Dad, Look Behind You
June 11th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM
DAD, LOOK BEHIND YOU
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-11-89 10:50 a.m.
We welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor leading the service and bringing the message.
And the title of the sermon is Dad, Look Behind You. Our background text is in the sixth chapter of the Book of Ephesians:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;
That it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the earth.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Dad, look behind you.
The sermon comes from an incident in this church. There was a doctor, a physician, who came to the pastor and said, “My son is prodigal and wayward. Would you pray for my boy?” And as the pastor visited with the doctor, he said to him, “You yourself, doctor, do not walk before him in the love of the Lord. You first give your heart to Christ and be obedient to our Savior, and then ask God to bless that teenage son.”
So the doctor began attending church here. And upon a Sunday, unknown to him, his son was seated back there. And in that service he [the doctor] came forward and stood here accepting the Lord as his Savior. And unknown to him, his boy followed him down the aisle. And when the doctor said to the pastor, “Now, having given my life to the Lord, will you pray for my boy?”
And the pastor said to the doctor, “Dad, turn around and look behind you.” And right here occurred one of the sweetest dramas you could ever observe in your life as they fell in each other’s arms. “Dad, look behind you.”
Look at your church. “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it” [Ephesians 5:25]. And our love for the church is a beautiful and precious privilege that God has bestowed upon us. The church is you and your family.
In my first pastorate out of the seminary, the church had practically died. The minister went around and collected money from those that were behind on their pledges. And that kind of a thing did not build up the love of God in the hearts of the people. So among those who had ceased coming to church, on a day I picked out three and went to see them.
In the little city was a very prominent insurance agency. And the man that headed it was a very gifted young man. And when I went to see him, the first thing he did, he sat down behind his desk and took out his checkbook and began to write a check. And I said, “Listen, I haven’t come for your money. I’ve come for you and your family.” And he stood up and extended his hand and said, “Preacher, we’ll be there next Sunday.”
The second one was a doctor, a physician. And when I went to see him, he immediately sat down back of his desk and started writing out a check. And I said, “Not to me. You’re not going to give me any money. I’ve come for you and your family.” And he stood up and extended his hand and said, “Pastor, we’ll be there next Sunday.”
The third one was a politician. He was our representative in the state legislature. When I went to see him, he sat down back of his desk and did the same, identical thing, started writing out the check. I said, “Not to me. I’ve come for you and your family.” And he stood up and extended his hand and said, “Pastor, we’ll be there next Sunday.”
And when I stood in the pulpit to preach, there they were, those three families.
Leave it to the minister, and soon the church will die.
Leave it to the womenfolk and the young will pass it by.
For the church is all that lifts us from the coarse and selfish mob,
But a church that is to prosper needs a layman on the job.
Now a layman has his business, and a layman has his joys,
But he also has the rearing of his little girls and boys;
And I wonder how he’d like it if there were no churches here
And he had to raise his children in a godless atmosphere.
When you see a church that’s empty, though its doors are open wide,
It’s not the church that’s dying—it’s the laymen who have died.
For it’s not by song or sermon that the church’s work is done;
It’s the laymen of the country who for God must carry on.
(from “It’s the Laymen Edgar A. Guest)
It depends on you!
I was preaching in the North Shore Baptist Church in Chicago, and after the services were over, the J. L. Kraft family invited me to their home; J. L. Kraft, the founder of the great food company, J. L. Kraft Company. I invited him to come here to Dallas and to speak in our church, and he accepted the invitation. I’ll never forget one of the sentences in his address. He said, “I had rather be a layman in the North Short Baptist Church of Chicago than to head the greatest corporation in America.” Then he added, “My first job is serving Christ.” Dad, turn around and look behind you; look at your church.
Dad, turn around and look behind you; look at your home. When Christ died on the cross, He said to His beloved apostle John, “Son, behold your mother!” And from that day, the Bible says, John took her to his own home [John 19:25-27]. Wonder what kind of a home it was? Beautiful and precious; but O God, how worldly and how compromised are the average American homes! There’s a bottle of beer in the icebox where the milk ought to be. There’s a deck of cards where the Bible ought to be. There’s a package of cigarettes on the dresser where the church envelopes ought to be. There’s a sex magazine in the place where the Sunday school quarterly ought to be. There’s a snarl and a frown where a smile ought to be. There’s a curse and oath where a prayer ought to be; the American home for the most part, contemptible and wretched and miserable.
Somebody said to a wife, “I have heard that your husband is a bookworm.” She said, “No he’s just an ordinary worm.”
Somebody said, “You know the dog in our house is like one of the family.” And he was asked, “Well, which member of the family?”
A guy stood up from the poker game and said, “I’m going home and eat supper. If it ain’t ready I’m going to raise Old Billy Ned. And if it is ready, I ain’t going to eat it.”
The wife said to her husband at the breakfast table, “How do you want your egg?” And he said, “Cooked.”
“Well,” she said, “how do you want it cooked?”
“I want one of them fried and one of them boiled and one of them scrambled.”
So she boiled one, fried one, scrambled one, put it before him. He glowered at it. And she said, “Now what’s the matter?”
He said, “You scrambled the wrong egg.”
Papa bear looked at his empty bowl and said, “Somebody ate my soup!” And little baby bear looked at his empty bowl and said, “Somebody ate my soup!” And mama bear called out from the kitchen, “Shut up that yackity-yackin’. I ain’t even poured the soup yet!”
A psychologist one time observed there’s three kinds of marriage: trial, companionless, and fight-to-the-finish.
Long time ago, when I was a boy, there was a song:
Sugar in the morning,
Sugar in the evening,
Sugar at suppertime.
Won’t you be my sugar?
And love me all the time.
[from “Sugartime,” Kitty Wells]
You know how we sing it today?
Fightin’ in the morning,
Fightin’ in the evening,
Fightin’ at suppertime.
Let’s you and me be wild cats
And let’s fight all the time.
About five or six years ago, seventy percent of the marriages in Dallas ended in divorce, seventy percent. We are now at the national level, fifty percent. One-half of all the marriages in America ensue in divorce. What a tragedy! Single parents are now the majority of the children in our church and in all the churches of America.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in every home, prayer was in any moment, in any instance, in any providence, perfectly natural? Pray before you eat, saying grace at the table; praying God’s blessings upon the work of our hands; praying upon every exigency and providence in life, just natural talking to God.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in every home, to read the Bible, perfectly natural, just opening God’s Word and reading what the Lord has to say. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if in every home it were perfectly natural, when the Lord’s Day comes, we’re in church with one another, loving God in the community and fellowship of His Holy Spirit. O God, what a new day and what a new nation that would bring to our children and to our people! And dad, you’re the one who must establish it and lead it. Dad, turn around and look behind you. Look at your church.
A last: dad, turn around and look behind you. Look at your boy. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Genesis is one of the most prevalent verses in the Bible. “And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah” [Genesis 5:22]. You notice that word, “Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah.” There’s something about the birth of that lad, laid in his arms, that turned Enoch God-ward and heavenward. Dad, turn around and look behind you. Look at that boy.
A deacon called me and said, “Pastor, next door there has moved a lovely family. Would you come and speak to them? Invite them to the Lord and to church?” I gladly acquiesced. Knocked at the door, was graciously received by a father, by a mother, a girl about seventeen, a boy about fifteen, and a lad about twelve. They responded so preciously and graciously and said, “Pastor, we’ll be there next Sunday.”
Sunday came and they weren’t present. And after about, say, six weeks, I went back and knocked at the door; was so graciously received again. I talked to them about the Lord. “We’ll be there,” they said, “next Sunday.”
Next Sunday they were not there. And I think after the passing of maybe another six weeks, or four, something, about two o’clock in the morning, in the wee hours of the morning, the telephone rang. On the other end of the line was a nurse in our Baptist hospital. And she said to me, “Pastor, it is with great temerity that I call you at such an hour. But there’s a man here, his boy has been mortally hurt in a tragic automobile accident, and the father is standing alone, and the boy’s dying. I asked him,” she said, “if he knew anyone in the city. And he said he knows you. And I thought maybe you’d come and stand by his side as his boy dies.”
What had happened, that fifteen-year-old boy was driving back to Dallas, and at an awful rate of speed, had a terrible crash. He was rushed to the hospital, mortally wounded. I dressed, went to the hospital, such-and-such room, and there stood that father over the prostrate form of his son, and the nurse on the other side of the room. I took my stand by the side of the bed. And in just a little while after I came, the nurse took the white sheet and covered the face of the boy, turned to the father and said, “Sir, your boy is gone.” And she left the room, and left me standing there by the side of the father.
He reached down and took that sheet back and away from the face of his boy and looked long and hard into the silent countenance of that lad. Then he fell down on his knees and buried his face in his hands by the side of the bed, and cried, “O God! My boy’s gone, and I haven’t lived right before him, and I haven’t done right by him. O God, what shall I do, and where shall I go?”
After the funeral service, the memorial service, down the aisle came a father and a mother, and a girl about seventeen, and a boy about twelve, and sat there, giving their lives to the Lord and coming into the fellowship of the church by baptism.
I used to stand at the back door and shake hands with the people as they left. One after another remarked to me that Sunday, “Pastor, wasn’t that a beautiful sight? That whole family coming to the Lord.” And I acquiesced as graciously as I could, “Yes, that was a beautiful sight.” But when I looked at them seated there, I said in my heart, “That is the saddest sight I ever saw in this world.” You see, I didn’t tell the people, I didn’t think that I should, that there was another boy about fifteen years old who belonged to the family, who lies in a Christless grave.
Some of these days when the great judgment day comes, and that family stands before the Judge of all the earth, and the roll call is made, and his name is called and he answers, “Here”; and her name, the mother, is called and she answers, “Here”; and the seventeen-year-old daughter’s name is called and she answers, “Here”; and the twelve-year-old boy’s name is called and he answers, “Here”; and the Lord God looks into the face of the father and says, “Is this all?” And he replies, “No, Lord. There’s another boy about fifteen years old.” And God says to him, “And where is he?” And the father replies, “He lies in a Christless grave in Texas tonight.”
Great God! Father, turn around and look behind you!
When the choir has sung its last anthem
And the preacher has prayed his last prayer;
When the people have heard their last sermon,
And the sound has died out on the air;
When the Bible lies closed on the altar,
And the pews are all emptied of men,
And each one stands facing his record
And the Great Book is opened – WHAT THEN?
When the actor has played his last drama,
And the mimic has made his last fun,
When the film has flashed its last picture,
And the billboard displayed its last run;
When the crowds seeking pleasure have vanished,
And gone out in the darkness again,
And the trumpet of ages is sounded,
And we stand before Him – WHAT THEN?
When the bugle’s call fades into silence,
And the long marching columns stand still;
When the captain repeats his last orders,
And they’ve captured the last fort and hill;
When the flag is hauled down from the masthead,
And the wounded afield have checked in;
And a world that rejected its Savior
Is asked for a reason – WHAT THEN?
[from “What Then?” anonymous]
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.
Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the lost of the sons and the daughters of mine.
Great God, what does it matter if we inherit the earth and bequeath it to our children, and they are lost? In the great judgment day and in the eternity that lies beyond, shut out from God, from heaven, from hope, and we’ve lost everything dear and precious to our hearts; that’s why we need God! [Revelation 20:11-15].
And to the throngs of you who have listened to this message on television, today, would you open your home and your heart to the blessed and precious Lord Jesus? Oh, what a difference He will make in your life! And if you don’t know how to accept Christ as your Savior, you’ll see a telephone number on the screen; call. There will be a godly Christian counselor who will reply. And friend, someday I’ll see you in heaven.
And to the great throng in God’s sanctuary this noonday time, “Pastor, I’ve listened to the message, and I have resolved in my heart I am building and leading in a Christian family and a Christian home.” A whole family of you coming to the Lord, or coming into the communion and fellowship of our precious church; a couple you, giving your heart and life to the Lord Jesus; or just one somebody you, accepting Him as your Savior [Romans 10:9-10]; on the first note of the first stanza, come. In the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor this is God’s day for me and I’m coming,” while we stand and while we sing.
A. Message comes from
an incident in this church
1. Father coming
forward – son behind him
II. Look at your church(Ephesians 5:25)
A. The church is you
and your family
1. My first
pastorate out of seminary
a. Former pastor collected
money from those behind on pledges
b. Church practically
c. I went to see the
people – “I’m here for you, not your money”
“It’s the Laymen”
L. Kraft, a layman in his church
III. Look at your home
A. Jesus commended His
mother to the home of John (John 19:27)
B. The worldliness of
the average American home
spirit; marriages in shambles
C. How wonderful to have
prayer in the home, to read the Bible, go to church
1. Dad is the one
who must establish it and lead it
IV. Look at your son
A. Enoch walked with
God after he beget Methuselah (Genesis
B. Family with three
children, said they would come to church – didn’t come
1. Their son was
killed – rest of family saved at his memorial service
C. Poem, “What Then?”
What does it matter if we inherit the earth and give it to our children, if
they are lost?(Jeremiah 8:20, 9:1)