I could reduce this series to one post. One sentence, really. “Keep God the foundation—the center—and you will always be balanced. No matter what. The end.”
But most of us need a little more help than that. (And I need more blog posts than that, or technically, this won’t be a series.)
Show me what it looks like. Put some skin on it. Then, perhaps, I’ll be able to implement changes that leads to balance.
I told you I was going to feature some well-balanced people to help me out. I decided to bring out the big guns first. Billy Graham. The Protestant Pope. The man who has spoken to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history. The man who has spent nearly his entire life pointing people to God. The man who counsels presidents and prime ministers. The man whose life and ministry has been under press scrutiny for nearly sixty years and who still has always emerged squeaky clean.
Jerry B. Jenkins (author of the Left Behind series and 160-something other books) interviewed Billy Graham in order to write Graham’s memoir, Just as I Am. In Jenkins’ words, “He’s one of those rare people who is the same behind closed doors as in the public, and ironically, it’s his very humility that so attracts people to him. He was everything I’d hope he be, and more.”
You don’t earn a reputation like that by accident.
I don’t know about you, but I’m believing God for really big things in my life. Not big material blessings. Not even big “ministry” blessings, necessarily. I’m believing that God can so radically change me—despite all my weaknesses and mistakes and repetitively sinful tendencies—that He will use me to literally transform the world for generations to come.
Yes, I really pray that. And yes, I really believe He can do that through me. I want so badly for God to use me, I can hardly contain it some days. I can hardly contain it now, as I write this. It’s difficult for me to adequately express it in words, it burns so deeply within me.
So, to say the following excerpt from Jenkins book, Writing for the Soul, caught my attention, is an understatement. It’s only been a few weeks since I read this, and I cannot get these next few paragraphs off my mind. I have a feeling Mr. Graham may know a thing or two about making God the center. A few things I can implement into my life.
“Tell me, at least, how you maintain your own spiritual disciplines.”
His eyes lit up. “There’s no secret to that,” he said. “God doesn’t hide the key from us. The Bible says to pray without ceasing and to search the Scriptures. And I do that.”
I flinched. I had always hoped the Apostle Paul’s New Testament admonition to “pray without ceasing” was somehow figurative. After two to three minutes of prayer, my mind tends to wander, and I find myself wondering whether the Cubs will ever see another World Series (talk about a miracle.)
“You pray without ceasing?” I said.
“I do,” Mr. Graham said, still with that air of pure humility. “And I have every waking moment since I received Christ as a teenager.” He had to have seen the doubt in my face. “I’m praying right now as I’m talking to you, “ he said. “Praying that God will use this book, that it will be clear that it’s more about Him than about me, praying that we’ll both do our jobs well and He will get the glory.”
I was nearly speechless. “And your searching the Scripture,” I managed, “how does that work?”
“Wherever I am,” he said, “at home, in my office, or in a hotel room in some other country, the first thing I do I the morning is to leave my Bible open somewhere where I will notice it during the day. I pick it up at odd moments and read a verse or two or a chapter or two or for an hour or two. And this is not for study or sermon preparation. This is just for my own spiritual nourishment.”
Now we were getting somewhere. Everyone I know who is serious about his spiritual life would love to have a more consistent devotional life of prayer and Bible reading. Perhaps I was on the edge of real takeaway value.”
“Say you miss a day or two,” I said. “How do you get back to your routine?”
“Miss a day or two?” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever done that.”
“You never miss?”
He shook his head. “I told you. This is my spiritual food. I would no more miss this than a regular meal.”
I went back to my hotel that day despairing that perhaps no reader could really identify with a man so sold out to God and so disciplined in his inner life. But then it hit me. As he said, it’s no secret, no hidden key—God doesn’t make it hard or a mystery. When people wonder why Billy Graham, among all those claiming for the same passions, seems infinitely more blessed, more successful (for lack of a better term) in his ministry efforts, they need to realize there is a difference between him and the others: We all know we’re to pray and read our Bibles. The difference is, he does it.”