Jack Graham - All in, All the Way
Psalm 112, verse 2 is a kind of family verse for the Graham family. It says: "The generation of the upright will be blessed, the generation and the generations of the upright, (those who know and follow the Lord) will be blessed". The blessing of the life of a family that follows Christ. Psalm 61 says, "You, O Lord, have given me the heritage of those who fear your name". I'm grateful for a godly heritage in our home. My parents and grandparents before me. I'm grateful that I had that kind of family. I know that's a gift from the Lord. Not anything that I deserved or earned, but a valued treasure that comes from the Lord. And I'm thankful, always thankful for my parents and my grandparents. Everyone wants to leave a legacy. We hear about it from philanthropists and athletes and educators and physicians and celebrities and politicians; it's all about the legacy. But your spiritual legacy is your real and lasting legacy.
Billy Graham did say, the legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. The quality and the integrity of our lives; that's how we really want to be remembered. Jesus said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul"? I would amplify that and say, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own children"? Jesus spoke about "laying up treasures in heaven where thieves cannot steal it, where moths and insects can't corrupt it, or mildew can't get to it". So often we accumulate all this stuff and we leave it to our children. They just have to clean it up and give it away or else they spend it or else that stuff just mildews. What we really need to leave to our children is those things that last forever; starting with the soul!
This is how we are to live and give to our family from generation to generation an inheritance. It's your way of life. It's how you live your life. That's what will be remembered long after you're gone. Every dad, to consider himself, according to Steve Farrar, is a kind of anchorman. You know, like an anchor in a relay race, the last leg, the last anchor, take the baton from the generation in front of you and running your race to the finish, all the way, all in. Be an anchor man and give your faith to the future. We must not fail in this. Really we have a 120 year history of time in which we are a part. You say, why 120 years? Your life, the life of your children and the life of your grandchildren.
I think about my own grandfather, A. J. Simms, a godly man, deacon, Bible teacher in our church. The grandfather that put me on his lap almost every night, talked to me about the Scriptures, told me the stories of the Bible, led me to Jesus as a small boy. I think about him. He was born in 1884, long time ago. And yet here we are all these years later, I'm still talking about him, his witness is still true. It echoes in my life. He in effect is preaching to you today, all these years later.
So don't think of your lifespan as three score and ten. Think of the lifespan of your witness and your testimony and your influence in your family, not only to your children, but to your children's children. One hundred-120 years, 150 years. They may not even know you or know your name, but your influence and your input into their lives will come from your heart and to heaven. Grandchildren are great. I started to bring a message just to grandparents today. How can we leave the grandparents out when we talk about the family? Grandparents and great grandparents are so important to family. Someone said, "You know grandchildren are the reward for the pain of parenting, and the punishment to your children for what they put your through".
This past, well, just last evening Piper who is our fourth grandchild, she's a little girl, she's great. We have eight from ages 13-almost 14 all the way down to 10 months, and we have five boys and three girls. They're all great. It is chaos when we all get together. It's exciting. And we had a party for Piper. Piper loves a party. She was four years old. She is four years old today. Well, they were all together, and in the midst of all of that chaos, really loud, I just took a deep breath and looked at the faces of my children and grandchildren and said, "Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of being a parent and a grandparent". And I realized that's my legacy. That's why we live: to invest in the lives of our family and future generations.
Bob Russell is a good friend of mine who was the pastor of Southeast Christian Church for a number of years. And he's still active in ministry, though he's not the lead pastor there. But I read an article a number of weeks ago that I clipped out and saved it just in particular for the grandfathers and the grandmothers. It's called "Ten Ways to Bless your Grandchildren". You want to bless and be a blessing to your grandchildren? Sure, you do. Here's how:
Number one, a good relationship with your grandchildren is much more likely if you nurture a good relationship with their parents. So as we nourish and nurture the relationship with the parents, we have an opportunity then to give back into the lives of their children.
Number two, the younger years are especially, or usually the most enjoyable. The older years are probably the most important. They're a lot of fun when they're little; throwing them in the pool, playing those little games. And even when they get older, in their twenties and thirties for some of you who are grandparents, it's even more important that you share your love and your life and your legacy with those grandchildren. Younger-more enjoyable; older-more important.
Number three, the best way to get close to and have an influence on your grandchildren is to arrange one on one time with them. I like that. Sometimes we get together for reunions or family groups or dinner and it's everybody and again, that can be chaos, right? But take time to meet with your grandchildren one on one. Whether it's just the two of you playing a game, going to a movie, having a dinner date, a ballgame together, whatever it is, plan one on one time. And if you don't plan it, it probably won't get done. So think about it.
Number four, it's seldom the big deal that makes an impact on, but the little everyday experiences. Take advantage of that. It's not necessarily the big moments when you're teaching them or training them, those are important as I'll mention later in the message, but it's those spontaneous, extemporaneous moments in life that your children most remember. For example, I remember with my grandfather Simms sitting on the front porch. Remember those days? Front porches? If you do, you're officially old. But front porch with my grandfather on the swing, counting fireflies. Why would I remember that, such a simple thing. And yet it's those simple moments and those simple things that we remember the most. The little things that you did give to your children. Again, not just the stuff. They've got plenty of toys, plenty of stuff. But to give them time with you, Granddad, Grandmom.
Number five, be intentional about getting together. If you don't schedule it, it probably won't happen. So schedule those times.
Number six, demonstrate your love by just showing up at special activities but don't expect much of a response, especially if they're teenagers. But be there, because your being there will be remembered for as long as they live. I guarantee you the opposite is true: If you're never there, you're not there, you're absent, that also will be remembered.
Number seven, the best contribution you can make is to share spiritual values with your grandchildren, and that usually happens spontaneously. Spiritual truth, spiritual values, spiritual lesson as we see in the Bible happens when we get up in the morning, when we sit down at the table, when we put them to bed at night. It's on that fishing trip or on that vacation or on that family gathering. It's spontaneously happening. Especially if you're a believer and the Holy Spirit is working to knit your hearts together.
Number eight, be wise enough not to center your life on grandchildren. Nurture other relationships. That also is very important! As big as a deal as the grandchildren are, they're not the only deal. And especially if you're an aging adult, make sure that you are nurturing relationships at church, in our community. I've read so many articles about older adults getting isolated in life, getting cut off from their family, getting cut off from their friends, getting cut off from their churches. And they end up not living as long or not living as healthily because they suffer from depression and all kinds of emotional issues because they're emotionally isolated and physically separated from people that they love. Don't let that happen to you.
Plenty of studies to show that if you are engaged in the community and especially in church... Did you know that people who practice their faith live longer and live better than those who don't? That is a fact! It is a medical fact; it is a spiritual fact that you will live better and live longer if you practice your faith, including, they think it's because of the way we live our lives, it's different. We tend to live our lives in a better fashion in terms of the habits we have. Also just the sheer being together in church and serving together, and not getting isolated. Not getting self-centered, but keep giving your life away. I think of Deb's mother, Joan Frost. Till the day she died, she was sharing her faith to every person who walked in her room. That's how you go all in all the way. So if you're a grandparent, love those kids, love that family, stay close, but expand your relationships to church and community where you can be effective as long as you live.
Take advantage, number nine, of technology. Social media provides a golden opportunity to stay connected. Now, your grandchildren are probably not on Facebook. I know so many of you are. There's more older adults on Facebook than younger adults. You know, posting all those poems and all that stuff. It can be good. But if you don't know what Twitter is, you probably ought to find out. If you don't text, "Oh, I don't text. I'm not into that". Well, your kids are and your grandkids are. And one way that I stay in touch with the older one now, the older grandchildren, is by text. And because he has a phone he can receive text now. Now, again, I would add, don't expect a response. I said to Ian, I said, "Ian, you know, it's a good thing if someone texted you like your grandfather, that you should at least acknowledge that you got the text". "Oh, okay". All right, but I guarantee you he remembers when I text him. "Hey, great game, Ian". Or whatever. "Great grades, Ian".
Number ten, the way to make the biggest impact on your grandchildren, this is a the big one, is to finish strong spiritually. If they see you not just lagging to the finish line, but bursting through the finish line! Living with all you have. I spoke this week to the pastors of the Southern Baptist Convention, and I brought my message from 1 Corinthians 15:58, one of my favorites. "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for you know your labor (it means hard work, it means effort, it means intensity; your hard work) your labor in the Lord is not in vain because it's worth it all when you see Jesus". It's worth it all when you receive the prize for faithfulness in serving God. And I told them, you know, there's never a time in life and ministry and this, not only true for pastors, but for every Christian, that we quit the Christian life, that we stop serving God.
You know, I guess I'm old enough now that people start asking me, "Well, when you are going think about retiring"? And I say, "What's that"? Retire to do what? Count shells on the seashore? Play golf? What is retirement? Retirement's not in the Bible for the Christian. I'll be serving the Lord as long as I live. As long as God gives me breath, I'll be preaching the Gospel of Christ. Now I won't always be the lead pastor of Prestonwood. But I will always be proclaiming Christ and preaching the Gospel as long as I live. You never retire! And that's not just me; that's you! Hey, older adults, whoever said you could just retire and take it easy and just waste your way into heaven the rest of your life? That's not godly! You don't want your children and your grandchildren to remember you just wasting away.
I know there are physical problems. I know we get slowed down by time and age and so on, but you gotta keep giving it your all! All in, all the way! Can't stop; won't stop! Because when God called us into His family, He called us for the future and forever to serve Him. And you know there's never been a better time to preach the Gospel than right now. There's never been a better time. Travel opportunities, technology. PowerPoint Ministries, you give me the opportunity through the platform of this church to preach on radio and television, on the Internet.
A couple of weeks ago today we were in Germany. Jarrett Stephens and I, along with some others, preaching in churches, training pastors. And we preached in a church in Cologne which is the fourth largest city in Germany; it's a beautiful city. I'd never been there. And preached at a great church, about 7-800 people, through a translator. It was a lot of fun, we saw a response. And then in that afternoon we had a service at 2:00 o'clock with the Persian congregation of this church.
So when I was walking into this service and Pastor Jarrett Stephens was preaching that service in the afternoon, but when we walked in about 70 Iranian people, some Afghan, I don't know how to describe it other than the fact the way Jarrett described it last week, they just sort of mobbed us. I mean just all over us. And I'm asking the pastor, I said, cause they all seemed to know me as in really glad to meet me. I said, "What's going on here"? And he said, "You know, these are people that have come from Iran, they're former Muslims, They're here now. They're former Muslims who have come to faith in Jesus Christ". And I say this humbly and gratefully, but they said, "The person they listen to the most in Iran is Jack Graham".
And you, through Iran Alive, our ministry through PowerPoint with Pastor Hermos are preaching all over Iran to the people of Iran. And they love you! And I thought... We had the greatest time. We were taking pictures and photos and doing the fun things, but to see them, to worship with them. Great worship! That's why I'm pointing out to you that there's never been a better time. And not just for Jack Graham, and a ministry like that. But each one of individual, that we can go places around the world. We can invest in our children. And the greatest thing you can do is to see your children, and their children rise up to be preachers of the Gospel, and missionaries for the Lord Jesus Christ. Serving the Lord in their churches, being a part of what God is doing in the world till He comes!
Now I know some of you are struggling because you have prodigal children. You're a dad, you're a mom, and it's not happening with your children right now. They have turned from your faith, and you did your very best. You truly did and yet, you have a prodigal child. Jesus told a story about a prodigal son in Luke chapter 15, and a father who kept loving that son, even while he was away, far away from home. And I would say if you have a prodigal child, if you have a prodigal grandchild, don't ever give up on them. Keep loving them. Keep praying for them. Keep waiting for God to move in their lives. Keep inviting them to church. Don't give up, don't push, don't pressure, but don't give up! And by the grace of God one day that child, that grandchild is going to come back home not only to you, but to God. This is what it means to be all in, all the time, all the way to the finish line. And that's my prayer for you.
Make it your holy ambition to be remembered as someone who loved Jesus with all your heart, your mind, your soul and strength, and follow Him. Make it your holy ambition as a parent, a grandparent, a dad, a mom to walk in obedience to the Word of God! The living, breathing Word of God is cross-cultural, it's countercultural in this generation but the Word of God in your children's lives, in your family's life is like the sword of the Spirit striking home. Keep praying, keep teaching God's Word. Make it, that you would grow up children to fulfill the promises of God in their lives, to make an eternal difference. May you make an eternal difference in people's lives, so that your family sees it and then seizes it in their own lives. Pray that your family will remember you as a loving, caring Christian most of all, who left the world a better place because you live for Jesus.
Are we investing in what we've been given? Our time, our treasure, our talents, our testimony? Because really your legacy, as I mentioned earlier, it's your testimony. We all have one, either a good one or a bad one. And believe me, our children and grandchildren know the difference between a good one and a bad one. Many children leave the religion of their family, and good riddance if it's just a religion. What your children will never get away from is a genuine, living faith that is real. Your testimony begins with you and your own family.
When the demoniac was saved, delivered by the power of Christ in Mark's Gospel, he wanted to travel with Jesus and the disciples. But what did Jesus tell him? He said, "You go home and tell the Lord what great things He's done for you". When Paul and Silas were in Philippi sharing the Gospel, they were locked up, put in chains. But they were singing, praising God at midnight. An earthquake came, shook the prison, chains fell off and the Roman soldier who was guarding them was about to take his life because you lose your prisoners, you lose your life in the cruel Roman world. He was about to take his own life when Paul said, "Look, we're still here". The man so shaken by the experience. He said, "What must I do to be saved"? Paul said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved". And that man came to faith in Christ.
And then the next verses tell us that they went home and they bound of the wounds of Paul and Silas, and he and his whole household were baptized as they became followers of Jesus. He and his entire family. You are still, parents, the most important and powerful influence in your child's and in your grandchildren's lives. A national study shows that 45 percent of young people, this includes even teenagers and young adults, consider their parents to be their role model. I bet you thought it would be a celebrity or a musician or a movie star! But forty, nearly half of young adults and teenagers consider their parents as their role model. Thirty-two percent look to their friends to influence them. That's why it's so important as a parent that you manage the friendships of your children, relationships in your children.
The Bible says, "A companion of fools will be destroyed". If your kids hang around with fools, they will be destroyed. You gotta watch that. Bad company, according to the Scripture, corrupts good morals, so you gotta stay on that. Thirty-two percent are most influenced by their friends. Only 15 percent look to celebrities for guidance and inspiration. That's a good thing. The greatest influence on young people 25 and under is still their parents. Guys, we gotta go for it! And never stop: All in, all the time, all the way. Your life and your legacy centuries from now depends on it. And may God help you to be all in all the way. Amen?