Ministry to Human Need
September 17th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-17-89 10:50 a.m.
And welcome the multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on radio and on television. You are now part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Ministering to Human Need. It is a subject sermon, preparing for the most tremendous fall we have ever faced as a congregation of the Lord.
Reading in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, verses 31 to 40; Matthew 25:31-40:
When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory:
And before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth His sheep from the goats;
He shall set the sheep on His right hand, the goats on His left.
Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand; Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, ye took Me in:
Naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.
Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink?
When saw we Thee a stranger and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee?
Or when saw we Thee sick; or in prison, and came unto Thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily, truly, I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.
Ministering to Human Need. I suppose there is nothing more poignant in human heart than the moving witness of people who need our help. They are suffering. They lack so many of the necessities of life. And their lack and need are impossible to blot out of our memory. This is true of Almighty God. Human need moves the heart of God. Exodus begins just like that. On the back side of the desert [Exodus 3:1-2], God appears to Moses and says:
I have heard the cry of My people. I have seen their affliction and I have looked upon their sorrow.
Come now, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, and you will deliver My people from the taskmasters in Egypt.
That’s God. The incomparable fortieth chapter of Isaiah is in the same vein, as the Lord speaks to the captives of Babylon:
Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God.
Yea, speak ye comfortably unto Jerusalem, and cry unto her. Thy warfare is accomplished; thy iniquity is pardoned: for she has received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
The ministry of our Lord was exactly like that. As His custom was, He went to the synagogue in the town where He grew up, and He opened the Book and He read of Himself [Luke 4:16-17]. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; for He hath anointed Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to heal those that are sick, to announce the acceptable day of the Lord" [Isaiah 61:1, 2; Luke 4:16-19]. Human need, suffering, moves the heart of God. Nor is it any different in the hearts of God’s servants.
Through all the years and the succeeding centuries, it was in response to a vision of a man from Macedonia who stood before Paul saying, "Come over into Macedonia, and help us" [Acts 16:9]. And he writes, this servant, Paul: "Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is me, if I preach not the gospel!" [1 Corinthians 9:16]. And through all of these succeeding Christian centuries, the story has ever been identically the same: the response to human need; the father of modern missions [William Carey] – a shoe cobbler, working at his last; on one side the open Bible, and on the other side a map of the world.
One time, in one of my visits to East Africa, Central Africa, often I followed where David Livingstone had first gone as a discoverer and a missionary. Particularly was it poignant in my feeling, my heart, as I stood at a gathering place on the western side of Lake Malawi. They used to call it Lake Niassa. There they brought those black captives, ferried them across the lake and then down to the ocean, and [they] were distributed to the slave blocks of the world; so many of them sent here to North America, to our country.
And I thought of David Livingstone, God’s missionary, dying on his knees in prayer. His heart buried there in Central Africa, his body taken down to the sea and returned to his native England. And in Westminster Abbey, he was laid to rest. And when you enter that beautiful sanctuary, the first tomb you’ll see, the first grave you’ll see, is David Livingstone’s. And written are these words:
Brought by faithful hands over land and sea, here rests David Livingstone, missionary. For thirty years, his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize the native races and to abolish the desolating slave trade of Central Africa. Who, with his last words, wrote, "All I can add in my solitude is, may heaven’s rich blessing come down on everyone, American, English, or Turk, who will help to heal this open sore of the world."
Human need moves the heart of God and moves the heart of God’s servants.
How can we respond to that universal appeal for help? There are a few, like Livingstone, like Carey, like some in our own dear congregation, who will go out to the ends of the earth with the saving message of Christ. There are very few who will minister as such, on the staff of our wonderful church. But the great throng of us, the multitudinous numbers of us, are involved in secular work out in the world.
How can we have a part? The answer is plain, and something God has made possible for us. We can turn our very lives into coin and currency. It’s a remarkable thing. I can actually take the strength and the energy and the days of my life and turn them into coin and into currency.
For example, suppose I am working for $10 an hour, and I am given that $10. I hold it here in my hand. That represents one hour of my life. Literally, I turn my life into currency, and this is it. And when I give that $10 to the work of the Lord and the need of humanity, I am giving myself. Literally, this is an hour of my life. And Jody, place it in the treasury of the Lord. My dedication and my consecration before God, in ministering to human need, is something that I can share as God gives me length of days and breath of life. That’s why a budget, a giving program, a stewardship outline, is not figures and sums. They are people and souls, and the very heart and life of the ministry of God.
That young deacon there who plays the trumpet, Mike Majors, came to me this last week with a book about that thick. It looked to be about three inches thick and very large. And on the pages of that book were outlined all the things that our church supports in its budget in the stewardship appeal. And I looked at it. But, what I saw – what I saw were not figures and columns and budgets and summations. What I saw is the ministry of our people to the call of God.
It’s the same thing as a home. A home is not bricks, mortar, and flooring and roofing and ceiling. But a home is a house of love and devotion and children and care. That’s God’s people. Our great stewardship appeal, in the outline of the budget and giving, is not a column of figures and summations at the bottom of the page, but it is souls and ministries. It’s God’s work through us in the earth.
I want to show it to you. We have in our congregation, and in the dedication of our people, a tremendous missionary dedication. It starts here in our city of Dallas. We have 29 chapels, 29 missions. And through them, the way God blesses in reaching people for Christ and ministering to human need is almost miraculous. We could have those 29 pastors come here, and Lanny Elmore, who presides over them, and spend days, literally, witnessing to you, recounting for you God’s hand upon that work.
Let’s take just one leaf out of the book. Daily, there come by our church these who are ragged and hungry and drifting. And we guide them down here to our Inner City Chapel. Upon a day, there came to the church, to me, a boy, a young man, like so many prodigals, dirty, filthy, ragged, hungry. In our chapel, to which we directed him, he was wonderfully converted, born again. We of course found out where he came from; a town over there on the other side of the river in Tennessee. We called the pastor. And to our amazement and surprise, the boy came out of a beautiful Christian home. Isn’t that the most inexplicable thing you could ever think for in your life? Sometimes, out of the most devout Christian homes will be the most prodigal and compromising boy or daughter. He was one. Well, when we called the pastor, he called the father and mother. And they rejoiced there and made possible for the lad to come home. And we took the boy down to the bus station and sent him home, converted, new, saved. And I could not but think of the prodigal boy in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Luke [Luke 15:11-32]. The father, when he received him home, said, "This my boy was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found" [Luke 15:24]. Think of the ministry of a chapel like that. That’s we. We do it. And we do it every day, of every week, of every year, here in our city.
I’m just taking one other leaf. I listened to a man won to Christ over there in West Dallas. He described how it was when he was a drunkard and dope in the family. And beat his wife, and his children lived in dread and fear and they themselves wayward. Then he describes how it was when he was saved, and how it is in his home now, with his wife and his children. Why, it’s just like heaven to listen to a witness like that and to see a change like that, ministering to human need.
Our mission program here and around the world: last Friday, they brought to me a little girl, it’s a Korean family. And the little child’s name is Sara Kim, K-i-m. As you know, when a child is presented to our congregation to be baptized, first I visit with the family and visit with the child. So, the Korean family brought this little girl to me. And after we visited and prayed, why, as we were leaving, the little girl said to me, "I have a gift here for the missionary." Well, I found out that she had been introduced to our appeal for state missions here in Texas going on this week, going on right now. And she said, "I have a gift for the missionary," this little girl. So, I found that she meant she was giving to our appeal for state missions. And after the family left, why, I took the envelope in which she had placed the gift and opened it to see what she had done. Well, I expected to find in that envelope a quarter or a few pennies, or at the most, a dollar bill. Charles, when I opened the envelope, there was a hundred dollars in it, from that little girl, ministering to human need.
I suppose, if I lived a thousand lifetimes, I could never, ever forget the everlasting impression made upon me when I followed Dr. Goldie in West Africa. In the nation, to which he had been sent as a missionary, this beloved physician – they take their lepers and push them out to the bush to starve, to die of exposure, to be eaten by wild animals. And for the first time, I learned that little children have leprosy.
Well, what that beloved physician did, he gathered those lepers in what he called clan settlements, and here and there and there, in a great arc through the nation. And I went with him as he ministered in those clan settlements, to those lepers. And as I watched him, I’d think to myself, "That medicine, we bought it. We did it. We did it. And this physician, we sent him out. And those huts and that mud church and the gathering together of those outcasts, we did it. We did it." And my heart overflows with infinite gladness that we have an opportunity thus to share in ministering to human need.
And what shall I say of our own work here in this precious church? O God, how desperately is it needed – our teaching and training, for example, of our children, and our young people. I don’t know what to think of an America – modern, today. I don’t recognize it, compared to the America I knew as a boy growing up.
This week, I sat there before a television for a moment. I could not believe; the doctor that was being interviewed was describing an epidemic of syphilis among our young people, among our teenagers. I thought the modern medicines had practically done away and obviated and interdicted these venereal diseases, like syphilis. It is rising in epidemic proportion again, beside AIDS. And as I listened, the program said that drugs are becoming almost universal, that drugs always start with alcohol. First, it is alcohol, then as time goes on, they add to it crack and cocaine and all the rest of those devastating drugs. So, being sensitive to it, and listening on television and in newspaper, and billboards and magazines promoting the use of alcohol, here last week from the editorial page: 150,000 lives are lost each year through alcohol.
And then, I couldn’t believe my eyes – a major television station was interviewing the coaches of the team that won the Little League World Series. When asked, in the presence of the team, eleven and twelve year olds, what they had done to celebrate, the coaches replied, "We slipped away for cold beers" ten and twelve years old! In a sport that kind of represents the finest of American life, these eleven and twelve year olds celebrate their national victory with beer, alcohol.
And about a day later on the editorial page, in the cartoon are President Bush and drug czar Bennett. And they have containers; B & B Exterminating. And the president asked the czar, "Did we miss anything?" And they look that way, and there’s not anything. But, right back of them, covering the horizon, is an enormous cockroach labeled "alcohol." And nobody says anything about it. Nobody does anything about it. Just advertise it and advertise it, and get our young people to drink. And when you get them to drink, then, the next thing is indulging in drugs. Great God, what is the future of our nation?
In this pulpit, right here, stood a man one time who said, "The city streets confer no degrees, they offer no diplomas; but they educate with terrible precision." Great God, how true that is! My president of the university from which I was graduated one time said, and I’m quoting him, "I’m not saying" – quoting him – "I’m not saying that teaching and education and training are everything. But I am saying that whether a child becomes an infidel, or a cannibal, or a communist, or a goose-stepping Nazi depends upon his education and his training."
I am adding to it. How desperately we need the ministries of this dear church, bringing together our children and teaching them the Word and way of the Lord, gathering together our young people and guiding them into the fullness of an overflowing God-blessed life in Christ Jesus, and gathering our families together, our homes together, in the love of the Lord."
O God, how desperately is this hour needed for Thee! And that’s why we are sharing together in the support of the work of God, bringing families and homes and children into the orbit of the love and ministry of our wonderful Savior.
And to you who have listened on television, how precious and meaningful would be this blessed moment if you would dedicate your heart and home and house to the blessed Jesus this day. Do you want to know how to be saved, how to accept Christ as your Savior? Call us. On the screen you will find a telephone number. Call us. It will be one of the infinite joys of our lives to share with you how Jesus can come into your heart and home and remake beautifully, triumphantly, gloriously your life. Do it.
And in the great throng of people in the sanctuary, in the balcony round and on this lower floor, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me and I am coming." A family, a couple, or just one somebody you, answering the call of God’s Spirit in your heart and life, and a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
MINISTRY TO HUMAN NEED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Nothing more poignant than moving witness of people who need our help
A. Human need moves the heart of God (Exodus 3:7-8, Isaiah 40:1-2, 61:1-2)
B. Human need moves the hearts of the people of God
1. Paul (Acts 16:9, 1 Corinthians 9:16)
2. William Carey
3. David Livingstone
C. We can have a part by turning ourselves into coin and currency
D. Our stewardship appeal
II. Our mission outreach
A. Here, our 29 chapels, missions (Luke 15)
B. State missions
1. Sara Kim
1. Dr. Goldie
III. Our ministering church
A. Our children, youth
1. Sex, syphilis, AIDS
2. Alcohol, drugs
3. Family disintegration