Noah: Preacher of Perseverance
July 13th, 1988 @ 7:30 PM
NOAH: PREACHER OF PERSEVERANCE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-13-88 7:30 p.m.
We welcome once again the throngs of you who share this moment on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Noah: Preacher of Perseverance. I have got it started, started with these messages on evolution, and I have just become reinfascinated with the first book of the Bible. So during these days, we are just looking at things God inspired Moses to write here in the Book of Genesis. When you turn to chapter 6, it reads like this:
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God—
that is the children of Seth—
the sons of God saw the daughters of men—
that is the daughters of Cain—
that they were fair; and they took them wives of all whom they chose. And when the Lord God saw that He said, My Spirit shall not always strive with men . . . he will have one hundred and twenty years in which to repent.
Now, [verse] number 5—
God saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Sounds like America to me.
And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him in His heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth.
[Verse] number 8: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” [Genesis 6:8] one hundred twenty years.
I received a bulletin from a Baptist church in Australia, and I had never thought of or imagined anything like this. It was entitled, “Trouble in the Shipyard”:
And the Lord said unto Noah, “Where is the ark which I have commanded thee to build?” And Noah said unto the Lord, “Verily, I have the three carpenters off ill. The gopher wood supplier has let me down. Yea, even though the gopher wood hath been on order for nigh onto one hundred years, what can I do, O Lord?” And God said unto Noah, “I want the ark finished, even after seven days and seven nights.” And Noah said, “It will be so.” But it was not so. And the Lord said unto Noah, “What seemeth to be the trouble this time?” And Noah said unto the Lord, “My subcontractor hath gone out of business. The pitch which thou commandest me to put on the outside and on the inside of the ark hath not arrived. The plumbers have gone on strike. Shem, my son who helpeth me on the Arkside of the business, hath founded a pop group with his brothers Ham and Japheth. Lord, I am undone.” And the Lord grew angry and said, “And what about the animals? The male and the female of every sort that I ordered to come unto thee to keep their seed alive upon the face of the earth?” And Noah said, “They have been delivered to the wrong address, but they should arrive on Friday.” And the Lord said, “How about the unicorns and the fowls of the air by seven?” And Noah wrung his hands and wept saying, “Lord, unicorns are a discontinued line. Thou canst not get them for love or money, and the fowls of the air are sold only in lots of half dozen. Lord, Thou knowest how it is.” And the Lord in His wisdom said, “Noah, My son, I knowest. Why else dost thou think I have caused a flood to descend upon the earth?”
I had never thought of anything like that: Noah, the preacher of perseverance.
What were the causes of the Flood? God says in the Book of Peter—He will never destroy the world again by water [Genesis 9:15], but he says, “I will destroy the world again by fire” [2 Peter 3:6-7]. This tremendous deluge will be repeated in God’s judgment and in God’s time, but the next time it’ll be by fire.
What caused the Deluge? The cause was moral, altogether. There was no other consideration, just moral. It began in the marriages of believers with unbelievers [Genesis 6:2, 4-5]. When the sons of Seth saw the daughters of Cain they married outside of the will of God, the crossing of the families of God and of the families of the world. And they emulated not the virtues of their fathers, the sons of Seth, but they emulated the vices of their mothers, the daughters of Cain. And this is a violation of the earnest appeal of Scripture.
When you marry, you are to marry in the Lord [1 Corinthians 7:39]. And there is to be in that sacred vow a dedication of the home to the Lord Jesus. I could not think of a more beautiful testimony than the one we heard just now, when that sweet couple found the Lord, gave themselves to Jesus and built—are building their home upon the faith of Christ.
Now the repudiation of the preaching of Noah is almost unthinkable [Genesis 6:5-12; 2 Peter 2:5]. For one hundred and twenty years he delivered the message of God to a hardened generation and never had one single convert, not one [1 Peter 3:20]. Can you imagine a man standing, declaring the message of the Lord, and no one ever responding? One year, two years, ten years, twenty years, fifty years, one hundred years, one hundred ten years, one hundred twenty years, and not one response.
If we have a service in our church and no one responds, I nearly die in my heart—I am so disheartened, I am so discouraged, I am so blue, I am so down—just one service. You rarely, rarely in the forty-four years I’ve been here, you can’t remember, I would think, a service in which we’ve not had an appeal and somebody respond. But when we have a service and no one is saved and no one answers the call of God, oh, dear! But Noah preached the message of Christ one hundred twenty years and had no convert, not one [1 Peter 3:20].
There’s another facet of the life of Noah that is unusual. In Hebrews 11:7 it says, “Noah, moved by fear, warned of God of things not seen as yet,” the Flood, “moved with fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his family.” Isn’t that a strange thing? The fear of man makes a defeated coward, but the fear of God makes him a fearless emissary of heaven. Isn’t that strange? To fear the face of a man makes you a groveling slave, but the fear of God makes you bold like a lion. And that was Noah; gave himself to the word of the Lord and fearlessly, to a gainsaying and unbelieving generation, declared the message of God for one hundred twenty years [Genesis 6:3; 2 Peter 2:5].
Now in this little moment that remains I want to apply that to us, and maybe taking a leaf out of my own life. I became absolutely frustrated, you can’t know how much, when finally we built our Sunday school to an attendance of about 3500. And it stayed in those middle three thousands, for it seemed to me an indefinite period of time, year after year. No matter what I did or how I tried, I couldn’t get that Sunday school above about 3500. We might go up to 3600 and then we’d go back down to 3400.
Dr. Souther, who was with us here when I first came for twelve years, accepted a position as minister of education, a professorship in the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I was down there in New Orleans on a preaching mission, and I asked Billy Souther if I could come to see him; he had been here twelve years, and he knew us intimately.
I said to him, “There’s not a church in the Southern Baptist Convention that has ever had as large a Sunday school attendance as we have, but I’m not satisfied. In this great city, so many are outside the fold of God, not taught the Word of the Lord, and I want to reach them for Christ, but I cannot get our Sunday school over about 3500. I want you to tell me, is it possible to have a Sunday school over 3500? If it is not possible then I’ll just accept it as from the Lord, but my heart won’t find rest.”
And Billy Souther said to me, “Pastor, you stay with it, and you keep pressing it, and you keep working, and I can promise you that the day will come when God will honor the commitment, and you will have a growing, continually enlarging ministry of teaching the Holy Scripture.”
Sweet people, there’s nobody that you’ll see in this church when we passed 4,000. They can’t even remember it. You’ll find nobody in this church, when we passed 4,500. You’ll find nobody in this church that can remember when we passed 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000. We just began to reach people for God; and sweet, precious prayer partners and fellow pilgrims, let’s don’t stop now. Let’s don’t, let’s go on.
God has given us the most marvelous opportunity of any church I know in the earth. We have had 12,300 people here in Sunday school, and not anywhere, out of any division, out of any class, out of any group—when we had 12,300 here in Sunday school, not anyone came to me and said, “Pastor, we are jammed; we can’t even seat anymore. We don’t have any place for anymore.” Not one.
There’s not one church you know of in the earth, if they’re growing, but that has a tremendous problem with facilities. How are they going to house the people? Not we; God has given us these marvelous buildings, there are five blocks of us down here in the middle of this great, growing city. Let’s not be content, let’s reach these people, 7,500 then 8,000, 8,500 then 9,000, 9,500 and 10,000, 10,000 and 11,000 and 12,000; teaching them the Word of the Lord.
If I could continue on just for a moment more: I have been through, time and again, the most discouraging of spiritual responses. I held a revival meeting one time in the Osage country, where the Osage Indians—I was preaching on their reservation—and all of them were there, all of them, the whole Osage tribe. And I preached for a solid week, morning and night, with not a response, not a response. “O God in heaven,” but we prayed and delivered the message of the Lord. And sweet people, did you know when Sunday came, that’s the only great convocation of people I have ever been in, in which I have ever preached, when the service was over, every last soul in divine presence was in the kingdom of God, everyone of them. We had scores and scores of those people and those Osage Indians, down at the front, accepting Jesus as their Savior. Noah, preacher of perseverance: staying with it, staying with it.
Lord God, this is Your work. Lord God, You called us into the field and please, Lord, we’re going to knock at the gate of heaven, we’re going to pray, we’re going to believe, we’re going to work, and we’re dependent upon You for the incomparable harvest. And if I can have any persuasion of the truth of the Word I hold in my hand, God will not let us down. He will honor us with a marvelous increase and victory from heaven.
Now brother singer, we’re going to heist us a tune. And while we sing the song, just out of our hearts—while we sing the song, somebody you give himself to Jesus [Romans 10:9-13], or coming into the fellowship of our dear church or answering the call of God; a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
NOAH: PREACHER OF PERSEVERANCE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Causes of the deluge – altogether moral
1. Marriage of believers with unbelievers
2. Repudiation of preaching of Noah
3. Withdrawal of the Spirit
II. Ark of hope
1. Fear of God made Noah fearless
2. Ark is a symbol of God’s mercy
3. Ark was safe while the water was judgment
1. Noah preached 120 years without a convert