By Billy Graham
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. --Luke 6:31
WHETHER we are playing a game, driving a car, or baking a cake, there are certain rules that must be followed for our safety as well as our success.
I well recall what happened near my home in Montreat, North Carolina, some years ago. The road between Black Mountain and Asheville was being widened from two lanes to four. For several weeks during the construction period there were no lane markers. One night there was a tragic head-on collision and five people were killed--because the "road rules" had not been clearly marked.
The Bible teaches that the Christian life is one of constant growth. When you were born again, you were born into God's family. My wife Ruth and I now have sixteen grandchildren. And each of them is precious to us. Each is an accepted, treasured member of our family. And that's the way God feels about you. It is God's purpose that you will grow into full stature and become mature in Christ. It would be against the law of God and nature if you were to remain a baby and thus become a spiritual dwarf. In 2 Peter 3:18, the Bible says that we are to grow. This implies steady development, constant enlargement, increasing wisdom.
Read the Bible Daily
For one to grow properly certain rules must be observed for good spiritual health. First: you should read your Bible daily. It is one of your greatest privileges. Your spiritual life needs food. What kind of food? Spiritual food. Where do you find this spiritual food? In the Bible, the Word of God. The Bible reveals Christ, who is the Bread of Life for your hungry soul, and the Water of Life for your thirsty heart. If you fail to partake of daily spiritual nourishment, you will starve and lose your spiritual vitality. The Bible says, "Desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2). Read it, study it, meditate on it, memorize it. Ninety-five percent of the difficulties you will experience as a Christian can be traced to a lack of Bible study and reading.
Suppose an archaeologist discovered the original diary of Genghis Khan, or Alexander the Great, or the love letters of Cleopatra? Or what if our astronauts had discovered a mysterious manuscript during their moon walk? Imagine the stampede into the bookstores across America to get copies of such books. Yet we have here a Book that God Himself has written for mankind-- and think how it is either ignored or attacked by many so-called civilized people.
Some parts of our world do not enjoy the freedom we have to read the Bible and study it together with fellow Christians. In most of the world, in fact, there's a veritable famine for the Word of God! I recall the story of a Chinese musician in the Peoples Republic of China. He was converted and strengthened spiritually through the reading of individual pages of the Scripture torn from a Bible and slipped to him by an unknown friend. There are other stories of prisoners who survived twenty to thirty years at hard labor--and sometimes terrible torture--and came out with their minds intact, totally lacking in bitterness toward their captors.
One more story of the Bible's power comes from a mental hospital here in this country. A young man, an inmate of the hospital, wrote to our organization requesting a copy of the Bible. His recovery and subsequent complete rehabilitation date back to his receipt of that Bible--and his reading of its pages. Today he is married and self-supporting!
Do not be content to skim through a chapter merely to satisfy your conscience. Hide the Word of God in your heart. A little portion well digested is of greater spiritual value to your soul than a lengthy portion scanned hurriedly. Do not be discouraged because you cannot understand it all. Some excuse themselves saying, "It's too hard to understand." Any book is difficult to understand if you don't read it! Read simple portions of the Bible first. You do not feed a baby beefsteak the first day -- you give him milk.
I would suggest that you start by reading the Gospel of John. As you read, the Holy Spirit will enlighten the passages for you. He will illuminate the difficult words and make obscure meanings clear. Even though you cannot remember all you have read, or understand it all, go on reading. The very practice of reading in itself will have a purifying effect upon your mind and heart. Let nothing take the place of this daily exercise.
Scripture memorized can come to mind when you do not have your Bible with you -- on sleepless nights, when driving a car, traveling, when having to make an instantaneous important decision. It comforts, guides, corrects, encourages -- all we need is there. Memorize as much as you can.
Learn to Pray
Second: learn the secret of prayer. Your prayers may falter at first. You may be awkward and inarticulate. But the Holy Spirit who lives within you will help you and teach you. Every prayer that you pray will be answered. Sometimes the answer may be "Yes" and sometimes "No," and sometimes it is "Wait," but nevertheless it will be answered.
Prayer is communicating. A baby's first response is to his parents. He isn't asking for anything. He is simply smiling back when his parents smile, cooing when they talk to him. What a thrill his first response brings to the entire family! In the same way, can you imagine the joy our first response to Him brings to God?
Your petitions should always be conditioned by "Thy will be done." "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). But the delighting of oneself in Him precedes the fulfillment of our desires. Delighting ourselves in Him will direct our desires, so God can answer our petitions.
Remember that you can pray any time, anywhere. Washing dishes, digging ditches, working in the office, in the shop, on the athletic field -- even in prison -- you can pray and know God hears! We have a friend on Death Row who prays for us every morning between four and six. How often this fact has encouraged and cheered us on.
Try to have a systematic method of prayer. Prayer combined with Bible study makes for a healthy Christian life. The Bible says, "Pray without ceasing." If you have special prayer periods that you set aside during the day, your unconscious life will be saturated with prayer between the prayer periods. It is not enough for you to get out of bed in the morning and just bow your knee and repeat a few sentences. There should be stated periods in which you slip apart with God. For the overworked mother or one living under extremely busy circumstances, this may be impossible. But here is where "prayer without ceasing" comes in. We pray as we work. As we have said, we pray everywhere, any time.
The devil will fight you every step of the way. He will cause the baby to cry, the telephone to ring, someone to knock at the door -- there will be many interruptions, but keep at it! Don't be discouraged. Soon you will find that these periods of prayer are the greatest delight of your life. You will look forward to them with more anticipation than to anything else. Without constant, daily, systematic prayer your life will seem barren, discouraging, and fruitless. Without constant prayer you never can know the inner peace that God wants to give you.
Rely on the Holy Spirit
Third: rely constantly on the Holy Spirit. Remember that Christ dwells in you through the Holy Spirit. Your body is now the dwelling place of the Third Person of the Trinity. Do not ask Him to help you as you would a servant. Ask Him to come in and do it all. Ask Him to take over in your life. Tell Him how weak, helpless, unstable, and unreliable you are. Stand aside and let Him take over in all the choices and decisions of your life. We know that the Holy Spirit prays for us (Romans 8), and what a comfort that should be to the weakest of us.
It is impossible for you to hold out in your Christian life -- but He can hold you. It is very difficult for Him to hold you if you are struggling, fighting, and striving. Just relax and rest in the Lord. Let go all those inner tensions and complexes. Rely completely on Him. Do not fret and worry about important decisions -- let Him make them for you. Do not worry about tomorrow -- He is the God of tomorrow, He sees the end from the beginning. Do not worry about the necessities of life -- He is there to supply and provide. A true victorious Christian is one who, in spite of worries, inner conflicts, and tensions, is confident that God is in control and will be victorious in the end. In reliance on the Holy Spirit, you will find that many of your physical and mental ailments will disappear along with many worries, inner conflicts and tensions. Whatever our difficulties, whatever our circumstances, we must remember, as Corrie ten Boom used to say, "Jesus is victor!"
Attend Church Regularly
Fourth: attend church regularly. Christianity is a religion of fellowship. Following Christ means love, righteousness, service; and these can only be achieved and expressed through social relations. These social relationships are to be found in the church.
There is a visible church and there is an invisible church. The invisible church is made up of true believers down through the centuries and world over. The visible church is made up of both Catholic and Protestant -- the latter with its various denominations. But we are told in the Scriptures, "Forsaking (not) the assembling of ourselves together..." (Hebrews 10:25). Christians need fellowship -- the fellowship of fellow believers.
The visible church is Christ's organization upon earth. It is a place where we gather to worship God, learn from His Word, and fellowship with other Christians. The Bible calls the church "a holy nation," "God's own people," "the household of God," "a holy temple in the Lord," "a dwelling place of God in the Spirit," "the body of Christ." These are all figures of speech, symbols, or pictures used to indicate the spiritual reality of the church.
Nothing can take the place of church attendance. If you are a true follower of Christ you will scorn such flimsy excuses as the weather being too hot or too cold, rain or snow, as unworthy of a true follower of Christ. There are many people who say they can stay at home on Sunday morning and worship God in their own minds. The person who does only this fails to give God the complete worship to which He has a right, for God is the Creator of our bodies, no less than of our minds and souls; therefore both the mind and the body should participate in rendering to God a complete act of worship.
In certain countries today, however, church gatherings are not encouraged. For years people have been forced to meet privately in homes, perhaps just a single family or perhaps a few Christian friends gathering together. In the Peoples Republic of China, for example, the government has reopened some of the old churches. The packed buildings prove that what I have said above is true. Christians need one another, we need to gather together to worship God and nothing can take the place of church attendance.
At the same time I think we should be grateful for the electronic church. There are many in hospitals, institutions, like old people's homes, or even prisons where the only way they have to attend a church service is by television or even radio.
On the other hand, there are many who claim they can stay at home and listen to a sermon on the radio or television and that this takes the place of a church service. That is not enough. You do not go to church to hear a sermon. You go to church to worship God and to serve Him in the fellowship of other Christians. You cannot be a successful and happy Christian without being faithful in church. In the church you will find your place of service. We are saved to serve. The happy Christian is the serving Christian.
Be a Witnessing Christian
Fifth: be a witnessing Christian. If you are faithfully practicing the four preceding rules this one will take care of itself -- just as it follows naturally that if a cup is being filled continually it is bound to overflow.
Some time ago I came across the question, which is more important, to witness by one's life or to witness by the Word? And the answer was, "Which is more important, the left or right wing of an airplane?" Thinking this very clever, I repeated it one day in a car as I was driving some missionaries out to lunch. One of them spoke up and said. "That's very clever. But it's just not true." Surprised, I asked what she meant. "All the way through the Scriptures," she replied, "God has promised to bless His Word, not our lives: 'My Word shall not return unto me void but shall accomplish . . . He that hath my word let him preach my word faithfully, for what are the tares to the wheat, saith the Lord.'" I realized she was speaking the truth. We are responsible to God for the way in which we live but it is His Word that He has promised to bless and this explains why a musician in a communist country can pick up a page torn from the Bible and be converted. That is why a surgeon general in Portugal, returning home on a muddy day and finding a piece of paper stuck to his shoe, can pull it off and read a portion of the Word of God and be converted.
We Christians are now duly appointed and commissioned ambassadors of the King of kings. We are to let our flag fly high over our embassy. Suppose our ambassador to Russia should order the American flag pulled down because it is not popular in Russia -- we would soon call him home! He would not deserve to represent the United States.
If we are not willing to let our flags fly in the home, in the office, in the shop, on the campus -- then we are not worthy to be ambassadors for Christ! We are to take our stand and let all those around us know that we are Christians. We are to bear witness for Christ.
We witness in two ways: by life and by word -- and the two, where possible, should go hand in hand. God's purpose for you and me after we have been converted is that we be witnesses to His saving grace and power. We are to be commandos for Christ. We are to be minute-men for Him.
Christ said, "Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32). Acts 28:23 presents a thrilling scene. Paul, held in bonds at Rome, persuaded men concerning Jesus, from morning to evening. Concerning each of us it should be said every day, "Behold a sower went forth to sow."
Very little originality is permitted a Western Union messenger boy. His sole obligation is to carry the message he receives from the office to the person to whom it is addressed. He may not like to carry that message. It may contain bad news or distressing news for the person to whom he carries it. He cannot stop on the way, open the envelope, and change the wording of the telegram. His duty is to take the message.
We Christians have the Word of God. Our Great Commander has said, "Go, and take this message to a dying world." Some are neglecting it. Some are tearing up the message and substituting one of their own. Some are taking out a part of it. Some are telling the people that the Lord does not mean what He says. Others are saying that He really did not write the message but that it was written by ordinary men who are mistaken about the meaning of it.
Let us remember that the apostle Paul exhorted the Christians centuries ago to teach only the Word. Remember we are sowing seed. Some indeed may fall on beaten paths and some among thorns, but it is our business to keep on sowing. We are not to stop sowing because some of the soil looks unpromising.
We are holding a light. We are to let it shine! Though it may seem but a twinkling candle in a world of blackness, it is our business to let it shine.
We are blowing a trumpet. In the din and noise of battle the sound of our little trumpet may seem to be lost, but we must keep sounding the alarm to those who are in danger.
We are kindling a fire. In this cold world full of hatred and selfishness our little blaze may seem to be unavailing, but we must keep our fire burning.
We are striking with a hammer. The blows may seem only to jar our hands as we strike, but we are to keep on hammering. Amy Carmichael of India once asked a stone-cutter which blow broke the stone. "The first one and the last," he replied, "and every one in between."
We have bread for a hungry world. The people may seem to be so busy feeding on other things that they will not accept the Bread of Life, but we must keep on giving it, offering it to the souls of men.
We have water for famishing people. We must keep standing and crying out, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." Sometimes they can't come and we must carry it to them.
We must persevere. We must never give up. Keep using the Word!
Jesus said that much of our seed will find good soil and spring up and bear fruit. We must be faithful witnesses. The most thrilling experience known to man is to win another to Jesus Christ. It has been my privilege to win others to a saving knowledge of Christ. I never cease to thrill at hearing of one who has listened, accepted Christ, and been transformed by His grace. This is worth more than all the money in all the world. There is no happiness, no experience, no romantic adventure comparable to the thrill of winning another person to Christ.
The Bible says, "He that winneth souls is wise" (Proverbs 11:30). "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Daniel 12:3).
"Ye are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13). Salt makes one thirsty. Does your life make others thirsty for the water of life?
Let Us Love
Sixth: let love be the ruling principle of your life. Be ruled by love. Jesus said to those who followed Him, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another." In another part of the Bible we find the same thing stated: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and every one who loves is born of God, and knows God. He that does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, for God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:7-10). Love does not necessarily imply approval of the one loved. If God had waited until He could approve of us before He sent His Son to redeem us, where would we be?
Of all the gifts God offers His children, love is the greatest. Of all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, love is the first.
The Bible declares that we who follow Christ should love one another as God loved us when He sent His Son to die on the cross.
The Bible says that the moment we come to Christ He gives us supernatural love, and that His love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The greatest demonstration of the fact that we are Christians, is that we love one another. If we learn this secret of God early in our Christian experience, we will have gone a long way toward a mature, happy Christian life.
Be an Obedient Christian
Seventh: be an obedient Christian. Let Christ have first place in all the choices of your life. Make Him Lord and Master.
Learn How to Meet Temptation
Eight: learn how to meet temptation. As we have already learned, temptation is natural. Temptation is not sin. It is yielding that is sin. God never brings temptation to us. He allows it to test us. It is the work of the devil. Recognize it as such. One way to meet temptation is to quote a verse of Scripture at the Tempter -- he will always run, for he cannot stand the Word of God.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, the only resource that He had was the Word of God. He said three times, "It is written."
Say to the devil, "Thus saith the Lord," and he will flee. At the same time let Christ through the Holy Spirit do the fighting for you. Be like the little girl who said, "Every time I hear the devil knock, I send Jesus to the door."
Everyone has temptations but some folks entertain them. They seem to enjoy being tempted. Chase a mouse with a broom and you will notice that he isn't eyeing the broom. He is looking for a hole. Get your eyes off the temptation and onto Christ!
I once asked an army officer which he would rather have on the field of battle -- courage or obedience. He flashed right back, "Obedience!"
God would rather have your obedience than anything else. In order to be obedient you must know His commands. That is another reason for the necessity of studying and reading the Bible. The Bible is your compass and rule book. Obey what God tells you.
Be a Wholesome Christian
Ninth: be a wholesome Christian. It has been well said that "Some Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good."
Certainly the Bible teaches separation from sin, but the Bible says nowhere that we are to be peculiar or unnatural. We are to be radiant. We should be chivalrous, courteous, clean of body, pure of mind, poised, and gracious. Silly flirtations, unhealthy gossip, shady conversations, suggestive amusements should be avoided like rattlesnakes. We should be neat in appearance, clean, attractive, and as much as possible in style, with good taste. Extremes should be avoided. Our lives and appearance should commend the gospel and make it attractive to others. As the late Dr. Barnhouse once said, "Men may not read the gospel in sealskin, or the gospel in morocco, or the gospel in cloth covers; but they can't get away from the gospel in shoe leather."
Live Above Your Circumstances
Tenth: live above your circumstances. God made you as you are! He placed you where you are! So you can best serve and glorify Him just as you are, where you are. Some people are always looking on the other side of the fence because they think the grass is greener. They spend so much time wishing things were different, and thinking up alibis for why they are not, that they overlook all the advantages and opportunities open to them right where they are.
Be as the apostle Paul when he said, "But none of these things move me" (Acts 20:24). Paul said he had learned how to abound and how to be abased. He had learned to be every inch a Christian even in prison. Don't let your circumstances get you down. Learn to live graciously within them, realizing the Lord Himself is with you.
These principles and suggestions may seem simple -- but keep them -- they work. I have seen them tested in the lives of thousands. I have tested them in my own life. Properly and faithfully kept, they will give you peace of soul, happiness, peace of mind, and pleasure, and you will have learned the secret of living life with satisfaction.