Alec Wright – Four Questions

I’m sure glad to have a little part in this meeting tonight and we are so thankful that we see God’s work throughout the world having the same stamp and the same spirit prevailing. I have been to a few countries lately and have seen the Philippians, the Japs, and the Koreans all having something similar. Not in looks but what God has done in that work, that molding process – the product of what God does is always good.
I thought of mentioning four important questions that are found in the scriptures. Two appear in the first part of the Old Testament and two in the first part of the New Testament. I can guarantee that these four questions are the most important for me, and I suppose for you too – in days gone by, in our time and in days to come. It’s what God asked Adam in Genesis 3:9, “Where art thou?” The world is full of questions today regarding what it is: questions on religion, questions regarding the home life – all these things. I have had the privilege to be in Zimbabwe and you will be surprised by the questions that people have asked there, “Where have you been able to buy sugar lately? Where is the possibility of buying bread? Where did you buy fuel?” Lots of questions! But here in the Bible are four vital questions.
The next one is when God said to Cain, “Where is your brother?” And those two questions led up to the two questions in the New Testament, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? Where is Jesus?” And the vital question Jesus asked those who were starting to follow Him, ”What seek you? What do you want?” We have been in contact with some of our friends in Japan and they say it’s a distressing thing why there are so many suicides; people finding problems that cannot be solved. They haven’t got the One who is the problem-solver, life becomes too much and it’s a sad result. There was a professor, and he said to his student when he’d asked a question, “That’s a good question but it’s not in the test.” There are a lot of good questions regarding work, regarding the Bible, but if it isn’t life it’s not going to be vital for you to know the answer – it’s not in the test.
When we came here we had a car at our disposal with a GPS, a wonderful invention of our time. But when you switch it on the first thing it tries to find out is where you are. That’s what God asked Adam and he didn’t say, “Here I am.” No, he was trying to hide. Where do you like to hide? I know where I like to hide – I hide behind excuses. Maybe Adam thought he would hide behind a tree, “Maybe God won’t find me here.” I hide behind excuses…like saying I am only human, only flesh and blood, or excuses like, “I am too young! It’s for older people.” But the question that came to me as a young boy, “Are you too young to die?” And I couldn’t say, “Yes.”
So one time our GPS wasn’t available in South Africa and you go to the road map, but it was somewhere in the car. Some of us are a little untidy and we had to search until we found it. Now you have a road map but what are you trying to find out first? Where are you? If you want to find the destination you first have to find out, “Where am I?” And that’s what God asked Adam.
Some years ago I had the misfortune of going into the army in a place called Rhodesia, and we were taken out to a mountainous area. It was a nice day, we were walking along and we had a bottle of water, birds were singing, grass was green, and you had youth on your side. But the day wore on and got hotter, and the water finished in the water bottle, and those who were leading said, “We don’t know where we are.” That’s what life is without God! You are living every day, somewhere, and you have no idea – but it’s not taking you nearer to God. A terrible thought! The heat of the day, the weariness, and frustration started to creep in. We had the best map and the best compass but we didn’t know where we were. We tried to help but we couldn’t. Then we found a black man with tattered clothes and he was able to tell us where we were and we were so thankful. Once we knew where we were we could go towards the place where we should be.
The Pharisees in the time of Jesus were so sure they were going in the right direction; but not according to the way of Jesus. These preachers of the gospel, do you know what they are looking for? Honest souls! I don’t know how it goes in Australia but I come from a country that asks, “Are you saved? We’re born again.” But the test is being born again and then finding an open door. When we come to the end and say, “Lord, Lord, open to us…..we have been preaching in Your Name…. we did miracles….” Maybe they went through life saying, “We’re saved, we’re saved.” But the crucial thing is getting to the end and finding an open door. That man in the temple that day said, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” And the Pharisee said, “I am thankful I’m not like other men; I give tithes….. “ But the man who knew where he was, God honoured.
The gospel came in the year 1928 and my Mother and Father went to the same meetings. My Mother knew she was a sinner: she went because she knew what those sisters had, she didn’t have. My Father thought he had it, but the time came when he realised he had a religion without God. The Bible said if you ask the Father for bread, will He give you a stone? For fish, will He give you a serpent? Do you think if you asked for salvation, will He give you religion? But religion won’t get you to heaven.
I would like to tell you a little about my life and want to mention one thing. There have been a few times in my life I could bow my head in shame because of where I was and where God was finding me. But I am so glad that hopefully there was just a little honesty, and God gave me direction. And God will give you direction. The only thing I could hope for was that my direction could be put right.
We went to a certain home many years ago and my co-worker and myself found ourselves in the eastern part of Zimbabwe. You could hardly call it farms, but areas where people lived. I was very surprised to find a compass in a very poor home. So I started looking out at the mountains – where is north, where is south, east and west? But where that north was, it wasn’t where the compass was showing. And do you know what I found? I found that the needle of the compass was stuck. You could take that compass and make it show where is north. When the compass needle is stuck, you are the boss and you can tell it what to do. But if the needle is free, it will tell you according to the magnetic field of the earth. But friends, you and I can point at any direction and say “That is right!” ……. if the “needle” is stuck! But you will never find your destination if that’s the case. Before God we would say, “Whatever you say I will be willing to do it.” Saul, before on the way to Damascus: his needle was stuck – “These are the people who are wrong!” But the Lord appeared and then he said, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?” You could see the needle unstuck, and whatever direction God would point him, that’s what he would be willing to do.
“Where is your brother?” That’s the next question. That question is sold very cheaply and bought very cheaply – and the price is going down as long as there is the smell of religion. But Jesus said, “Who is My brother? Who is My sister? The one that does the Will of My Father in Heaven.” When Cain answered God, he actually told a blatant lie, “I know not….. am I my brother’s keeper?” He knew what had happened! But as a warning, this attitude towards his brother caused a terrible separation. I wouldn’t like to say, “I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper?” if God would ask me the same question because some hard feeling or misunderstanding might have brought a terrible separation. My brother in the flesh; is somebody who has the same blood as myself and we have the same Father. And whether it be good or bad, I will take a lot from my brother.
Some things we might have in common: whether there are things we are sad or glad about. If you had asked Paul, “Where is your brother?” He wrote in Philippians 1:7, “I have you in my heart.” If God asked us, “Where is your brother?” Can we say, “I have him in my heart?” I believe questions like that lead us to the New Testament questions. Those wise men came up with, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” They could have just as well said, “Where is the way to the truth and the life?” Hopefully there are still people today who would ask that. That’s why this gospel is going out. Today, we don’t merely want the theory or religion: we want to know where Jesus is.
Maybe I’ll tell you about a certain couple – As the story goes, he had come home from work and was sitting down after supper, reading the newspaper. His wife was sitting in the other corner of the lounge looking through albums. Maybe they were feeling, “We’re still married and it’s still working.” He’s sitting looking at the newspaper and she at the albums. He noticed in the corner of his eye that she had started to cry. And he said to her, “Why are you crying?” She pointed to a picture in the photo album and said, “I am longing for this man.” He thought to himself, “Who could that man be……..?“ And some red lights would have started flashing!!! So he got up and went to her and looked at the album. He said, “Why, that’s me!” And she said, “Yes. I am longing for you as you were when this photo was taken.” It would be sad if through the years, changes came that watered down the original beauty of a marital relationship, the relationship that God has instituted. Won’t that be sad? If that man was at one stage kind, wanting her company, wanting to talk together….wanting to be close….and now after years, needing very little of that company, showing little of that care – very little of that evident.
The other question is: Are there still people who are longing to know where this Jesus is, that meek, lowly man of God – where is He in the world today? Man has brought so many alterations through the years to that picture; that truth of God. People get together and they modify it, mold it and change it and bring improvements that they call reforms. But there could still be people saying, ”I am longing for you as you were when this photo was taken.” When we read the Bible and point to these verses – we are longing for that Jesus, that way, that truth that’s spoken of in the Bible. Do you think we can improve on it? God designed a way of salvation and Jesus said, “As My Father told Me, I am telling you. First, My Father showed Me and I am showing it to you.” And that same doctrine people say, “We can improve upon it. It was 2,000 years ago and surely we can improve it.” You and I have a face, and as we get older all the imperfections come out. But have you ever thought you could change the eyes or your nose where they are placed or the design of the body? Could you change the ways your arms work, the joints or the motion of your legs? Have you ever thought it was possible to improve on it or do a better job of it? But you won’t be able to because what God designed is perfect.
This way we read about in the Bible is the perfect way. We who are trying to walk in it have lots of imperfections, but the way that’s in the Bible is the only way that will lead us to our destination which will be the Father’s house. Those people – if they saw a star and the question was asked, “Where is Jesus?” And they followed the star and came to the place where Jesus was. Do you know what they found? Simplicity. We are living in a world where people are looking for Jesus – in the pomp and show of this world. And they think they will find Him there. Do you think those shepherds had found Jesus born in a palace with a few hundred guards around Him to protect Him? No, but he was born in a stable. Just as a matter of interest – many stories and pictures depict those wise men coming from the east and finding Jesus in a stable, clothed in swaddling clothes. No, those wise men came to a house and found the young child there. The shepherds found Jesus in a stable in swaddling clothes. But it’s not so important to point out this difference…..
Now we go to the last question and that’s found in John 1:38, “Then Jesus turned and saw them following and saith unto them, ‘What seek ye?’ They said unto him, ‘Rabbi, (which is to say being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest Thou?'” If God had to ask you and me this evening, “Give me a list of what you are looking for in life.” What would that list look like? One of our co-workers told in a meeting of a couple who said, “You can go to our son’s home if you want to prepare for your meeting.” This son was a student at a university. He glanced around and saw a slip of paper which seemed to catch his eye. It was a list of the things this young man wanted to do in life. He went through the list: he would like to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. He wanted to attain a certain degree, etc, etc. But on top he had, “I want to be with God in eternity.” And that was very nice to see. I hope that tops your list and mine. We just want to be where God is and when eternity dawns for us we want to be with God.
Maybe I’ll mention a little incident that happened where a certain man stood on a high bridge over a river. He was keen to know how deep the river was, the distance from the river to the bridge – and it was a very high bridge. You could drop a stone and measure how many seconds it would take for the stone to fall into the water. Because all objects fall at a certain rate, there’s a formula by which you can work out what the height is of the bridge. So he stood with his watch in his right hand and a stone in his left hand and leaned over the bridge. Now, as you let the stone fall you have to look, see what the second hand gets to and measure how many seconds till when the stone splashes in the water below. But human beings make mistakes…. the brain makes mistakes! And instead of sending a message to the left hand to open … it sent it to the right hand. He had dropped his watch and stood with the stone still in his left hand. It’s just an illustration…… time was gone and all he had was a stone! Do you think he would put it in his display cabinet? No! He might have thrown it away in disgust! You and I have time but we don’t know how much time. For many of us time is running out and soon there will be no more time. Some people are going to have a few cars, a good bank balance, a nice family you leave behind, a beautiful house, a wonderful religion – and you leave it all behind because time is gone.
We have had a few funerals in our district for men about my age. It’s sobering and every time we stood at the open grave the thought came to my mind what they were leaving behind: an amount to the wife, amounts to the children. But for you as a preacher, and for that person, the important thing is what that man is taking with him. Could we think of the time coming when we will have no more time, and if everything we possessed was put on a list, would it be that we possessed salvation?
Some years ago I went on a little visit to London and they took us to see the crown jewels. Wonderful to see: beautiful, priceless, sparkling with the display of the crown of the Queen of England. It was an amazing collection of items of great price. You just walk around and then you go out. When I went in there, I didn’t know how much I had on me but when I left I was no richer!! And the same applied to all the other people. This salvation of God has a beauty: a value that can’t be calculated. You can look at it, admire it, get a thrill from it – but the point is – do you have it? When Paul got to the end of his life he could say in II Timothy 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me at that day.” How would you like it if those words can come from your heart and God could say, “Yes, you have fought a good fight, you have kept the faith, then it’s yours.” That’s what Saul was seeking for: to run this race that God had put him on until the last day. Did he say, “Prepare for me an easy chair, a place where I can rest for my last days?” No! “Bring the parchment, I still have letters to write, I still have work to do.” There’s never a stretch in life that we can say we never have anything to do. But wonderful if we can say, “I am looking for a closer relationship with God as I get older.”
A friend who lived to 100 years said to his daughter, “When I go on my knees to pray, I like to stay there until I feel that God draws near to me.” It’s wonderful! Why? Because years before that, God told him where he was. And he took that direction he was given after that and he had brothers and sisters of value. He knew where to find Jesus and he had what he was seeking for in life. There was a place where they sold spare parts for motor cars and there was a sign, “The answer is yes….. now give us the question.” Do you know what that says? Those people were confident that they kept in stock the parts you asked for. You and I have the promises! If there are difficulties within ourselves and we have questions for which we can’t find an answer; isn’t it wonderful to think of someone who says, “Come unto me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Why? Have you ever thought of any situation where Jesus didn’t have the answer? If it was then, why not even now…… as He has not changed. If a man stands condemned in a dock in a court case and is guilty of a severe offense. You can’t say, “I’ll give you a million dollars.” Would he say, “Yes, that’s very valuable to me?” No! But if it was mercy – “Yes, that’s all I need.” We have a Master, a treasure in heaven, and the answer is, “Yes, if you will come to God through Jesus, and there’s mercy, even for the worst sinner.”
In closing I would like to refer to Revelation 22:3, “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him. And they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads.” This is speaking of the destination. Verse 5, “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light; and they shall reign for ever and ever.” “They” – and who are ‘they?’ That’s His servants. Who are these people? Those are the people when God asked them where they were, they could give an honest answer. If God had asked them, “Who is your brother?” They wouldn’t have given a wishy-washy answer. They would be able to say, “Those are the people who would have asked in life – where do we find Jesus?” They would have searched for him and they would have found him. They were those searching for glory immortal, beyond the dark grave.
Friends, have a look at your list and I would like to look at mine, too. You have the privilege in this area of two of God’s servants, bringing a message of hope. There’s a story in our continent of a lady living in a poor part and she had to walk far to collect water for the home. One day she saw the clouds gathering and thought, “Maybe we will get some rain.” So she had a 44 gallon drum and she put it in position under the roof where the water would run down. And that night, sure enough the rain came down and she was so happy to hear the rain falling on the roof. She thought, “Tomorrow I don’t have to walk all that distance to collect water.” And she imagined how that drum was filling up. So the next morning she went out to see how much water was in the drum. When she looked, it was empty, because she hadn’t taken the lid off. You and I can listen to this message, the glory of this message. But you can have a lid of hardness, unwillingness and unforgiveness in your life – and mine too. You can have this wonderful thing: this rain from heaven. But you have the possibility of a ‘lid’ of carelessness or hardness – and it can leave us as empty as we go out and face the future as when we came in. I hope none of us will miss the opportunity that’s extended to men, that comes to us. I hope we will not miss that because we are worrying about other less important things. For myself, I think of these four questions: they’re not questions for the past. These are questions that are still going to work for me as long as God spares my life and I hope we will give attention to them.
Meeting closed with Hymn 408, “No reputation with Jesus I go”