I was seated next to Billy Graham at a dinner in North Carolina. I don’t know how you would have felt, but, given the circumstances, I wanted to be sure to hold up my end of the deal in terms of carrying on a good conversation. So I thought it would be interesting to ask Mr. Graham what he had enjoyed most about his many years of ministry. And then (as though he might not be able to think of an answer) I threw out a couple of possibilities. “Was it being with presidents and heads of state?” I asked, and then, feeling rather carnal for suggesting such an earthly thing to the great evangelist, I quickly added, “Or, was it preaching the gospel to millions?”
I got about that far when he took his hand and moved it across the linen tablecloth as though to wipe my lame suggestions onto the floor and said, “Joe, by far and away my highest joy has been my fellowship with Jesus! To sense His presence. To hear Him speak to my heart. To have His guidance and wisdom.” And then, as though he wanted to be sure that I had gotten it right, he said again, “My highest joy has been Jesus!”
I was riveted by his words. Billy Graham—who had traveled the world, whose fame and reputation was unrivaled, who had seen millions rush to hear him speak—had just told me in a spontaneous, unrehearsed response that his fellowship with Jesus had trumped everything else in his life!
I left the dinner feeling both convicted and challenged. Convicted because I’m not sure I would have said that right off the top of my head, and challenged because that’s exactly what I would want to be able to say. I want to know Jesus like that!
But I can hear some of you saying, “Yes, but that’s Billy Graham, God’s anointed evangelist. No wonder he feels like that!” So for all of us commoners who are not Billy Graham, let me tell you about my grandmother.
She was a farmer’s wife in south central Michigan whose life was busy with preparing meals for farm hands and keeping her end of the farm up and running. No one outside of a few friends knew her. She never did anything out of the ordinary that would have grabbed headlines or thrust her into the limelight. But often she would say to me, “Little Joe, do you know what my favorite hymn is?” In fact I can still remember her singing and humming it around the house. Its words go like this . . .
I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
So, take it from my grandmother and from Billy Graham. No matter where life has put you or what you have or what you don’t have—a growing relationship with Jesus trumps it all!
- If I had asked you the question that I asked Dr. Graham, what would have been your response?
- Given that Jesus actually dwells in you in the person of the Holy Spirit, what could you do today to listen for His voice and to carefully seek His guidance and wisdom for your life?
- Be honest here: Is there any attitude, action, or resistance in your heart that blocks a clear and unhindered fellowship with Jesus? If so, take it to the cross to have it purged and your heart cleansed!