Billy Graham - Another Road, Another Chance
- Peace with God
I'm going to shorten my message a little bit tonight, because there's a little chill up here. I don't know whether you have it but we have it up here. And I know the stadium has been filled a long time, and you have been sitting here a very long time, and I'm sure that some of you are tired. And some of you have a long way to go home, so I'm not going to take too much of your time. It doesn't take long to present the Gospel. I heard about a man that was supposed to speak for twenty minutes and he spoke for thirty minutes. And after an hour he was still speaking, and, the man that introduced him could stand it no longer, so he picked up the gavel and threw it at the speaker. And it missed the speaker and hit a woman on the front row. She said, "Hit me again. I can still hear him". Thank you.
Now I want you to turn with me to the 12th chapter of Matthew's Gospel. The 12th chapter of Matthew's Gospel, verse 38, we begin: "Then certain of the scribes and of the pharisees answered saying, master, we would see a sign from thee, but he answered, and said unto them. An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall be no sign given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. And behold, a greater than Jonah is here".
In this passage, that refers back to the little book of Jonah, just four chapters in that book, it's one of the most controversial books in the Bible, but it is also one of the most thrilling and interesting books in the Bible. And you read it from one end to the other, and it's filled with excitement, but it's also filled with the Gospel. He was looking forward to when Christ would come, and would die on the cross. And spend three days, and three nights, in the grave, and be raised from the dead.
We were in Florida, just after Andrew came in. We went down to South Dade. We conducted a service. It was called The Service of Hope, for the people there. Jesse Jackson was there. He came and sat on the platform, and led a prayer. The Governor of the State had invited us. And we saw a devastation such as we've never seen anywhere. I don't think Hiroshima or Nagasaki in Japan suffered anything worse than what you see today in South Florida. But it seems that so many storms and hurricanes are coming up this year, and others are being formed in other places. Then we read about Guam. And then the storm that hit France and Great Britain, just three or four days ago, that did in such devastation in Southern France.
And here, these pharisees and Sadducees and religious leaders are listening to Jesus, and they ask him for a sign. They said, "Lord, give us a sign". "What kind of sign will you give us to show that you are really the Son of God? You do these miracles, but give us a real sign". And Jesus said, "You are an evil and adulterous generation, and you are seeking for a sign. You want some big show to prove that I am the Son of God. But the only sign you're going to get you will get in reading the book of Jonah".
Years ago, a front-page story in a newspaper said, that a two-ton shark had been lassoed by an Australian. That probably was crocodile Dundee. And also in Australia, a man was stalked by a killer crocodile who caught the man and coughed him up in eight pieces. We made a motion picture in Australia once, called, the shadow of the boomerang. And there was a beautiful young woman that was the star of that picture. And after we left she went swimming with her boyfriend out on one of the beaches. And she was in about three or four feet of water, just wading, and a shark came, and took off her leg. And before they could get any help to her, she had died.
Now this, has been called a fish story. But it's more than that. It's a true story. It's the story that Jesus himself refers to. He attested to it. There are 300 different kinds of sharks alone. But the Bible does not say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. It says that Jonah was saved, not destroyed, by a big fish. And I believe it because the Bible has it, and Jesus authenticated it. With all the things that are happening in the biological world today, people have much less difficulty crediting the facts of this story, than they did fifty years ago.
God had come to Jonah. He lived in the northern part of Israel. And the scripture says in the first verse of Jonah, "Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah". The word of the Lord came unto Jonah. But Jonah did not like the call that he got. God said, "I want you to go to Nineveh. That great wicked city, that's the capital of the most powerful empire in the world. And I want you to go and preach to them. And preach repentance, and tell them if they don't repent I am going to destroy them". And Jonah didn't like that. He didn't like the Ninevites. Because the Ninevites would come with their armies, and they were very cruel people.
History tell us that they were among the most brutal people of all history. And the way they treated their prisoners was something you hardly would repeat from the platform. It was so horrible and so terrible. And Jonah didn't like them. In fact he hated them. And he said, "I'm not going to go, Lord". So he went down to Joppa, bought him a ticket, got on a ship to go to Tarshish, which is on the other end of Spain. And while he was on that ship, a storm came up, a hurricane came up. And the sailors were frightened. They thought they were going to perish, and they said, "There's something wrong". They began to pray to their various gods.
And the captain went down into the hold of the ship, and saw Jonah lying there asleep. And the captain realized that something was wrong, because he heard that Jonah was running from his God. And the captain woke him up. And the sailors eventually cast lots, and they decided, along with Jonah, he admitted that he was the one that was wrong. And they said "What'll we do with you"? He said, "Throw me over the side, and when I go out over the side, the sea will calm down". The Psalmist said, "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy presence"?
Jonah couldn't get away from God. The devil will always have a ship ready when a person wants to sail away from God. Jonah thought he had paid the fare. And the ship's captain also thought the same. They were both mistaken. The most expensive fare that anyone ever pays is when he sails away from God. Then you really pay a price. The wages of sin is death. The story is told of Aaron Burr, who was at Princeton, and he went to an evangelistic meeting, and he came under conviction of sin for two weeks. And he went under the stars at night, and he said, "God, I can't stand this conviction that you have upon me of my sin. If you'll leave me alone, I'll never bother you again". And from that time on, we're told that his soul was dead. He tried to find something toward the end of this life, but it was too late.
These sailors cast their lot, and it fell upon Jonah, and Jonah changes his mind. And God had prepared a big fish. Three days and three nights, he had time to think about it. What a terrible agony he must've been in. There are two ways to meet judgment. Resist, and go deeper in sin, or turn back to God. Peter walking on the water, began to look around, took his eyes off Jesus. And he said, "Lord, save me". The Bible teaches that we are dead in trespasses and sins. The Bible says that you are a body, but living inside your body is your spirit, your soul. That's the part of you that can have fellowship with God. And that's dead. And it can only be made alive by the Holy Spirit, when you come and repent of your sins, and receive Christ as your Lord and Savior.
God provides every means to escape. But you are bound hand and foot by your own sins. The Spirit must come and cut your bands, and then you will leap to liberty. Because you see, this story tells us the story of the cross. That Jesus Christ died on the cross. That he was buried. That he rose again. That he's alive tonight. He's willing to come into your heart and change the direction of your life, and give you a peace and a joy that you've never known before. Jonah's Gospel. "And the Lord spoke unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time". God gave him another chance. God said, "Go on to Nineveh. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. And he cried and said"... He began to speak in Nineveh. He said, "God is going to spare you for another 40 days. But repent, repent. Judgment is coming".
This was God speaking through his messenger. Now Jonah didn't want to do it. He didn't feel like doing it. But he was delivering the message from the Lord. And Jonah's message gave no promise of mercy. It was a message of repentance. Yet the people of Nineveh believed his message. And the Bible says that the greatest revival, the greatest evangelistic campaign in the history of the world took place in Nineveh. It was a city probably of 600,000 people, less or more, according to which commentary you read. And the whole city, from the king on down, repented. The king took off his robes, and stepped down from his throne, and got down in the street, and the dust, in sack cloth and ashes, and repented of his sins. And God, had mercy upon, not only the king, but all the people. And all the people were saved.
That could happen here. Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing, if in Portland, the whole city, the whole state of Oregon, the whole of the Northwest, would turn to God? The king immediately proclaimed a fast. And the people didn't eat, they didn't drink: they fasted and prayed. They had a great spiritual renewal in Nineveh. "The men of Nineveh", Jesus said, shall rise in the judgment with this generation and shall condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. But a greater than Jonah is here". If they repented at the preaching of the Jonah, how much more should they repent when they hear the Gospel of Christ?
God is warning us right now, through the spread of AIDS, through hurricanes, and earthquakes, and violence, and all kinds of problems, that are now affecting the whole world. Our economic problems. All of these things, God is using to speak to us. And if we don't repent, and turn to him, judgment will really come. In Genesis 6, speaking of Noah's day, the scripture says, "My spirit shall not always strive with man. Yet his days shall be 120 years". God said, "I'll give you 120 years to repent. If you don't repent, you're all going to be destroyed". Then at the last, when Noah was ready to go into the ark, God said, "I'll give 'em seven more days. And then that's it".
God's grace is greater than our sins. Nineveh heard but one preacher. How many preachers have you heard? How many Christian television and radio programs have you listened to? How many church services have you been to? How many Bibles are in your home? Nineveh had only a single warning, a single service, and the whole city, turned to God. Now Jonah was not happy about that at all. He didn't want to see the people of Nineveh saved. Jonah had a very weak moment, not necessarily a weak man, but a weak moment does not prove that it's a weak man. Many of us have had our weak moments. And many of us have done something we shouldn't have done in a weak moment. But if you repent immediately, and say, "Oh Lord, I'm sorry. Please help me not to do that again", he'll forgive you.
And so Jonah went out to the east of the city, and decided to take his camper and go rest out there and just look down on the city. He was up in the mountains. He wanted to see what happened to the people. He wanted to see if this revival lasted. He wanted to see if this evangelistic campaign lasted. He didn't believe it would, because he didn't have any confidence in the people of Nineveh at all. He didn't have confidence even in God, that God could do this. But God prepared a gourd to grow over him to protect him from the wind and the burning sun. And Jonah became so attached to that gourd that he almost fell in love with it. He loved that gourd, which protected him, more than he did God.
And God said, "If you love your gourd upon which you have expended neither time nor labor, how is it that you do not understand my love toward Nineveh which I have planted? To which I've given years of attention, and upon which I have bestowed the labors of everlasting love". This is the ground of God's grace toward us. He made you to be born. He put time and effort through your family, as buck told us a few minutes ago. He poured out his love. And the scripture says, "But God commends his love toward us, in that while we are yet sinners, Christ died for us". The things we get out of this little book of Jonah . God has a concern for you. God is powerful, and can use the forces of nature to wake you up, and to bring you to the kingdom.
On new year's day, 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the Rose Bowl. In that game, a player recovered a fumble. But became confused, and ran the wrong way. A teammate tackled him, just before the, he scored a touchdown against his own team. At half time, all the players went into the dressing room, and sat down, wondering what the coach would say. This young man sat by himself, put a towel over his head, and cried like a baby. When the team was ready to go back on the field for the second half, the coach stunned the team when he announced, that the same players who started the first half would start the second.
All the players left the dressing room except this young man: he wouldn't budge. The coach look back, and called him again, and saw his cheeks were wet, with a strong man's tears. And he said, "Coach, I can't do it. I've ruined you. I've ruined and disgraced the University of California. I've ruined myself. I couldn't face that crowd in the stadium again". Then the coach put his hand on his shoulder and said, "Roy, get up and go back. The game is only half over". When I read that story, deep inside, I said, "What a coach". When I read the story of Jonah, and the stories of thousands like him, I say, "What a God, that would give me another chance". And for some of you, he's giving you other chance tonight, to give your heart and your life to Christ, and to make sure if you died you'd go to heaven.
I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat right now. And come and stand in front of this platform and say by coming, "I open my heart and give my life to Christ". Maybe you've been baptized or confirmed and you're a good member of the church, but deep inside you're not sure. You're not certain how you stand before God, and you're not certain that you have repented, or that you've really, by faith, received him as Lord and Savior. He offers his mercy, and his love, and his grace to you tonight. And he says, "I love you". And I'm going to ask you to come.
You say, "Why do you ask people to come publicly"? Every person that Jesus called, he called publicly, did you know that? Every person that came to Christ in the New Testament was public. He said, "If you're not willing to acknowledge me before men, I'll not acknowledge you before my father, which is in heaven". You get up and come, right now. From up in the top gallery, all the way around, and if you're watching by television in the other places, in the other stadium, get up and go in front of your screen, as people are already beginning to come here. We're going to wait. Pray for the person to the right of you, and left of you. Front of you, and back of you. Perhaps no one ever prayed for them before, that they would find the Savior. You pray for them.
Let's have this whole audience in silent prayer, praying that God will do a mighty work here tonight in the hearts of many people. As many people are already on the way, you come. From up on the top row, it'll take you an extra minute to come, so start now. If you're with friends or relatives, you can bring your friend with you, or they'll wait on you. Or if you're in a bus, they'll wait. And after you've all come, I'm going to have a prayer with you and say a word to you, and give you some literature to help you in your Christian life. You get up and come right now, with these people that are already coming.
You in the other places that are watching by television, cannot see what we see here, as hundreds of people are coming, to make their commitment to Christ tonight. And you can come, in your stadium, in your place, that are watching by television. You may be in the choir, and God has spoken to you these nights. And you've been having a struggle inside, as to what you should do. Don't wait any longer. You may wait too long. Make it tonight. "Now is the accepted time: today is the day of salvation". You come. I'm going to ask that people not leave the stadium at this holy moment, because it keeps others from coming. Just get up and come. There's a little voice inside, that says, you ought to come. That's the voice of the Holy Spirit. You come.
Just as hundreds here have responded to the invitation to make a public commitment to Jesus Christ, you can too, wherever you are. Just call the number on your screen right now. Special friends want to help you with the most important decision you could ever make. So don't wait, call now! There's still time to make that important decision call the number on your screen. Someone is waiting to pray and talk with you. Please don't put it off. Call right now.