“Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” —Philippians 1:18
A new research facility has gathered the full documentary record of Billy Graham’s life and work in one place. According to Christianity Today (which was founded in 1956 by Dr. Graham), archives that had been loaned to Wheaton College will be combined with “hundreds and hundreds of boxes that remained at Graham’s home office in Montreat, North Carolina, and additional material from his ministry’s former offices in Minneapolis and in storage in Charlotte.”
This state-of-the-art archive is located across the road from the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. It comprises thirty thousand square feet at a cost of $12 million and opens on Monday, Dr. Graham’s birthday.
David Bruce, who served as executive assistant to the famous evangelist, has overseen the project. He notes that its purpose is not nostalgia or history for history’s sake. “Mr. Graham wouldn’t have approved of any of this unless it could be used to further the gospel,” he said. “I hope that people see the work of God in his life, and then all the history he touched, and it can encourage people to reflect on the living, breathing Word of God.”
“We have all of Jesus we want”
Years ago, a wise mentor in one of the churches I pastored said, “Our problem is that we have all of Jesus we want. Not all of Jesus we need, but all of Jesus we want.” He was speaking for more people than our congregation.
Billy Graham knew how much he needed Jesus. He told a 1993 crusade in Portland, Oregon, “I can’t live the Christian life alone. I’m a failure. Billy Graham cannot live the Christian life. I’ve tried. I can’t do it. But with the help of the word of God and the help of the Holy Spirit, I can live the Christian life. But he lives it through me.”
He knew that we need Jesus as much as he did. In 1955, he said on “The Hour of Decision,” “The regeneration of the individual is much more needed than the revolution of society.” He stated that same year, “If I didn’t believe that the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ held the answer to this world’s baffling problems, I would go back to the farm and the rural life that I love and spend my days in peaceful solitude.”
He declared, “When our minds are on Christ, Satan has little room to maneuver.” And he knew that when we are changed by Jesus, everything about us is changed: “The transformed man loves when others hate. He is just when others are prejudiced. He is understanding when others misunderstand and he is poised when others are frantic.”
Dr. Graham was convinced: “If Christianity is important at all, it is all important. If it is anything at all, it is everything. It is either the most vital thing in your life, or it isn’t worth bothering with.”
“In order that I may gain Christ”
Paul would have agreed. All through his letter to the Philippians, often considered his favorite church, the apostle repeated the same theme. He told them that even though some “proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment,” nonetheless “Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:17–18).
He testified, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (v. 21) and added, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (v. 23). He wanted their “manner of life [to] be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (v. 27) and informed them that their sufferings were “for the sake of Christ” (v. 29).
Paul then offered them “encouragement in Christ” (Philippians 2:1) and encouraged them to have “this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (v. 5). One day, he predicted, “every tongue [will] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (v. 11).
The apostle set the example for all to follow: “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8).
Paul’s ultimate purpose and passion were clear: “That I may know him” (v. 10).
“My one purpose in life”
Knowing Christ is the purpose of the Christian life. Everything else about our faith is secondary and derivative. We were created for an intimate, daily, personal relationship with our living Savior.
So, let me ask you: How well do you know Jesus today?
You can know him just as you can know any other living person. Better, in fact, since his Spirit lives in you (1 Corinthians 3:16), he is always interceding for you (Romans 8:34), and he is as close as your next prayer.
You get to know Jesus just like you get to know anyone else: by spending time with him. Read his word to hear his voice. Listen for his Spirit as he speaks to your spirit. See his hand in his creation (Colossians 1:16). Speak to him through the day. Practice his presence by imagining yourself in his presence, and it will be so.
Then do all you can to help those you know to know him. Billy Graham was clear: “My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ.”
What is your “one purpose in life”?