God’s Time Is Now
January 19th, 1992 @ 8:15 AM
GOD’S TIME IS NOW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-19-92 8:15 a.m.
We welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. And may the Lord bless to our hearts the message from this passage in Ecclesiastes. “There is a time and a purpose for all things under the sun” [Ecclesiastes 3:1].
One of the most impressive of all the pieces of statuary I have ever seen in my life is blocking the main street that goes through Chicago University. The artist has cast in bronze a dynamic, impressive, likeness of time—of death. And across a small lagoon, he is looking at the panorama of life. Here is a child looking upon time—death—with wide open wonder. Here is a youth covering his eyes from such a horrible spectacle, and here is an old woman on her knees with her hands extended, welcoming the day of death.
Time; the creation of God, and all of the purposes of the Lord are wrought out and expressed in time. As Galatians 4:4 avows: “In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made unto the law, to redeem us who were cursed by the law” [Galatians 4:4-5]. Think of all of the generations and the thousands of years through which God worked in time bringing His Son into the world. Time is the essence of all of God’s purposes and providences. It is a strange thing to me that the Revelation begins with that avowal and closes with that avowal. In Revelation 1: “Blessed are they that read and they that hear the words of these prophecies. . .for the time is at hand” [Revelation 1:3]. Then the last, twenty-second chapter: “Seal not the words of this prophecy, for the time is at hand” [Revelation 22:10]. And how blessed are they who are sensitive to the times of God. First Chronicles writes: “The children of Issachar were men of understanding the times, to know what Israel had to do” [1 Chronicles 12:32]. So we speak of time in the purpose and plan of God for us.
First there is a time of supplication, and intercession, and seeking the face of our Lord. Before our Savior wrought any of the great things for which God sent Him into the earth; He spent His time in supplication and prayer; prayed all night long before the choosing of the twelve apostles [Luke 6:12-15]; prayed earnestly in Gethsemane before His crucifixion [Luke 22:44]. His life was characterized by one of interminable intercession. And thus the church, with one accord, they prayed and sought the face of God before the day of Pentecost [Acts 1:14]; and thus with us, before the hour of exigency and destiny we are called to pray, to intercede, to seek God’s face and will; a time of intercession [Philippians 4:6].
There is not any moment in my life that is more impressive in my heart and memory than upon the occasion when I announced to our congregation in Oklahoma, “When the word comes that our troops are to storm the shores of Normandy, when that word comes, immediately all of us are to come, come to the house of God and to pray.” Word came to me at 2 o’clock in the morning, “Our troops are storming the shores of France.” I immediately dressed and went down to the church, and when I walked in I was overwhelmed. The balcony around like this, and on the floor like this, it was jammed to the last capacity with these who were seeking the face of God. All of our lives ought to be like that. It is a time of intercession, of prayer. And if we were thus to seek God’s face, in all the vicissitudes and providences of life, we would be strong, and courageous, and unafraid for the morrow [Philippians 4:7].
I think one of the strangest things I ever read in the Bible is when Gideon called the men of Israel together to face the invading Midianites, and there were 32,000 men who responded. And God said to Gideon, “You make the announcement, ‘If you are afraid, if you are timorous, you go home.’” You remember how many went home? There were 22,000 that turned [Judges 7:2-3]. I cannot think of such a thing; facing the future and the call of God for each one of our lives. How do you do it? With fear and with trembling, with anxiety for the tomorrow? No! Having prayed and having sought the face of God, rise with every morning sun with courage, and confidence, and persuasion that God in His grace and goodness will see us through; will bless us in the way and in the work. There is a time and a place for everything under the sun; a time of intercession and seeking the face of God [Ecclesiastes 3:1].
There is a time and a season for everything under the sun [Ecclesiastes 3:1]; a time of recommitment, and reconsecration, and renewal, and revival. Who has the revival? We do. The lost just come to the burning; it is we who reconsecrate and rededicate ourselves to the Lord God. The church is “we”; it is “I.” If I do not repent, the church does not repent. If I do not turn, the church does not turn. If I do not reconsecrate, the church does not reconsecrate. And if I am not caught up in revival, the church is not revived. It must begin in me.
One of the most dynamic of all of the chapters in the Bible is Genesis 35. After Jacob has gone from home in Israel to Haran [Genesis 29:1-4] and all the experiences that follow after, then chapter 35: God said to Jacob: “Go back to Bethel” [Genesis 35:1].
Back to Bethel I must go,
Back where the rivers of pure water flow.
Back to the true life my love longs to know.
Bethel is calling and I must go.
[Author and work unknown]
A time of reconsecration, and recommitment, and revival; for every purpose and for every reason there is a time appointed of God under the sun; a time of separation, translated here: “A time to tear” [Ecclesiastes 3:7]. One of the most unusual things that you will find in the Bible is the use of a word like that. The Bible begins with that—badal, badal—translated in most of our texts, “God divided, God separated.” So the first words: God separated His creation: He separated it into planets, and into stars, and into universes [Genesis 1:14-19]. God divided His creation; God divided the night from the day, the light from the darkness [Genesis 1:3-5]. God divided the water from the land, the rivers from the sea [Genesis 1:6-8]. That’s the way the creation begins: God divided it.
And God no less divides and calls us to separation from the foibles and from the vanities of the world; we are to be a separated people, a called-out people. God separated Barnabas and Saul for the work where unto He called them [Acts 13:2]. And we are called to be separate from the world [2 Corinthians 6:16-18]. Thus, the story of Jacob; God called him away, separated him from Esau and from the Canaanites [Genesis 27:43-28:5]; the last time he ever saw his mother, kissing her good-bye. God separated Moses from Egypt and from Pharaoh and sent him out into the desert [Exodus 2:14-15]. God separated in the life of Job—one of ease, one of affluence, one of splendor—and God separated him from his children, from all of his possessions, even from his health [Job 1-2]. And God separated Saul from the establishments of the Jewish people [Philippians 3:4-7]. God calls us to a separated life from the world [2 Corinthians 6:16-18]. I could illustrate that so easily. Wouldn’t you be surprised if you found your pastor in a certain place, doing certain things, involved in certain activities? God calls us to a separated life [2 Corinthians 6:16-18].
And of course, all is a purview and a parable of the ultimate and final separation from this world, when God calls us in death to another life in eternity [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. How inexorable is that ultimate separation. I read a sermon in Bozrah, down there at the southern part of the Euphrates River. I have been there. It is a great city. A servant came to his master in the morning and said, “Oh my master, my master! I saw Death on the street of Bozrah this morning, and he looked at me. Oh, master! Lend me your fleetest horse that I may flee to Baghdad.” And the good master, in keeping with the earnest request of the servant, gave to his servant his fleetest horse, and the servant made his way to Baghdad. That afternoon—that afternoon, the master saw Death on the street of Bozrah and the master went up to Death and said, “What do you mean by frightening my servant so?” And Death replied, “Good master, I did not intend to frighten him. I was merely surprised to see him here in Bozrah because I have an appointment to meet him in the morning in Baghdad.” There is an inexorable date that we have with death [Hebrews 9:27]. That is God’s separation from this world for us who are in this pilgrimage.
And that leads me to my final avowal: O God, in the face of the providence of life and in the inevitability of eternity, there is a time and a season for everything under the sun [Ecclesiastes 3:1]. There is a time, and a place, and a season, and an hour for our salvation [2 Corinthians 6:2]. May I speak of that briefly first? Nationally, internationally, I do not think there ever was a time in the world when such an open door has been given to the Christian people as we have in Eastern Europe and in Russia today. Friday at noon we had a lunch here at the church with men who are interested in the message of Christ and salvation brought to those hungry-hearted people in Russia and Eastern Europe. By law, you can’t teach God in the public schools of America, but you can teach the Bible and have services of Christ in the universities and in the schools of that atheistic country. Oh, what a day! What an opportunity! God’s time of salvation, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if this whole world could be brought together in a great commitment to the work of the Lord in all of His creation. Instead of spending the fortunes of our nation on armaments and military supplies, to do it: to take all that God has given us for the salvation of mankind and for the subduing of the whole creation of God in His worshipful name. “There is a time and a season for everything under the sun” [Ecclesiastes 3:1]. And that time of salvation is for us; it is for you [2 Corinthians 6:2].
My father was an uneducated cowpoke. He was wonderfully converted out there on the range in West Texas when he was twenty-seven years of age. As those great ranches broke up and they invented barbed wire—don’t need a cowboy any longer—my father became a barber. And as I grew up as a lad, every day of my life, I saw my father in that shop, reading the Word of God; reading the Word of God; reading this Holy Bible. It brought into his life deep convictions. I am just amazed as I think through some of them. And one of them was this: he believed that there was a time and a place for every man under the sun to give his life to Jesus. And if he turned aside from that final call, he committed the unpardonable sin [Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30]. He would never be saved.
And I lived through, as a little boy, an illustration of that in our little church. There was a town marshal named Charlie Step. And in a revival meeting—and I, as a little boy eight or nine years old, I sat right there and watched him, and heard him—in that revival service, Charlie Step was deeply moved, and God’s sainted friends gathered round him and pled with Charlie Step to receive the Lord as his Savior, give himself to Jesus. And he steadfastly refused and hardened his heart. I stood there and watched him, and he cried like a child; but held on to the back of the pew in front of him and refused to respond to the appeal of God. My father said to me, “He will never be saved. That is God’s last appeal to his heart; he has turned down the overtures of grace for the last time, and he will never be moved again.”
So as a child, I watched. And when I moved away, I kept in touch; and Charlie Step was never moved again. He never wept again. The Holy Spirit never struggled with him again; and he died a lost man and is in hell today. Whether my father is correct or not is known but to God, I just know that there is a time and a season when God appeals to a man’s heart to give himself to Jesus, to accept the Lord as his Savior, and he can turn Christ down for the last time and never be moved again, and never be saved, and die lost.
O God! “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” [2 Corinthians 6:2].
There is a time, I know not when,
A place, I know not where,
That marks the destiny of men,
to glory or despair.
There is a line, by us unseen,
That crosses every path;
The hidden boundary between
God’s mercy and God’s wrath.
How long may men go on in sin?
How long will God forbear?
Where does hope end? and where begins
the confines of despair?
Our answer from the skies is sent-
‘Ye who from God depart,
While it is called today, Repent!
And harden not your heart.’
[from Spurgeon’s “The Soul’s Crises” #906]
There is a time and a season for everything under the sun [Ecclesiastes 3:1], and there is a time when I must give my heart to God [2 Corinthians 6:2]. There is a time when I am to be saved. There is a time when the Holy Spirit pleads with my soul, and if I turn God down I am forever lost [Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30]. O God, that when the Spirit knocks at the door of my heart, I’ll answer, “Yes Lord, yes!”