Bearing Much Fruit
November 11th, 1990 @ 10:50 AM
BEARING MUCH FRUIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-11-90 10:50 a.m.
Welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor expounding the first part of the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, through which we are now preaching. It reads thus:
Jesus began to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto Him a great multitude….
He taught them many things by parables…
Hearken, He said: Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side…
Some fell on stony ground…
Some fell among thorns…
And other fell on good ground, it yielded fruit, increased, some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred.
And He said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
So hearkening, as our Lord admonished, to the teaching of our Savior: first of all, there is no harvest without a sower. “Behold, there went out a sower to sow” [Mark 4:3]; there is no harvest without toil, without work, without labor.
When I turn to the Book of Joshua, the first chapter of that description of the conquest, the conquest of Canaan, it starts off like this:
As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee . . . Be strong and of a good courage: And as I promised My servant Moses, I give unto you the land of the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites.
Then that [third] verse says, “And wherever, every place where your feet trod, that have I given you” [Joshua 1:3]. And over and over in that first beginning, introductory chapter, God gave to Israel that holy land. But they had to fight for it every inch of the way. It was, as I say, it was a conquest.
So it is with the work of the kingdom of God, and somewhat descriptive of all of our tasks. Without labor, without trial, without work, we don’t do God’s will in the earth. We don’t have a harvest. Did you ever hear of that story of a fellow that came by, and he was talking to an old farmer. And he asked the old codger, he said to him, “How is your corn crop?”
“Oh,” he said, “I ain’t planted no corn this year. I was afraid of the drought.”
“Well,” the fella said, “how’s your cotton crop?”
And the old codger replied, “I ain’t got no cotton crop. I was afeared of the boll weevil.”
“Well,” the fellow said, “how is your potato crop?”
And the old codger replied, “I ain’t got no tater crop; I was afraid of that tater bug.” Then he added, “Friend, I ain’t planting nothing this year; I is playing it safe.”
There is no harvest without labor, toil, effort. Remember that song?
Sowing in the morning, sowing in the noonday,
Sowing in the evening and the dewy eve;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
[from “Bringing in the Sheaves,” Knowles Shaw, 1874]
There is no harvest without labor.
Number two: there is no harvest without disappointment and failure. “It came to pass as he sowed,” there was one chance out of four that he would succeed. “Some fell by the way side. Some fell on stony ground. Some fell among the thorns. But some fell on good ground and brought forth a harvest” [Mark 4:4-8]. There is no harvest without disappointment and failure.
The poet Robert Browning said, “Most progress is most failure” [Cleon, line 272]. He also said in another one of his poems, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” [Andrea del Sarto, lines 95-96]. Most progress, most failure; no harvest without disappointment.
“Some fell by the way side” [Mark 4:4], they hear and they don’t hear [Matthew 13:13]. There is no lodgment in the heart. There are those who can go to a wonderful symphony and sit there and listen to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and to them it is a jumble of noise. They hear, but they don’t hear.
I marvel how people, in the presence of the very exhibition of God Himself, will hasten away to nothing. I stood one time at Niagara Falls, just amazed at the wonder of that phenomenal work of the Lord God. And there were those that were hastening away to a joint close by. I stood one time by the River Rogue in Oregon. Absolutely one of the most heavenly, beautiful, impressive places in this earth, and at the same time, there were those in a dump there full of stench, beer, and smoke. That’s life.
“Some of it fell by the way side” [Mark 4:4], they hear, they don’t hear; they are not interested. To them, the benediction is an amnesty, “Let’s be on our way.” There are those; “Some fell on stony ground” [Mark 4:5]. And they are shallow; their personalities, their life, their interests are superficial and ephemeral. And if they do respond it will be for a moment, then they’re gone and you never see them again.
Some of the seed fell on stony ground [Mark 4:5]. “And some of it fell among thorns [Mark 4:7]. And the cares of this world choked it and it died. You remember in 2 Timothy chapter 4, Paul said, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” [2 Timothy 4:10]. Loving the wrong world, they are consumed by the things of the flesh, by the ephemeralities of this present possession, and the Word dies.
“But some fell on good ground and yielded fruit unto the Lord” [Mark 4:8]. God will always give us some, if we will try. Even in Athens, when Paul preached this imitable, heavenly gospel, the philosophers of Athens scoffed and laughed at him. But the Book says some clave to Paul [Acts 17:32, 34]. There are always some who will respond.
I remember as a youth, going by and one of my friends was holding a meeting in the little town through which I passed to my little church. He held those services for two solid weeks. Two solid weeks, and not a soul moved. None responded; nobody. But on that last night of the second week, he had a Pentecost. If we’ll try, if we’ll sow, God will give us some. Maybe one in four, but God will always give us some.
May I speak now of the necessity lies back of your labor, our sowing? “Why, pastor?” First, because of the eternal nature of our souls. This house in which you see me live faces an ultimate, and final, and inevitable, and terminable decay. You are going to take this house in which I live out to a cemetery here in Dallas, and you are going to bury it out of sight. But the me that you don’t see, the me that looks at you through my eyes, the me that is I on the inside of this house, that’s forever. And when I die I go to my Maker and there stand in the great judgment of Almighty God [1 Peter 4:5], and then what? “O Christ, if I’m lost and the judgment day consigns me to an everlasting perdition—O God, I need a Savior! I need, I need God. I need the Lord.” And that’s the necessity that lies back of our labor and toil in the field of our wonderful Lord.
There was a woman, a wife, burdened for her husband. And I went to the home and was seated there in a chair, seated there in a chair. And in the course of the conversation, with a great burden of heart for her husband, she asked her husband to come and kneel before me. She knelt down in front of me and put her hand on my knee, on my right knee. She knelt there. And she invited her husband, and he was kind enough to acquiesce. He knelt and put his hand on my left knee. And there I sat in that home with that wife kneeling before me and her husband kneeling before me. As I prayed for her husband, I had an unusual feeling. Her tears fell on my right hand, and that was the strangest feeling, her tears warm and soft, falling on my hand. Once in a while, I will feel that down here at this altar, when I pray the tears will fall on my hand; unusual moment in my life. And as I prayed the husband’s heart was open to the Lord. And there on his knees before me, he accepted Christ as his Savior. That’s why our sowing and our toil in the field of the Lord; that the lost might be saved.
And may I add another facet to that rebirth, that change of life, that’s the answer to all of the problems of this world: the crime, and the violence, and the drugs, and the sin? I don’t exaggerate when I avow to you that money—taxes will not solve those problems. Laws and legislature will not solve those problems; policemen and the strong arm of force and the law will not solve those problems. God can; the Lord can. If there were a great turning to our wonderful Savior, you’d have none of those problems; not in Dallas, and not in our state, and not in our nation, and not in our world. The necessity that lies back of our labor and our toil in the field of the Lord is—great God, our soul’s salvation in the world to come, and the very life and structure of our state and nation and world in these days in which we live!
May I now speak of the grace toward which we turn, and the help that we seek from heaven in our toil and in our labor? First: prayer, intercession—asking God’s help with us—importunity, knocking at the door. “O God, would You listen to Your children as they pray and work with us, and save the lost? Give us the lost.”
I was preaching in one of the great cities of America, in one of our great, great churches in a revival meeting. And at 10:00 o’clock we had our morning service, and after I had preached at that 10:00 o’clock hour, I was standing there in front of the pulpit. And there was a large group standing around me; they were gracious, shaking my hand and encouraging me in the faith. And while that large group was standing around me after the service, why, there came down the aisle a tall man dressed in black with a hawk face, followed by two of his disciples. He came up to me, wormed his way through that crowd, and held out a big black Bible, and said, “I heard you preach this morning. And you were praying for the lost and asking the people to pray for the lost. Where does it say in that Bible we are to pray for that lost?”
Well, I said, “It’s just all the way through it.”
He said, “Show me chapter and verse, where does it says in that Bible we are to pray for the lost.”
“Well,” I said, “neighbor, I don’t know how to reply. I just, I just can’t point out chapter and verse.” And he drew himself up to his height and looked at me with disdain and scorn and said, “That’s what I said about you. You’re not a Bible preacher. You don’t preach the truths of God.” And he turned around on his heel and walked triumphantly out, followed by his two or three disciples, and left me there. I was so humiliated and embarrassed with all of those people around me.
Well, they took me to the hotel, and I went in and closed the door and sat down and buried my face in my hands and cried, “O, Lord God, is that ecclesiastical nut and nitwit right? Is there no place in God’s Word where it says we are to pray for the lost?” Well, sweet people, I had one of those experiences that you will have just once in a while in a lifetime. It veritably seemed to me that the Lord God Himself came into that hotel room and put His hand on my shoulder. And the Lord said to me, “Why preacher, did you never read in My Holy Word, the Book of Romans chapter 10, verse 1, where My servant Paul said, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God is that my people Israel might be saved” [Romans 10:1]. Did you never read that? Praying for the lost. Praying for our services. Praying for God’s mighty arm outstretched in salvation, praying, praying, interceding.
A second thing in doing this work of the Lord in the field of our Savior: all of us supporting, sharing in the work, all of us. There was a young businessman that came to the pastor and said, “Pastor, I want you to pray for me. I want God to make me successful in my business. And pastor, pray for me that God will work with me and bless me. And you tell Him, pastor, in that prayer of dedication and consecration, that I promise, make a covenant that one tenth of everything God gives me, I’ll faithfully return to Him.” So the pastor got down with him on his knees and prayed for the young businessman. “Lord, bless him and prosper him, and hear our intercession, and may he be marvelously, marvelously endowed from God in this work. And he says he’ll make a covenant: if You will do it, Lord, one tenth of everything that You give him, he’ll faithfully return to You.”
Well, God answered that prayer. The young fellow prospered marvelously and his tithe became astronomical. So the young fellow, as the days and the years passed, came back to the pastor and said to him, “Pastor, my tithe is too big! It’s too large, and I want you to pray God that I be relieved from this covenant and promise that I made. My tithe is too big.” And the pastor replied, he said, “My son, I can’t annul that covenant, and I can’t go back on that promise that we made. But I tell you what I will do. You get down here by my side, and I’ll pray that God will take away the great prosperity and the big tithe that you pay and go back to the days when you had just a little income out of which you faithfully tithed. I’ll just pray that all of that success depart and you go back to the days when you were just beginning.”
And the young fellow said, “Oh, pastor! Don’t pray that! Don’t pray that. Don’t pray that. I’ll just keep praising God and I’ll keep giving Him a tithe of every increase that He bestows upon me.”
God will bless you, if you will take Him at His word. And what a beautiful precious thing to have a part in the kingdom. Whether it be a little; wonderful God, bless that little. Whether it be much, wonderful God, bless that much. And to the ends of the earth, if there is somebody preaching the gospel in East Africa—and that boy there, Charles, will be leaving Tuesday for East Africa, he and his sweet wife—whether it be in East Africa, whether it be in Afghanistan, whether it be the Orient, anywhere in the world, Lord, I have a part in it. And not only do I pray God’s increase from heaven in souls, but I pray God’s blessings upon the witness in the earth. It’s something in which all of us can share. I have to close.
We are asking the Lord’s blessings in this work, in prayer, in our tithes and offerings. And once again, “Behold,” said our Lord closing the Gospel of Luke, “I send the Promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye, tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” [Luke 24:49]
O God! If we do what we do in our human strength, it falls to the ground, but Lord, if what we do we do in the power of God, omnipotence is with us. God has something other than just when we were saved. These disciples were all Christians; they were saved, but God has so much over and beyond than our salvation.
Why, sweet people, I was saved seventy years ago. Gracious God, I’ve relived that ten thousand times, ten thousand times! When I was saved, when Jesus came into my heart, and I gave my life to Him, but since that time, over and over and over again, has God revisited me. God has so much over and beside than when we were converted.
The power, you pray for the power:
O God, for the power, the Pentecostal power,
That sinners be converted and Thy name glorified!
O God, for the power, the old-time power;
Thy floodgates on us, O God, open wide!
[Adapted from “Old Time Power,” by Charles Hutchins Gabriel]
And that’s my prayer for our service, for our people, for our church, for our witnessing work, for our toil and labor in this field of the Lord. O God, may we work with Pentecostal power! God, be with us.
And to the great throng in the sanctuary this morning hour, in the balcony round, down a stairway; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, I’ve decided for God. I’ve opened my heart to Him and I’m on the way.” To give your life to the Savior [Romans 10:8-13], to come into the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25], to answer a call of the Spirit in your heart, make the decision now. Give your life to Him who died for you and rose [1 Corinthians 15:3] that He might open the gates of heaven for us; make it now, come now, welcome now, angels attend you now, while we stand and while we sing.
I. No harvest without toil, labor (Mark 4:3)
A. Joshua and the
conquest of Canaan (Joshua 1:4-6)
B. Without work, we
don’t do God’s will in earth – no harvest
A. Some fell by the
B. Some fell on stony
C. Some fell among
thorns (2 Timothy 4:10)
D. Some fell on good
ground and yielded fruit
III. The need for the laborer
A. Lost in eternity
B. Need for change in
life – answer to problems of the world
IV. Facing our task
A. In prayer, intercession
B. In support
C. The power, infilling,
enablement of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:48)