“The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ places.” Proverbs 30:28
There is in the Bible a tremendous menagerie. One would not have to go far until he would find something about the ant, the ass on which our Lord road on Palm Sunday, the cock that did crow after Peter had denied the Lord twice, the donkey that did speak to Balaam, the fish that brought the coin to our Lord with which he paid his taxes, and on and on. You could go on in the Bible finding God’s menagerie.
However, tucked away a few times in the Bible, we find something about the spider. Tonight, we turn our attention not only to the spider but to his web, the spider web.
Now, I’m not a great biologist. I took biology in school only because they feared that if I stayed in chemistry, the building would not be there for long. Physics was always a problem for me, so I took biology. To be quite honest with you, I never enjoyed it a great deal. The innards of a frog just never did inspire me very much. I don’t know why. I guess that I’m just unusual. I do enjoy, occasionally, reading something about the work of animals or the work of the insects. I’ve also done a little research about the spider.
Now, the sermon tonight will be, in the first place, a little bit about the spider, and I want to apply it spiritually. You had better mind this. When God spoke about the spider’s web, He knew how it was made. He knew everything that was in the mind of the spider. God knew all about it. When God said something about the spider’s web and warned us to beware of the spider and its web, God knew exactly what he was talking about in every phase.
Now I want to call your attention tonight to three things: first, the building of the web; secondly, the attack of the spider; and thirdly, the perseverance of the little fellow. You see, the spider in the Bible symbolized that which is wrong, something that is poisonous, and something that is bad.
The web of the spider is used, as you well know, to catch other insects. The spider builds his web to catch the fly as its prey. The fly plunges into the spider web and is caught. The spider comes and puts its poisonous venom into the fly and he has a good meal.
The Lord compares the Devil and what he does to a spider. He compares the wiles of the Devil and the traps of the Devil to a spider’s web.
Tonight I want you to notice in the first place the building of the spider’s web. You will think you are in biology class for a while, but don’t leave me and don’t let me lose you because I want to tell you something about the building of the web.
With its eight eyes and eight legs and 4,000 holes in its body, the spider himself weaves the web. The web is woven from within the spider. It’s always the case. The Devil has nothing to give you from without. You always have to get your energy from within. Now God gives you power from without. God gives you strength from without. But the Devil always weaves his web from within, the flesh or the world, if you please.
Now with these eight eyes and eight legs and—think about it now—a spider has 4,000 holes in his body. I know. I caught one one day and counted for half-a-day at least. With four thousands holes in his body, the spider weaves the web from itself. In the lower body of the spider, there are six little machines, little spinning machines if you would. In each of those six machines, there are hundreds of little miniature spinning machines we call spinnerettes. Now these little spinnerettes, and by the way there are up to 4,000 in the body of the spider, each gives out a slender thread. Did you know that this little thread is used in microscopes? Did you know that? It is used as the pinpoint because it is so microscopic; this little thread given out by these little spinnerettes. One scientist said that he actually pulled out 4,000 yards of this little thread from one spider without breaking it once. You don’t believe that, do you? That’s what one scientist said. He said that he pulled out 4,000 yards of this little microscopic thread from the body of one spider.
Now do you get it? Inside these little holes are six little machines. Inside these machines are hundreds of little spinnerettes producing this slender thread.
Here’s something very interesting. When the spider finishes producing this thread and makes his web, when the thread is pulled out, the spider pulls on it a little bit to see if it will hold. Before he makes his web, he studies very carefully the existing conditions. He has the property surveyed. He checks the win, and so forth for the wind helps him in the building of his web. He lays the foundation first for each little thread. A little gum-like substance is used as a foundation at the end of that little thread. Then he pulls his thread to the other extremity and lays the foundation on the other side. He puts up his scaffolding first and builds the exterior—the outside, the circumference. Then he fills it in. Now this is interesting also. He has a little fluid that he empties on the little microscopic threads and that fluid is sticky so when a fly comes and hits on the spider web, he’s stuck. But, the little spider is a smart rascal. He periodically places one thread that has no sticky fluid so he can get to the fly without getting stuck himself.
Now get the picture. Here’s a spider. He finds his place. He surveys the course. He checks the wind, lays the foundation, builds his scaffolding, and then makes his web. He puts the sticky fluid on the web, yet occasionally leaves some threads alone so he can travel.
Here’s something—this is to me unbelievable. The spider then goes to a dark corner and hides. Yet he has from every thread in the web another thread going to him under his foot. (You didn’t know I knew all this, did you? I can tell you’re impressed. I can tell I’ll get a raise in pay before this sermon is over. The deacons are going to call a special meeting.)
Anyway, he has his foot on all these threads and on one thread leading to each particular thread in the web. So when a fly hits on the web, he feels one particular thread move under his foot and he knows right where to go. You didn’t know that? You went to college and seminary and had to come here to get educated.
What happens? When the spider feels the touch on his foot, he immediately knows the location of the fly in the web. The spider goes down one of the little threads that has no fluid on it. He has two fangs that he uses to inject poison into his prey and then he brings it back. He hides. He doesn’t stand up and say, “Hey, here’s my web.” He hides in a dark corner, then he gets his prey and brings it back.
The spider web is very beautiful to the fly. It is also very difficult to see and is so carefully woven and planned out that the fly is caught before he knows it. The Devil is that way. You take a nation like ours. The Devil has been weaving in the dark a web as carefully and as delicately as the spider weaves his web to catch the fly for his prey. The Devil has been thus weaving a web for America. Brother, she’s just about caught in it. The same thing happens to a church the moment a church is started.
Build a new house and I’ll guarantee you that unless you watch it, you’ll have a spider web in a month. Ladies, can it happen faster that that? How long will it take? If you didn’t get something to run down the corners of the ceiling, how long would it take for a spider web to get there? Somebody tell me. How long? The first day. Thank you. It was nice of one of these ladies to tell me about that. Thank you. The first day. Right! Is that right, ladies? One day? Well, I know one thing. I know if you build a new house, a spider doesn’t come up and say, “I don’t want to mess up this house.”
No, he starts immediately and that’s what the Lord is saying here. He says that the Devil had come to Israel and he had very carefully and subtly, in the dark and almost invisibly, been weaving today and weaving tomorrow and weaving some more until a great network had been made and now Israel has been caught in the web.
The same thing happens to churches. Churches don’t lose their power overnight. Churches don’t go liberal overnight. Churches don’t lose the breath of God overnight. The Devil, secretly in the corner while we do not know it, is as often in the palace as he is in the little shack beside the road. All the while, he has his weaving going on. We don’t even see it. We don’t even know it’s there until one day we suddenly become stuck in it. The Devil comes and puts his fangs of venom inside us and, before we know it, the church is gone. The nation is gone.
Listen. Do you know America has just about deteriorated before our eyes and we didn’t even know it was happening? We did not know!
Who would have thought ten years ago that the University of Chicago, in the last few days, would have had 130 people, (100 men and 30 women,) strip and have a nude bathing party? The same university is having a “paint-in” in the next few days. They’re having men and women in the nude to paint pictures on the bodies of each other at the university. Why, if that had happened then years ago, the entire crowd would have been thrown in jail. I can recall when folks used to get thrown in jail for walking down the street in their underclothes. Nowadays, we thank God that they have that much on!
Right before our eyes, the Devil has been weaving a thread in which to catch humanity. We have almost lost our nation without even knowing our nation was in danger. That is what happens to churches, too. It can happen just like that. It happens to institutions. It happens to schools. It happens to people.
A fellow called me on the phone the other day. He is one of our fine men, God bless him, and just as sweet a new Christian as we have in our church. He said, “The Devil is still bothering me and I’ve been saved for quite a while now. When is he going to quit bothering me?” I didn’t have the grace to tell him when. He said, “What does he do that for? Does he just keep on and keep on and keep on?” Why, sure he does! Satan starts the moment you get off your knees at this altar, after you get saved, and he begins weaving his web. He is oftentimes unseen and unknown. Finally, one day, the fly is caught in the sticky substance of gum on the web and then comes the spider with its venom and deadly fangs to shoot poison inside the Christian. Before you know it, he’s lost his power, lost his blessing, and is away from God. That is what happens to churches.
But now, that’s the building. I mentioned the attack a while ago and I’ve already given you a great deal of it. Once the spider has the fly, he feels, under his foot, the tugging of the particular thread which caught the fly. He then lurks down the non-sticky thread and attacks his prey. Before the prey knows it, life is gone. “The intricacy looked so pretty that I did not even know it was being built,” says the fly. You’ve heard the little poem: “Says the spider to the fly.” That’s what he says. “Come to my beautiful web. I have prepared thee a work of art. Come.” The fly does. Before the fly knows it, it’s gone. Listen.
I’m thinking tonight about a church in Detroit, Michigan. I won’t call the name. There was a day when that church was a great soul-winning institution known the length and breadth of our nation. There came a pastor to that church, a fine man. I mean a good man. I know him. I know the church. The fellow knows me and he’s a fine man. He came to me and he said, “Dr. Hyles, I’d like for you to help me in the church.” I went to his church and I preached for him and I tried to help him. Good man. He said, “Tell me your methods.” I told him. I said this is what you ought to do. He said, “That’s the way the pastor before me did it.” But he said, “Now the church has grown up. Those methods are sort of ‘backwoodsey.'” I said, “I know it. But, look, if you want to build a great church, you had better use the right methods.” He said, “I know it, but this thing and that thing.” I said, “Now you watch it!” The man said, “No, we’re going to have a more cultured church than the other pastor. We’re grown up now. Our people have better taste now.” I said, “Look out. There’s a web being made. Look out.”
Listen. There’s a great danger here. Now listen carefully. There’s a great danger. A church like this reaches the down and outers many times. We will reach anybody. One of our members said when I first came here, “Pastor, I wish I could bring my cultured friends to hear you.” I said, “You can. It’s all right.” We have some cultured people. We have many folks here tonight in this room who have master’s degrees and we have some with advanced degrees. Also, we do reach a lot of people who are down and out. Our church will grow that way.
When a person gets saved, he cleans up and starts dressing nicer. He quits getting drunk and gets himself a decent job. Before you know it, he’s making $200. After a while, he’s making $15,000 a year. Pretty soon the boss takes not, and that fellow gets promoted. After a while, he’s driving a new care and he has a new house. Before you know it, he has new furniture. Before you know it, he’s somebody. He sends his boys and girls to school and then to college. Before you know it, the fellow who once was in the gutter is now somebody. He’s president of the corporation. He is foreman on the job. He is a schoolteacher. He is somebody! If he doesn’t watch out, the very progress that he’s made will be a web that Satan has been weaving. It will catch him and entangle him and bring the church to naught.
Look, if “Amazing Grace” is good enough for this church tonight, it’s good enough for it when all our kids get PhDs. If the kind of preaching I do is good enough for this church tonight, it is good enough for all of you when you come back from college. There is nothing in this world that will destroy a church as fast as when we become elevated in our, shall we say, minds. Before we know it, we become elevated in our taste and become religious snobs. We think what we had as we grew is not good enough for us anymore. We lose what made us and we are gone. What happens? The Devil has been weaving us a web, using our own progress as a web with which to ensnare us and defeat us and with which to place his venom in us and destroy us!
I pray day after day that God will keep this pulpit—forgive me, I’m not bragging—but I pray God will keep this pulpit just as hot, just as loud, and just as bombastic twenty-five years from tonight as it is tonight. I pray to God that twenty-five years from now, the choir will still be singing, “What a fellowship, What a joy divine, Leaning on the everlasting arms.” I pray that our organist will still be playing, “Be Still My Soul,” “Peace in the Valley,” or “I Will Pilot Thee” instead of some classical number during the service on Sunday morning and Sunday night. I pray that twenty-five years from tonight there will still be a chorus of amens when something is said or somebody is blessed.
I pray that twenty-five years from tonight this altar will still be filled with the tears and the needs of people coming to get right with God. Oh my precious friend, if a church like we have tonight stays like it is through the years, it will be on purpose and not accidentally, for the natural trend is decay. The natural trend is death. Satan weaves his little web.
The staff will tell you, I call us back to the main things time and time and time again. I got the staff together the other day and said, “Now, we’re going to get back to this. We got away from it, but we’re gonna get back to it.” Why? Because we have to be constantly watching.
You ladies go for a month without checking the spider webs and you’ll have spider webs in every room in your house. In fact, you may anyway. I’ll tell you one thing. There will be more ceilings checked tonight than any other Sunday night in the history of this church. How many ladies before I said that had already decided to go home and check? You ought to always be checking. The church has to do the same thing and that’s why I preach like this.
That’s why, periodically, I call our church back to what it always has been. I call our church to not change but to always be like it is. With the same message, the same preaching, the same singing, the same staying, the same conviction, the same invitation, and the same baptism. Why? Because God in some mysterious, wonderful way has seen fit to bless what we have here. Let’s not change it. Let’s keep going for God.
Now let’s discuss the attack. There is something amazing about the spider, and that is its perseverance. It was King Robert DeBruce who said, “He learned perseverance by watching a simple spider weave a web one day.” This King said, “I had never learned to persevere but I put my eyes one day upon this simple little spider and I watched him as he would weave a web and somebody would tear it down. He’d weave it again. A spider never quits. Never quits!” When the web is broken, he repairs it immediately. A spider knows no defeat. A spider never quits. A spider will try again. If the web is broken, he will try again. That is exactly what the Devil does.
The Devil will try and try again. He will try to cause a church like this to lose its blessing by building a web in which to snare the fly. Before you know it, he tries again and again and again. That is why I preach sermon after sermon, alerting our people: Let’s always be cleaning out the web. Clean out the spider webs! Kill the spider. Clean out the webs. Watch out, we’re being snared! We have to watch it all the time.
Now, what are the webs? Bear in mind, the Devil is weaving webs tonight throughout our church and will be as long as the church stands here. What are the webs? The first one is complacency, or getting used to it. You say, “Preacher, you said that once before.” Yes, and I’ll say it again, too. Getting used to it. You recall that first time you came to First Baptist Church? You recall when the choir came out. Do you recall when the choir sang, “Blessed Assurance”?
Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
You said, “Ah, that’s a thrill!” I thought they were going to sing, “The Lord is in His Holy Temple, Let All the Earth Keep Silent.” I thought they were going to sing, “Amen, Amen.” Oh, but there was that thrill as they sang something like, “Amazing Grace.”
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Mr. Wilson, what was it you said about the choir the first time you came in? He said something about the fact that they don’t even wear uniforms. It was something like that. You said, “Boy, I like this.” Okay, it’s the same choir, only ten years older. It’s a lot better now. This choir weighs 1,000 pounds more than it did when you came.
Now look. Anybody can come to a church the first time and say, “I like that.” It takes character to say it ten years later when the choir comes out and you tingle just like you did before. Remember the first time you came to this church and you saw the people with their Bibles and you said, “Boy, that’s something”? You know, the average church doesn’t carry Bibles anymore. You saw the folks with their Bibles and your heart thrilled about the Bible. You recall when the Preacher stood to preach and you said, “Boy, oh, boy, this fellow isn’t just delivering a sermon, he’s delivering his soul!” Don’t you recall that first time you came that Sunday morning, the invitation was given and down the aisles they came? The deacons came and knelt here. You looked and saw a deacon and a Bible and a sinner and a deacon and a Bible and a sinner. You said, “Look at that! Isn’t that wonderful!” It’s still as wonderful as it ever was! Getting used to it or getting over it: it’s one of the great sins and webs that Satan weaves to cause our churches to lose their breath and the power of God.
Do you recall the first time we baptized? Here was a boy, a girl, a boy, a girl, a man, a woman, a man, and a woman. You said, “What a joy! What a thrill!” The minute you walked in, the Devil started weaving a web. Very carefully he laid the foundation. Next Sunday he was weaving a bit more and a bit more and a bit more. Before you know it, you got complacent about what used to thrill you.
Now look. I’ll say it again. It takes character to always thrill at the same stimulus. Character?
Do you recall that first big day we had? Do you remember “Old-Fashioned Day”? We had the “Hallelujah Offering.” What a thrill it was! Do you remember how happy you were? “Oh,” you said, “this is my church. I like it.” Don’t get over it. Don’t you recall that first Spring Program? Remember that day?
Remember the Bible? It says that one day the Jews came to Moses and Moses was hungry. Moses came to God and said, “Dear God, we want something to eat. We’re going to starve out here!” The next morning they woke up and there was manna from Heaven across the ground. The bible says that angel’s food was there. The angels went to their cupboards and said, “Dear God, send some of our food.” God took food from the angel’s storehouse and sent the food down to earth. Every morning the Jews would look at the manna. That first morning there was nourishment for their souls. There were vitamins, strength, and minerals for their bodies, to care for them and supply their needs. Oh, Praise the Lord! We can live and have our bodies nourished. They kept eating morning after morning, week after week, month after month, and year after year, until finally they got used to it. After a while they complained about it.
Did you know what you can do? If you don’t watch out, the Devil will weave a web in your life and you’ll be criticizing the same invitation that thrilled you five years ago. If you don’t watch out, the thing that caused you to be thrilled the most will be missing and you’ll criticize the thing that you loved the most five years ago. You’ll be getting over it.
The church as Ephesus lost their first love. What’s the second web? It’s changing our methods. You see, the first thing you do is you get used to what we do now and then you want to change the methods.
We studied in our Sunday school lesson a few days ago, about the Ark of the Covenant and how God said, “I want it carried by men. I want staves to go through golden rings at each corner of that ark. I want there to be a Korahite to carry it on this end and a Kohathite to carry it on this end. Wherever that Ark of the Covenant goes I want one of the sons of Kohath, of the tribe of Levi, to carry it.” David thought that he had outgrown that. When the Ark of the Covenant came back home, he put it on a new cart. God doesn’t need any new carts, ladies and gentlemen. God needs people to obey the old commands and the old methods.
I told God over twenty years ago, “If a church can be built on preaching the Gospel, praying for the power of God, teaching the Bible, and soul winning, I won’t build a church!” I am as convinced tonight as I’ve ever been that the answer for America’s needs is not in something new but in something old. What we need to do is not to accept the new but to change these new squirts and make them like the old squirts used to be.
“The old paths,” said the prophet Jeremiah. I grew up in one of the finest churches in Texas. We didn’t have great numbers. We baptized 100 folks a year, which seems like an awfully small number here, but that was considered pretty hot back in those days—two a week. We always had an invitation. Our pastor stood. He was not a dynamic man, but he was good. He was a generous man of conviction. I grew up in that church. The church was built by simple people like you and me. Those people became adults and those people had children of their own and those children grew up. Those children went off to college and came back home, in many cases, ashamed of Mom and Dad. I’ve got more respect for a bookie than I have for an intellectual moron that would be ashamed of the one who worked his hands to the bone to send him to college in the first place.
That Dad and Mother back home labored. They didn’t get past the eighth or ninth grade, but God gave them some character that this wicked generation needs! God pity you two-bit college students who think because Mom and Dad don’t use good English and they hang their gerunds and split their infinitives and dangle their participles—you think you’re better than Mom and Dad. I’ve got news for you. In most cases you are not worthy to unloose their shoes. That’s what happened to our old church back home. They came back and they substituted what they called “high class” music—and who knows what “high class” music is anyway. It’s all relative. They substituted what they called high class music and they put Bach on the organ instead of “Amazing Grace.” Before you knew it, the heart was not touched, the mind was only reached. Most people have bigger hearts than they do minds. The church began to go down.
Listen, twenty-five years ago when I was a teenage boy, that church was running 1,000; 1,100; and 1,200 in Sunday school. Tonight with one of the most beautiful auditoriums in Texas, one of the most gorgeous buildings you’ve ever seen in your life, an auditorium that seats 1,600 people, beautiful, colonial architecture, white pews, red cushioned seats, they’re running 350 in Sunday school. Why! Because the pastor couldn’t see it. The Devil was weaving a web carefully and deceptively.
I want to say this. There will not ever be a student who goes to college from this church who will ever walk into these doors having outgrown their preacher, their Mama, their Dad, or their Sunday school workers. That church used to be a great symbol of faith, used to be a place where the pastor stood and the people stood and the crowds came. Now they live in memories of yesterday. Why? Because they did not realize that inside their church, Satan was weaving a web. He was changing methods.
Believe it or not, I’ve worked awfully hard, not to change. Did you know that when I came to First Baptist Church in Hammond I wanted to change so badly that I could taste it? I’ve been in a fight all these years. When I came here, they invited me to go to the real estate board meeting and I went. They said, “Reverend Hyles, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, is here.” The real estate board had me. The Kiwanas have had me. You didn’t know that did you? The Rotary Club had me. The Ministerial Association came to see me. They said, “We welcome you with open arms.” Boy, that is the first time they had ever spoken to me (the Ministerial Association). I wanted to change.
Did you know, my precious friend, that I have worked in these years not to change? Tommy Ford, God bless him, was one of the greatest men I ever met in my life. He was one of my deacons in Texas, in a little country church—Grange Hall Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas. I believe tonight that if Tommy Ford walked in this building right now, he would sit down in the back. I believe that when I got through with my sermon, Tommy Ford, after almost a quarter of a century, would walk up and say, “You’re the same preacher that you always were.” Why? Well, I’m not as good a preacher but I tried not to change.
Listen. Twenty-five years ago I hated liquor and I still hate liquor. Twenty-five years ago I hated the tobacco industry and I still hate it. I thank God that folks are catching up with me, too. Twenty-five years ago I hated the Hollywood cesspool, and I still hate the Hollywood cesspool. Twenty-five years ago I fought evil and wickedness and lewdness and indecency, and I still fight all of those! We don’t need to change! That’s what’s wrong with this nation tonight! The old paths! Satan weaves a web and wants us to change our methods.
The third web is easing up on our stand. Did you know that I’ve got 80 sermons in my files that I’ve never preached yet? Eighty! I’ve got sermons that I prepared when I was a kid preacher in East Texas that I’d like to preach someday but I haven’t preached yet. Do you know why? Because, brother, I want to just keep hitting on the same old truths all the time. The Bible is the Word of God. Christ is God’s Son. Soul winning is important. Live for God! Sell out for God! Use a different text, but preach the same old truths. Here’s what will happen. Before you know it, a church will believe the same as she always believed, but she won’t mention it as much. A member of the body unused is a member of the body that will soon not have its power.
Did you know, for example, I’d like to not preach on mini skirts? I believe that that’s the hardest thing I preach against. Do you know why? Because some daughters of the finest folks in our church wear them. I’d like to bypass it. I’d like to be able to just not mention mini skirts at all. Brother, there’s something down in my heart that says they’re wrong. There’s something in me that says that the girls ought to wear long enough dresses and ladies ought to, also. As long as I believe it is condemning America and being used for Satan, I’d be a coward not to say so. There are folks tonight who have them.
I know a church in Forth Worth, Texas, that at one time was one of the great churches in America. They had a man who stood behind the pulpit, straight and strong. He called a spade a spade, a tis a tis and a tain’t a tain’t. He stood! He died. They called another man. He was one of the finest orators in Texas, a man gifted with leadership, personality, charm, and grace. He could balance a tea cup with one hand and eat the cake gracefully with the other. He was a charming preacher and a fundamental preacher. He said to me, “Now Jack, I am following a strong-willed man. I’m following a man who was bombastic. I believe just like he did, but these folks are tired of rabble-rousing preaching.” I called him by his first name and said, “My brother, you’ll kill that church. You’ll kill it.”
When he took that church, they were running 3,000 in Sunday School. He was the same age as me. When I took the Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, the first Sunday we had 44. That same Sunday, he took this church in Fort Worth. There I was with 44 and he had 3,000. But, I met him on the way up while he was going down. Last week, word came to me that they are having to sell their building. They can’t make the payments. They’re having to sell it. Is it because he doesn’t believe that wrong is wrong? No, it isn’t that. He’s just not willing to remind his folks how wrong it is. The Apostle Paul said, “Sin ought to be exceedingly sinful.”
A preacher, I don’t care who he is, wants to be accepted. I don’t care if it is a Jack Hyles, John Colsten, Lindsey Terry, Cal Streeter, Charles Hand, John Rice, Bob Jones, or William Culbertson. I don’t care who it is. He doesn’t want folks to hate him. He wants to be accepted. It is not easy to make enemies. If we are going to have the breath of God upon a church and a ministry and if that Heavenly Dove is going to hover over a man of God, sin has got to be exceedingly sinful and wrong has got to be very wrong. A man of God has to remind his people of this over and over again, lest the web is woven by the spider.
What kind of web does Satan weave? In the fourth place, he causes us to lose a vision. Back yonder, we had 750 in Sunday School. Do you recall that little chorus I wrote? I thought it was a masterpiece. It went something like this: “We shall never see a thousand in our Sunday School again. We shall grow by leaps and bounds as we march on hand in hand.” It got even better further on. I know you wonder how it could, but it did. It got better.
One day the Steffeys, God bless them, gave us $6,000 and said, “Use it as you think God would want it used.” We bought some buses with it and started our bus ministry. One day we got back to 1,000 in Sunday School. Remember that day? We went down to the Civic Center and had 1955. How happy we were. One day we had 1,500 and boy, the camp of the saints rejoiced. One day we had 2,000 in Sunday School. Now we are trying for 5,000. Did you know it is easy to lose your vision after a while? To go from 750 to 1,000 is a lot. To go from 4,750 to 5,000 is just as much. Character rejoices in that. It takes character to rejoice in it. “Where there is no vision, the people perish!” Somebody needs to say, “Let’s go higher, let’s go higher!” When we cross the goal like we did last December (when we had the 5,700 and ended up with our 5,000 average) and I it, there was an electricity in the crowd that will always be that way. The Devil weaves the web of no vision.
Superintendent, when you’ve lost your vision, your department perishes. Teacher, when you lose your vision, your class perishes. Preacher, when you lose your vision, your church perishes. America, when you lose your vision, your nation perishes. There needs to be that teenage spirit and that exploring kind of spirit. There needs to be that expectancy, that holy hush, and that holy urgency. We’ve got to go higher. That is when Satan begins to weep. That’s why he gives you preachers like me and others to warn you. Keep your vision.
People say, “Brother Hyles, you average 4,000 in Sunday School. What’s your goal for the future?” Well, how about 5,000? “Well, but what are you going to do then?” We’ll need 6,000. “Well, how about after you become the largest in the world?” Well, we’re going to be twice over the biggest in the world. You say, “Brother Hyles, don’t you think that we ought to divide up and start some new ones?” No, we’re going to keep piling on. Just keep piling on. You say, “Why?” Because of all of them who come here know the preacher personally. I know that those who come will get vision.
The fifth web is conforming. You get tired of being different after a while. I know of a church in Jacksonville, Florida. They had a man of God there who preached straight and strong. Let me stop and say this. Did you know, young folks, one of these days you’re going to be sorry that nobody’s up here to make you be quiet? You will. Did you know the way we keep young folks from having riots? We say, “Sit still, you two right there!” When we say, “I love you. Will you go with me to the pizza house tonight,” did you know that they won’t have a riot?
There are men tonight who cannot come home from work without their wives throwing a towel in the garage or out the front porch and saying, “Take off your shoes or clean your feet.” Boy, they can spot a speck of dust 100 yards away, and tell you the size of it. You may not like that, but you’ll never have a dirty house. You won’t ever get in! I’m not advocating that but I’d dead sure rather have that than have to have a radar unit to find the kitchen.
Now you say, “Brother Hyles, that’s too hard.” Well, okay. I’d 10,000 times rather cut the snake in too many pieces than not cut his head off. That’s why you should always look for the spider webs. Watch the corner here. Another corner, that corner, this corner, always look for spider webs. Why? I’ll tell you why? Because the devil is trying to catch us in his snare, that’s why.
Let me just mention one of the changing tastes: outgrowing the program. You might say, “I’m tired of all this promotion. I’m a little weary about it.” You’d better be careful, brother. Whatever we have done, we had best keep doing it. Whatever batting order we are using, we are in a winning streak, whether you believe it or not. Whether you like our methods or not, God seems to like them very well.
Pete Maravich plays basketball down at LSU. I don’t like the guy. He needs a haircut. But boy, he can shoot! He averages 47 points a game. Why, the basketball team I played on didn’t average 47 points a season. When you average 47 points a game, you’re a basketball player. This fellow Maravich has a pair of socks, the same pair he’s worn all through college. No joke, he wears the same pair. Do you know why? If I was shooting 47 points a game, I wouldn’t have my hair cut either. I wouldn’t change my socks either. Why? He’s winning! For these ten and one-half years, the blessing and power of God has rested on this corner. Let’s not change! Don’t outgrow the program.
May I quickly say another thing? What are the webs? The sixth web is letting someone else do it. You might say, “Our church is having conversions. They won’t need me.” Yes, we do. God needs you. The Devil begins to weave that web of letting someone else do it. You might say, “I worked hard last year. Let somebody else work hard this year.” No. Don’t ever stop.
Do you know the folks in the church here whom I thank God for? I thank God for those people that have stayed with their shoulder to the wheel through the years. I hesitate to call any names, but I think I will. I thank God for little Mrs. Tunis, who, ten years ago, set out to just work and work and work and work. That little lady has never quit. She just kept on. I thank God and I shouldn’t start this, but I thank God for little Mrs. Dodson. I thank God for superintendents who have just stuck with the job. They are always going on and always keeping up. They’re not saying, “Let somebody else do it,” or “I’ve served my time,” but “I’ll do it.” They just keep on going.
Just keep on going. Never stop. Before you know it, you’ll say, “Well, we’ll have the conversions anyway.” No, you won’t. No, it won’t always be that way, either. It won’t. I know too many churches. I’ve seen them. Every person has to say, “It’s up to me.” It’s up to me to build my class. It’s up to me to build my bus. It’s up to me to build my department. I’ll not quit. I’ll go on. Oh, sure, I’d like to quit sometimes. There are times when I wish I could pastor for one six-month period at an Episcopalian church in the country, with six families in it and all of them wealthy. I’d like to.
I’m like that Baptist preacher I told you about. He went down to the train station every morning, and just laughed. Every evening, he went down to the train station and just laughed again. Folks got concerned about the preacher at the depot just laughing all the time. The deacons saw him one time and said, “Pastor, you’re making a fool of yourself. You’re down here every morning and every evening just laughing. Why?” He said, “It just does my heart good to see something moving that a Baptist preacher doesn’t have to push.” I’d like to see something move I didn’t have to push. There is no time to stop. There is no time to quit.
The spider keeps on working. As long as the spider keeps on working, the housewife had better keep on sweeping. As long as the spider is weaving her web, the housewife says, “I must be careful today. I must be careful to day to look for the spider web.”
As long as the Devil is trying to destroy the church, we have to keep our zeal. It’s a little harder for me to kick as high as I used to kick, I’ll be honest with you. It’s a little harder for me as pastor to get excited as I used to be. One reason is that I have many interests now. Our ministry is nationwide. I leave tomorrow to fly to St. Louis. Tomorrow night, I’ll speak in the little town of Rolla, Missouri, to the state convention meeting of the Church of God (non-Pentecostal Church of God, folks). I’ll be doing the best that I can and pouring out my soul to stir up the Church of God people. I’ll come back in here late Wednesday afternoon just in time for teacher’s meeting and I’ll be tired. I will have traveled all day and my mind will have been working there in Rolla trying to stir some preachers and some churches of another denomination. I’ve got to work on myself before I get back and remember that we’re in a spring program. We’ve got to go, we’ve got to move. It’s not quite as easy to jump that high. It’s not because I’m old and not because I’m tired, but because I’ve been doing it for so long. But I’ve got to work on myself. On the plane when I come into O’Hare Field, I’ll be saying, “Jack, get with it. Transfer. Shift. From Rolla to Hammond. From the Church of God to the Baptist. That’s a good shift. Get with it.”
As I approach the church here, it will be like a player before a game or before the super bowl or before the world series. I’ll walk in and say, “God, give me the rest and the zeal. Help me touch my people and stir my people again tonight!” Why? Because as sure as I am standing behind this pulpit, the Devil will be weaving his webs trying to cause us to lose our zeal. Before you know it, a church is caught in the sticky fluid of the spider’s web.
Let us pray.