Published April 10, 2018

Paul's Epistle
"Billy Graham's Greatest Fear"

What is your greatest fear?

Perhaps that's an odd question. But recently I came across something that the late Rev. Billy Graham told an interviewer when he was asked that exact question.

Billy Graham's "greatest fear" was "that I'll do something or say something that will bring some disrepute on the Gospel of Christ before I go."

From the earliest days of his ministry, Billy Graham established and followed a very strict code of conduct specifically designed to avoid such disgrace, dishonor or scandal. For example, he would never allow himself to be in a room alone with any woman other than his wife. Staffers routinely were tasked to check his hotel rooms before he entered. And he adopted the highest accountability standards when it came to financial matters. By all accounts, he was successful in all of this.

Unfortunately, today's church landscape is littered with preachers and other so-called Christian leaders who have been exposed for sinning, usually in a sexual manner, bringing reproach upon themselves and, more significantly, upon the cause of Christ. They've simply provided more ammunition for those outside the church who say that Christians in general (and leaders in particular) are nothing more than hypocrites – preaching one thing and living something else "just like common sinners." All too often, I'm afraid, it seems there's some truth in that.

But Billy Graham's "greatest fear" should not be a matter of concern only for such high-profile leaders. It should be a matter of great concern to each of us individually who profess to be Christ-followers.

If we're honest about this, such considerations will set beneficial constraints and parameters on everything we do – everything! Yes, it is setting the bar high, but, with the Lord's help, we can do it as we honor Him.

The great 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, "A man's life is always more forcible than his speech. When men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies. If his life and doctrine disagree the mass of onlookers accept his practice and reject his preaching." This is a total repudiation of the old "do as I say, not as I do" expression which first appeared in English literature in 1654 – and was, unfortunately, referring to preachers.

Billy Graham put it this way: "We are the Bibles the world is reading ... we are the sermons the world is heeding."

Today – right this minute – let's each renew our firm dedication to living every minute of our lives in such a way that no one can truthfully say — now or ever — that we have brought "disrepute on the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

- Paul Heil

PS:  Paul's letter to Timothy about qualifications for overseers and deacons provides a great framework for Christian life for every Christian, not just "leaders." See 1 Timothy 3:1-14.

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