Ministry to Human Need
September 17th, 1989 @ 8:15 AM
MINISTERING TO HUMAN NEED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-17-89 8:15 a.m.
And welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour on our great radio station of KCBI. You are now a 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 message in preparation for the tremendous dedication of our congregation to the ministries of Christ this fall.
Reading as a background text, from the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, beginning at verse 34:
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 hungred, and you gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was stranger, and you took Me in:
Naked, and you 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 hungred, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink?
When saw we Thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee?
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. There is something about the poignant necessity of these who are less fortunate that in memory stay in our hearts. We cannot drown out the necessity. And that’s not only true of us, it’s true of God in heaven. Human need moves the heart of God. Exodus begins like this, God says to Moses, on the back side of the desert:
I have heard the cry of My people. I have seen their sorrows.
Come now, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh to deliver My people from the taskmasters of Egypt
That’s the way the story begins, moving in the heart of God.
You see it poignantly again in that fortieth chapter of Isaiah that begins the comforting presence of God with His people in Babylonian captivity:
Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Yea, speak ye comfortably unto Jerusalem, and cry unto her, saying, Your warfare is accomplished, your iniquity is pardoned: you have received of the Lord’s hand double for all your sins
[Isaiah 40:1, 2]
The heart of God moved in the sorrows of His people.
Thus begins the ministry of our Savior. He opens God’s Holy Word, as His custom was, so Luke avows, and He says, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, for He hath anointed Me to bind up the hearts of the brokenhearted, to heal those that are sick, to announce the acceptable year of the Lord" [Luke 4:18-19]. That’s God. And we follow it no less in the hearts and the responses of His people.
Paul says, "I saw a man in Macedonia, crying," in his vision, "Come over into Macedonia and help us" [Acts 16:9]. And his response: "Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe unto me, if I preach not the gospel" [1 Corinthians 9:16]. And through all of the succeeding centuries, that has been the response of God’s people to the cry of human need.
The whole modern missionary effort began in a cobbler’s shop. On one side of William Carey, an open Bible, and on the other side a map of the world. When I was going through East Africa and Central Africa, over and over again I came to areas visited by David Livingstone. Especially poignant to me was a place on the western side of Lake Malawi – in those days they called it Niassa – and there they assembled those captive black people, ferried them across that lake, and down to the ocean, and distributed over the world as slaves, especially to the Western world, in the Caribbean and in America. When he died praying on his knees, they buried his heart in Central Africa and took his body down to the sea, and so returned to England. And in Westminster Abbey when you walk into the foyer, into the nave, there is the grave of David Livingston. And these are the words on the grave:
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."
The response of the human heart to human need.
And how can I share in that ministry? A few of us, very few of us, a few of us can go to the foreign mission field; and a few of us can devote our lives to ministries here in the homeland. But the great throng and the great masses of us are involved in our separate assignments, and work in the secular world. Then how can I help? How can I minister to human need? In a beautiful and precious way: I can convert my life into coin and currency. And when I give, I am giving myself.
For example, if I am paid ten dollars for an hour’s work, that ten dollars represents an hour of my life; it represents me. And if I give this ten dollars to the ministries of Christ in this world, I am giving a part of me – Jody, would you take it and put it there in that offering? That’s a part of me. That’s an hour of my life. And when I take me and devote it to the ministries of Christ, then I have a part in helping humanity. That’s why a budget, a stewardship program, an outline of our giving is not sums and figures: it represents me and us.
This last week the chairman of our budget committee brought to me a volume, looked to me to be about three inches thick, and a great big book, all of it outlining the budget program, the giving program, the stewardship program of our church. That’s not figure, sums, all of those outlines; that’s we, that’s us, that’s my soul and heart and response to God’s call in the world. It’s like your home, it’s like your home: your home is not brick and mortar and flooring and roofing; the home is love, and children, and all the things that make up the very essence and foundations of life. Thus in our sweet ministries here in our wonderful church.
Our ministry here to human need in this city – there’s not anything that I share in, pray for, that moves my heart more than our twenty-nine chapels, twenty-nine of them. We could have those pastors of those chapels, and Lanny Elmore who presides over it, we could have them here and all day long and week, I suppose, recount what God is doing in those sweet ministries.
For example, a young man, to me a boy, a young man, they come to the church all the time, they’re drifters. This young man comes to the church; he’s ragged and dirty and hungry. And we send him to our inner city mission. That happens everyday. Send him to the inner city chapel. He is there gloriously saved, wonderfully born again. And so we find where he comes from: on the other side of the river, in a town in Tennessee. And we call the pastor there, and he says, "That young man belongs to one of the dearest, finest families in our city." Isn’t that a remarkable thing? Sometimes in your finest homes you’ll find a most prodigal boy or a most recalcitrant daughter. There’s no explanation for that I’ve ever been able to understand. This young man, prodigal, leaving home and family, a drifter; but in God’s providence came to our church, hungry and dirty, and in that chapel won to the Lord. They made arrangements, and we took him to the bus station and sent him back home. I can imagine what kind of a greeting when that young man returned home. Like the prodigal, when the father said, "It is meet that we rejoice: for this my son was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found" [Luke 15:32]. That’s we; that’s our ministries.
Or take just once again, listening to a father, and he’s won to the Lord over there in West Dallas. And he describes how home was when he was a drunkard and when drugs were in the family. And he beat his wife, and his children were afraid. Then he describes life now in Christ: the beautiful home, the precious children, the service of God. There’s not anything in the world like that! And we’re doing it every day of the week and of the year. And this is our work for the Lord God.
We have, of course, a wonderful ministry then beyond through our mission program. Last Friday – it’s the beatenest thing – last Friday a Korean family, a Korean family brought their little girl to me. As all of you know, when the child is presented to be baptized, I have the family come bring the child to me, and I visit with the family and with the youngster. So I visited with this little Korean girl; her name is Seri Kim, K-i-m, Kim. Well, when I got through visiting with them, you know I talk to them about giving their hearts to the Lord, about being baptized, and all it means to love God, why, she said, "I want to make a gift to a missionary." Well, I thought, "That’s just wonderful for a little girl to make a gift to a missionary." And I found out that when she was talking about the missionary, she was talking about our state mission offering, our offering for the winning of Texas to the Lord. So I thanked her for it, and I thought it was sweet of her to remember she wanted to help the missionaries. Well, when the little child left, I opened the envelope. I looked for a quarter in it, a dime, maybe three pennies, or a dollar bill at the most. When I opened the envelope, that sweet little girl had given one hundred dollars, one hundred dollars – Jody put it over there one hundred dollars, that little child. That’s the Spirit of Christ. That’s God, and it is a marvelous thing ministering to human need.
You have heard me describe my going around with Dr. Goldie in West Africa. The people there, when one of their family members is found leprous, they put them out to die of exposure, of starvation, or to be ravenously eaten by wild animals. And little children have leprosy. I did not realize that. And even those little children are pushed out into the open areas to die. Well, what Dr. Goldie did, he gathered them in what he called "clan settlements," and in a great arc through that nation; all of them here, and then all the lepers, then there and there in a great arc. And I went around with him for days. And I looked at him as he ministered to those lepers, and just watching. Who bought that medicine? We did. Who sent out that missionary? We did. And who provided for the building of those huts and that mud church house? We did. It blessed my soul, and still does just to think about it – loving God in loving His people, ministering to human need.
And what shall I say about our ministries here in our own church? O God, how desperately they are needed! I don’t recognize the world in which I now live. When I was your age, it was so different that it’s not to be compared. This last week, on television I watched a program concerning teenagers. And the program was saying that there is an epidemic of syphilis with teenagers. I thought syphilis had been almost taken from the earth by these new modern medicines. There not only is AIDS, but there is syphilis. And the drug addiction among our young people is rampant; and the promiscuity of their lifestyle is unthinkable.
I can hardly believe, I can hardly believe, this last week on the editorial page, there are one hundred fifty-five lives lost each year because of alcohol consumption. And it says that drugs always begin with alcohol; that’s the first. Then when you get started drinking, it goes into crack and cocaine and I don’t know what all. But I want you to listen to this: a major television station was interviewing the coaches of the team that won the Little League World Series. When asked, in presence of the team, eleven and twelve-year-olds, what they did to celebrate, the coaches replied, "We slipped away for cold beers." Ten and eleven years of age, "To celebrate, we get drunk." This is a representative of the finest of American life.
The next day the cartoon on the editorial page there is President Bush, and there’s the Drug Czar Bennett with the B and B Exterminating Company. They’re looking out, "Did we miss anything?" And back of them is an enormous cockroach, as big as the horizon, labeled "Alcohol."
That is the vital call of God to our church. Great God! What do you do when you face the disintegration of American life, the home, the family, the children? What do you do? There is one hope: it lies in the ministries of our dear church and our fellow Christian people.
There was a man in this pulpit who one time said, "The streets of the city offer no diplomas, they confer no degrees; but they educate with terrible precision!" I never heard a thing truer in my life. The president of the university from which I was graduated one time said, "I’m not saying," I’m quoting him, "I’m not saying that training and education and teaching are everything; but I am saying that whether a child becomes a communist, or an infidel, or a cannibal, or a goose-stepping Nazi depends upon how he is taught." That’s why we need to dedicate ourselves anew and afresh to all of the ministries of which we’re capable under God in teaching our children and in winning them to Christ and in building in them the faith of the Lord Jesus. God be with us. God help us. I have to close; my time is gone. But that’s the calling of God and our precious Savior to the greatest ministry that we could ever think for or pray over. And with God’s help, we’re going to rise and do it for Him and for the generation that is yet to come.
Now, Fred, let’s sing us a song. And while we sing the song, a family you to come into the fellowship of the church, a couple you, a one somebody you accepting Jesus as Savior, as the Spirit of God will press the appeal to your heart, you come and stand by me. On the first note of the first stanza, welcome; while we stand and while we sing.