With Thanksgiving to God
November 22nd, 1992 @ 10:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-22-92 10:50 a.m.
And welcome again to the multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on radio and on television. You are listening to the services of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the senior pastor, W. A. Criswell, bringing the message. In keeping with our Thanksgiving season it is entitled With Thanksgiving to God. Our text is in Psalm 116:12-18:
What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?
I will take the cup of salvation; I will call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows… now in the presence of all His people…
I will offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people.
With thanksgiving to God, I thank the Lord for my life, that I was born without being maimed or crippled. As I look upon a newborn baby that is hurt and born with devastating injury, I cannot but thank God that when He gave me life in this world He gave me a body that was whole and complete. With thanksgiving to God, I thank Him for my life.
Today upon a bus, I saw
a lovely girl with golden hair.
I envied her, she seemed so gay
And I wished I were as fair,
When suddenly she rose to leave,
I saw her hobble down the aisle.
She had one leg and wore a crutch,
And as she passed, she smiled.
O God forgive me when I whine,
I have two legs, the world is mine.
And then I stopped to buy some sweets,
The lad who sold them had such charm,
I talked with him, he seemed so glad,
If I were late, it would do no harm.
And as I left, he said to me,
“I thank you, you are so kind.
It’s nice to talk with folks with you,
You see,” he said, “I am blind.”
O God forgive me when I whine,
I have two eyes, the world is mine.
Later, walking down the street,
I saw a child with eyes of blue.
He stood and watched the others play;
It seemed he knew not what to do.
I stopped a moment, then I said,
“Why don’t you join the others, dear?”
He looked ahead without a word
And then I knew, he could not hear.
O God forgive me when I whine.
I have two eyes to see the sunset glow,
Two ears to hear what I would know,
Two feet to walk where I would go.
O God forgive me when I whine.
I’m blessed indeed, the world is mine.
[“The Word Is Mine,” Ruth Fink Leamer]
With thanksgiving to God, I thank Him for my life; the gift of His omnipotent hands.
With thanksgiving to God, I thank Him for my home. Forty-eight years ago, and beyond, the church bought our house; paid $15,500 for it. I can’t believe it. And in the congregation was an aged widow, Minnie Slaughter Veal. She changed her will. At first it was entirely given to two of our Baptist institutions. She so loved the work of our church she changed it, and a third of it was given in the Baptist Foundation to us, to our church. And in her desires, she expressed a hope that out of that trust in the Baptist Foundation, our home would be kept and cared for. So all through the years and the years and the years, our home, the parsonage, has been in nowise a burden to our dear church. All of its expenses, through these many years, has been cared for by the trust of dear, sweet Minnie Slaughter Veal—with thanksgiving to God.
And in the home, of course, is Mrs. C. Her class for all of these years has been an instrument of God in bringing members into our congregation. For years and years her class has given $1,200,000 a year to our budget. And to my amazement, they are pledging one million dollars this year to our budget in an economic depression such as we all experience in America.
With thanksgiving to God for my life, for my home, with thanksgiving to God for our church, there is no more precious or wonderful congregation in the earth than this First Baptist Church in Dallas. When Dr. Truett, my predecessor, the great far-famed preacher and pastor, when Dr. Truett was seventy-five years of age he died. He became ill at seventy-four, and for a solid year lay in that bed in excruciating pain, dying of cancer of the bone. In the course of that year, he resigned his pastorate here in this dear church, and the congregation refused to accept it. This is a wonderful church.
When I came to my eighty-first year, the forty-seventh year of my pastorate, when I came to my eighty-first year in age, I brought before the Lord what I should do. In answer to that supplication, God laid upon my heart that we should call a new pastor to our congregation. And I brought that message from God to our dear people, and they acquiesced in that prayerful request. At no time, not one in the thousands of our congregation ever said to me, “You ought to change your ministry. You’ve been here long enough.” No one has ever suggested to me that I ought to do some other work, in some other place, in some other assignment. Having prayed to God, the Lord laid upon my heart that now that I am in my eighty-first year, and as of this moment in a few days I’ll be in my eighty-fourth year, no one has ever said to me that I ought to change my assignment. There’s no church in the earth as sweet and dear as this.
So I made the announcement, as I say, to our congregation, that having prayed, God had answered my supplication, and we ought to call a new pastor. As for me, I am as well and as strong as I was when I came here at the age of thirty-four. I cannot believe the goodness of God to me. So I said, “I will give the strength of my life. When our new pastor comes, I will give the strength of my life to our college.” Mrs. H. L. Hunt had just given us a new campus. “I’ll pour my life into that college. And I will be God’s servant in however He opens a door of need for me, in our dear church.” For the first time in ten to twelve years I begun accepting invitations outside of our dear congregation. Two weeks ago I preached through the state convention in Florida. Last week I preached through the state convention in Alabama. And in all of those ministries, I have been wonderfully and gloriously blessed. And my share in the wonderful assignments here in our dear church is a benediction to me.
So I have an office up the street in our college. I have a beautiful and glorious office right across the street there, with my partner, Jack Pogue. And I have a beautiful office right across the street there in the church. Wherever I can help in a funeral, in a wedding, in an appointment, I am here, God’s servant, I pray.
So you see, if you want to see me at the college, I’m there. If you want to see me at the corporate headquarters, I’m there. If you want to see me at the church, I’m there. If you don’t want to see me at all, I’m preaching in Afghanistan or Timbuctoo. I am exactly like a street woman, like a harlot: I’m the most accessible and available of anybody you ever saw in your life! I have just one request. As you know—this is a request for prayer—as you know the police department of the city of Dallas is in an ongoing sting against the prostitutes. Just pray they don’t pick me up, that’s all.
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation” [Psalm 116:12-13]. You know, out of a miserable, poor, little family with many children, there was a lad that was taken to a hospital. And the nurse brought to the little fellow a glass filled with milk. And the little boy took the milk glass in his hand, and looking up into the face of the nurse, said, “Sweet nurse, how deep can I drink?” Back of that question is such pathos of poverty and hunger and need. He knew nothing else than that. When a glass of milk was brought, each child could drink just that much. “How deep can I drink?” And the nurse replied, “Son, drink to the depths of it. Drink to the bottom of it. Drink all of it. Drink.”
That’s the way we are in the proffered cup of salvation to us. There are no parameters. There are no limits. Drink to the depth of it, all of the rich, gracious gifts that Jesus has for us. What shall I do, seizing and taking the benefits of God for me? “I will take the cup of salvation” [Psalm 116:13]. “I will call upon the name of the Lord” [Psalm 116:13]. Don’t ever persuade yourself that you weary God with your much knocking at the door, with your many requests. O God, how we need strength and help and encouragement from Thee! God invites us. And He doesn’t weary, ever, of our much supplication. “I will call upon the name of the Lord.”
I must tell Jesus all of my sorrows;
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me;
Jesus will be with me, Jesus alone.
[“I Must Tell Jesus”; Elisha A. Hoffman]
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation…What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? [Psalm 116:12] I will offer Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving” [Psalm 116:17]. That is one of the strangest verses I have ever read in the Bible. “I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” When I hear or read that word “sacrifice,” sacrifice, I think of deep hurt, and trouble, and tribulation, and offering. Sacrifice, “I will offer Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving” [Psalm 116:17]. Then I had an experience that brought to me the depths of that meaning.
In these years past, I was the chairman of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. I was the chairman for six years. And during those six years, at a meeting of the board in Nashville, on a Wednesday night, we went to a prayer meeting, to the midweek service. And at that service there was a layman who gave a testimony. He was an affluent man at that time, but had been very, very poor. He was a construction worker in those years past, whenever he could find any work. He had a wife; he had a house full of children. Two of the boys, when time came for them to go to school, and a little girl, when time came for her to go to school, they needed shoes. They’d worn out their shoes—when that sweet girl testified of those shoes over there in Africa—they needed shoes. He didn’t have any money to buy shoes. And when he’d see those two boys playing out on the streets, riding a skateboard down the hill and dragging their shoes, he was full of resentment. And when he’d see the little girl skipping a rope, wearing out her slippers, he was filled with resentment.
And his wife came and said, “Husband, our washing machine is broken and cannot be repaired. We must do something about a washing machine.” They looked through the classified ads in the paper, and found a washing machine for sale. He and his wife went to the address, and it was in a beautiful home. And here again, he was filled with resentment. Others were so blessed, and he in such need. Knocked at the door, and a darling couple invited them in. And as they talked, why, the couple in the beautiful home learned of the need in that family, and gave them the washing machine for practically nothing.
So the man was so delighted and encouraged by the largess of the couple in the beautiful home, that he had the temerity to ask, “By the way, do you have any old worn-out children’s shoes?” and described the need for his two boys and little girl, that in their playing they’d worn out their shoes, and did they have any worn out shoes that they could give to him. When he asked the question—all of this is his testimony—when he asked the question, the wife in the beautiful home turned pale, and looked at her husband with a hurt expression, and with a quiet sob, left the room. He could hear her cry on the other side of the door. So the man who asked for the shoes said to the man in the beautiful home, “Have I said the wrong thing? Have I done the wrong thing? If I have, I didn’t mean to, and I ask your forgiveness.”
The man in the home had his head bowed. And after a silence, he lifted up his face and said to the visitor, “No, you did not say anything wrong. You see,” he added, “my wife and I have had one child. We have a little girl. She was born crippled and maimed. She has never walked.” And he added, “And we would give our lives for a pair of worn-out shoes, a pair of slippers for our little girl.”
In the testimony that night, that layman said, “I went home and I got out two pairs of worn out boys’ shoes and a pair of little girls’ worn-out slippers, and I laid them before the Lord. And I got down on my knees above those worn-out shoes, and lifted my hands to heaven and said, ‘Lord, I thank You, I thank You for these worn-out shoes and this pair of worn-our slippers. Thank You, God. Thank You, God.’”
It was then I knew what that meant: “I will offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving” [Psalm 116:17]. That’s what it is to be a sweet devotee and disciple of the Lord Jesus. Every handicap we have, thank You, Lord; You have got a reason for it. Every sorrow that comes into our lives, thank You, Lord; there’s a reason for it. Thank You, Lord, for every disappointment and distress. There’s a thank You for it; there’s a reason for it—offering unto God the sacrifice of thanksgiving [Psalm 116:17].
Some on the mountains, some through the valleys, some through great sorrows, God leads His dear children along. Thank You, Lord, for all the providences that in Your sovereign will come into my life.
I close with just this brief word about, “What shall I offer unto the Lord for all His benefits for me? I will pay my vows in the presence of all of His people” [Psalm 116:12, 14]. Down that aisle, “Here where God’s family can receive us, that dedication I have made in my heart to the Lord, I am coming today. And I am avowing my commitment to the blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus.” Do you notice in both times when he says that, he says, “I will do it now. I will do it now. In the presence of all of God’s people, I will respond with my life now.”
I’ve experienced that. You’re not, many of you, members here long enough to remember it. One time I was preaching in this pulpit, such as I am now, and before I got through with my sermon, a man stood up and came down that aisle. He said to his wife, “Sweet wife, I can’t wait until the pastor is done his sermon. I’m going forward now.” He came down that aisle, and took my hand, and put his arm around my shoulder, and said that he’d given his heart to Jesus, and he wanted the world and this congregation and family of the Savior to know it. That’s a wonderful thing! That’s a wonderful thing.
“Pastor, I’m ready, and I’m coming. I’m answering God’s call with my life.” And if you have a family, “I’m bringing my family.” If you have children, “I’m bringing my children.” “I’m coming to God now, in the presence of all of His people.” It is one of the sweetest, dearest commitments and experiences and dedications that could be known to the human heart. “God has spoken, and I’m answering with my life.”
And you who have listened on television, on the screen you will find a number. Call that number; there will be a dedicated man or woman who will answer that call. And if you don’t know how to accept Jesus as your Savior, they will guide you into the kingdom of our Lord, and I’ll see you in heaven some glorious and triumphant day.
And to the great throng of people in this sanctuary, accepting the Lord as your Savior [Romans 10:8-13], coming into the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25], a one somebody you, a family you, a couple you, as the Lord shall press the appeal to your heart and life, answer, come. And may angels attend you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.