Billy Graham – The Brevity of Time
Now, tonight, I’ve been in a quandary as to what I should speak about, but also, I was thinking this morning, when I woke up, what I would do if I had life to live over again. What would I do if I had it to live over again? And I find in First Corinthians, the seventh chapter and the 29th verse, a little phrase that says, “The time is short”. And then also in the 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes these words, the 11th chapter beginning with the ninth verse. “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things, judgment is going to come to you. Therefore, remove sorrow from your heart, put away evil from your flesh for childhood and youth are very short and are vanity”. Like a bubble that burst.
“Remember now Thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shall say, I have no pleasure in them”. There’s going to be a time when the things that you enjoy now, you will have no pleasure in at all. “While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble”. That’s when a person gets old and his hands and his arms and his legs began to tremble. “and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because there are few”. That means the teeth wear down. That’s what he’s talking about here. That day is going to come when the teeth are going to give out. “And then while the sun or the light of the moon and the stars be not darkened”. And that means your eyes are going to grow dim, as age comes on.
It happens to everybody. You watch on television, people that used to be young film stars, and you see them as they were 30 years ago. And today they’re sort of bent over and they have wrinkles, and they have gray hair. And I’m sure if you examined their mouth, their teeth are grinding down. And if you go to their doctor, you’d find that their eyesight is not as good as it used to be. What about you? Have you ever thought about life like that? I remember that one of the members of our team died this past year. The first one of our original team, Grady Wilson went to be with the Lord. What a glorious home going he had.
The last week of his life is a wonderful story in itself. And I went in to see him. And about three or four weeks earlier, I had seen him before and he told me an interesting thing. He said, “Billy”, he said, “Tell them how short time is”. And I thought about that. Then I thought about the person in a university that asked me, “What is the greatest surprise of your life at your age”? And I said, “The greatest surprise of my life is the brevity of life”. How short life is. Time is collapsing on us. How much longer do we have? We read about the ozone, the acid rain, the pollution, the atomic bombs. I’ve heard that South Africa has as many as 20 or 25 atomic bombs. What will they do with those in case they’re pushed to the wall?
Israel has atomic bombs. Iraq, Pakistan, all working on the atomic bomb and it’s estimated that 15 small countries now have the atomic bomb. What’s going to happen when one of these small countries explodes one and it starts a chain reaction and the whole world could blow up. Technology has no morals, Man is the same as he was in Jeremiah’s day. And Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it”? How do we know when some Hitler or Stalin is going to come along again and have the whole world at his feet? First, there’s the brevity of time. The Bible says our time on earth is very brief. “Behold, thou has made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee,” the Bible says in Psalm 39. Think of a handbreadth from the thumb to the little finger. In God’s sight, that’s as long as your life is.
So quick, it’s over with, but you can’t tell young people that because you know, when you’re young, you think the whole thing is in front of you. And you never realize that you may be gone tomorrow. The Bible says in Psalm 90, the fourth verse, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and a watch in the night”. A thousand years in God’s sight is but a day. II Peter 3:8 says, “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. None of us are going to live to be a thousand years old. There may be one or two in this crowd that may make it to a hundred. But even then you will hardly know what’s going on around you. A few do.
And then in Isaiah 40:22 it says, “It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are like grasshoppers”. God looks down and sees all of us. And we look like grasshoppers to Him. The Bible says we’re like the grass. We spring up and like the grass were mowed down. The Bible says in Psalm 102, “My days are like a shadow that declineth, and I am withered like grass. For Thou, O Lord shalt endure forever; and Thy remembrance unto all generations”. God is from everlasting to everlasting. God had no beginning. God has no end. You had a beginning, and you have an end. And God promises that you may live to be 70. Three score and ten. But beyond that, He doesn’t give any clear promise.
And that’s not long, let me tell you. It comes quicker than you could ever dream. The days of our years are three score years and ten. We’ve each been given the same amount of time in a day. Do you know how many minutes there are in a day? Fourteen hundred and forty minutes. You have already lived today, and it will never be repeated. It’s already written down in God’s books. It’s on God’s tapes. The things you did, the things you did not do that you should have done, and the things that you think; because God records even our thoughts, as well as our words and actions. You know how many hours there are in a week? 168 hours in a week. And a week ago yesterday, we arrived in Buffalo. A week has passed since we arrived. Quick, just like that. It seems like yesterday we began the meetings.
Yes, 70 years God allows. The first fifteen is in childhood. Twenty years you spend in bed. The last five years, the physical limitations are curtailing your activities. Only thirty years left. That’s all you have really thirty years out of the seventy. And part of that time has to be spent eating and working and figuring out your income tax. And the Bible says in James 4, “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away”. Just a vapor. Jesus said that the road to heaven is narrow. The gate to the entrance to heaven is narrow. And Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me”.
You must come to Christ by simple childlike faith and repentance of your sins. Then there’s the urgency of time. The Bible says, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil”. The days are very evil in which we live. Read your newspapers and watch the television and see how many muggings and rapes and crime and how many wars are about to break out or wars that are being fought and how many thousands have been killed in the Iraq-Iranian war. And it seems that the whole world sometimes is just about ready to explode.
I had a letter from a man out on the West coast several years ago. And he said that he promised God that he was going to give the Lord two days a week. And he was going to visit his neighbors and friends and invite them to church. Do you know that over 20 people joined his church that year because of his being willing to tithe his time. I have so much time, but time for what? Time to serve Christ, time to live according to His will. But there’s a tyranny to time. It controls us to a frenzy and we become frustrated and we run here and there and everywhere. And we don’t feel that we have enough time to get everything done that we ought to get done. I feel that way. And we do too much.
You know, it used to be awfully nice when you only had a train or a bus to get on and now you plan your schedule by airplanes. You plan your schedules by computers and you become a statistic after a while. And we do too much or try to do too much. Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day. The night cometh when no man can work”. There’s going to be a time when you can’t work for every one of us. I mean, for every person here, there’ll come a time that your life on this earth is going to cease. Jesus said, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do”. There was an urgency, but there was a serenity about Jesus. You never find him hurrying anywhere. You never read about him running anywhere.
He said, “I finished the work”. He was only 33 years of age. And He said, “Lord, I’ve done what you asked me to do”. And there were still people by the thousands that needed to be healed; lives that needed to be touched. But Jesus said, “I finished my task”. You see, time can be our tool, but we can be its slave. We are to take time to believe, time to study, time to teach, time to pray, time to be friendly with people, time to entertain, time to visit, time to fellowship, time for witness, time for work. And all of my life, I’ve spent too much time at work, too much time in meetings like this. If I had it to do over again, I would spend a lot less time preaching, and more time studying. We need to be better prepared as ministers of the gospel.
So, I’ve had to double up as I got older, keep doing the crusades, keep doing all of these works, but at the same time, studying harder than ever. I study a lot harder now than I did when I was in college. I still wake up sometimes and feel that I’m in a nightmare and a math class, and I don’t know the answer to the question in an exam or in a Greek class and don’t know the answer to that question. But we’re coming to a final exam one day. It’ll be at the great judgment of God and God is going to say, “What did you do with your time”? That time that you had the opportunity to receive Christ. That moment that you had to repent of your sins and come to him and follow him. What did you do with it? Did you walk away, turn away and say, “I’ll take my chance”.
I heard about a little boy. He was sick and he was making slow progress, so the doctor gave a prescription to the father and the doctor said, “This prescription, sir, is for you, not for your son”. And it read, “Two gloves, one ball, spend more time with your son”. I have two sons, three daughters. I wish that I’d spent more time with all of them, but thank God, all five of them know the Lord. And all five of them are either preachers or Bible teachers. But I have to give the glory to the Lord and the earthly credit to my wife. Yes, we have to pay a price. I have no time in my life for certain things. When you know Christ, certain things fall away. You don’t want to do them anymore. We are to redeem the time. You don’t have it very much. Life is brief. The time is urgent, so we’re not the waste it.
And then the Bible talks about the immediate action of time. The fact that time is short calls for immediate action because in II Corinthians 6, the apostle Paul said, “Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation”. A crusade like this so an opportunity like this doesn’t come to Western New York, but maybe once in every generation or maybe once in every two or three generations. I think since you’ve had meetings like this it’s been many years and it may never come again in your lifetime. And you have a chance now to receive Christ in a meeting like this. And the scripture says, “Now is the time”. Do it now. Every time the clock ticks, it seems to say now. The Scripture says in Hebrews 3, “Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts”.
You see when you hear the Scriptures quoted and hear the Gospel preached, your heart gets harder and harder and harder and harder until after a while, you’ll reach a stage when the Holy Spirit will continue to speak to you, but you cannot hear because your heart is so hard. You have turned it down and you put it off so many times. Now is the time. And then the Bible says that you ought to come while you’re young, before all those evil things come into your life and habits come and form. And there comes a time when you cannot come to Christ, except under the most extraordinary circumstances. Come while your heart is young and tender. That’s the reason I like to see children and young people come to Christ because they have a whole life, as well as their heart and their soul to give to Christ.
The Bible teaches that in the future, we’re going to have a wonderful future. When you come to Christ, you’re going to spend eternity with him in paradise, in heaven. You’re going to walk down the streets of pure gold. Your eyes will see the King in all of His glory, and that’ll be total fulfillment. None of us here has ever known total fulfillment. You will see then that the ungodly are not so, but they’re like the chaff, which the wind driveth away. And you’re going to say, “Thank God I made my commitment to Christ and here I am in heaven with Him forever”. There’s a warning to time also. It will someday be too late for your soul. Time is too short for indecisiveness and vacillation.
1 Kings 18, Elijah talking to those false prophets, and to the people said, “How long halt ye between two opinions”? Here was the god Ba’al and the goddess Ashtar on one side with their prophets, about 850 of them. On the other side were the people and Elijah was alone and he said, “You’re halting between two opinions. If God is God, then trust him”. Go all the way with the true and the living God. You see, time is too short. There may be no tomorrow for you. Many movies are being made today that are called Armageddon movies. Films dealing with the end of the earth. Some of them date back to Vietnam and we see almost the end of everything that we’ve ever believed in in some of the films that they’re making on Vietnam.
The Scripture says, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be”? If all this thing that’s in this earth is going to disappear someday, and the Bible says it is. The world and the lust thereof will disappear. And the Bible talks about a gigantic fiery conflagration that will wipe away all evil and all sin and all ugliness from this planet. And God’s going to replace it with His kingdom. That day is coming and it may be soon. I’m going to speak on it Sunday afternoon. The hope of the world. The Los Angeles times said some time ago that the world drinks like there’s no tomorrow.
A French newspaper said a couple of summers ago. Europe is living very much like those last hours on the Titanic. In other words, the earth, the world is sinking into moral depravity and we’re drinking, eating, making merry, going our own way, and giving no serious thought to the fact that there’s an eternity out there. Heaven and hell. And the decision that you make about Christ will decide where you are a hundred years from tonight. There’s an old pop song in England that was entitled, “Another Time, Another Place”. Always that’s what the devil will whisper in your ears. Yes, you ought to do it. You ought to make that commitment to Christ, but do it at some other time, some other place. God says, “Here and now”. A television network program is called “One Life To Live”. The Scripture says, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past”.
Someone has written, “Only what’s done for Christ will last”. “How long halt ye between two opinions. If the Lord be God, follow Him”. You see Jesus Christ came and died on the cross and took your sins and your judgment and your hell. Shed His blood for you. Now God says that you must receive him. God offers you a gift. He’s offering you a gift and all you must do is receive it, but you have to receive it.
I was with the Governor of Tennessee one time, many years ago. And we went out to the penitentiary and I asked him a question. I said, “Governor, if you pardon a man, here, that’s on death row”. There were about 18 men on death row. I said, “If you pardoned one of these men and he refused the pardon, what happens”? He said, “Then he dies, because the Supreme Court in our state has ruled that if a man refuses the pardon, he must die”. And as we went back into town, I could see tears coming down the cheeks of the Governor. He said, “You know, this is the hardest job of being governor of any state is dealing with people that you have the power to pardon, but you know that you can’t because the law is so strong”.
And that’s a whole other story. But God offers to pardon you tonight; to offer you an eternal pardon for every sin that you’ve ever committed, if you will come to Christ, because you see somebody else paid the price for you, Christ did on the cross, God laid on Him our sins. “He became sin for us who knew no sin”. And God raised Him from the dead and He’s alive now at the right hand of God, the Father.
And when we were in Romania a couple of years ago. In the old days, they had no way to teach the Bible to those people in the middle ages, except by paintings. And they used a paint that they today cannot duplicate. They don’t know what they put in it, but the colors are just as beautiful today as they were 500 years ago. And they painted Bible pictures on the sides of the barns and wherever there was houses, they painted Bible pictures and the blue is just as beautiful. And the green is just as gorgeous. And I saw one that I’ll never forget. It was a ladder that was going up from earth to heaven. At the top of the ladder was Jesus with arms outstretched. Going up the ladder were the pilgrims trying to make their way up that ladder toward heaven. Down below were the devil’s pulling them down. Up above were the angels, helping them along.
It was not totally biblical, but it did tell a story of how there’s a struggle that goes on within all of our lives about Jesus Christ. And we have to decide what we’re going to do with Him. And I’m going to ask you tonight to say, “I want Christ in my life. I need Christ in my life. I need the joy and the peace and the fulfillment and forgiveness that He offers, and I’m willing to serve him and follow him from this moment on”.
I’m going to ask you to get up out of your seat and do what we’ve seen several thousand people do already in these three or four days. I’m going to ask you to get up out of your seat and come and stand down here in front of this platform and say, by coming, “I surrender my heart and my life to Christ. I’m willing to follow him and serve him”. I’m going to ask you to do that.
You may be a member of the church. You may not be a member of any church. You may be in the choir. You may be an usher here, and God has spoken to you. You may be a clergyman here. I don’t know, but God has spoken to you. You get up out of your seat and come. And after you’ve all come, I’m going to say a word to you and have a prayer with you, and give you some literature. And then you can go back and join your friends. If you’re with friends and relatives, they’ll wait on you. If you’ve come in a bus, they’ll wait. We’re only going to keep you a few moments, but it’s very important to come.
Now, I’m going to tell you why I ask people to come. Jesus hung openly and publicly on the cross for you in your place. He says, “If you’re not willing to acknowledge Me publicly before men, I will not acknowledge you before My Father, which is in heaven”. And if you start from that top row up there, it’ll take an extra minute, so start now, that top balcony up there, so start. People are already coming. You come and join them and make this great commitment to Christ and say, tonight, “I want to surrender to Him and receive Him into my heart and to make sure of my relationship to God”. We’re going to wait on you. You come.
There are many people that have been watching by television and you have been spoken to by the Spirit of God. You realize that time is very short and you need to make your commitment to Christ. You can do it right now, wherever you are. Just say, “Yes, Lord Jesus, come in,” and He will. May God bless you and be s
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