Friday, July 31, 2009

Lessons From Billy Graham

"Life is short. We can live better."

In his new book, The Journey, Billy Graham shares principles for living -- which he expounded on exclusively for Reader's Digest. They offer insight into achieving greater happiness.

1. Make it your goal to live at peace with others.
Is it possible to do this with everyone in our lives? Unfortunately, no; even our best efforts may not change another person's attitude. The key is to ask God if we're at fault, and if so, to confess it and seek his help to overcome it. Life is temporary and fleeting. We're here for just a short time. We shouldn't waste our days but live them for God's glory.

It's vital, of course, to be at peace with God and with ourselves. Almost since the night I accepted Jesus Christ into my life as a teenager, I have tried to set aside time each morning to be alone with God. This time includes prayer, reading the Bible and meditating on its meaning. Nothing has been more important to my spiritual life.

2. Treat others as you'd want them to treat you.
This simple but profound principle -- the golden rule -- comes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. How different our lives would be if we actually practiced this!

The Bible also tells us, "With humility comes wisdom." Every day I realize I'm just a sinner like everyone else, and I have been forgiven only because of God's grace. God gave us our gifts and abilities. He blessed our efforts. If we start thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to, it takes away from our proper worship of God. Pride blinds us to our own faults.

That's why we should pray not only for our friends but also for our enemies. Prayer is one way we put the golden rule into action.

3. Guard your tongue. Use it for good instead of evil.
How many marriages and friendships have been destroyed because of criticism that has spun out of control? But the tongue can also be used for good; that should be our goal.

When people ask me for advice about their personal problems, which they often do, I always try to give them an answer based on the Bible. The Bible is like a bottomless gold mine -- the deeper we dig, the more riches we discover. And it says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs." We should ask ourselves: How much of our conversation has this as its intention?

4. Never repay evil with evil.
Evil is sin; it's a deadly cancer that has invaded our souls. It isn't just an illusion or an absence of good.

Ultimately, all evil comes from Satan, according to the Bible. Satan is real, and he is absolutely opposed to God. Still, we are responsible for our own actions. Why some people repeatedly choose to do evil instead of good is a puzzle to me, because evil eventually destroys those who practice it.

Only God can replace the evil and sin in our hearts with love and kindness. So we need to put our faith in God and follow him.

5. Avoid revenge. Don't be a captive of the past.
If someone has harmed us by breaking the law, we have the right to bring that person to justice, both for our good and the good of society. But hurting someone only because they have hurt us is another matter. We can't change the past; we can only seek God's forgiveness for whatever it is we did wrong.

I have always tried to learn from as many people as possible in my life, even my critics. We are sinners, separated from God, unsure of why we are here, or how we ought to live. The Bible, however, answers these questions. It's like a road map for life. You wouldn't get in your car to go on a long trip and leave the map locked in the glove compartment, would you? Unfortunately, that's what many of us do with God's Word. Yet we need its guidance and truth every day as we travel life's journey.

6. Practice the power of forgiveness.
I adhere to the philosophy of hating the sin but loving the sinner. The key is to realize that this is the way God sees us.

When we sin, it's as if we're shaking our fists in God's face, telling him we know better than he does how to run our lives. But God also hates sin because he loves us, and he knows what sin does to us.

How do I know this? I know it because God allowed his only son to go to the cross and shed his blood so we could be saved from sin's penalty. And Jesus, who was without sin, was known as a friend of sinners and went out of his way to seek and save those who were lost. So should we.

From Reader's Digest - January 2007

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