I've been reading parts of Billy Graham's biography recently, and I have been reading many of his quotes. Here are 10 that I find especially encouraging that I'd like to share, along with at least one reference of scriptural support for each of the quotes. Enjoy!
"It's the Holy Spirit's job to convict; God's job to judge; and my job to love."John 16:8, John 3:17, James 4:11-17, Luke 6:37-42 "Comfort and wealth have never enriched the world as much as adversity does." James 1:2-4 "Christ not only died for all, he died for each."Romans 10:9 "Heaven is full of answers for which nobody ever bothered to ask."1 Corinthians 2:9; Romans 8:18 “We say to our children, 'Act like grown-ups,' but Jesus said to the grown-ups, 'Be like children.'Matthew 18:3 “World events are moving very rapidly now. I pick up the Bible in one hand, and I pick up the newspaper in the other. And I read almost the same words in the newspaper as I read in the Bible. It’s being fulfilled every day round about us." Joshua 21:45, Isaiah 55:11, Ezekial 12:25, Matthew 24:35 “Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”Ephesians 2:10, Phillipians 1:6, John 3:30 "Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys."James 1:3; 1 Peter 1:6-7, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 “Believers, look up – take courage. The angels are nearer than you think.”Psalm 91:11, Hebrews 13:2 “When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God."Ephesians 4:22-24
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My 14 year old daughter loves dance. "I mean, she really loves to dance -- not "boogie dancing" on the dance floor - but learning and developing the very precise, classical dance moves associated with ballet and tap. She spends more than 8 hours a week in the dance studio. If you asked her what her favorite style of dance is today, she would assuredly answer "tap." For the past two years, she has even competed in tap dancing in the Houston area, and has won three first place regional champion titles. Yes, my daughter can tap. Tap dancing is easy for her.
But it didn't start that way. In the beginning, three years ago, she wasn't sure she was going to like doing tap at all. It was hard. She would leave her tap class frustrated and upset. A few times she came out of class to tell me that she thought her teacher was frustrated with her. She would tell me she "was the worst student in the class." Sometimes she would say she was intimidated by her teacher.
Now, here she is, 3 years later. She loves tap. Now she tap dances in competitions, and she has won three championship titles. She also dances on a competitive tap team, and this year her tap team was nominated for an IDA award for tap. That means that out of all the tap dance teams in the country -- her team was recognized as having one of the top choreographed and executed routines. What a transformation! Of course, now she loves to tap, and she tells me that she knows her tap teacher (the same one who was frustrated with her during that first year) is very proud of her and her accomplishments. Any frustration between her and her teacher is gone.
As we were driving home from the dance studio last week, I was remembering how far she had come. I asked her, "Do you remember how much you struggled that first year in tap? What changed?"
And her response was this: "Well, tap is very, very hard, until...you get your 'pull backs.' After that, it is easy. I went from being one of the worst students at the program, to being one of the best."
For some reason, what she said has stuck with me all week long: "Tap is very hard, until you get your 'pull backs;' after that, it is easy." That sentence has been replaying in my head numerous times this week; and today I woke up and figured out why.
My daughter's journey with tap dance may be likened to a metaphor for the Christian's spiritual journey.
For those of you who don't know what a pull back is, here is a quick video. (The main demonstration is from 1:00 to 1:30, if you would like to skip the introduction in the video!)
So, in the words of my daughter, those "pull backs" are the stumbling block in tap. They are the point of frustration. They are the skill that causes every novice and intermediate tap dancer to doubt themselves. Sometimes learning the "pull back" can even bring frustration between dancer and teacher. The novice dancer, or even the intermediate level dancer, may even consider quitting tap altogether. They may leave the program. They may leave their teacher.
So how does this relate to the Christian's spiritual life and his or her relationship with God? If you have overcome a major stumbling block in your walk with Christ, then you may fill in your own blank:
Following Christ was hard, until _____________________. Then it was easy. After that, I received so many spiritual rewards. After that, trusting God was easy.
For me, I can write this:
"Following Christ was very hard, until I finally just gave in to Christ's teachings. Until I finally decided to submit to what God placed on my heart to do through my conscience -- regardless of my own rationalizations and my own desires. After that, the spiritual rewards which came made it much easier to continue to follow Him. "
See, I called myself a Christian for over twenty years. But I had a number of "secret, small sin habits" in my life that I was engaging in. I now know that these habits were my "pull backs." For me, the sin habits involved how I was spending my free time. I won't go into details on this blog, because I don't want the description of my sin habits to be a stumbling block in assisting you to identify what your "pull backs" are.
In general, I had some habits that most people would probably not even consider to be sinful on the surface. But I knew in my heart that God wanted me to give those habits up.However, I didn't want to give those habits up. I even talked back to God, and rationalized that the habits were helpful and necessary in my life in order to reach my life goals. I ignored God's promptings and struggled, frustrated with God, My Teacher -- for 8 years. My pull back was this:
I needed to stop the rationalizing of doing things my way, and I needed to start following God's instructions; I needed to start submitting to His promptings in my conscience; and I had to trust and follow in Christ's example for me.
Once I finally just made a strong, conscious decision to submit to God's promptings on my heart,
Once I finally just gave in and gave up, and consciously decided to do what my conscience was whispering to me to do,
Once I ultimately and purposefully fell to my knees and told God -- "Okay God, I am going to quit these habits. I am going to quit them immediately and completely. With your help I am going to stop those habits, and I am choosing to change for only one reason -- not because I want to quit -- but because You have revealed to me that it is not what you want for me. I am just going to trust You, believe your word, and follow You -- no matter what. I am going to stop practicing my 'pull backs' in the way I think will work. I am going to submit to You and to what you place on my heart to do. I am just going to give up my way, and I'm going to do life the way You show me. Not because I really want to; but because I choose to trust you."
Then everything spiritual in my life just became easier.
That 8 year long season of life was my "pull back."
I can now say that faith was really hard for me. Following Christ was really hard for me, until I got past that "pull back" maneuver. It took me 8 years to conquer that pull back. Now trusting God is so much easier. So what is the "pull back" in your spiritual tap dance?
What is the skill you need to develop, or the stumbling block you need to overcome, or the sin in your life you need to release -- -- in order to experience a transformation from a "faith is hard" attitude to a "faith is easy" attitude?
You too can transition from a ho-hum Christian life, to the life of a spiritual champion in the spirit of Christ -- but first -- you must submit to what He places on your heart. And the decision to submit is just that -- a conscious decision to get over whatever is hindering you. It is a conscious decision to conquer your "pull back."
Whatever is in your life that is hindering you from conquering your spiritual pull back...just choose to let it go...with the help of prayer, Godly mentors, and relying on His spirit...just choose to let it go.
Believe me, I know that conquering your spiritual pull back will be hard. I just admitted that one of my pull backs took over 8 years to conquer. However, now, when faced with a new pull back, it is so much easier for me to not struggle, and instead to remain focused in My Teacher's (Christ's) instructions. Your first spiritual pull back may be very hard, butafterwards, your faith, your trust, and your desire to following Christ will be so strengthened that following Him becomes more like a familiar spiritual dance routine that you have mastered. And your reward for mastering this spiritual dance routine may not be a worldly trophy; but it will certainly be something so great in your spirit, that you can hardly even describe it.
I can try to describe it like this:
Immense peace, even in times of difficulty.
Immense happiness, even though your happiness is defined differently than how the world defines happiness. Others may see you and not even realize how much at peace and happiness you are. It is not of this world.
Immense security in who you are as a child of the Spirit of the Lord -- as if every cell in your body vibrates with the Spirit of the Lord, as His word and wisdom literally vibrate joy into your soul.
So with all I have to to encourage you -- I strongly recommend that you stay with Your Teacher until you conquer those pull backs!
With His help, conquer them!
You will never regret it!
You will never want to go back to your "pre-pull back" days!
I would like to end today's post with a few wonderful Billy Graham quotes and two verses from the Bible:
“God never takes away something from your life without replacing it with something better.” - Billy Graham
“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” - Billy Graham
“When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God." - Billy Graham
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. - Proverbs 28:13 (ESV)
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! - Romans 6:1 (ESV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness... - Galatians 5:22
Follow this link to find the author's books and writings available for Kindle, and some in paperback, on Amazon.com. If you see something you would like to read, please know that your purchase as low as $2.99 goes directly to support the author's ministry, a ministry focused on encouraging genuine revival in the hearts of God's people. --> Author's Kindle Books available on Amazon
There are many people these days teaching that a Christian can "claim" a blessed and prosperous life from God. Although many of these teachings are false and potentially destructive spiritually, we should not overlook the fact that God does indeed make many promises to us, and we can indeed claim them with full confidence. Today, I want to remind you of a second, genuine, in-context, promise of God that is waiting and ready to be claimed. If you confess your sins with a truly repentant heart, He will fully forgive you.
I can hear your thought response, again. "Yes, I know that. I learned that in Sunday School in Kindergarten. Or I learned that on the first day of Christianity 101. Certainly you must have found something in your "promises of God" theology with more insight that that!
And yes, there is more to grasp than just that! Grasp this! When God forgives you; He fully forgives you!
Do you know what fully implies? Do you know what it truly means for you?
The Bible tells us that not only does He forgive you, but He remembers your sins no more! And that is a promise. A promise you can claim. Now of course, God can remember your sins, as He is all-knowing and not forgetful; but instead, He purposely chooses not to remember your sins. "And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins." - Isaiah 43:25 and Hebrews 8:12 (NLT) Notice that God spoke this in the future tense. He was speaking of the new covenant that would be in place after Christ's death. So yes, this is a genuine promise we can claim.
The Bible also tells us this:
"He has removed our sins as far from usas the east is from the west." - Psalms 103:12
Again, this is a genuine promise of God we can claim. If we authentically confess and repent of our sins, then He will forgive us. Fully. And this means -- that you are no longer required to punish yourself in your own mind.
I will go so far to say that if you are continuing to commiserate, to replay past events in your mind, or to mentally punish yourself over sins you have truly confessed to Him - then you are actually not in line with God's will for you in that particular thought place in your life.
Because if God is choosing to forget your past sins; and if He is choosing to set them apart from you as far as the east is from the west... Then it is not God who is causing you or wanting you to replay those past events in your mind.
We cannot be our best for Him if we are wallowing in past regrets -- regrets that have already been forgiven.
Think of a loving parent and a child. The child is careless and accidentally breaks his mother's favorite vase. The child realizes what he has done and realizes it happened due to his carelessness. The child realizes he has caused this, and he starts crying and is truly sorry, and cries out, "I'm so sorry mommy; it was my fault; I was so careless, I'm so sorry!"
And his mother forgives him. Completely.
Now, do you know what that loving mother will do if that child keeps crying for hours or days over what he did? Do you know how frustrated she will become if that child takes an hour every week for the purpose of commiserating over the broken vase? What will she do if her child keeps coming to her, multiple times a month over the next 3 to five years and keeps re-apologizing and tells her how he so wishes things had been different on that day, the day he broke the vase due to his carelessness?
That mother is going to tell her son. "Listen to me. Stop this! I forgave you as soon as you demonstrated you were truly sorry and would be more careful in the future! It is actually frustrating to me that you keep bringing this issue up and apologizing for it over and over. It has been three years now! Do you not understand how much I love you? Do you not trust that I actually forgave you? This actually saddens me, because you seem to believe that I am still holding a grudge and wanting to punish you for that past. Why are you spending an hour every week, or even a minute every week, dwelling on this past broken vase? Your commiserating is not good for you; and it is not good for us! I now command you child, to let these guilty, wishful thoughts go and to no longer dwell on them! It is not what I want for you! It is not what I desire for you! It is not my will for you! It is not good for you! Let it go! For your own future, let it go! Live in the blessing of knowing you have been fully forgiven, and of knowing I have chosen to forget about it."
I think that simple little story should illuminate why -- just as the mother does not want her son to live in such a manner -- it is not the will of Godfor us to similarily wallow in past regrets. As Paul exemplified, the will of God is for us to choose to forget "what lies behind" and reach "forward to what lies ahead." (NAS)
And just in case you think your past sin was so big that you are an exception, remember what Paul's sin was. Murder. Hate crimes. Paul later went on to say that he knew he had been one of the worst sinners in the whole world - even the worst of all! (1 Timothy 1:15) But Paul goes on to say: But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. - 1 Timothy 1:16 (NLT)
If Paul could stop dwelling on his mega-sins, then you can certainly stop punishing yourself for losing your temper last week. Or for a past dependence on alcohol. Or for past promiscuities. Or for past infractions of the law. Or for whatever is in your past that you just have to keep bringing to your mind -- whatever it is that replays in your mind and tells you, "I am not worthy because of what I did." You can just let that go. God wants you to let it go.
The will of God is for us to no longer dwell in thought of guilt about our past after we have repented. This is a promise we can claim, a genuine promise we can claim, based on the very nature of God. And if this is true, then it must logically follow that if we continue to wallow in past guilt over things we have authentically confessed and repented, then we are actually choosing to camp out outside of God's will in that area of our thought life.
You are free to stop replaying past events in your head. You are free to stop feeling guilty. You are free to forget what is past and to move ahead. This may not be a promise of earthly wealth. But spiritually and psychologically, it is truly a greater promise.
When you grasp this truth -- it will set you free in your mind. Stop feeling guilty for the past -- when you have repented of it -- and use that time instead to build your relationship and your purpose that is within God's will for you. Let it go, completely, just as God separated it so far from you that you cannot measure this distance. This is a truth that you can know; this is a truth that will set your mind free -- fully free -- to dwell on where He wants you to go.
"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."