Serving God Mightily
February 16th, 1992 @ 8:15 AM
SERVING GOD MIGHTILY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-16-92 8:15 a.m.
Welcome, the uncounted multitudes of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now a part of our precious First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is W. A. Criswell bringing the message entitled Working Mightily for God. In our preaching through the Book of Ecclesiastes this is the sixth sermon. And the text is an exposition, and the message in chapter 9, verses 10 and 11: “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; there is no working…beyond the grave. I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong” [Ecclesiastes 9:10-11].
First of all, the gospel of hard work: John Ruskin wrote, “You may find a clever man who is also an indolent man. But you will never find an indolent man who is a great man.” Whenever I hear of any young man starting out in life, and praises being a young man of promise, a youth of genius, I always ask just one question, “Does he work?” God sells all things to them for labor. And our Lord said it in an unusual way in Matthew 11:12, “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Without holy violence, effort, dedication, there is no entrance into the kingdom of glory.
“Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” [Ecclesiastes 9:10], whatsoever. Whether it be the head of a corporation, or whether it be the duties assigned to a humble wife around the house; whatever that task, we are to do it with all of our dedicated might. “Whatsoever your hand finds to do”; this hand is a gift of God. It came from Him; and it’s to be dedicated to work in His blessed name. The man with a withered hand, Jesus healed his hand [Mark 3:1-5]. That hand is from God. The man with the crippled foot, Jesus healed his foot [Matthew 9:1-8, John 5:8-9]. That foot is a gift from God. And the man born blind, Jesus opened his eyes [John 9:1-7]. These eyes are gifts from God. And my hands and my feet and my eyes and my strength are to be dedicated to the work of our precious Lord.
This hand stretched out to others, welcoming God’s children and the stranger into the house of the Lord. This hand used to press a doorbell, to knock at the door. This hand used to dial the telephone number. This hand used to write a card of invitation. This hand used to write a check. This hand used to hold a book of song in the choir. This hand used to open the Bible, God’s Holy Word. “Whatsoever thy hand finds to do, do it with all your might” [Ecclesiastes 9:10], as unto the Lord, doing it for God.
When the Lord made our first parents and placed them in the garden of Eden, He placed them there to dress it and to keep it [Genesis 2:15]. They were to work for God, and so our assignments through these years that have followed after. Our work is recorded in God’s Book of Life in heaven [Revelation 20:12]. And it is no longer secular, but sacred. It is no longer temporary, but eternal. It is no longer a rat race in the earth; it is a trust and an endowment from God.
One of the things I read in history: how is it that the Christian faith overwhelmed the entire idolatrous Roman Empire, the civilized world? One of the reasons was, a Christian who was hired was one in a million; he worked, and dedicated life and labor to the Lord; won for Him the love and the respect of the whole civilized world.
And I haven’t time to speak of our spiritual work for Jesus. Oh, dear me! the lost in the city, and the children that need to be taught, and the singles that need to be won, and families that need to be brought to the blessed Jesus. “Whatsoever your hand finds to do it, do it with all your might” [Ecclesiastes 9:10].
“I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not not to swift, nor the battle to the strong” [Ecclesiastes 9:11]. “I returned” [Ecclesiastes 9:11]. Well, where had he been? And why was he there? And what of his return and coming back? “When I returned” [Ecclesiastes 9:11]. What he’s speaking of is this: seated in his royal palace, he began to think about the unfairness and the unjust things in this world, and they’re everywhere. There are some who are strong, and who are able, and who are gifted, and they’re beautiful; they’re successful and crowned with every glory. And there are some who are weak, and anemic, and incapable, and unable, and ungifted, and unbeautiful. And as he sat there in his palace and thought of the unjustness of human life and experience, he went out into the highways and into the byways, and in the ups and downs of human life he found it to be of a different complexion. The race is not always to the swift, and the battle is not always to the strong [Ecclesiastes 9:11]. There is in human life and in human experience, there is a something else, there is a something other. There are infinite providences around us that are inexplicable. And there are dramatic, unexpected developments in all of the life that we experience. And some of us call that God.
When we face the providences of life, it’s not always the mighty and the strong and the gifted who triumph. Sometimes, under God’s aegis, it’s the weak, and the feeble, and the unable, and the incapable. Why, I can imagine what the army of the Philistines thought when giant Goliath, over eight feet tall, with his helmet, with his head dress, with his armor, with his spear, with his sword, with his shield, stood there damning the God of Israel! And the champion of the Lord was a lad. He was a boy. He was a kid. He was unshaven. He was just a little fellow, armed with five smooth stones and a sling. But right there where the armor never covered him God gave that little boy an incomparable victory [1 Samuel 17:46-50]. “You come to me with a sword and a shield; I come to you in the name of the Lord God that you have defied” [1 Samuel 17:40-45]. It’s not always to the strong and the gifted that the victory is allowed.
One of the most unusual things I ever read is from Victor Hugo. He himself is a Frenchman. And he is writing on the battle of Waterloo. Quote from him,
“Was it possible for Napoleon to win the battle?”
“Why not? On account of Wellington?”
“On account of Blucher?”
“Then on whose account?”
“On the account of God!”
Can you believe a secular historian writing “Streaming blood, overcrowded graveyards, mothers in tears are formidable pleaders. When the earth is suffering from an excessive burden, there are mysterious groans from the shadow, which the Infinite hid. God hid it. Napoleon had been denounced in infinitude, and his fall was decided by God! Waterloo was not a battle; it was the hand of the Lord.” Can you believe a secular historian writing that? There is Someone, there is some else over beside what we experience in human life that defines who wins the race and for whom the triumph is not fate. Well, that’s one of the things that I meet everywhere. It isn’t just these that are capable and able that God uses. The humblest and sometimes those that are the most afflicted are these that are the most marvelously used.
Homer, the great poet of ancient days, was blind. Epictetus, the ancient Stoic philosopher, was a slave. Amos was a sheepherder [Amos 1:1]. John and Peter were uneducated fishermen [Matthew 4:18-22], and John Bunyan was a tinker, and William Carey was a shoe cobbler. And did you know these men had learning disabilities? Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Nelson Rockefeller, Sir Winston Churchill. As I read these, can you believe such a thing? They had difficulties learning: Thomas Edison, Pablo Picasso, Hans Christian Andersen, and a host of others.
Isn’t it remarkable how God moves in human life? Let me read to you out of the Word of the Lord:
For you see your calling, my brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things that are mighty;
And base things of the world and things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.
[1 Corinthians 1:26-28]
Tell me; wouldn’t you have thought that when the kingdom of God was brought to men by our Savior from heaven, the first to enter in would have been the educated and ecclesiastesically-trained Pharisees and Sadducees? Wouldn’t you have thought it? Who was it that entered the kingdom of God? It was the despised outcast harlots and unclean like Mary Magdalene [Luke 8:2]; and it was the unspeakably unwelcome publicans like Levi Matthew [Matthew 9:9]. Isn’t that God? What an amazing thing. “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong” [Ecclesiastes 9:11].
I think God intends, in those providences and in this revelation from His Holy Word, three things for us. Number one: we’re not to be discouraged, no matter who we are, no matter what lack of gifts or endowments, no matter what the handicap, the incapability or the providences of hurt and sorrow; we’re not to be discouraged. What we’re doing, we’re doing under the hand and the will of God.
Number two: we’re to be humble before the Lord. If I am strong, I am not to despise the weak. And if I am successful, I am not to look down with contempt with those that are struggling and hurt and having a difficult time.
And third: our rewards and our happiness comes from God. He looks upon us in loving grace and favor.
You tell me: the colony of Philippi was called a Roman colony. It was free. It paid no taxes. They were of all people most blessed. And there were two stratēgoi, the Bible calls them, there were two stratēgoi, translated magistrates. There were two stratēgoi who governed the colony. And upon a day, and upon a night, they’re in a luxurious house, and they are enjoying the freedom and fame of the free colony of Rome. And that night, in prison, having been beat, covered in blood and their feet in stocks, and their hands in chains, that night at midnight, there’s another two named Paul and Silas who are praying and singing praises to God [Acts 16:22-25]. You tell me, who was blessed and who was happy? God makes a difference.
Or take the Lord Jesus, who lived in the day of Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius Caesar, head of the Roman Empire, a mighty, mighty man; the richest man in the world, the most powerful man that lived, Tiberius Caesar. He lived on an enchanted island, Tiberius Caesar. You know what Pliny wrote about him? “Tristissimus, tristissimus, ut constat, hominum,” [Pliny the Elder, Natural Histories, XXVIII.5.23] “He was the most gloomy of men.” That’s what Pliny wrote about Tiberius Caesar.
You know what Jesus said? “My joy I give unto you that your joy may be full” [John 15:11]. And He said that the night before He was crucified, at nine o’clock the next morning [Matthew 27:45-50]. It’s God that makes the difference! “The race is not to the strong, and the battle is not to the mighty” [Ecclesiastes 9:11].
One other thing he says here, that we have this moment in this life, and in the grave there is not a work assigned [Ecclesiastes 9:10]. In other words, what I do for God I must do now. Every tick of the clock brings that much nearer the conclusion and consummation and climax of my life. I must work for God now; I must do it now. And not only that, but what I am throughout eternity is the forming of my life now, played again and again, repeated again and again for all eternity; this life that I now live. And when in eternity I review my life, O God, would I wish I had done it in a different way? Will I wish I had been more faithful, and more devoted, and more prayerful, and more given to the work of the Lord? In the grave, he says, our present work is finished, and our character is made.
So death is a graduation. Death is my report card. Death is the fruit of all of my life. And to the one who is in God, in Christ, death is the door into heaven; it is the door of triumph [1 Corinthians 15:54-55]. No longer is it an enemy [1 Corinthians 15:26]. No longer is the sting of horror and defeat and darkness. But to the child of God, death is the open door into the very presence of our Savior. O God, with what joy and triumph the child of God ought to face that ultimate and final climax of life. I’m now going to be with Jesus.
We were talking in the prayer room back there, and good doctor, I’ve already told my wife and these close to us in this church, when time comes from me to die, don’t you put all those tubes around and on me. Don’t you try to prolong the agony of my decease. When the time comes for me to die, that’s going to be the greatest moment of my life; that’s going to be the greatest triumph of my days! That’s when I’ll see Jesus, face to face, and I’ll sit down with Him in the kingdom of God. O Lord, what a blessing the grave, death, is to the follower of the precious Lord Jesus.
And that is my appeal, great God. What the grave is and what the death is to those who are lost, O God, O God, it’s the door into hell and into damnation. There will be no churches there. There will be no Sunday school classes there. There will be no singing of the psalms there. There will be no invitation hymns there. There will be no Jesus there. There will be no Holy Spirit there pleading in our hearts. There will be no grace of God to cover our sins with the blood of the Lamb [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. O God!
SERVING GOD MIGHTILY
I. The gospel of hard work
1. Matthew 11:12 – effort, dedication, force
2. Ecclesiastes 9:10 – do your tasks with all your might
3. Colossians 3:23 – do as unto the Lord
II. A call of God for us all – Ecclesiastes 9:11
III. The reason for our work now
1. Death will come, after that you cannot return
2. Beyond death is eternity- our final report card