Billy Graham – Loneliness
Now, tonight, the 102nd Psalm and beginning with verse five, well, say just six, “I’m like a pelican of the wilderness, I’m like an owl of the desert. I watch and am as a sparrow, alone, upon the housetop”. Today, I went for a few minutes out into the foothills. Took a little walk down a little road. I didn’t want to go too far because they told me there were rattlesnakes around there. I’m not a friend of rattlesnakes for some reason or they’re not my friend. We have a lot of them where I live, so we have experience with them. I let my wife kill those. And she does, she’s not afraid of, well, she’s not afraid of anything, that I ever heard of. But she’s certainly not afraid of snakes. She was born and reared in China in a town that she said she never went to sleep a single night that she didn’t hear gunshots.
And so she learned not to be afraid. Because she never saw fear in her father and mother because the town would change hands every once in a while as bandits or warlords would come in and then finally the Japanese came and my father-in-law had a big hospital and he lived through all that. And she was there seventeen years. But I want to say that today as I walked out on that little place, I began to think and meditate a little bit. And I watched a bird. I don’t know the name of that bird. It’s a big bird and it has different colors. It may be a magpie, I’m not sure, but it certainly has a strange sound to North Carolina ears. And then the bird sat on a fence post and he sat there by himself. No mate came around.
Now, we have a lot of doves where I live, as you know, they mate for life. And they’ll go around together. And they have friendship and fellowship. And produce little children, little birds. But this bird today seemed to be all alone and I thought about this passage of scripture that’s found in the 102nd Psalm, “I’m like a pelican in the wilderness, I’m like an owl in the desert. I watch and am as a sparrow, alone, upon the housetop”.
Do you know, tonight, there are many lonely people here. Many single people in the city of Denver. Fifty-one percent of your population is single. And many of those people are lonely. And one of the supreme problems of modern society is loneliness. The modern city is a lonely place. Here in America, seventy percent more people are living alone in one person dwellings than ten years ago. A New York psychiatrist was quoted the other day as saying, “New York City is the loneliest place in the world for millions”. What would you say about Denver, or the town you come from? An American university study reported that university students are the loneliest people in the United States, followed by divorced people.
Are you lonely? One of the principle causes of loneliness is alcoholism and drug use. Alcohol and drugs are efforts to escape loneliness. Drugs take you on a trip and being drunk makes you feel that you’ve got somebody with you. On the other hand, going with Christ is a trip in which you really, always have Jesus with you as your Lord and companion. You cannot drink your way out of loneliness. Most young people turn to drugs for kicks and get hooked, or peer pressure. But thousands turn to drugs because of loneliness.
A magazine cover story recently had our neglected youth. It said that actually most of them are properly clothed and fed, but something is missing in the lives of millions. It’s a neglect of the spirit, the article said, which leaves them lonely and prone to drugs and alcohol. But all too often, leads to suicide. What can be done about it? One of the key words in the Bible is communion from which we get our word, communication. Jesus came to a man one time that was lonely and sick and paralyzed. Thirty-eight years he’d sat in the same spot. Lonely and tired, without a friend and Jesus looked at him and said, “Do you need a friend”? And he said, “Yes”. This bundle of loneliness and human pain had been buffeted by the surging tides of thousands of people. But Jesus singled him out. He became his friend that day and he healed him.
He can become your friend tonight, if you’ll let him. Loneliness began, actually, in the Garden of Eden. In a perfect paradise. When man and woman declared their independence of God. They said, “We don’t need you, God, we can build this world without you”. So they made a terrible choice. They chose to turn away from God. They went their own way. Tried to build their world and sin entered at that beautiful garden. And it was given to the next generation, the next generation, the next, the next, down to you and me. And we all have the disease and it’s a fatal disease. Nobody ever escapes the judgment of the disease of sin.
So the roots of loneliness were planted in the human soul and it has been inherited by every inhabitant ever. Because you see, in that garden God went looking for Adam. He knew where he was. But he went looking for him. He wanted Adam to know where he was. He said, “Adam, where are you”? And Adam tried to hide. Got some fig leaves and sewed them on. He didn’t know he was naked till then. But he couldn’t hide. Loneliness has never been a respecter of persons. The world’s greatest artists, writers and composers, kings and queens and carpenters and plumbers and everybody, have felt this terrible thing called loneliness.
In John 13 it tells about the last supper. And it tells about the betrayal of Judas. And the scripture says, “He went out and it was night”. No one ever went away from Jesus but what it was night. Perhaps there was a time that you knew the fellowship of God’s people and you had peace with God. But you’ve backslidden, you’ve gone away, you’ve turned away. You’ve fallen aside. There was a time when you knew Christ, you felt you knew him. There was a time when you felt you meant business with God. But now your heart has grown cold and hard towards spiritual things. You’ve been pulled away by others, and other things and other gods and other pleasures that you know to be wrong. And you went out from the presence of God and you have found that it’s night out there. You don’t have fellowship with true believers and you don’t feel really feel at home in the world you’re living in. And certainly you no longer have fellowship with Christ.
And there is no loneliness quite so bitter as the loneliness of a backslidden Christian who claims with his mouth that he knows Christ, but deep in his heart he knows he doesn’t. How many of you are straddling the fence, trying to put one foot in God’s kingdom and one foot in the world’s kingdom? Sin makes us lonely because it separates us from God. And it was never in God’s intention for you to be lonely. Hundreds of surveys prove that our society has not made us a better adjusted or happier society. Oh yes, we can have fleeting moments of sensual satisfaction. Creates a bitterness and a loss of sense of pleasure that no psychiatrist can cure. The Bible says that “The wicked are like a troubled sea when it cannot rest. Whose water casts up mire and dirt”.
Remember the story of Jesus with the woman at the well? She was a lonely woman. She had several husbands. Had had several husbands, no satisfaction, no peace, no joy. Jesus came and talked to her, forgave her her sins, transformed her life, made her a new person. She went into the village of Sychar and told all the people that here was someone that knows all about you. Come and see him. And they all went out to see Jesus. The Bible says, “He’s despised and rejected of men. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. Even though great crowds surrounded him at times, he was alone. Even at the end the scripture says, all the disciples forsook him and fled. The crowds who shouted one day, “Hosanna”! That same week, five days later, they were crucifying him.
And at last, we hear from the cross. Jesus, on the cross, dying for you and for me. God laying on him all of our sins and our judgment and our hell, which he took on that cross. He says, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”? In that terrible moment, something mysterious happened. No theologian can explain it. Jesus took your sins, your judgment, your hell. All the penalty that I deserve for my sins, he took on that cross, and it was a lonely moment. A lonely period when he alone had to bear the cross. And he became guilty of all the sins of the whole world! He experienced ultimate loneliness as he died for you and died for me.
I’ve never understood how a person can turn away from Jesus when they actually see him on that cross, dying for you, and to reject him, to turn away when he offers you forgiveness, he offers you a new life. He offers you peace and joy and friendship. Never to be lonely again. Through his death Christ dealt with the primary cause of human loneliness. Separation from God. Because hell, essentially, is separation from God. Hell is the loneliest place in the universe. Jesus suffered its agonies for you. Jesus was lonely for you.
I remember when my grandmother died I had the privilege of being there at that time. She sat up in bed with a smile and a glow on her face. Her husband had been wounded at Gettysburg. Lost an eye, lost a leg at Gettysburg. And she sat up and said, “I see Ben,” her husband. Who had died some years earlier. And she said, “Oh, the music is so beautiful”! And then she fell back on the pillow out in eternity. I remember when my mother was dying a relatively short time ago. And all the wonderful sayings that she left behind on her death bed because she just lived only for the Lord. She had a joy and a peace.
You never went into her room that you didn’t come out and feel that she was ministering to you. You didn’t minister to her. And even when she was in a coma, she woke up one night and quoted scripture. And the nurse said she never saw such a look on anybody’s face. And fell back into her coma and went into eternity. There’s a great difference, even in the last hour, between those who know Christ and those who don’t know him. Then there’s the loneliness of your decision. Because, you see, Christ died for you, he rose again, he’s living. He wants to come into your heart. He offers you forgiveness and salvation and assurance and peace and joy. And he offers you a tough life. I’m not going to play games with you and tell you that it’s easy to follow Christ. It’s not. He said if you’re not willing to deny self and take up a cross and follow me, you can’t be my disciple.
Now the cross was a place where they executed criminals. It would be like today he’d say, “Take up the electric chair, and follow me”. He said, I’m going to suffer, I’m going to die. And he said, “If you follow me,” he said, “You’re going to have troubles and difficulties and problems and persecution and maybe death”! Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to go all the way with me to the cross? Oh yes, in the midst of it there’ll be his peace and his joy and his friendship and his forgiveness and his promise and the hope that he offers for the future. But there will also be the possibility of persecution and suffering and problems that you never dreamed of when you come to Christ.
We’ve been in those parts of the world where people suffer because they come to Christ. You must make the decision about Christ yourself. Our reaction to loneliness is often to deal with the symptoms rather than the cause. We get involved in pleasures, parties, good times, sex. We get involved in our work. We throw ourselves into the social whirl at the school. We read one of the best selling books which urges us to take control of our lives. Any we attempt to deal with sin without conversion is like struggling in quicksand. And how many young people today and older people are struggling in quicksand? Trying to save yourself, but you can’t! You’ve come to the end of your rope. Turn your life over to Christ. Let him bear your burdens. Help you solve your problems. Help direct and lead you in your life.
How many young people here tonight do not really know what you want to do with your life? Or help you in your marriage. Who you ought to marry. There’s a lady talked to me tonight who said she’s just waiting for the right man to come along. And there are many like that. Be sure it’s God’s man or God’s woman. I remember I took my three daughters aside when they were, oh, they couldn’t have been more than eight, nine or ten years of age. And I said, “Let’s stop here in the mountain and pray for your husbands who you’re going to marry. They’re boys somewhere. And let’s just pray that God will lead them and lead you and that they will be men of God”. Well they looked at me as though their dad had gone crazy. But we prayed and they got the right men too! One of them’s here tonight. And we prayed the same way for our sons.
For the first time in many, several years, at least both of my sons are here tonight. I don’t know where they are, but they’re here somewhere. But you have to make this decision alone. If we search for an antidote to loneliness in drugs and alcohol and sex and encounter groups and psychological experiences often it only serves to mire us deeper in despair, without a remedy. Through Jesus Christ we can have the most fundamental relationship in life restored. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me”. The Psalmist that wrote that about the pelican and the owl, said, “Oh my soul, why be so gloomy and discouraged? Trust in God! I shall again praise him for his wondrous help. He will make me smile again for he is my God”. Loneliness is often God’s way of letting us know it is time to reach out, reach out to the cross. And you’ll never be lonely again.
A couple of weeks ago I received a letter which said, quote, “About a month ago, my wife and I separated. She moved out of our house saying that she could not stand to be around me anymore. We’d gotten to a point where we could not communicate with each other anymore. We were throwing accusations, some founded and some not and bitter, spiteful words at each other. So she moved out and went to live with another man until she could get an apartment of her own. On June the eighth, this year, I had come home from work, and after dinner, I felt a compulsion to turn on the tube. I attributed it to the loneliness and frustration I was feeling. Sometimes the tube can be an excellent fire escape for a short while, but it’s not a good fire extinguisher,” he said.
“Anyway, I turned the set on and randomly flipped the dial. The station I had chosen was just announcing the beginning of the Billy Graham crusade from South Carolina. I don’t mind telling you, I was more than a little skeptical about teLevised religious programs, but I continued to watch. At the end of your sermon, which I felt was directed at me and my situation. When you called those people who wanted to change the direction of their lives to come forward and receive Christ as their Savior, I hesitated, but then I did. At this time, my wife and I are starting to put things back on track”.
Another one. Last night, I preached on John 3:16 and the people here said it all together. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. And last night more than seventeen hundred people came and made their commitment to Christ. A few weeks ago. No, no… A few weeks ago in one of our crusades a man looked at that same verse, and the counselor told him you can put your name in that verse. You are the “whosoever”. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoso, and put your name there. Whosoever believeth or committed his life to him will never perish but have everlasting life. Then he had a grin on his face and he said “I like that”.
You can put your name tonight in that same way as all of those did last night. God so loved the world, for you, that he gave his son and you put your name and say, “Lord, I open my heart and my life to you. I commit myself to you”. For some of you, it may be that you are going to recommit your life. For others, you’re going to make a brand new start. You want to be sure how you stand before God tonight. I’m going to ask you to do what we saw those people do last night and we’ve seen people in every continent of the world do.
In more than three score countries we’ve seen people do what I’m asking you to do. I’m going to ask you to get out of your seat, hundreds of you. And say tonight, “I want to serve Christ, I want to follow Christ. I want to receive Christ. I want to come to the cross. I want to put my confidence and my trust in him. I want my sins forgiven. I want to know I’m going to heaven. I want to be sure that Christ lives in my heart”. And after you’ve all come, I’m going to say a word to you and have a prayer with you.
You say, “Well, Billy, why do you ask people to come forward publicly”? Because, Jesus, every person Jesus called, he called publicly. And he said, “If you’re not willing to acknowledge me before men I’ll not acknowledge you before my Father, which is in heaven”. There’s something about coming forward publicly and taking a stand in public that makes it count. I’m going to ask you, if you come from that gallery up on top, it’s going to take you two or three minutes, so start now. And I’m going to ask that no one leave the stadium, please.
This is the holy moment and God is speaking to you, wherever you are. And if you’re with friends or relatives, they’ll wait on you. If you’ve come in a bus, they’ll wait on you. And after you’ve all come, I’ll say a word to you, have a prayer with you, give you some literature to help you in your Christian life. Or you can bring your friend with you, but just get up and come, quickly, hundreds of you. Back over here, over there, upstairs. You may be in the choir and God has spoken to you even though you’re in the choir. You may be a Sunday school teacher, you may be a leader in your church, but God has spoken to you about your need of Christ. You get up and come. Over here on the ends, everywhere, quickly.
And you in other parts of the country that have been watching by television, you can make this same commitment tonight. And whether you’re at home or in a bar or in a hotel room, you can have that knowledge that your sins are forgiven. That you’re justified. And the word justified means just as though you have never sinned in your life. That’s how God looks at you through the blood of Christ. He will come into your heart where you are. And if you’ll make that commitment, pick up the telephone and call that number that you see on your screen. May God help you to make that commitment that so many hundreds here in Colorado are making on this beautiful Colorado evening. God bless you.
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