“To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.”–Titus 1:4, 5.
“That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.”–Titus 2:2-8.
Paul is writing a letter to his young preacher boy. Now Titus was on an island called Crete, and he was discouraged.
Many preachers are here this morning. You understand a little about Titus then. All of us have been there. Titus got discouraged. The offering was down. The Sunday School wasn’t going too good. The deacons were giving a little trouble. The people were complaining. The ladies were gossiping. The prayer meeting crowd was off. Folks were calling Titus a nut and a fool. It was a difficult situation. Titus had a desire to leave. These conditions caused Titus to write a letter to Paul and say, “Now, Brother Paul, I would like for you to find me another place.”
I have some preacher boys, and I get more letters from those preacher boys, saying, “Brother Hyles, I believe my ministry has ended here. I think God is through with me here. I have been here two months now, and I think I have about finished my work. I have preached up all my sermons. Would you recommend me somewhere else?” Usually such letters are written on Monday morning or late Sunday night!
I think Titus was like that. He was writing Paul and saying, “Dear Brother Paul: I appreciate your recommending me down here at Crete. This was a good situation. The salary was good, but I am having it a little rough now, and if you don’t mind, I wish you would recommend me somewhere else.”
So Paul is writing back to Titus to explain that he cannot recommend him somewhere else, that he ought to stay in Crete in spite of the fact that Crete is a difficult place, a hard place to stay. Paul is writing to tell him that he ought to stay there and fight the battle for God.
Now many of you are in difficult places today. Dr. Rice, you would be interested in this. One dear brother came to the conference last year and he got iron in his blood and grit in his craw and went back to preach what he ought to preach. He started doing thus and so and standing for right and before long the associational missionary came down. He brought a lawyer with him and caused trouble. This preacher said, “I had to leave the church. And do you know what I did? I started preaching in a barn.” I asked, “How is the ministry?” He answered, “Fine. God is blessing. I am to baptize eight next Sunday night.”
That is what these conferences do. Anyway, you come to places like this after being discouraged at home, and you get encouraged. That is what this is for- -to encourage us.
I was in the paratroopers in World War II. The very thought of my ever getting up in a plane and jumping scares the daylights out of me. I fly a great deal. When I get up in those planes 34,000 feet and look down, I say, “Man alive! How did I ever jump out of one of these things!” But I did- -well, I was pushed out nineteen times! Do you know why I could jump? Because there were seventeen other fellows on the plane about to jump, too. And if they were in the same shape l was in, it wasn’t too bad.
So it is good to go aside and find fellows who have it rough, too. I am sure that many, many of you today are in rough situations. You are having it difficult. You have cried many tears lately. The burdens have been heavy; the problems many.
That is the way it was with Titus. He was in Crete. He wanted to come back. So Paul wrote Titus a letter. “Titus, I left you in Crete for this cause, ‘that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city.'”
Actually Paul, in the letter of Titus, is trying to explain why he wants Titus left in Crete. I think the key phrase, the key sentence, in Titus is, “For this cause left I thee in Crete.” Then he goes on to explain what to do in Crete, what to preach to the old ladies and to the old men, and to the young ladies and young men. He explains what Titus ought to do in Crete and why he should stay there.
Now there are three things Paul told Titus in so many words about why he ought to stay in Crete. In the first place, Paul said, “Titus, you need Crete. You need Crete.” In the second place, he said in so many words, “Titus, Crete needs you .” in the third place, he was saying, “God needs you in Crete.”
Notice, first, Paul said, “Titus, you need Crete. Now I know the going gets rough.” We come to a meeting of preachers and we laugh, we play. But there are many heartaches and burdens; there are tears and broken hearts; there are nights of weeping and nights of loneliness. There are times, you preacher friends, when nobody understands. I mean there are going to be times (if there are not already times) when you are not right with God. But there are going to be times and there are times when nobody understands.
Even your own best people won’t understand. They are for you. They say to you, “Now, Preacher, we think you are fine, but why do you do like you do? We get out of one mess, then in another. Why do you do like you do?”
You go home and your wife says, “Honey, I don’t want to see folks against you. Can’t you preach the same thing and not be quite so tough? Why do you have to be so mean?”
And your mother sometimes says, “Son, Mamma loves you and Mamma hates to see you unhappy. Mamma hates to see you suffer. Son, isn’t there some way you could preach the same thing without making so many folks mad at you? I don’t want folks to get mad at you. You are not as mean as everybody says you are. Now, Son, couldn’t you just ease up a little bit?”
You come home and your wife doesn’t understand; the kids can’t figure you out; the dog won’t wag his tail at you. There is nobody at all who approves and you wonder if it is worth it. So you write Dr. Rice a letter and say, “Dr. Rice, I think my ministry is over here. Would you pray about recommending me somewhere else?” Dr. Rice writes back, “Now you behave yourself, and you stay in Crete.” Brother, you don’t think it, but you need to stay in Crete because it is the best thing for you. It is best that you stay in Crete. You need it.
I have noticed that all great men have had times of brokenness. In Dr. Rice’s biography we read where he had some times when it seemed like his ministry was gone. He had some times when it seemed like he faced a critical point in his ministry, it seemed like everything was gone–times of discouragement.
For example, Dr. George W. Truett had a time when his heart was broken. He shot one of his best friends accidentally on a hunting trip, which almost broke his heart. But that was the mellowing thing that made his ministry, made God’s breath upon him.
Take Mr. Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon left the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland. The group voted to censure him. Only seven folks voted for him when he was censured officially. Of course, the same Baptist headquarters has his picture now in the vestibule, but they would still break his heart if he were alive today. He was voted out. He had heartbreak. Not only that, but in Surrey Music Gardens packed with thousands, someone cried “Fire” and in the stampede several folks were killed. It broke Spurgeon’s heart. This matter of Crete, the difficult place, the hard place, the rough going, was one of the things God used to make Spurgeon what he was.
Charles G. Finney had his Crete. Finney’s pastor was named Dr. Dale. Dr. Dale was a good fundamental man, but like so many good fundamental men today. Dr. Dale ordained Charles G. Finney. Finney came to the place in his life when Dr. Dale said, “I am ashamed I laid my hands on Charles Finney, ashamed he is my son in the ministry.” It broke Finney’s heart. It was his Crete, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to him.
Jonathan Edwards was pastor of a thriving church. When he preached against dancing and unconverted church membership, the leaders in the church got together and voted him out. It broke his heart. It seemed as if his Crete was more than he could stand; yet it was one of the things that made Jonathan Edwards.
Now, dear friends, if John Rice and Charles Spurgeon and George Truett and Billy Sunday and Dwight Moody and Charles Finney and Jonathan Edwards needed their Crete, I think Jack Hyles needs his. We ought to do as my Mamma used to say, “Son, quit your crying and open your mouth and take your Black Draught like a big boy.” Now it is all I ever took. Black Draught medicine, it was claimed, would cure anything- -anything from falling hair to in growing toenails to ptomaine poisoning to lumbago. And Mamma served it on the wrong end of the spoon! Did you ever take Black Draught on the wrong end of a spoon?
I would say, “Mamma, I have a headache.” “0. K., open your mouth, Son.” It is the most awful tasting stuff I ever tasted. She would say, “Open your mouth, Son.” And I would say, “Mamma, I don’t want to.” She would say, “Stand up and take your medicine like a big boy.” I sat there with my lips puckered and my eyes rolling with tears and opened my mouth. I learned to take my Black Draught like a big boy. Now we are going to have to do the same thing today.
Some of you preachers will go home and whine and corn -plain and yelp and cry and moan and groan because the deacons are trying to chase you off. Now you just sit up and take your medicine like a big boy. Behave yourself. Stay in Crete. You need to stay there. It will do more for you than all the good times, all the happy times, all the big times. You will pray more, care more, cry more, grow more, get more, and bless more in those times of sorrow, heartache, bereavement and seeming defeat than any other time in your life. So if you are facing some tough times today, you stay in Crete.
I was reading the other day of Ronald Creech, one of our good friends, in Durham, North Carolina. Ronald Creech has taken a real stand for God in his area. Some of the lit-tie lean Christians, maybe they are broadminded, decided they were going to get rid of Ronald. They tried, but Ronald can’t be got rid of. He wouldn’t leave.
What happened? A little group of folks sued him; now most of the people who followed him had to leave the church building and have services outside. The church was roaming the streets trying to find a place to meet. But they were having folks saved right along, and the power of God was there. Old Ronald was facing a battle, but I will guarantee you one thing: there will be a different Ronald Creech who comes out of this than went into it. Why? Because it is his Crete. And he needs it. Now the Court of Appeals has given the church back its building.
I was with a fellow down in West Memphis, Arkansas, who was in this conference last year. He went back home and stirred up some trouble. Listen! There is enough trouble to stir up at home. Well, you say, “I don’t know what to preach against.” Just look, man: there is enough meanness in your town. Preach a series of sermons on the meanness that is going on, and you will stir up some trouble. Listen, If you have the dancing out of the high school, work on the square dancing in the junior high school for a while. If you can get that out, work on the one-two-three-kick in the elementary schools. Do something, brother. There is enough meanness going on, enough devilment going on in your town for any prophet of God to keep in a scrap most of the time.
So this fellow left the conference and went back to West Memphis, Arkansas, and he had some of the wrong men down to preach in his church–I should say some of the right men. So he had to get excommunicated. He went and got him an old night club and converted the night club and is preaching there and now he is having about as many folks in the night club as he had down in the church building, and he doesn’t have to be worried about the associational missionary.
I am just saying this: Difficult times when you can get in a scrap for God will make you if you will just stand up and fight. You need Crete.
I can say this for my own little ministry: In my life the biggest things that ever happened to me, happened in times of sorrow. One night Dad had just come home–many nights, but this one night in particular, Mamma and I waited for Daddy on Saturday night to come home but he didn’t come. Finally about four o’clock in the morning we heard a noise down the street. Daddy had hit a tree. He had come in drunk, and had a flat, and didn’t even know it, he was so drunk. He hit a tree and the car was ruined. Mamma’s heart was broken. Daddy came in and Mamma talked and cried. She tiptoed out in the backyard and got a bottle of whiskey out of the car; I saw her break it on a rock in the backyard so Daddy wouldn’t have any more.
I began to cry- -a little kid of about ten or eleven years old, and I said, “Mamma, why can’t Daddy go to Sunday School like other daddies?” My heart was crushed and broken. It seemed that Mamma and I just didn’t know what in the world to do. But it wasn’t but a few hours before God spoke to me about getting saved. Through that little experience I came to Christ.
Then one day when I was a teen-ager, I came home. Mother called me in the room and said, “Son, I have something to tell you.”
I said, “What, Mother?”
“Daddy is leaving this morning.”
Daddy was sitting on the bed, and I said, “Daddy, you are not going to leave.”
Daddy said, “Yes, Son, it has got to be this way.”
It was Sunday morning. I went to church that night brokenhearted. In that time God spoke to my heart about being a preacher.
God uses those sorrowful times, God uses the tears, God uses the Crete experiences, God uses the difficult times to work on you and get you right.
I thought the world had ended when I buried my father. I thought the sun would never rise. I thought that life was over. I complained to God. Yet whatever little success God has given me in the ministry and blessing in soul winning is because of what happened on the grave of my daddy.
Now let me tell you something, preachers: Quit giving up. I get tired of preachers giving up every time they have it rough. I get sick of some old backslidden, skinflint of a deacon coming to the preacher and saying, “We are going to try to chase you off.” The preacher, too sweet for his own breeches, gets up and says, “Well, I guess I had better leave. I don’t want to cause any trouble.”
What do you mean- -you don’t want to cause any trouble? You cause him all the trouble you can. You chase that fellow so far they won’t ever know who he was. You put him in orbit. I know what you will do. You will say, “Well, I don’t want to cause any trouble. My wife is having heart trouble, the kids are getting complications, and I am getting a little ulcer myself. I just believe it would be better if I moved on and the church would have peace.”
Yes, they will have peace. That fellow will run that just like he ran it while you were there, and he will kill somebody else’s wife, and somebody else’s kids, and ruin somebody else’s family, and ruin somebody else’s health. Don’t you leave that fellow to ruin some other good man. You stay there and fight the battle, and don’t leave until the battle is won. I mean, stay in your Crete and fight and do the job for God when it is hard; stay when it is tough; stay when it is rough; stay when they try to chase you off. In God’s good name, stay.
Sure, you will have trouble. Sure, you will have rough going. Sure, they will try to chase you off. But don’t fold your little wings and get out. Stay there and fight the battle for God. You need Crete. You need those experiences. You need it tough.
I wonder sometimes what we think Christianity is. Let me picture it a minute. Go to the city of Ephesus in the first century. Come to Corso Street, the street on which the big arena and the big athletic contests were held. See the great crowds and activity as fifty or sixty thousand or more people gather together for a great athletic contest. See them as they get off their chariots or camels and park them, tie them; see them as they walk down toward the great stands of the great arena. See them as the men of the concession stands try to sell their refreshments. Great crowds are coming in and thousands of people are in the great arena on Corso Street in Ephesus.
See them as the mayor of the city and the city councilmen gather in the press box high above the stadium. See them as the people gather in the city of Ephesus for the great athletic contest and as they start the contest and have someone throw the javelin, and the great javelin contest gets under way.
There are a few races and a discus throw, etc., and after a few preliminaries, now you come to the main event. And the crowd will scream, “Bring on all the Christians! Bring on the Christians!”
Over in the corner somewhere is a little huddle of God’s people, redeemed by Calvary’s blood, saved by His marvelous grace, who love not their lives unto death. They are huddled in a little corner. Down here on this end of the arena is a cage. In that cage there are several big ravenous lions who have not had one bite of food for an entire week. Their cage is down here on this end. The crowd begins to chant just like you would chant, “We want a touchdown! We want a touchdown! Or block that kick! Block that kick! Or we want a home run!” Then comes the great chant, the main event, “Bring on the Christians! Bring on the Christians! Bring on the Christians!”
Down here on this end are the lions; someone opens the door and they push them in. Among that little huddle of Christians is a tottering gray-haired man, a dear grandmotherly saint, a young man, a young lady expecting a baby, a few little children- -not very important-looking people, not very well dressed, not very stately, not very influential, not very wealthy. They come into the arena and as they look at the great crowd they realize what is going to happen. Somebody pulls a rope and the lions, who have been starved for seven days, are turned loose. The lions come toward the Christians and have their breakfast. In a little huddle the Christians begin to pray and sing:
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.
Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace bath bro’t me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
Those little Christians in Ephesus in the first century bowed together in a little circle on their knees in prayer as the lions came and as the people roared with delight and joy, “Kill the Christians! Kill the Christians!” Death came as the lions ripped their bodies to pieces and broke their bones into powder. The few Christians died for Jesus Christ.
That is where this thing we are in started, dear friends. Early Christianity was a religion of martyrs. Yet we groan today. We think the preacher has to be chaplain of the local Masonic Lodge; he has to be the blesser of the Civic Clubs, the trigger-puller every time there is a turtle race in town. He is somewhat of a cross between grandmother, Santa Claus and Old Mother Hubbard. He is a holy water blesser. He walks down the street with his sweet little smile all week long and blesses the people, and folks say, “There goes the Reverend, boys and girls. Grow up and be like him. He is a sweet, kindly man who never says anything negative. He never raises his voice or lets his temper go.”
Yes, and lets the whole world go to Hell. He doesn’t tell anybody about sin. He lets the night clubs run rampant. He lets the boys and girls go into adultery. He lets the town go to Hell. He lets the skid rowers go on their mad plunge i ward Hell. He lets broken homes continue and broken lives and broken hearts and broken futures and broken dreams down the cesspool of his own indifference and coward preaching. “Let them go to Hell,” he says. “I am saved.
Somewhere between the first century and 1961 we have definitely lost the thing that made Christianity what it was and the thing that Jesus intended for His people to be and 1 like. God help us to realize we have not been called to Sunday School picnic, but to fight a battle for God. Y( need to stay in Crete and fight the battle.
You are not going to see any Red Seas parted until ti Pharaohs get after you. Everybody wants to see the R Sea parted, but nobody wants the Pharaohs chasing them.
Everybody wants to see the Son of man standing at the right hand of God, but nobody wants to get stoned as Stephen was.
Everybody wants to go to the third Heaven, but nobody wants to get chased out of Lystra as Paul did.
Everybody wants to see Leo the lion get lockjaw, but nobody wants to bow and pray with the windows open and go with Daniel into the lions’ den.
Everybody wants to see Jesus standing in the fiery furnace, but nobody wants to refuse to bow down and worship the golden image and get put in the fiery furnace.
Everybody wants to see God’s blessing and power. Everybody wants to see revival. “Lord, send a pentecostal revival.” Yes, if God did send a pentecostal revival you would be put in jail as were Peter and John; they would stone you as they did Stephen; they would laugh at you as they did Peter. They would mock you and persecute you and hang you. I am saying that not a single preacher in this building today but what does not need a good old tough, scrappin’ battle such as Crete to make a man out of you. You nee Crete. Titus needed Crete.
In the second place, not only does Titus need Crete, but Crete needs Titus.
“Paul, could I go home? Paul, it is cold and lonely. Paul, you yourself said they were a bunch of slow bellies. And Paul, among these slow bellies over here –it is hard, rough. Paul, could I go somewhere else? Could I move on to a more lucrative field? I feel my work is done here.”
Paul said, “Titus, you stay in Crete not only because you need Crete, but because Crete needs you.”
Fellows, listen today. Neighborhoods around this country by the thousands have no gospel witness whatsoever. People write me by the hundreds who hear me on the radio station and say, “Brother Hyles, we don’t have any place to go to church.” “Brother Hyles, do you know of a soul-winning church near enough to us where we could go? We live in Montana. We live in Washington, D. C. We live in New Jersey. We live in Texas. We live in Oklahoma. We live in Georgia. We live in Idaho. We live in Michigan. We live in Indiana. Brother Hyles, we don’t know a soul-winning church where we can go.” Ah, places across this country need preachers.
Old Dr. Scarborough used to say down at Southwestern Seminary as he looked out at his class of preachers, “Young men, be resurrection preachers .” They would look bewildered. And Dr. Scarborough would say, “Go after these old dead churches and resurrect them. Set them on fire for God. Give these neighborhoods a place to go to church.”
“Listen, Crete needs some young preachers today. Crete needs some young men who are aflame for God, who are afraid of nobody but God, seek nothing but souls, love nothing but God’s will, hate nothing but sin, fight nothing but the Devil. John Wesley used to say, “We will go out to these towns and start new churches .”
My little girl, Becky, is nine. My little girl, Linda, is almost four. David is seven. My little Cindy is twenty months old. David is going to be a preacher, I think. He was going to be an ice cream man, but I have about talked him into being a preacher now! I asked him the other day, “David, what are you going to be?” He said, “Preacher .”
David and Becky got to the office the other day. They turned on the recording machine. 1 don’t know how, but they turned it on, and David and Becky were having a service. I played it back after they were gone. Boy, it was a lark! It was almost sacrilegious. If they weren’t so young it would be a sin.
David said, “Well everybody, we are glad to see this big crowd. Would you all stand and sing and shake hands and get acquainted?”
Becky said, “Amen! Glory to God!”
David said, “Now then, do we have any visitors here?” Becky answered, “I am one.”
He said, “Where are you from, young lady?” “I am from Texas .”
He said, “We are glad to have you. Amen.” “Amen,” she said.
Then he said, “Now we are going to sing a solo.”
He got up and brother, be warbled it! He tremoloed it. He sang, “Amazing Grace. . . !” Boy he really hatched it up. When be got through he said, “Now I am going to preach .” You talk about preaching! I never heard such preaching. That old recording machine just shook! He said, “If you don’t get borned again, you are going to burn forever and ever in Hell where there is fire and it is hot fire, too.”
And Becky said, “Hallelujah! Amen! Glory to God!” Then he said, “Now all you heathen bow your heads. We are going to have an invitation. If you want to get saved, come on down here.”
Old Becky said, “I am coming.” She came down.
And he said, “Do you want to get saved?”
He said, “Kneel there and pray it through.”
“0. K.” And she prayed and he said, “0 Lord, help this dear old sinner woman to get saved.”
She said, “Hallelujah! 1 am saved now!”
David said, “Are you sure you are saved?”
“Yes sir, I am sure.”
He said, “Folks, this lady just got saved.”
Becky said, “Glory to God!”
Boy, it was terrible, it really was. I saw myself finally as others see me. Now I wonder where he got that?
But you know Becky, Cindy, Linda and David are not going to be at home forever. One of these days Becky is going to marry some fellow and go off to Seattle, or San Francisco, or Portland, or Washington, or Norfolk, or Winston-Salem, or Miami, or Orlando, or Birmingham, or Atlanta, where her husband will get a job. I hope there is a good church where she can go. I hope that in the little town where they settle there will be a gospel-preaching, soul-winning, Hell hating, Christ-honoring, sin-fighting church. And I hope she will be able to see somebody saved every Sunday. My little girl Becky, nine years old, almost ten, has never been to church on Sunday without seeing somebody saved. Not one of my children has ever been to church on Sunday without seeing somebody saved. I hate to think that Becky would have to rear her family in some old cold, dead church.
But what are we going to do? How are we going to get them? I know how we are going to get them. When fellows like you go back home and tell your deacons you are going to preach what God tells you to preach. Tell them by God’s grace you are going to preach what God says to preach and build some soul-winning stations. Get off your blessed assurance, out of your luxurious office, and get out here on the street corner and knock on doors and go from house to house and tell folks about Jesus and get them saved and bring them down the aisle on Sunday and build the saints in the faith and preach the Bible and stand for God. If we could raise a generation of young preachers around this country like that, we would have a station in every town in America where the truth is preached and souls get saved. So Crete needs Titus.
One fellow said to me, “Brother Hyles, if God should call me up North of the Mason-Dixon line, I just am not interested.” I guess I am an ambassador for the North now, but some of you fellows who are down here where there are good churches on every street corner, did you ever stop to think that there are towns of thousands of people in America that don’t have a single church that believes the Bible is the Word of God? Did you know there are cities with twenty-five and thirty and forty thousand people that don’t have one single soul -winning witness in town? I am just saying this:
Because it is hard does not give you a right to fold up and quit. Stay in the battle. Crete needs you. That hard place needs you.
Let me say this, too: Don’t let Crete change you; you change Crete. I have been in Crete. I have had tough things, but I haven’t had any bad things. Nobody has yet crucified me, nobody has spit at me yet. Oh, I may have been spit at, but I ducked! But we have been in a few places that were rougher than we are used to.
Listen to me now. When you get to these tough places, just say, “Dear Lord, by God’s grace I need it, I can take it. I will fight it because I need it.” And Crete also needs you.
Look what Paul told Titus to preach. In chapter 2, verse 2, he said, tell “the aged men be sober [that means don’t drink], grave [that means don’t tell dirty stories], temperate [that means don’t eat too much], sound in the faith [that means fight liberalism, modernism, neo-orthodoxy and all the rest of it], in charity [that means teach them to love God, love Him enough to serve Him], in patience [that means to keep on serving God when the going is rough].”
And he said tell the old women, this means the W. M. S., tell the “aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness [tell them to straighten up and live clean], not false accusers [tell them to use their tongue right and quit yakking], not given to much wine [tell them to quit going to their social clubs and their civic parties and drinking their little cocktails, their canasta clubs], teachers of good things.” And he says, “Teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
“Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.” That means to be careful what you read. Keep your mind clean. Quit looking at naked women, and women, you quit going naked. “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech [quit your cursing, dirty jokes, lying, all of your bad talkin’] …
Now he said, “That is what I left you there for.” He said, “You have a bunch of slow bellies over there.” He said, “Tell the old men to straighten up. Get the old ladies to quit gossiping. Get the young ladies to keep the houses and to quit working downtown to make a little more money. Tell them to wear enough clothes. Tell the young men to keep their minds clean and pure.” He said, “The meaner they are, the more they need you .”
Anybody can go to a place where all the Christians are doing real good and make it fine. I had a church in Texas with three hundred soul winners, 4,128 members when I left. I never saw a bunch of folks in my life who loved God any more. We had several people who won souls every week and some won folks every day. One man won over two hundred a year. Two or three folks won 150 people a year to Christ. Over three hundred won somebody in a year. Twenty-five or more won somebody every week. Boy, you could come to our church and say, “Jesus saves,” and folks would shout “Amen!” I mean it was just an utopian situation. Anybody can serve God like that.
When the going gets rough, when the deacons breathe down your throat, when people are living in sin and they want to chase the preacher off, if you cut loose on this matter of sin and if you teach the boys and girls they ought to live right and dress right and act right and be good witnesses at school; and you teach the men they ought to take down those dirty calendars and quit reading that sexy literature and keep their minds clean; and you teach the young ladies they ought to dress right and walk right and sit right and live right and drink right and lead right; and you teach the old men they ought to come to church and be examples; and teach these old ladies to quit gossiping and get right with God; and just because you have a gray hair in your head it doesn’t give you an exemption from visitation and witness -ing and soul winning- -when you bear down on that thing, you may as well make up your mind that a committee will see you within thirty days. You just get ready for them. Put the coffee pot on and make some doughnuts; they are on the way to see you!
Paul said, “Titus, I am not saying to ease up; I am saying to speed it up and fight the battle for God.”
I asked my little boy, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”
“Are you going to be a real good, hard-hitting, sin-fighting, Hell-hating, Christ-honoring, soul-winning preacher, or a pussyfooter.”
He answered, “I am going to be a pussyfooter.”
Sometimes I don’t blame him.
Paul said to Titus, “Crete needs you.” Listen, dear friends, if you don’t change your town, there is no use in your being in your town.
Dr. John Rice down in Waxahachie, Texas, twenty miles north from where I was born, was in a revival campaign. Many of the young folks were going out to lover’s lane. Dr. Rice one night announced, “I am going out to lover’s lane tonight after the service and take down the car license of every car out there, then tomorrow night in this mule barn I will read off the number of the car license of everybody in lover’s lane tonight.” That would cause a stir wouldn’t it?
Where is that old stuff today? Oh, we garnish their tombstones. We say about Billy Sunday, “Let’s garnish his tombstone. God bless the memory of Billy Sunday, that wonderful preacher of the Gospel. Oh, God give us more Billy Sundays .” Well, why don’t you preach like Billy Sunday did? If we are going to brag on Billy Sunday, let’s do the best we can to try to encourage Billy Sunday-type Christianity. Ma Sunday told me before she died, “Jack, when Billy preached he didn’t have an outline; he had a sign board with figures an inch high. The reason was that he didn’t get close to the pulpit, so he couldn’t see his little outline. He ran by the pulpit every once in a while, and he had to have a sign instead of an outline.” Yes, we garnish their tombstones.
Dr. Rice doesn’t think he is as old as I sometimes make it sound like he is. I don’t think he is real old either. I think he is a young man, but he is not twenty anymore. He is not twenty-nine anymore. But he won’t be dead five years before some of these little fellows who won’t even speak to him on the street will be preaching a series of sermons out of his books and talking about “the great John Rice.”
Dear friends, do you know what we need? We don’t need some fellows who like Billy Sunday; we need some little Billy Sundays scattered all over the country. We don’t need some fellows to talk about the great Moody; we need some fellows who will act like the great Moody where they live. So Crete needed Titus.
The next thing very quickly and that is, God needs you in Crete. The writer Ezekiel said there was nobody to “stand in the gap” (Ezek. 22:30). The psalmist said, “I looked on my right hand. ..refuge failed; no man cared for my soul” (Ps. 142:4).
God needs you in Crete. God needs somebody in Crete. Let me say this: if you will stay after sinners and be faithful to God, God can use you in Crete. It would be a good thing today if some preachers here could go home and get kicked out of your churches for Jesus. I am not saying you ought to try to; I am not saying you ought to; but I am saying some of you ought to, if you got kicked out for Jesus.
I was in the 82nd Airborne Division, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but I never saw combat duty. But some of the fellows who did, came back from overseas and showed their wounds. One fellow would say, “Well, I have a plate in my head. I got it in Okinawa.” Another fellow would say, “I got some shrapnel in my leg and it is still there. I got that in Iwo Jima.” Another fellow would say, “Well, see this empty sleeve? I lost my arm over in the Belgian Bulge.” One fellow would say, “I have got an imitation foot or a wooden leg. I lost my leg in Normandy.”
They would look at me as if to say, “Well, how about you?” I would say, “I got dish pan hands on K. P. while you all were over there.” Sometimes I wished I could have a broken leg. I got to where I wished I could have a piece of shrapnel or a plate in my skull, or an artificial limb or something because I was so embarrassed.
Now won’t we little 4F Christians who let sin run wild and loose in our town be ashamed when we stand before Jesus? Paul will say, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ. I got these old lumps down there at Lystra. How about you, Stephen?” Old Stephen will say, “Well, I got stoned outside the city. I too got a few lumps for Jesus.” How about you, John? “Well, I was out there a long time; I was awfully lonely on the isle of Patmos.” James will say, “I was beheaded.” Philip will say, “I was crucified.” Matthew will say, “I was clubbed to death.” James the less will say, “My brains were beaten out.” Andrew will say, “I was crucified with two of the poles sticking in the ground diagonally.” Mark will say, “I was dragged to pieces.” Paul will say, “I was beheaded.” Jude and Bartholomew will say, “I was crucified.” Thomas will say, “I was killed with a spear.” Luke will say, “I was hanged.” John will say, “I was a fanatic and exiled.” We little old twentieth century preachers will say, “All we have is a little mimeograph ink on our hands when we put out the bulletin every Saturday morning.” Ah, God give us some preachers again!
Wouldn’t it be a good thing if every little child could be raised to listen to a preacher who loved God and loved sinners and got them saved?
Wouldn’t it be a good thing if once again the boys and girls in our country could hear the old-time preaching that some of you used to hear? I go to preach in places nowadays and folks say, “I used to hear that when I was a kid.” Now when our kids grow up they will have to say, “I never heard that. I never heard that.” And the reason is that there is just not much preaching going on today- -the right kind of preaching.
When I was a kid they used to ask, “Where are you going, Jack?” “I am going to preaching.” But now they say, “I am going to church.” Why? There is no preaching. They used to say, “How many boys and girls are going to attend preaching today?” Now they say, “How many of you boys and girls are going to attend church today?” Why? The preaching is gone. The churches are building great big educational buildings to house a thousand, and an auditorium to take care of three hundred. Why? Preaching is gone.
I am saying, God needs some preachers to go to Crete. When Charles G. Finney was in Rochester in a revival the school principal got mad at him. The teacher tried to run him down, criticize him and cuss him. And Charles G. Finney was praying and the power of God fell. One day a boy was in the high school giving a talk and he fell under conviction and got on his face and began to weep and confess his sins. When that happened, the entire class began to weep and confess their sins. The principal was called in and the teacher said, “What are we going to do?” And the principal said, “I don’t know what to do. What can we do?” And the teacher said, “Well, I don’t know.” The principal said, “Go call that preacher. He is the only one who can help us.” And he did. The revival broke out in school. Isn’t that wonderful? Now compare that with our baccalaureate sermons today.
As you look back at those difficult days, you will find the sweetest times of all were the years you spent in Crete. Titus looks back from Heaven today and I am sure Titus can say, “Crete was the best place I ever was in. I needed it, The people needed me and God needed me in Crete.”
When I left Texas and went to Hammond, it was the hardest thing I ever did. I mean it was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. I had a church of people who were my babies, my little children. In almost seven years, we had seen the church grow from a building worth six thousand dollars to over half a million dollars. We had seen the church grow from forty-four members to over four thousand, They were my babies. I loved them just like I love my own flesh.
Before my wife and I left Garland, I was supposed to preach my closing sermon on Sunday night. I couldn’t do it. I left town that afternoon. I didn’t even go back. I still owe them a sermon! When I got to the city limit sign I couldn’t see the road. I began to cry. When we saw the sign, “Garland, Texas,” both my wife and I began to weep. I stopped the car, turned around in the middle of the road and started back. My wife said, “What are you going to do?” I said, “I am going to go back. I am not going to Hammond.”
She said, “But the Lord led us there.” I said, “I don’t care. I am going back. I am not going.” We cried. We turned around and stopped and I said, “Sweetheart, I think I will go into evangelism. (The church had already called a pastor). You can live in Garland and I will preach in revivals. We can still live in the same place and have our old friends and see our converts.” We cried some more sitting there in the car. But realizing God was leading us, we took off again for Hammond.
When I got to Hammond I walked into the auditorium and sat down in the seat on the platform. It didn’t fit, Dr. Rice. The seat didn’t even fit. I was used to sitting in a chair about like these over here. Our auditorium in Texas was just plain as vanilla. We have four walls and a roof, and as long as we stayed dry and warm we didn’t care what we had. I sat down. I felt like a king who had just walked up on his throne. I mean it just didn’t fit,
Looking behind me I saw a pipe organ. I had never pastored a church with one. And the building was high, with a big dome. Way up at the top was a sign, “God is light.” But there wasn’t enough light in the building. It was dark in the building.
I went into the office. It was big and didn’t fit. I made a garage into an office and that is where my office was in Texas. The office was pretty and had this glass brick and imitation flowers, a big desk and everything. But when I sat down it just didn’t fit. The seat didn’t fit, the desk didn’t fit, the auditorium didn’t fit, the chair didn’t fit. I got in the pulpit and it didn’t fit. So I sat down and cried. And I said to myself: What does a fellow do the first day he is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana? I don’t have anything to do. Here I am- -with a church and nothing to do,
I reached in the drawer where there were some cards. I picked them up and found they were prospects. I took off and went visiting. As I knocked at a door a very refined lady came to the door, a lady in her middle fifties. I said, “How do you do? My name is Hyles.”
And she told me her name.
She said, “What part of the South are you from?”
I said, “I am from Texas, and I just got here and I am homesick, but I want to tell you about Jesus .”
She said, “I am very busy and I must go, I must leave. I don’t have time.”
I said, “Could you just let me tell you about Jesus?”
She said, “Well, go ahead but I have to hurry. I can’t take much time to listen.”
I told her about Jesus. I was on the outside but I had my hand on the screen door. As I told her about Jesus, I said, “Could I pray before I leave?”
She said, “You must hurry. I must go.”
I cried and prayed and as I prayed a warm tear hit my right hand. My eyes were shut. I was crying, but I knew tears couldn’t go out that way, and I knew it wasn’t mine, and there wasn’t anybody there but me and her. And so I gathered it must be her tears. Man alive! That was the sweetest tear I ever felt in my life! She prayed and came to Christ. Later she was baptized.
I went back down to the church and walked into the auditorium. It was bright and light as you can imagine. I sat down in the chair and the chair was a perfect fit! I got behind the pulpit, and it was made to order! Those organ pipes were the prettiest things I had ever seen in my life! I went in my office and it looked like a garage made into an office! I sat down at the desk and the chair was so comfortable, and the desk just fit! Why? Because I was doing the thing that God had called me to do.
Whether in Hammond, or in Garland, or in Tennessee, the thing God has called me and you to do is to get people saved. And when we do it, everything fits.
You see, if it is rough going where you are today, you need it, and they need you, and God needs you there.