Our Sufficiency Is Of God
(Stenographically reported.) At the opening service of the ministry of Pastor P.W. Philpott [September 3, 1922], just before announcing his text, the great congregation arose and sang,
“Who is sufficient for these things?”—2 Corinthians 2:16
“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.”—2 Corinthians 3:5
In these two passages of Scripture we have a question and an answer. The question of the text is the question of my heart, and the answer to the text in the second passage, God’s answer, is the answer that satisfies my heart.
“Who is sufficient for these things?” I am not going to preach you a sermon in the ordinary sense of that term today. You would hardly expect that. I want to talk to you out of my heart. I want to use the text as the conclusion of what I have to say, because of some great practical truths that are suggested, timely and suited for this particular hour.
I want to say a word about my conviction regarding the position and the importance of The Moody Church, and the Moody Bible Institute, by the way, also, because I think in the thought of God these two organizations are one, and when we make any division in our sympathy and support of these institutions and other activities associated with them, I think we dissipate, to some extent, the testimony God gave to the founder of this great work.
The Church’s Position
I want to speak about the position and importance, first of all, of The Moody Church. It was not accident, or a coincidence, that Dwight L. Moody should come to the city of Chicago just one year after his conversion in the city of Boston. He was a chosen vessel, and being a yielded man of God, I believe was led of the Lord to this great city; not great at that time as now, but God knew how great it was going to be, and situated as it is, in the very heart of this nation, was to be a distributing center not only for commerce, but, I believe, for light and for love and for liberty—things that come through the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
When Mr. Moody founded his Sunday school and began with his class of twelve or thirteen boys down in the North Market Hall, he was in the plan and will of God. Later, when he founded what is known as The Moody Church, and some years later the Moody Bible Institute, and the Bible Institute Colportage Association, he was building a citadel of faith that would stand as a great bulwark in the days of apostasy, out from which would flow streams of life and light and love to the utmost parts of the earth.
I want to ask you this morning if you have ever stopped to think how far-reaching is the work that was started by that man of God some sixty years ago, in the city of Chicago. In all parts of the earth, the testimony has gone, carried by heralds of life, who have had their training or received their inspiration at this center of activity. We thank God for the influence that has emanated from this man of God back there sixty years ago.
We know of many preachers, we know of many students that have gone to the foreign field; we know there have been Bible colleges organized in other parts of the earth, standing for the same truth that The Moody Church is standing for here. We know of churches similar to this one that are standing as lighthouses in dark places.
It was about thirty years ago that I came under the influence of this man of God, a discouraged preacher, trying to find my way out of the ministry, but after listening to Moody preach the Gospel in his own marvelous manner, and seeing hundreds of souls respond to his appeals, I came to the conclusion that God honored this man because he honored His Word. He believed it and preached it fearlessly. I then made my covenant with God that I, too, would study, believe and preach the Word, no matter how my own opinions and others might be jostled by it. That was a great day in my ministry.
Then began my ministry, which closed last Sunday in the city of Hamilton, Canada, where I served twenty-seven years in one pastorate, and from that one mother church some twelve or thirteen other churches have sprung up, of like faith and like practice, and I suppose they have been multiplied and repeated in other centers. Eternity alone will reveal the marvelous influence that came from the life of ONE MAN YIELDED TO GOD.
While Dr. Gosnell was praying this morning, he referred to the fact that at one time it was said to Moody, “God is waiting to show what He can do through one life that is fully yielded to Him,” and if I am not mistaken, Mr. Moody then said, “I will be that man.” He little dreamed of the fruit that would be born, but we stand in wonder as we gaze upon it today.
Leaders Of Men
Looking back over the history of The Moody Church, I think of the great galaxy of preachers and choristers that have been associated with this work. I tremble at the thought that a man of my caliber and my ability should stand in the place where these men have stood. I think of Major Whittle, Major Cole, W.J. Erdman, Geo. C. Needham, Chas. F. Goss, and Dr. A.C. Dixon—some of the mighty men that have ministered from this platform. Then I think of Sankey, McGranahan, Bliss, and Chas. Alexander. As I think of the name of Chas. Alexander, I think of Reuben A. Torrey, with whom Mr. Alexander was associated, in carrying this testimony almost around the world; men whose fruits abide after many days, almost equal to that of D.L. Moody himself. What a rich heritage God has given to The Moody Church and the Moody Bible Institute.
Not only do I feel that it is a rich heritage, but I feel there is committed to me and to you, and the officials and members of The Moody Church, A SOLEMN RESPONSIBILITY. All that I have been talking about, you may say, has been in the past, and you ask, What about the future?
I have had a great many nice things said to me about coming to The Moody Church. I have had a great many encouraging epistles written me. I have heard kind words from members of this congregation, and from great leaders—I mean those men who stand for the fundamental things—even from people in the old country as well as from this land, telling me that they believed God was sending me to The Moody Church.
I have had some other letters, however. I just finished reading one some days ago. One writer warns me to keep away from The Moody Church, assuring me that God has left this assembly and the candlestick has been removed from its place. As I read this letter to a close, I could not help but feel at the conclusion that the “wish was the father to the thought”—“that God had left The Moody Church.”
Let me assure you that I do not feel that way about it at all. I believe that God loves The Moody Church. I believe He loves it because of the very history I have been referring to. I believe He loves it because of the testimony that has gone out from the congregation for these sixty years, because of the sacrifices that have been made here for the furtherance of the Gospel, for the thousands of men and women that have gone out from this place to tell the old, old story. God loves The Moody Church. I believe that, beloved friends, and I believe also that HE NEEDS THE MOODY CHURCH at the present hour, in present-day conditions as much as The Moody Church was ever needed in all her history.
God Needs The Church
Was there ever a time in the history of the world when there was more unrest, when sin in crime wave seemed to be rolling over the entire world? And Chicago, this great center, has furnished its quota to the unrest and sin of the world. There are rumblings of revolution in almost every empire and nation in the entire world at the present hour. I believe the testimony that God has given to The Moody Church was never more needed, the world never needed the kind of testimony that God has given you and me more than it needs it at the present hour. If I know anything of Christianity, it makes for peace and it makes for good will. It solves the problems of the heart. It solves the problems of the home. It solves the problems of the State.
Some of us can remember when our hearts were like the troubled sea, and as the Christ came over that troubled water to a little boat on the sea of Galilee, and immediately there was a great calm, there came to our troubled lives also that peace that passeth all understanding when we opened our hearts to receive Him.
The Need Of Change
Christianity settles the problems of the home. People say the country needs better homes. Christianity makes better homes. Last Sunday a week ago I had the honor of dining in the home of a man, who, twenty years ago, was known in my city as the worst drunkard in the community. His wife was a confirmed Roman Catholic, never entering a Protestant church in her life. One night, with bleared eyes and bloated face, he stood on that street corner at the old Gore Park, and God Almighty touched his heart. He went home to that wife who had tried again and again to persuade him to go to the Catholic Church, but without avail. He said to her, “Wife, I will go to church with you on Sunday if you will go where that sky pilot preaches, whom I heard on the corner tonight.” He was there on Sunday. When the invitation was given he got up and came to the front and knelt down, and his wife, who had good sense, came and knelt beside him. Then there began a new order of things. Peace and prosperity have followed in the wake of that great decision. He has a home fit for a king to live in, and I feel when I am preaching New Testament Christianity and am presenting the claims of Jesus Christ upon my brother man, that I am making my largest contribution to the welfare of society.
WHAT IS THE SLOGAN OF CHRISTIANITY? They have slogans in the universities, they have slogans in cities, but the slogan of Christianity was given nearly two thousand years ago, when a great angelic chorus broke loose from Heaven and sang, “PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN.”
Just a few months ago, that great statesman in England—for he is a great statesman—Lloyd George, called together all the non-conformist ministers for breakfast at Downing Street, and to their great surprise, as soon as the blessing had been asked, made the statement: “Gentlemen, I have called you here this morning to say that England needs a revival of spiritual religion more than she needs anything else in this wide world, and her material conditions will not improve unless that spiritual revival comes to her. I charge you, men, with the responsibility of promoting and fostering such a revival of religion.” Think of that testimony coming from a statesman!
What that man said about England is equally true of America, and it is equally true of this great city of Chicago. She needs a revival of spiritual religion more than she needs anything else in this wide world, and God needs The Moody Church for just such a revival. May He make us equal to it!
The Need Of The Moody Church
Now, what is the need of The Moody Church? First of all, let me say, she needs a new house wherein to worship God, where we can carry on this kind of work more efficiently. I believe she needs that kind of a house. This present building suggests that which is temporary, and the time has come for us to have something that is suitable for both the Sunday School and the Church, to carry out her great mission effectively, and also a memorial worthy of the man whose name the Church bears. We have here an ideal location, situation at the very entrance to Lincoln Park, in the heart of the city.
It will mean a great deal of money. I am aware of that fact. There is a mortgage on the property, that, first of all, must be cleared away. Then the cost of such a building as we require will be enormous, and we might well ask the question of the text, WHO IS SUFFICIENT FOR THESE THINGS?
I have been praying about this daily and asking God for some evidence of His leading in the matter. Just before coming to the platform the good Treasurer of this Church acquainted me with the fact that one who believes in the testimony of this Church, and that God would have us proceed with this undertaking, has made a contribution of $3,500. This is surely a word of encouragement, and I believe it is the harbinger of much that will follow in response to prayer and faith in God. This does not look as if God had withdrawn His presence from The Moody Church.
I want to call upon every lover of the truth this morning to stand with us in prayer as we face this great need, for need it surely is, and it is a challenge to our faith. “God is our sufficiency.”
If we were to look at our pocketbooks, if we were to take a canvass of the congregation, I can imagine that we would give up in despair. We are for the most part working people. As to our resources, they amount to about as much as the five barley loaves and two small fishes, and what are they in the face of such a great need. We say with Paul, “We are not sufficient of ourselves.”
Who can meet these needs and solve these problems? We are not sufficient, but our sufficiency is of God. I am only a poor, weak, trembling man. When I came to you this morning I could almost feel my knees striking together. I would not have felt that way in the congregation I have just left, for they know how weak I am, and they have learned to bear with me and pray much for me.
Prayer Is Essential
You have been telling me that you have “prayed me here.” Now you will need to pray much for me, and for yourselves, since you have got me. The Lord bless you! You will find that you will have to pray a whole lot while I am your pastor. I will be the target of the devil. If he can tempt me to do something sensational, I might yield to it, although God has wonderfully saved me from that kind of thing. If the devil can make me exaggerate in telling stories or using illustrations, he will try to do that, for much harm has come to the cause of Christ through extravagance of statements. If he can make me to take a mis-step in my moral life, he will do it, because he knows that if he can disgrace me he will hurt you, and he will hurt the testimony that is dearer than life itself.
You must pray for me that God will hold me close to His heart, for I am something like Peter (you know my name is Peter), and he got into difficulty, first of all, by taking a few steps backward, and then a few more steps backward, and a few more, then he denied his Lord. It was when Peter was a long way off that he denied his Lord with oaths and curses. I am like him. I must live near Christ in order to have victory.
Pray that the Holy Spirit may encircle me and hold me close to His divine heart. We are not sufficient of ourselves. Oh, brothers, oh, sisters, recognize it! The sooner we recognize it the better. We are not equal to these things, but our sufficiency is of God, and we have just as big a God as D.L. Moody had.
A few years ago there was quite a craze in our country about Elijah. One preacher down in Maine claimed that he was the prophet; another in California, and still another man named Russell, and out in Zion City it looked as if they had a real Elijah. But our cry is not, “Where is Elijah?” but, “Where is the GOD of Elijah?”
I have heard it said that we need another Elijah, or another Luther, or another Wesley, or another Moody, but our need is rather, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah, of Luther, of Wesley, of Moody?” No, brethren! It is the God of Wesley, the God of Moody, the God of Elijah, that we need to seek with all our hearts.
God willing, on some other occasion I want to show you, how, when Jesus Christ left the Church, He did not leave it simply to human genius and human organization, to carry out a great commission, and to fulfill His purpose. The command was, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” It was to do greater works than He Himself had done. But they were not left in the dark as to how the command was to be carried out. He discovered to them the secret of achievement. There was another command that we frequently overlook. After He told them to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, He commanded them that they should not do anything or go anywhere until they were endued with power from on high.
Let us not forget, beloved people, that the work God has given us to do cannot be accomplished by human force or organization. “It is not by might, it is not by power, it is by my Spirit, saith the Lord.”
A Pastor And A Brother
I am talking to you this morning out of my heart. In my last congregation, for a quarter of a century I was known as “Pastor Philpott,” and I have no higher ambition in coming to Chicago than to be to this great congregation, a pastor in deed and in truth. I want to share your sorrows. I want, if I can, to be a minister of comfort. I have felt these last few years that I must preach more frequently sermons of comfort and consolation, for the nearer I come to the family life of the people the more I know of the sorrows and sadnesses, and I believe that Jesus Christ is not only a Saviour, but a Comforter. He came not only to forgive us, but to wipe our tears away.
I know there will be in this house of worship, from Sunday to Sunday, men and women whose hearts are sad and lonely. I want to be to you a brother as well as a pastor. As for my relation to the civic life, my highest ambition is to be known as a man. Nor do I wish to antagonize my brothers in the ministry. Many of them may not see eye to eye with me, but as far as possible it is my desire to have fellowship with all those who seek to further the cause of Jesus Christ.
I don’t want to fight with anybody, not even the devil. I will leave him to Jesus. I want to be a brother to every man that is trying to do the will of God. I want to work with you for one thing—the salvation of the city in which our Church is located, and where we have to live our lives together.
I am going to ask my dear wife, who has been with me through my whole ministry, and whose love, loyalty and faith have meant more to me than anything else in all the world, to lead us in a closing word of prayer.