Bearing Much Fruit
November 11th, 1990 @ 8:15 AM
BEARING MUCH FRUIT
DR. W. A. Criswell
11-11-90 8:15 a.m.
Well, thank you, and God bless you and the wonderful congregation that listens on radio. You are now a part of our precious First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Bearing Much Fruit. We are preaching through the Gospel of Mark, and we begin in the fourth chapter this morning hour.
Jesus began to teach by the sea side: there was gathered unto Him a great multitude, so much so that He entered into a ship, sat in the boat.
And He taught them many things by parables.
Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
And it came to pass, as he sowed, some of the seed fell by the way side, the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.
Some fell on stony ground, it had not much earth; sprang up, had no depth:
When the sun was up, it was scorched.
Some fell among thorns; the thorns grew up, and choked it.
But some fell on good ground, yielded fruit that sprang up and increased.
And He said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
First: if there is to be a harvest, there has to be toil and labor; there has to be work and commitment. “A sower went forth to sow” [Mark 4:3]; it involves an effort. And if there’s no effort, there will be no harvest.
Do you remember how Joshua begins? “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee [Joshua 1:5]. Take this people over Jordan: and all of the land of the Hittites and the Hivites and the Jebusites have I given to thee” [Joshua 1:2, 4, 3:10]. Then that next verse: “Every place upon which your feet shall trod, that have I given thee” [Joshua 1:3]. Well, how fine to place it in their hands as a gift from heaven; but when you read the story of Joshua and the conquest, the conquest of Canaan, every inch of the land they had to fight for. That’s the Lord’s assignment for us: it’s one of toil and labor; and there’s no harvest without it.
I one time heard of a farmer, and a man came by and visited with him, and asked him, “How is your corn crop?” The farmer replied, “I ain’t got none. I didn’t plant no corn. I was afraid of the drought.”
“Well, how’s your cotton crop?”
“Didn’t plant no cotton neither, was afraid of the boll weevil.”
“Well, how’s your potato crop?”
“Didn’t plant no taters. I was afraid of the tater bug.” Then he added, “Friend, I didn’t plant nothin’ this year. I was playin’ it safe.”
Now that is the diametric opposite of the will of God for our lives: we are to toil, we are to work, we are to labor, we are to pour our energy and strength into this assignment.
Sowing in the morning, sowing in the noonday,
Sowing in the evening and the dewy eve;
By and by the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
[“Bringing in the Sheaves,” Knowles Shaw, 1874]
All right, second: there is no harvest without failure and without disappointment. Did you notice, there was one out of four, one out of four that responded graciously to the seed sowing of the sower? [Mark 4:8]. Like the poet Browning: “Most progress is most failure” [Cleon, line 272]. And again, Browning wrote, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp; or what’s a heaven for?” [Andrea del Sarto, lines 95-96]. There will always be failure and disappointment attended with our effort, and our toil, and our work, and our dedicated trial.
Some of the seed, it says here, “fell by the way side”; some fell by the wayside [Mark 4:4]. There it is: a fellow has ears to hear, but he doesn’t hear; there’s no lodgment in the heart. That’s universal. There are people that can sit in a concert and listen to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and to them it is just noise and noise—strange to me how people are.
I looked at Niagara Falls one time. What a magnificent spectacle! And there were those who hasted to go away to a den and a dive and a joint right next door. I stood one time on the river Rogue in Oregon: absolutely the most heavenly scenery you could ever see in this earth. But everybody around there that I saw was in a dump there, in a stinking, smoke-filled, beer-filled room. It’s just life: some of the seed falls by the wayside [Mark 4:4]; finds no lodgment in the heart at all—absolutely not interested.
Then some of it, [it] says here, falls on stony ground [Mark 4:5]. For a moment it rises; there’s an interest in it. But because they are shallow, it fruits in nothing. If they respond, no time at all you see them never again.
“Some of it fell among the thorns, and the thorns choked it up” [Mark 4:7]; the cares of the world. Remember in the fourth chapter of 2 Timothy, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” [2 Timothy 4:10]; loving the wrong world, far more interested in the things out there than they are in things of God.
One out of four though bears fruit: “Some fell on good ground, and yielded an increase” [Mark 4:8]. There will always be some who will respond. That’s the encouragement of the preacher, and that’s the encouragement of the church. When we toil, when we pour our lives into the effort, some will always respond. In the story of the apostle Paul preaching the gospel in Athens, the people, the philosophers there, scoffed and laughed at his message; but some clave unto Paul [Acts 17:32, 34]. Always there is some.
I remember as a student pastor, driving by a little town where they were holding a revival meeting, and for two weeks, every night for two weeks the preacher preached and gave an invitation, and not a soul moved, for two weeks. But on the last Sunday night of the second week, they had a Pentecost! Always, some will respond.
May I now speak of the necessity of our laboring in the field of the Lord? First, because of the eternal nature of the soul—and how infinitely tragic that we go out into eternity lost, separated from God. O Christ, how people need to be won to the faith and the Lord Jesus! Nothing in the earth and all of the things in the earth sum together are not comparable to the necessity that a soul be born again into the kingdom of God [John 3:3].
A wife one time, such a burden for her husband’s soul, pled with me to win him to Jesus. I went to the home, had a little experience there I have never seen or had before. I sat down in the living room, and as the conversation continued, that woman, that dear wife, with the burden of her husband’s soul on her heart, turned to him and said, “Sweet husband, would you come and kneel with me before the pastor?” Well, I sat down; I was seated there. And she came and sat down, she came and kneeled down before me and took my hand, my right hand. And her husband, in keeping with her earnest appeal, came and knelt down and took my left hand. And there I was: seated in that chair, and those two kneeling before me. I had a little experience then that I have never forgotten, and once in a while is repeated here at the altar. As I tried to pray for that husband, her tears fell on my hand. That was one of the most unusual feelings I ever had; the warm tears of that wife, falling on my hand. Once in a while tears will fall on my hand here at the altar, with people praying. Well thank God! O God, praise Your name! As I prayed, and that dear wife and her tears interceded before God, that husband gave his heart to Jesus. That’s the most important of all of the decisions we ever make in our lives; and that’s why we need to pour our souls into the appeal.
Beside, and I haven’t time to expatiate on it—beside the vast need of our homes, of our cities, of our nation, of our world, I don’t need to remind you that there’s no such thing as taxes solving the problems of human society. Policemen don’t do it. Legislatures don’t do it. If you have a problem with crime and violence and drugs, the answer lies in a turning to God. If we had a great turning to the Lord, you’d have no problems in society at all. The answer lies in our Lord.
May I speak now of the effort of our work? How do we do it, pouring our lives into this ministry before God? How do we do it? First, and above all, in intercession and in prayer: it begins on our knees.
I had an experience one time in a big city here in America, in a great church, in the days when you really had marvelous revivals. I was preaching at ten o’clock that morning, in a weekday morning service. And I was preaching on the appeal to pray for the lost, to pray, to pray. When I was done, and the service was over, I was standing right down there in front of the pulpit, and a large group, a very large group was standing around me. They were shaking my hands; they were speaking words of encouragement and remembrance. And a tall man dressed in black, with two or three of his disciples, wormed his way down there, and stood directly in front of me. He had a big, big, big black Bible in his hand. And he thrust that Bible before me, and he said, “I listened to your sermon this morning; you preaching on praying for the lost. Where does it say in God’s Word that we’re to pray for the lost?” Well, I said, “Well, it just says all through the Word of God.” He says, “Point me out chapter and verse where it says pray for the lost.” Well, I said, “Friend, I just right now at the moment I can’t point you out chapter and verse.” Then he drew himself up to his height, and he said, “See there! You’re no preacher of the Word of God.” And he turned on his heel and with his disciples stalked out in triumph, and left me there in that large group surrounding me. I was never more humiliated in my life.
They took me to my hotel room. I walked in, shut the door, sat down there in the chair in that hotel room, buried my face in my hands, and cried, “O God! is that screwball, is that nut, is that nitwit, is that right? Is he right? There’s no place in God’s Word where God says we pray for the lost?” And I had one of those experiences such as you will have a very few times in a lifetime. Verily, verily it seemed to me that God came into that hotel room, and put His hand on my shoulder, and said, “Why, preacher, did you never read in My Word where Paul says, in Romans 10:1, ‘Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved, that they might be saved’?”
That’s we. That’s we. It begins in intercession and in prayer. “Lord, bless our witnessing people, that the lost might be saved.”
Implementing this labor and toil, in keeping with what Dr. Charles McLaughlin said, we all have a part; all of us have a part. We dedicate the strength of our hands, and the income of our lives, we dedicate it to God.
One of the most unusual things that I ever came across: a young businessman came to his pastor, and said, “Pastor, I want God to prosper me and to help me. Pastor, will you tell God for me, and pray for me, that if He will bless me, I’ll faithfully dedicate one tenth of everything God gives me, I’ll dedicate it to Him.” And the pastor got down on his knees by the side of that young businessman and prayed for him, “God bless him. Prosper him. Be with him in wisdom, in success. And everything You do for him, dear God, he will faithfully dedicate one tenth of all the increase to Thee. Now Lord, bless him.” Well, the Lord blessed that young fellow astronomically. And after the passing of time, the young man came back to the pastor and said, “Pastor, my tithe is so large, it is so astronomical, I want you to ask God that I be released from that covenant, from that promise. It’s too big! It’s too big.” And the pastor replied, he said, “My young friend, I can’t break that promise. We can’t annul that covenant. But this is what I’ll do: we’ll get down here on our knees, and I’ll pray God to take away the success, and you go back to the day when your income was small and you could pay your tithe. And we’ll ask God to go back to that day when you didn’t have much, and you faithfully set aside a tenth to the Lord.”
And the young man said, “Oh preacher, don’t do that! Don’t pray that. Don’t pray that.” And he went out and said, “I’ll be true to my commitment.”
That’s a part of all of our lives. If it is small, it’s a lot easier to tithe when you don’t have very much than it is when God blesses you astronomically. That’s a part of our commitment to Jesus: “Lord, whatever You give me, one tenth of it is sacred to Thee.” I have to close.
There is one other. There is one other: not only laboring for our Lord in prayer, in intercession, and not only sharing with Jesus a part of everything He places in my hand, but O God, beyond my conversion there is something else and other that God has for me. “Behold,” He said as He went up into heaven, “I send the Promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye…until ye be endued with power from on high” [Luke 24:49]. To be saved is not all God has for us. Greatest thing in the world that could ever happen to us is when we’re born again, when we’re saved [John 3:3, 7]. That’s marvelous! It’s incomparable! It means an eternal gift of life with God [John 3:16; John 10:27-29]. But the Lord has so much more beyond.
I’ve been saved, yes; I’ve been a child of God for seventy-one years. Great moment, marvelous moment: I’ve lived through that ten thousand times, when I was saved, when I gave my heart to Jesus, when He came into my life. But God has so much more, so many other things to enrich our lives, and this is one: the power of the Holy Spirit upon us, God’s presence in our midst [Luke 24:49].
O Lord, how I pray that in our services we sense the closeness of our blessed Jesus. And in our daily walks, He is by our side. And in all of the providences and vicissitudes of life, Jesus is our dearest Friend. And when we come into these services and make appeal, God is with us. The power of the Holy Spirit is evident, and He sanctifies and hallows the work of our hands, and the witness of our lips, and the loving nature of our lives. God grant it, and do it now, precious Savior.
When we sing our song of appeal, a somebody you to give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], a family you to come into the fellowship of our precious church, a somebody to answer a call of God in his heart, make the decision now. In the presence of our Savior and in the appeal of the Holy Spirit, make the decision now, and come and stand by me. Do it, and the angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.