ONE THING CONCERNS YOU
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-3-87 10:50 a.m.
One Thing Concerns You, just one, and it is based upon the miraculous visit of a nobleman from Capernaum, a city located on the north shore of Galilee. A nobleman coming to Cana, down toward the south, still in Galilee, concerning his boy, his son, who was at the point of death. I can well understand the deep concern of a father when his boy faces death. I so well, poignantly, recall a deacon whose child was facing death and in his story, did die, and his pleading with me; “Pastor,” he said, “tell God we will do anything, anything, if He will save our child, spare our child, give life and breath to our child.” Well, this nobleman came to the Lord Jesus with that request [John 4:46-47]. Now, the Lord replies in an astonishing way! Sympathetic? Compassionate? Loving? He replies in a way that seems harsh and indifferent and cruel! The Lord replies to that brokenhearted father: “Except you see a sign or a wonder, you will not believe” [John 4:48]. That was a test. There was a purpose in what our Lord was saying to him. He was surrounded and dogged on every side by throngs who wanted Him to display miraculous things—wonders and signs. We are all that way still today, just as they were then. Some unusual thing—that’s what the Pharisees asked of Him: “Show us a sign from heaven,” some miraculous intervention, “and we will believe You,” we’ll accept You, “for what You say You are, the Messiah and Savior of the world” [John 6:30]. They dogged Him with that, accosted Him with that: “Show us a sign, and we will believe You.”
One of the most unusual things that you will read in the Bible is, after the Lord had fed the five thousand with that little lunch, five thousand [John 6:1-14], they came to Him and said: “Show us a sign, as Moses did in the wilderness, when he fed the people with the manna from heaven, thirty-seven years, fed them with manna from heaven [John 6:34]. You do that! You do that! Show us that sign from heaven! Feed us thirty-seven years, and we’ll believe You and accept You as our Lord Messiah” [John 6:34].
Isn’t that an astonishing thing? But the whole world is like that. When Jesus was before Pilate [Luke 23:1-5], and Pilate learned He was from Galilee, he sent Him to Herod Antipas who was the king of Galilee. And Herod Antipas, the Bible says, was glad to see Him because he wanted Him to do some miraculous thing in his presence. And when Jesus refused to comply, Herod contemptuously and mockingly sent Him away [Luke 23:6-11]. That’s why Jesus says to this brokenhearted man: “Is it a miracle you want to see? Is it a sign or a wonder you want performed?” [John 4:48].
And the nobleman replied, “O Lord, dear Master, I am not interested in a sign. I am not interested in a wonder. I want You to heal my boy, that my boy may live. Please, God!” [John 4:49]. And the Lord answered and said: “This minute your boy is healed.” And the nobleman, believing Him, believing Him without any affirmative sign at all, just accepting the word of Christ for what He said He was and would do—he turned, and left, and went back home. And when he arrived, his boy was well [John 4:50-51].
He asked: “When did the lad turn in strength and health?” And, when the servant said, “At the seventh hour yesterday,” it was the same moment at which Jesus had told him, “Your boy lives. Go your way” [John 4:52-53]. And not only did he believe, but the whole household believed with him [John 4:53]. That’s the story.
Now our appeal today: with regard to our being saved; whether we go to heaven or not; whether we are converted or not; whether Jesus is our sin forgiver or not; whether we’re saved or not, Jesus asks one question, just one, namely, “What interests you, what concerns you?” Is it that you are saved, that you are forgiven, that you have a right to enter heaven? [Acts 16:30]. Is it that, or is it something else? What concerns you? Dear me! As I work and testify, how people reply; “What are you interested in?”
Here’s an old man that I prayed with, an old man, and he said to me, “I am afraid I cannot hold out.” Not interested in being saved, and being converted, and accepting the Lord; interested in whether or not he can hold out or not, an old man already at the end of his pilgrimage.
Take again, a man replies to me when I press upon him the claims of Christ, says to me, “I’m just as good as anybody in your church. That church is full of hypocrites; and I’m just as good as anybody in it.” What concerns you? That you’re lost, that you ought to be saved, or comparing your life with somebody else? At the great judgment day when we stand before God [1 Peter 4:5], what are you going to say? Comparing yourself with other people whom you describe as hypocrites?
Great God! What are you interested in? What concerns you? Look again. A man upon whom I press the appeal of our blessed Lord, and he replies, “I will someday; but not now—someday!” What are you interested in? He, “I’m interested in a convenient time, in a moment in which I choose and pick out.” Lord in heaven! What interests you?
Take another man who will reply to me when I press upon him the appeal of our Lord. He replies, “I don’t know what church to join. All of these differing denominations confuse me; and I don’t know what church to join.” What are you interested in? What concerns you? That you are lost? That you don’t have God as your Friend and Savior—or something else? If a man were bitten by those fiery serpents that the Lord sent as a judgment upon Israel in the wilderness, and Moses raised the brazen serpent in the midst of the camp—“whoever looks could live”—and a man is bitten by a serpent, what is he interested in? [Numbers 21:5-9]. “Just look, my brother, and live!” [John 3:14-18]. “But I’m not interested in looking and living; I’m interested in,” and then all of the things concerning serpents, and concerning the bite, and concerning the tenuous character of the little, venomous beasts and on and on and on—discussion and ramification. Lord God! What are we interested in? What consumes our hearts and attention?
If I had been on the Titanic when it went down in the North Atlantic, why should I be interested in the great gash cut by the iceberg through those steel plates? What I ought to be interested in, “Is there a lifeboat? Is there a lifeboat?” What concerns you if you are outside of the grace and forgiveness of Christ? What are you interested in? If I were a soldier on the battlefield, and mortally wounded, “Is there a physician? Is there a physician?”
What am I interested in? That’s what God asked this man: “What concerns you? “Lord,” he said, “just one thing—that my boy might be saved” [John 4:49]. What are you interested in if you are lost? “Lord, that I might be saved” [Acts 16:30].
He asked one other question. “What do you want? What do you want? Do you want to see a sign or a wonder? What do you want?” And, of course, this man replied: “Lord, that my boy might be healed—that he might live!” [John 4:47-49].
What do you want? I am overwhelmed by the numbers of people who will say, “I want a miraculous thing to happen in my life; a great, and marvelous, and wondrous experience.” I don’t doubt but that some people are saved in a miraculous way. The apostle Paul was. He met Jesus above the brightness of the Syrian, midday sun on the way to Damascus and was marvelously, gloriously, wondrously converted [Acts 9:1-18]. I don’t deny that some conversions are that way. I’m just avowing that practically all conversions are simple and plain and humble commitments in following the Lord Jesus and accepting the Lord Jesus. Peter was saved that way. John was saved that way. James was saved that way [Matthew 4:18-22]. All of us practically are saved by a humble commitment to the Lord. Waiting for God to pick us up in some miraculous, wondrous manner and set us into the kingdom of God, is to tempt the Lord God Himself.
What do you want above everything else in life? What do you want? I think of that woman with an issue of blood, “If I can just touch the hem of His garment, I will be healed” [Matthew 9:20-21]. What do you want? I think of blind Bartimeus, “Lord, Lord, that I could receive my sight! Lord, Lord that I could see!” [Mark 10:51].
I think of that tragic crucifixion, when the dying thief turned to the Lord Jesus, and said: “Lord, Lord, when You come into the kingdom, would You remember me? Would You call my name? Would You remember me dying here by Your side. Lord, would You remember me?” [Luke 23:42-43]. What do you want? Sometimes it is hid from us, what really we want.
I heard of a man who had a passion for diamonds. And he was told, “On the other side of this vast desert, there are diamonds.” And he prepared his pilgrimage, and his trek, across the burning sand to the place where he could find diamonds. In the journey, he lost his way and was perishing in the desert when, stumbling, he, in a last effort of strength, found a water canteen, a water canteen, half-buried in the sand. And he went to it and eagerly picked it up—a water canteen. Thirsting to death—a water canteen—opening it, he lifted it up to drink its life giving flow, and when he did, out came a stream of beautiful, brilliant diamonds. In an anguish of hurt, he threw it away and perished there in the burning sand! What do you want? “Just a drink of water.”
Lord God, that the Lord would reveal to us and open our eyes what we really want. I heard one time this great poet Rudyard Kipling, coming to America, made a tour through the great cities of America; and in San Francisco became ill unto death. And God was good and spared his life. But, in his tragic illness, Rudyard Kipling was whispering something—saying something. And a doctor bent down his ear to hear what the great poet was saying. And he was repeating over and over and over again, “I want God, I want God.” Basically, and finally, and ultimately that will be the heart cry of every soul that lives, “Lord, God! I need Thee! I want God!”
Now this last; the nobleman believed the word of Jesus; and turned, on his way—no sign, no wonder, no miracle, no affirmation. He just believed the word of Jesus and was infinitely blessed [John 4:49-51]. That is the way we are introduced to our Lord. That’s how we come into the kingdom of Christ—just trusting His word; believing the Lord [Acts 16:30-31]. And when I think about that—that the way of salvation is by trust, it’s by commitment, it’s by faith, it’s by believing [Ephesians 2:8-9]—when I think of that, that’s not different from how all of life is lived on the part of any one of us. We all live by faith, by trust.
I think of some of the things that I have experienced: several times I have been in a little plane, a little two-seated plane. There would be the pilot and I in a little plane—a little thing that when the wind blew it, tossed it around like an autumnal leaf. I have been in a little plane, and in that little plane, several times I have entered clouds that were as black as midnight in mountains that were thousands and thousands of feet high. And as I sat there in that plane, there’s not an instrument on the panel that I could manipulate or know—I was just trusting that pilot there. One time, as you know, in one of those little tiny planes, I went down in the Amazon jungle, trusting, just trusting that pilot there, absolutely my life in his hands, just trusting that pilot.
Three times I have been in the hospital on an operating table. And twice I looked up into the face of a doctor. I had no idea anything about him. Before I went to sleep, before they put me to sleep for the operation, just look up at him, have no idea who he is—just trusting him completely, just trusting.
When I go to the bank—just trusting the bank; whatever I possess, it’s an investment—and all I have is just a little piece of paper. You have a deed, or you have an abstract, or you have a little thing in an envelope—just trusting, just trusting. Our whole lives are that way—just trusting. How do I know what that pharmacist has placed in that prescription, that little bottle? Just trusting—all of life is like that.
Can I not therefore, in the presence of the blessed Lord Jesus, can I not trust Him? Trust Him with the children—God bless and keep and watch over these darling children—trust Him with our children; trust Him with the home; trust Him with the business—pray about it—trust Him with your soul; trust Him with your life. Trust Him! He is so worthy. Trusting Jesus—that is all.
Yesterday afternoon late, somebody placed in my hand this piece of paper. And when I read it, I was overwhelmed by it.
I fixed my eyes on a man I knew.
He was strong and upright, pure and true.
The light of Christ shown on his face.
His words were tender, full of grace.
Ah, here thought I, is a righteous man.
After his life, my own I will plan.
So his Christian life became my creed.
But, alas, though he loved his Lord indeed,
He too was human, to my dismay.
I saw him stumble and fall one day.
And groping along in stunned dismay,
I lost my creed and I lost my way.
Then I fixed my eyes on the Son of God.
And I gained my footing as onward I trod.
And though trials abounded and griefs assailed,
He has stood the test. He has never failed!
Now I stumble not at the saints that fall.
For I trust in Christ as my all in all.
Fixing our eyes upon the Lord; not upon man, not upon the church, not upon the saints—fixing our eyes upon Him, and trusting Him; giving life, and heart, and soul, and purpose, and destiny—giving it to Him, and He will never fail! [Hebrews 13:5].
That is our first invitation to you.