Practicing the Promises of God
October 21st, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
PRACTICING THE PROMISES OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-21-87 7:30 p.m.
If you would like to follow along in the reading of the Scripture, turn to Genesis 28; Genesis 28. The title of the message is Practicing the Promises of God. And we welcome the throngs of you who share the hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor, bringing the message.
And our background text and story is Genesis 28, beginning at verse 10:
And Jacob – who later was called Israel – went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
Not descending from heaven down to earth and then back up, but the other way around. The angels were in the earth. They were ascending and descending [Genesis 28:12]. The angels of God are here with us. They are present here tonight in this sanctuary.
And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of [Isaac]; the land whereon thou liest, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed;
And they seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, to the east, to the north, to the south; and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
And Jacob awakened out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.
And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven –
As though he were in the very house and dwelling place of the Lord.
And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up as a pillar, and poured the oil of consecration upon it.
And he called the name of that place Bethel –
Bethel: "the house of God"
And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to wear,
So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be magnified and exalted and uplifted as my God;
And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely dedicate the tenth unto Thee.
Practicing the Promises of God – On Monday of this week, on October 19 of this year of 1987, the stock market crashed beyond anything that had ever been witnessed in the financial history of the world. It was called a "meltdown." The Dow average of the stocks owned by our people fell 508.86 points. And the number of stocks traded were over six million shares. Nothing even approaching a debacle like that had ever been seen or envisoned in the financial story of mankind.
Now, to the child of God, whatever the providence, God is sovereign and is taking care. He is watching over. Our shepherd God remembers us. So in the fifteenth verse of the story I read, God says to Jacob, "I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest. . .I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have promised unto thee" [Genesis 28:15]. And the sign of that contract, and that covenant, between God and Jacob and between Jacob and God, is in the twenty-second verse, "Of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely dedicate and consecrate the tenth unto Thee" [Genesis 28:22].
Practicing the promises of God; the practice, the incarnation of what God has bestowed upon us in life. Number one, the basic foundation for all that we do is this: what I am, whatever I am, whatever I exist of, whatever I possess, all of me ultimately comes from God. It is God’s. That includes my life; my heartbeat. It includes my breath. It includes me. It includes everything of me, everything of me; what I am, what I possess. Everything is from God. I don’t have any breath that God doesn’t give me. I don’t have any life but that comes from God. There is nothing that I possess that does not belong to Him and ultimately will return to His keeping.
Number two in that practice of the goodness and grace of God: I must be a good steward, a good tenant, a good servant. God is counting and depending upon me for the building of His church, for the teaching of our children, and for the evangelization of the world. There is no preaching but "we" preaching, there is no teaching but that "we" teach it, no healing but God’s healing through us. There is no helping but through our hands. The advancement of the kingdom of peace and righteousness and brotherhood is committed to us. There is no other way.
I one time heard a wonderful missionary, who headed all of our effort in Africa. I heard him say that, at the resurrection of our Lord and His entrance into heaven, He was met by Gabriel. And Gabriel asked Him, "Lord, You have died for the sins of the world [1 John 2:2] – how is the world to know of that sacrifice?"
And the Lord answered Gabriel saying, "I have committed its story, I have committed it to the hands of a few men, eleven."
And Gabriel says to the Lord, "But Lord, what if they forget, and what if they fail?" And the Lord answers, "Gabriel, I have no other plan."
What that missionary said is so everlastingly and forever true. There is no other program. There is no other plan. There is no other thought in the heart of God, who died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], and was raised for our justification [1 Corinthians 15:4; Romans 4:25]. There is no other plan for the evangelization of the world, for the preaching of the gospel, for the teaching of the truth of the Lord. There is no other plan but that we do it.
Number three: in this practice of the promises of God, I must spend, and use, and invest, my whole strength wisely. It all belongs to God and comes from God. I must not use foolishly or wastefully what God has given me.
I can illustrate that endlessly, but just one or two. What if I take what God has given me and use it for liquor, spend it on drink, patronize these stores that you see all over the city of Dallas? What if I take what God gives me and use it to buy from those terrible stores?
What if I take what God has given me and waste it on gambling? I cannot understand in a thousand lifetimes, why there are intelligent people in our great state who would seek to bring into our midst this gambling on dogs and horses and lotteries. It is beyond my thinking. What we have is a gift of God. It comes from God. And to waste it, and squander it, in foolish seeking after something for nothing; I cannot understand it.
Number four: in practicing the promises of God, I must set aside a proportion of what God gives to me to pay my debt to God. I owe God something for the stewardship He has placed in my hands. What I have belongs to God – all that I have. And God says to me that He asks a small proportion; a part – an indebtedness I owe to God.
I thus acknowledge in that debt; that proportion, I thus acknowledge, one; that God is the sovereign owner over all I possess. It is not mine. It is His. And this is an acknowledgment of that ownership. Number two; in setting aside that proportion for God, I acknowledge that I am but a servant, a steward. It is not mine. I possess it for a moment, then I leave it forever. And someday, I must render an accounting to Him for what I have done with what He has placed in my hands. Number three; in acknowledging that debt, I also acknowledge that I am a human being with weaknesses, and I must guard against selfishness, cupidity, greed, and worldliness.
I don’t exaggerate when I tell you, every time I stand up here to preach, that serpent of worldliness crawls in that door and insinuates himself up and down the pews of our congregation, and sticks his forked tongue in my very face. Worldliness is a constant denominator present with us every hour that we live. He, our archenemy, seeks to change the priorities of our life; the purposes of our being from the glory and the exaltation of God to the things of this world and of this life.
Practicing the presence of God, the promises of the Lord, number four; that I thus follow the pattern of the Lord God who does all His work by a plan; by a system. When I set aside a proportion of what God has given me, I acknowledge that God does everything by a plan, by a system. Not by impulse and not by the spur of the moment but by a plan God does all of His work. And I am to be just like Him.
You can count on the sun rising and the sun setting. You can count on the seasons. You can count on God, in His omnipotence, creating that birth of a child. God does all of His work by a plan, by a system. When I thus acknowledge the Lord, that means I must faithfully set aside for Him not less than one-tenth of everything I possess for God.
Let me read you a letter from a noble layman.
I am glad to bear testimony to the enrichment of my own spiritual life through systematic giving. For several years, I have kept an entirely separate bank account, which I call ‘the Lord’s account.’ In that account, I deposit every month one-fifth of my income. In that way, I divest my mind entirely of any need to consider whether I give or not. The giving has already been done.
The above method I adopted after talking it over with my wife. It has proven to be a great blessing to us both: setting aside every month a proportion of what God has placed in our hands.
A system, a plan; then, there’s no convulsions and convolutions in my thinking about whether I give or whether I don’t. It’s not by impulse. It is a dedication, this I will do for God. You say, "You know, that’s splendid for a rich man, but I’m so poor." Rich or poor has nothing to do with our stewardship before God; none at all. The test of the Christian life is not what we would do if we possessed our neighbor’s wealth, but what we do with the little that we possess, whatever it is; whatever it is.
You have heard the crazy story, but it surely is the truth. A fellow goes to another fellow, and he says to him, "If you had a hundred cows, would you give fifty of them to the Lord?"
"Well, certainly, I would. If I had a hundred cows, I would give fifty of them to the Lord."
"Well, if you had a hundred sheep, would you give fifty of them to the Lord?"
"Yes, sir. If I had a hundred sheep, I would give fifty to the Lord."
"Well, if you had a hundred horses, would you give fifty of them to the Lord?"
"If you had a hundred pigs, would you give fifty of them to the Lord?"
"Well, if you had two pigs, would you give one to the Lord?"
"Now, you know I’ve got two pigs. I’m not going to give one of them to the Lord."
It is easy for us – it is easy for us to look at our neighbor’s wealth and say, "You know, if I had all of that money, I would just be so generous, and I would support God’s kingdom and God’s work." That enters into it not at all. If all I have is a pittance; to dedicate a proportion of that, on the first day of the week, to God is pleasing to the Lord, and as I have said, an acknowledgement of the deb, I owe to God for what He has done for me.
Now let me conclude with the blessings; the practice, now the blessings. There is a spiritual victory in doing that. In Jesus’ teaching, so much of what He said involves our love for the world and not being rich toward God.
For example, reading in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Luke, Jesus said:
Take heed, and beware of cupidity – covetousness, the love of the world; for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesseth.
And He spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, I have no room to bestow all of my increase?
And he said, This will I do; I will pull down my barns, and build greater; there I will bestow all my goods.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
But God said unto him,
There’s always that everlasting accountability that you cannot escape. You cannot escape it. God calls you into an accounting one day.
But God said unto him, Foolish man, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, that you have left behind?
And you are going to leave it behind. Don’t you think that you will take it with you!
Then whose shall those things be, which you will leave behind?
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Why would a man be thus foolish as though, "I am going to take it with me," or, "I am going to keep it?" All I can do is to use it for awhile and it belongs to Him.
May I speak of a sevenfold heavenly surprise for a man, a woman, who will set aside a proportion of everything that he has for God? Number one surprise; he will be surprised at the amount of money he has for the work of Christ. It will surprise you. You may think you are as poor as Adam’s off ox or Job’s turkey but you do that and you will be surprised at how much you have for the work of God. Number two; you will be surprised at the deepening of your own spiritual life. Number three; you will be surprised at the ease with which you meet your own obligations.
You will be amazed at that! Nine-tenths will go a thousand times further than ten-tenths, if you will give that one-tenth to God. You will be surprised at the pleasure you will find in thus larger giving. You will be surprised at the satisfaction in the practice of a stewardship before God. "Lord, I am a servant – I am a tenant – I am a steward – and You have blessed me and help me Lord, and I will remember You."
Number six; you will be surprised at yourself for having not thought of it sooner, and followed it sooner. And last; you will have a new appreciation for the grace and goodness of God. You will be somebody else. It will amaze you; the change in your life.
Talking about the blessings, there will be a freedom and a joy in giving. So many, so many; giving is painful, like the pulling of a tooth or the enduring of an operation; God never intended that. In the passage that we read earlier: "Every manaccording as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a hilaros giver, a hilaros, a hilaros. Our word "hilarious," hilariousness, hilarious comes from that, hilaros [2 Corinthians 9:7]. "God loveth a hilaros giver," a hilarious giver. The most marvelous part of my life, and the happiest and the most joyful, is to take what God has given me, and dedicate it for His blessed name’s sake.
And last, the blessings; there is a fellowship in that, there is a partnership with God in it. God is in the business of giving; the sun and the earth, life and breath, even Jesus did God give for our salvation. God so loved us that He gave Jesus [John 3:16]. God is in the business of giving. And when I give, I am a partner with Him, like Him.
I don’t mean this to be egotistical, but I want to tell you how I felt one time in a particular place. I was over there in Africa, and there was a wonderful doctor over there named Dr. Goldie. And he had gathered all of those lepers in that whole nation and put them in what he called clan settlements, clan settlements. And in a big arc, I don’t know how many miles covered in that thing, in a big arc, he had gathered all of those lepers in a clan settlement. And they built villages where they lived, built them out of mud and thatch, you know. And he put a clan settlement here. And then, miles and miles there would be one there, and then in a big arc he had gathered all those lepers in what he called those clan settlements.
Well, what happened over there was, when leprosy was found in – and, by the way, in going around with that doctor, visiting those clan settlements, children – little children were leprous; teenagers were leprous, young men and woman, old people, just the whole gamut of humanity, leprous. And whenever one of those became leprous even though it was a child, they would push the child out into the bush to die. They separated themselves from them. They had nothing to do with them, put them out to die. Well, that’s where those clan settlements came from. He would gather them up, put out in the bush to die – and in all of those of those areas, why, he would gather those lepers together.
Well anyway, I went around with him. For days and days I went around with Dr. Goldie. And I would just, you know, I’m not a physician, like Dr. Mattox here, I couldn’t do anything except go around and look and pray for them. I did preach. They would build a church made out of mud; the whole church was made out of mud; the pulpit made out of mud; the pulpit stand made out of mud; the pews made out of mud; the whole thing made out of mud. Well, I would preach in those mud churches, then just go around with Dr. Goldie.
Well, here’s what happened to me as I went around and just observed and looked. He had in his little car a whole thing filled with medicine, you know, ministering to those lepers. So as I would watch him, I would think, "You see that car there? Did you know, I had a part in that? I helped buy that car. I did that."
Then, I’d look at the doctor himself, and I would say, "See that doctor there: Dr. Goldie? I helped send him out. I helped support him. I did that."
And he’d take all of that medicine, and minister to those poor lepers. And as he did so, I’d have this saying in my heart, "Did you know? I helped buy that medicine. I helped buy it."
I don’t know why that particular thing should have overwhelmed me with such hilarity, with such joyous gladness! But, as I went around with the beloved physician and saw him minister to those helpless, cast-out people, I just had the best feeling in the world.
"Lord, I thank You. I helped send out that missionary. I helped buy that car. I helped buy that medicine. I helped build these clan settlements." I had a part in it.
I don’t know of anything in God’s world that has in it the finer repercussion of joy and gladness to think, I have a part with God. He and I are partners, and we are doing it; God and I. It lifts what we bring to God out of just, "This is something that I put up with when the collection plate is passed." It lifts us out of that into a great joyous tenantry, stewardship, servanthood before God; He our great sovereign, and I His humble servant. Try it and see. How many times does God say that, "Come, try, and see, and see"?
Now Doug, I want you to lead us in a song. Let’s sing us a song. And while we sing the song I will be standing right there, right there and our fellow ministers with me.
A family you to come into the fellowship of our dear, wonderful church; or a couple you; or just one somebody you, answering the call of God, to take Jesus as Savior, to put your life with us in the church, to be a fellow pilgrim with us from this world to the world to come. As God shall speak, you are welcome, in His blessed name and ours, to come and be with us, you ready? While we stand and while we sing.
PRACTICING THE PROMISES OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The practice
1. Trust – everything comes from God and belongs to God
3. Wisdom in spending
4. Portion income
5. Faithfully set aside for God
1. Spiritual victory
2. Seven-fold heavenly surprise
3. Freedom, joy in giving
4. Fellowship, partnership with God