This past week we mourned the death of one of the greatest evangelists our world has ever known. At the age of 99, Billy Graham went home to the heaven he so passionately preached about. Countless news outlets, social media outlets, churches and ministries posted the message: He is Home! What a glorious day for Billy Graham, for in his earthly death, he met Jesus face to face. Praise God for His promise of eternal life. Billy Graham is now living that reality.
Billy Graham’s family gave touching tributes to his memory and powerful Gospel presentations. One that really caught my attention was a statement from Nelson Graham, Billy’s son. In his tribute to his father, Nelson claimed that Billy Graham was FAT. After getting our attention, Nelson explained.
“My father was F-A-T. He was Faithful, he was Available, and he was Teachable … May we all be that way.”
In just a couple of sentences, a son summed up the life of his father. In just three words, Nelson Graham let us all know what was important to this renowned evangelist and teacher. His father loved the Lord, was present for anyone who expressed a need, and displayed a humility apparent to all who had the honor of knowing him.
In a culture that applauds what we can produce, what we can show, and how many likes we get on social media, this message is quite contradictory. It was a great reminder to me to keep my desires and motivations in check as I make my way in this world. Let’s face it, that is not always easy to do.
We sometimes spend our time and energy attempting to obtain recognition and acknowledgement for what we have accomplished. We strive and complete to earn a prize from the world that says we are the best at what we do. We want to be remembered for what we did well in this life.
Living a FAT life means keeping our eyes squarely on God, his work in this world, and his work within us. In Psalm 37, David gives us a good road map to becoming faithful, available, and teachable.
Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
Often times, I charge ahead with a goal or a dream and ask the Lord to bless it rather than submitting to the Lord and having Him determine my path. This is not the way of someone who is both faithful and teachable.
God offers us more encouragement on how He can guide our steps if we let him lead the way. Proverbs 3:5-6 says
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
As for being present, I have made some changes this year to slow that tide. It means saying no to things, some very good things, in order to be present with those I am attempting to serve. My students, my small group, my colleagues, and my family. For me, being present means not being so overscheduled that I cannot adjust my day to make room for someone who needs my ear. It means spending more time in God’s word than ever before. Breaking busy is hard. It’s counter-cultural. And it’s worth it.
Franklin Graham, another of Billy Graham’s sons, closed his comments with one that gives hope for all who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
“My father preached on heaven, told millions how to find heaven, wrote a book on heaven, and now he’s in heaven. His journey is complete.”
So, feel free to call me FAT. I consider it a compliment.
I like the concept of setting some resolutions for the new year. I feel like January is a time of reset, a chance to take a deep breath and head into the next year with a plan to become someone, well… better. Numerous polls and articles list the top resolutions. Some people want to be thinner, some stronger, some wiser, some wealthier. Some want to be more generous, while others want to read the Bible more. Most of these goals have something in common—people want to be better versions of themselves. Let’s face it, we all want to improve. And the start of a new year gives us an opportunity to start fresh.
After all, the writers in the Bible are continually encouraging us to try and follow Christ’s example, reminding us to be… better.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Julius Caesar instituted New Year’s Day on January 1 to honor Janus, the two-faced god who looks backwards into the old year and forwards into the new. The custom of New Year’s resolutions began in ancient times, as the Romans made resolutions with a moral bent—mostly to be good to others. To them, Janus was the god of beginnings.
Looking back, I realize that God is more than just the god of beginnings. He is God over our past as well. And sometimes, looking at what He has brought me through helps me to realize that He will also lead me forward in hope and confidence.
As I turn my head and look back at 2016, I am grateful for all that God has shown me this year. He has shown me great kindness through the love of my children. He has shown me great grace, in forgiving me when I have fallen far short of who I can and should be. He has shown me great compassion as I grieved the loss of two dear friends who left this earth far too soon. He has shown me great understanding, how that loss has changed me—sometimes not for the better. He has shown me great love when I have been somewhat unlovable at best and downright awful at worst. I am so grateful for the way in which he sees me as holy, thanks to the cover of Jesus’ sacrifice. And as I look back, I realize how that sacrifice and the love that continues is what has sustained me through this past year.
So, as the Romans chose to do, I will look forward to 2017, resolving to focus on what God has in store for me. I pray that it will be healing. For the sake of myself and for those I love, I do need to heal. But regardless of how quickly that happens, I resolve to look forward to wholeness—a completeness that can only come through looking first at Christ, and realizing that I am not alone. I am surrounded by other believers who will cheer me on in the year ahead.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2a)
I hope you will join me in looking back and seeing the great gifts from the past year, and in looking forward to focus on the great gifts that lie ahead as we daily place our trust in Him. And know that you’re not alone. I, and many others, will be running that race with you.
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power… (2 Thessalonians 1:11)
Let’s look forward to this new year together.
From weekend getaways that bring bellies aching with laughter to late night conversations that bring sleeves wet with tears, friendship is surprising.
I had all the friends I needed, until one day I didn’t.
The yearbook sentiments of “BFF” and “Always and Forever” which seem oh so true when you’re 18 and going away to college prove pale in comparison to saying an actual goodbye after decades of friendship when you’re pushing five decades old yourself. I wasn’t prepared for that final goodbye of my BFF.
As I stood by her grave site I thought to myself, Yes… friendship has certainly surprised me.
I never thought that as a grown-up I’d need to call another adult woman at four in the morning because I was so emotional that I just needed to hear the voice of my friend. I never thought I’d so look forward to a coffee date with another mom with whom I shared so much in common—from parenting philosophies to prayer, favorite books to beloved vacation spots. This friendship journey has taught me a lot about the complexities of relationship with another human being, and has taught me even more about myself.