The Ministry in the Valley
May 28th, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
THE MINISTRY IN THE VALLEY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-28-67 7:30 p.m.
In your Bible turn to the second Gospel, Mark, the Gospel of Mark chapter 9, Mark chapter 9. We shall read together verses 14 through verse 29. Mark chapter 9, beginning at verse 14 reading through verse 29. And if you listen on radio, sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, read out loud with us this passage from God’s Word. Mark chapter 9, beginning at verse 14 through 29. Now all of us reading out loud together:
And when He came to His disciples, He saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them.
And straightway all the people, when they beheld Him, were greatly amazed, and running to Him saluted Him.
And He asked the scribes, What question ye with them?
And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto Thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit;
And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to Thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.
He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto Me.
And they brought him unto Him: and when he saw Him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.
And He asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.
And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if Thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.
Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.
When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.
And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.
But Jesus took him up by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.
And when He was come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, Why could not we cast him out?
And He said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
In our following the life of our Lord this is The Ministry in the Valley that immediately followed the transfiguration of our Lord on the mountain [Mark 9:1-8]. Three times have we spoken of this transfiguration, three sermons. And now the sermon is followed, those sermons on the transfiguration, by this message on The Ministry in the Valley. I could well understand the request of Simon Peter. "Master, let us stay up here on the mountaintop. Let us build a tabernacle, a dwelling place for You, and for Moses, and for Elijah, and let us stay here" [Mark 9:5].
All of us have moments of that willingness and wantingness to disassociate ourselves from the weariness of this world. There is a saying that has been captured by the entertainment world, "Stop the world; I want to get off." That is reflective of all of us at times. It is so enmeshed in things that hurt, that disappoint, that frustrate, that I would like to disassociate myself from it. I’d like to go off somewhere; I’d like to go up somewhere; I’d like to go out somewhere, anywhere, just to get away. How much more could you sympathize with Simon Peter in his request if you had opportunity to share in that apartness with God, with the saints, with a Moses and Elijah? I can just fully understand the request of Peter, "Lord let’s stay here; don’t go back down into that world again. Not back down into that valley again, not in that multitude again; Lord, let’s stay. Let’s stay."
But until Jesus returns to this earth, until the denouement of history, until the consummation of the age, until the coming of the kingdom, we ought to submit ourselves to this mandate from heaven and this sovereign choice of God for us. We shall not be able, not in His will for us, and not in our ability to choose for ourselves, we shall not be able to disassociate ourselves from the problems and the heartaches and the frustrations of this life. It is a part of our human flesh. Every Sunday will be followed by a Monday. Every mountaintop experience will be followed by a descent into the valley. And every holy vision that we have of heaven will be followed by the heartache and the need, the disease, the sickness, the demon-possessed that are in any throng and in any multitude to which throng we ourselves belong.
You cannot see any gathering of people and not find in it, heartache. In a great throng such as we have in this church, three times every Lord’s Day, there is no gathering of our people but that in it and all of it together, knows frustration and defeat and battle and disappointment. It is true in childhood; the tears of a child are as real in disappointment, in loneliness, in hurt, as the tears of manhood and womanhood. But the frustrations and the disappointments and the castings-down of the teenager and of the youth are as poignant and as deeply felt as any of the great breaking-of-vision and rainbows that we have in manhood or womanhood. All of us belong to that throng in the valley.
So the Lord says, "Not so, not so, not in this age; not in this time; not in this dispensation; not here. Someday, but not now; in glory, but not here, not on the mount transfigured, not with Moses and Elijah yet. We go back down into the valley." So into the valley the disciples followed their Lord and there the multitude before them [Mark 9:9].
Now when they came to that throng, first there is a boy; the boy is demented; the boy is afflicted; he is tormented; the boy is grievously hurt [Mark 9:17-18]. Second, there is the father, and the father had such expected hopes that when he brought the lad to the disciples, that the disciples could heal him, cure him, cast out of him that spirit of rage and torment. And you can imagine the despondency that swept over the father when he saw those disciples helpless before such an evil state [Mark 9:14-18]. Third, you have the scribes that are named [Mark 9:14-16]. And I can see them as they talk to one another, "Hmm, that’s just as I thought; I knew they couldn’t do it. Why, I knew it all along! I didn’t see in the first place why this father took this boy and brought him to these disciples of the hated Nazarene; I knew He couldn’t do it. There’s no power in them; this is fake gospel; this is a spurious message; this is a pseudo-presentation of the power of God. Why, I knew all along they couldn’t do it." And I can just see those scribes as they talk to one another, and the poor disciples about to die before it.
Then to add insult to their injury and to pour salt in their wounds, there is the crowd running together, and they are commenting on the situation. And they stand at this angle, and they stand at that angle, and they stand at the other angle, and all of them have a word of comment to make about that frustration and that disappointment and that despair. And I don’t know anything, humanly speaking – I don’t know anything that is more galling and more aggravating than to be in a state like that. And folks come around and make inane and sorry beside-the-point comments concerning it.
I was driving down San Jacinto two weeks ago. I had been gone on a preaching mission in Memphis, Tennessee. And while I was gone in that preaching mission in Memphis, why, some man – I’ll not say what I think of him – here in the city of Dallas took one block of San Jacinto, right here by our church, and made it a one-way street and never bothered to change the signs on the street. It was just as it was, as I had been driving down here to the church for twenty-three years. So on Monday, when I came to Dallas, I got in my car and as I had been doing for twenty-three years, I came down San Jacinto and stopped at the stoplight here at San Jacinto and St. Paul, right there.
Well, there was a woman in front of me who stopped her car at the red light, and I stopped my car at the back of her car, both of us waiting for the light to change. So when the light changed, why she made a left turn down St. Paul and I slowly followed behind her, making a left turn at St. Paul to go into our parking building. I had been doing that for twenty-three years, and ever since the parking building has been there. Well, I noticed a man to my left, and I thought that he was in a big hurry of some kind because I’d seen him many times. And he, I thought, was being in a big hurry and had got over there in the wrong lane and was going to make a left turn in order to speed down St. Paul. You see, I did not know they had made it into a one-way street. So I just followed that woman around, and when she turned left I gradually turned left. And I want you to know that fellow to my left plowed right into me. And just took the left side of my car off, my beautiful new Bonneville Pontiac. Oh! Oh! Oh! I don’t know anything that has the feeling of "oh-ness" like that.
Well, it was at a busy hour; it was about 4:30 in the afternoon. And the traffic was, ah, stacked up there; of course, you’ve got to go call the policeman. And you stand there, all the folks look at you, and gawk at you, stop their cars. "Why, why, that’s the preacher! Why, why, that’s the preacher." Oh, you wish you’d never been born, standing there in that street. So finally the siren sounds and the cop comes. He gets out all of those, this and this and this, and then writes it down; you know. Oh, you feel like a criminal.
So while I was standing there with the man who had the accident with me, the people around, why, there came out of nowhere – where that screwball came from, I have no idea – but he came and he parked himself in front of me and stood on the corner of the street, and lifted up his voice as loud as he could speak and said, "Look at that, there’s no doubt about who was in the wrong in this accident, just look at that!" And then as though that wasn’t enough, why, he turned around and looked at all the folks and said, "Isn’t that right? Look at that car, making a left turn in the center of a one-way street, look at that!" I wanted to say, "Shut your mouth!" Oh! And had I not been a minister of the gospel I would have wanted to say some other things that you couldn’t repeat.
I know exactly how these disciples felt. Oh, they were blue and discouraged and cast down, defeated, chagrined, humiliated, embarrassed, and all around them were these people poking at them, "Look at that, look at that, such failure, such inaptitude, such ineptitude, such powerlessness!" Oh, it was just a shame for them. Now when the Lord came, why, He said, "You bring him to Me" [Mark 9:19].
Don’t ever give up until you have taken the case to Jesus. He will either heal, or if you’ll wait on Him, He will tell you why healing is not in the will of God. Don’t you be discouraged. You take it to Jesus, no matter what the doctor says, no matter what the technician says, no matter what the medical reports say; you take it to Jesus. Life is in God’s hands. I buried a woman who lived seventeen years after the doctors sewed her up, sent her back home to die. Life is in God’s hands. And when things seem desperate, take it to Jesus. Let Him give you an answer why or the miracle of length of days, healing of life.
Well anyway, after the Lord had healed the boy and restored him into the arms of his father [Mark 9:19-27], why, the disciples came to Him privately, and said, "Master, we were crushed today, humiliated today. Master, why could we not cast him out? [Mark 9:28]. Why could we not heal that boy, why?" Now may I pause there to say a word of commendation for these disciples? They were honest enough and frank enough and courageous enough to admit their failure, "Master, why, why, why?" There’s hope for disciples like that; they’ll do better; you just wait and see.
And there is hope for a church that will be like that. "Master, why, why do the multitudes pass us by? Why are so few souls saved? Master, why is it that we don’t have power with God and with men? Master, why is it that our young people’s program reaches so relatively few? And out of a great city like Dallas of a million people, the great throngs that are out on the lake. And they’re sitting before a television, and they’re entertaining in cocktail parties and in dining rooms, and they’re in centers of amusements, and they’re on the highways. Lord, why is it that we have such small power?" There’s hope for a church that will courageously and fearlessly face its failures and its powerlessness. "Why Lord, why? God show us why." And if we’re in earnest in asking God, He will always answer, always. He will show us why, and He will show us how.
Now let’s go back to this story. When the Lord answered them, the answer lay in an altogether different place than I’m sure what they had expected. Well, we’re all like that. It is difficult for us to admit that the weakness and the failure lies in us. May I illustrate it about ourselves? Why is it that we do not win more people to Jesus?
Answer, and we’re ready with the answer – answer: It’s because of them. Satan is powerful and mighty and strong, and we’re not equal to him. And they, sinners, are hard to convert. They are worldly, and they are out in the world and interested in the things of the world, and they’re not interested in the things of God, and they don’t want to be saved. And it is difficult for us to win people to Jesus. And the great throng of the multitude of the lost passes by because they are hard to reach. And we just go on, and on, and on. The reason for our powerlessness is in them! They are hard; they are difficult; they are under the power of Satan, and it lies in the kingdom of darkness. That’s the reason we fail.
Now, the Lord never mentions it, never. He never speaks in answering that question about the power of Satan, and He never refers to the depravity of the human soul and the secular, materialistic bent of people out in the world. He never refers to it. What He did was, He pointed His finger at the disciples and He said, "The powerless, the fault lies in you, in you." And the story in Matthew spells it out. "Why," said the disciples, "could not we cast him out?" [Matthew 17:19]. And Jesus said unto them, "Because of your unbelief" [Matthew 17:20]. The fault lies in you, in you, in you, in us. It is not because the lost are difficult; it’s because we are failures. It is not because they are enmeshed in the world and we cannot pluck them, like friends, out of the burning. The fault lies in our unburdened hearts and our un-prayed prayers and our unspoken testimonies. The fault lies in us, not in them.
Well, I don’t know what might happen here. I don’t know what our eyes might look upon here, if our people were driven to great persuasion in God. Ah! If we were mighty people in the faith, if we were ten feet tall for God, if we weighed sixteen ounces to the pound, if we measured thirty-six inches to the yard, I don’t know what might happen. But the miracle to me is that God is able to do as much as He does with such a small gesture towards heaven, such a little amount of faith, such small moments of prayer, such hasty reading of God’s Book, such a small token of devotion and consecration. It isn’t "out there" because they’re hard; the answer lies in us because we are such small of stature in God’s kingdom. Pygmies, weak, anemic, unable, the fault lies in you, in you, because of your unbelief.
And isn’t that in itself, an amazing thing? Why did we build a beautiful church? And we have a great educational system, and a steeple there that points to heaven, and we turn on these lights, and we have these beautiful stained-glass windows, and we have all of these things; why is it that these things in themselves, things, why cannot they convert? Don’t you wish it could be done? Why, you know what we would do, instead of that steeple on that side, we’d go out on this side and we’d build a steeple five times as tall. And if just the physical facilities would convert people to God, we’d do our best to buy property and cover it with acres of buildings, if that would do it.
But somehow, there’s no other way to reach God except in great commital, in great faith, in great trust. And where there is no faith and no trust and no commital, no consecration, somehow God’s work turns to dust and to ashes in our hands. Even the spirit of unbelief and unfaith can deny the very power of omnipotence. Look at this:
And Jesus came to the country and the city in which He was reared
And they were offended in Him. And Jesus said, A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house.
And He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
[Matthew 13:54, 57-58]
Why, Jesus could raise the dead! [John 11:43-44]. He could walk on the water [Mark 6:47-51]; He could touch the eyes of blind and they see [Matthew 9:27-30]; He can cast out devils [Luke 11:14-20]; He can cleanse lepers [Mark 1:40-42; Luke 17:11-19]. Jesus is omnipotence; Jesus is deity; Jesus is God in the flesh [John 1:14]. The winds, the waves, the world around Him is subject to the words, the fiat, of Jesus [Luke 8:22-25]. But in the spirit of unbelief, even in the city of Nazareth where He grew up, "He did not mighty works there" [Matthew 13:53-58]. It somehow interdicts God. To see great works from heaven, there has to be a tremendous consecration, commital, faith, trust on the part of those who expect it and receive it, who believe it, who accept it. This is the key, and the answer to the victorious life and ministry in Christ, "This kind cometh not out but by prayer" [Mark 9:29].
Great committal to God, searching the mind and will of God, this kind, this hard and difficult work God has assigned to us cannot be done casually, optionally, flippantly, fleetingly, lightsomely. It has to be done agonizing with whole soul and life poured out to God. You can’t be at ease in Zion and have the power of God upon you. You can’t go to a dime store and buy a baby. If there is life brought into this world, there’ll be a valley; there’ll be travail, and the years of prayer, careful watching over, the "follow after." That is life, whether physical as we know it in the family circle, or whether spiritual as we know it before God in heaven.
Oh, the Lord bless me, the Lord bless you, the Lord bless us all as we seek in great, deep, high earnestness, O Lord, what is God’s will for me? Then help me, Lord, to do it with the might that God might bestow upon me, to grasp it with both hands. If I am to preach, Lord, may I do it with power, with great earnestness and commitment. Help me, Lord, to study, to pore over the Word, to know God’s will, and to speak it out to the people. If I am to preach, Lord, may there be blood in it, and life in it, and sacrifice in it, and tears in it, may I pour my soul in it. And Lord, if I am to have a people, a church, may it be a church bathed in prayer, in tears, in blood. May it be a womb in which children can be born into the kingdom of God. Do it, Lord; do it Lord, do it.
Our time is gone. We must sing our hymn of appeal. While we sing it, if somebody has prayed for you and God calls you to Himself tonight, would you come and stand by me? If there is a couple you, and God bids you come and puts your life with us, would you do it tonight? Do it now. I’m looking for some of you tonight. I’m looking for a couple tonight, a young doctor and his wife, come, come. I’m looking for a gracious wife, you come tonight. I’m looking for you tonight, come and stand by me. "Pastor, I give you my hand, I’ve given my heart to God and here I am. I want to put my life in this church."
Some of you by baptism, come; some of you by statement, come; some of you on confession of faith, come; some of you by letter, come. On the first note of this first stanza, make it tonight, come tonight. Let God open the door; follow the Spirit. On the first note of the first stanza, when you stand up stand up coming and see if the glory of God does not fill your soul. Answer God with your life. Do it and God will bless and keep to the end of the way, now, forever. Come tonight; come tonight. Do it tonight as our people pray, as we sing this hymn of commital, come into that aisle down to the front. "Here I am, preacher, I make it tonight," while we stand and while we sing.
THE MINISTRY IN THE VALLEY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Mark 9:14-29, Matthew 17:14-21
I. Ministry in the valley
A. The glory of the transfiguration – the experience of the mountaintop (Matthew 17:2-4)
1. Monday always follows Sunday; a valley beyond the mountaintop
B. Affliction among the people in the multitude
C. Groups in the valley
1. Boy who was afflicted(Matthew 17:14-15)
2. Father came to disciples with hope, then cast into deeper despair
3. Scornful scribes
4. Crowd commenting on the failure(Matthew 27:42)
5. Humiliated, cast-down disciples
D. Invitation of Jesus – "Bring him to me"
II. Disciples’ private question(Matthew 17:19)
A. Troubled with their failures
B. They get their answer
1. Their failure in themselves(Matthew 17:20)
C. Unbelief shortens the arm of God(Matthew 13:54, 57-58)
1. There has to be tremendous consecration, commitment, faith(Mark 9:29)
2. "Help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:23-24)
2. God honors commitment of desperate father (Matthew 17:18)
3. Nothing is impossible (Matthew 17:20)