John Chrysostom – His name is John. They give him the name Chrysostom because of the marvelous eloquence of this man of God. Chrysostom: "golden mouth" – John, the golden mouth. He incurred the wrath of the emperor, the Roman emperor.
And, the Roman emperor said to him, "I will banish you from your home."
And, John Chrysostom replied, "Sir, the whole world is my Father’s house."
And, the emperor said, "I will separate you from all of your treasure."
And, John Chrysostom said, "But, my treasure is in heaven."
And, the emperor said, "I will send you away from all of your friends."
And, John Chrysostom said, "My friend is Jesus. And, He never fails."
And, the emperor said, "Then, I will slay you. I’ll kill you. I’ll take your life."
And, John Chrysostom said, "But my life is hid with Christ in God."
What are you going to do with a man like that? What are you going to do with him? Absolutely no relation does he sustain with anything that he has – even his life, in this house of clay.
O Lord in the heaven, what a glory and what a beauty and what a preciousness to live in this life, absolutely separated from anything that has to do with materiality, just living in the Lord, just looking to Jesus, just finding every rich preciousness in Him. O God, that I could be that way, that I could!
I have one other:
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 that I give him shall be in him a fountain of water, abounding, overflowing unto everlasting life.
A last word: God in His journey – in our pilgrimage – God bestows upon us not only redeeming grace, converting grace, saving grace, but also preventing grace – preventing grace. "What do you mean by preventing grace?" Well, what I mean by it is this: Redeeming grace is when Jesus died to save me. And in the crimson of His blood, my sins are washed away. And, I stand before God, at the great judgment day, pure and sinless and perfect, holy, righteous, not in my righteousness, but in His. That’s redeeming grace – when Jesus saved me, when he washed my sins away.
But, there’s another kind of grace. You could call it "attending grace." I call it "preventing grace." It’s the grace that attends us in our earthly pilgrimage and blesses us and sustains us and enriches us and keeps us. It’s like this. A group of evangelists were together. And, they were testifying. I can understand because I’ve heard them ever since I was a little boy.
Here is an evangelist. There, he stands up and he says, "I was a drunkard. And, the Lord reached down and saved me out of a drunkard’s hell, set my feet on a rock, put a song in my heart and the praises of God on my lips. And, I stand here today, praising the Lord." I praise the Lord, too. Lord, what a wonderful thing it is to see the Spirit and the grace of God lift a man out of a drunkard’s grave and put a glorious message of salvation in his heart!
So it went through with all the group. This evangelist stood up and described his life of crime and his life in imprisonment, and how God saved him and lifted him up. I’ve listened to them. And when I hear it, I say, "Oh, isn’t that just wonderful what God can do with a criminal, with a man in prison!" All of them speaking like that – This was a whore-monger. This one was buried in the world, and, the Lord reached and lifted him up. Oh, I praise God for it!
But, one of those evangelists stood up and he said, "I praise God for you who have been saved out of a drunkard’s hell and out of the penitentiary and out of a life of crime. I praise God. But," he said, "I also praise the Lord that He saved me from it – that He never, never had to lift me out of such hurt and such sorrow." He said, "I’ve never been drunk. And I’ve never shared in a life of crime. And I have never been in prison. And I have never lived a life of compromise and worldliness. And I thank God that I was saved when I was a lad and God kept me from all of those hurts and sorrows."
My sweet friend, I am exactly like that. I praise God that His preventing grace has kept me from a life like that ever since I was a little boy. I was saved when I was ten years old. I have never been drunk. I have never been a sharer in a life of crime or compromise – never. And, when I look at human life and see the hurt that comes to homes and families and the scarring of children, over which they never come – when I see that, O God, how I praise the Lord for His preventing grace!
I pray that for you. May you never know what it is to be abused by a drunken husband or the children frightened when their father comes home! May you never know what it is to see someone to whom you’ve given your life sentenced by the judge of the court! May you never know what it is to see your house broken up by those who have given themselves to the ways of the world! God’s preventing grace – And how precious to walk with the Savior: He, our fellow pilgrim and our best friend through all of the journeys of this life.
And, that is the invitation we make to you today. To give your heart and your home and your house and your children and your life to the Lord Jesus; to let Him be your great arch defender and keeper and fellow pilgrim; to bring your family into the fellowship of God’s church; to be a part of the household of faith; or to answer some call of the Spirit in your heart, make that decision now. And in a moment when we sing our song, on the first note of the first stanza, "Pastor, here I stand and here I come." God bless you today. Now may we pray?
Our Lord in heaven, precious Savior, what a wonderful blessing do You bestow when You when You join with us who walk through the days of this life. What a blessedness You, great God and Savior and our dearest friend, not far off but nearby. O Lord what a happiness to bring everything to You; to lay it all in Your presence; to ask God’s blessings upon every plan that we make, every dream in our hearts, every purpose in our souls; and ask God to work with us. Whether it is the building of building of a home; whether it is the decision of a job; whether it is the bearing of a hurt, an illness, a tragedy in life; all of it in God’s hands, O Savior what it means to have Thee, the Omnipotent, the Almighty; what it means to have God as our dear friend, drinking at the fountain of life. And our Lord, make this the moment, make this an hour of salvation and commitment. Do it Lord. Honor the preaching of Thy Word with a harvest and we will love Thee and praise Thee for answered prayer in Thy saving name, amen.
Down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me and here I stand." Come, and angels attend you in the way while we stand and while we sing.