A Visit With Bill Bright During His Last Days (Part 2) - Bill Bright

Co-founder and President of the largest Protestant, non-denominational missionary organization for over 60 years, Bill Bright.
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Finish the Race
Day 2 of 3
Guest:                    Bill Bright
From the series:   Reflections of Life:  A Personal Visit With Bill Bright
Bob:                There is a problem within the church today.  According to Dr. Bill Bright, there are a lot of people who say they love God when many of them don't really know Him.
Bill:                  The average person has a superficial view of God, and you can't love someone you don't know, you can't trust someone you don't know, you can't obey someone you don't know.  So the most important thing is to find out who God is, discover His character, and just love, trust, and obey Him.
Bob:                This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 20th.  Our host is the Executive Director of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Today – a conversation with a man who has spent his life introducing people to their Creator.
                        And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  You've been asked a number of times by people that question – if you could have dinner with any four people, living or dead, who would you invite to your dinner party and probably stopped and considered that question and thought about the Apostle Paul or about King David or whoever you might choose to be at your dinner party.
                        I would imagine that there would be many listeners who, when asked that question, would have on their list, the opportunity to invite Bill and Vonette Bright to that dinner party and just to be able to interact with them about a life of faithfulness to Christ that God has honored in a remarkable way.
Dennis:          You know, when I was a young man starting out right after college, I had no idea how Bill Bright's life would impact mine initially, from a distance.  But here in the last dozen or so years, I've had the opportunity to have many, many meals with Bill, to have personal time with him, and you and I had the opportunity to fly down to Orlando and sit in their living room and just have a sweet chat with an 81-year-old man who is suffering from a very serious illness …
Bob:                … he's got a pulmonary fibrosis …
Dennis:          … right – that has taken away 60 percent of his lungs' capacity, and, Bob, you and I both left those interviews, which we started on yesterday's broadcast, and if you missed it, I would encourage you to call and get the tapes and get the entire interview, because it's a great reminder from a man who has lived his life well, about what is really important.  And one of the things I wanted to ask him about and interview him about was the subject of money, because there's a lot of great stories about how Bill Bright personally has approached money and his own personal wealth, which he doesn't have a lot of personal wealth.
Bob:                In spite of the fact that he has written a number of books and at one point was handed a check for $1 million.
Dennis:          Right, he won the Templeton Award and gave that money immediately and invested it in Campus Crusade for Christ for the purpose of prayer and fasting.
Bob:                In fact, I think he talks about that in the section of the interview we're going to hear today, because you did quiz him about the issue of wealth and how we handle our money and, in fact, that's where we'll pick things up today.  This is Part 2 of an interview done recently with the former president and founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Dr. Bill Bright.
Dennis:          You have rubbed shoulders with people who have had enormous wealth in your 81 years of life.  You've been a part of seeing people invest literally tens of millions, hundreds of millions, billions of dollars in the kingdom work.  What advice would you have for the man, the couple, who really want to use their lives and their wealth for the glory of God?
Bill:                  Well, first of all, wealth is a gift of God.  It all belongs to Him.  At best, we are stewards.  There is no one who could say, "Look, I've accumulated this vast fortune.  I did it with my own ability."  Everything is a gift, even the breath which we breathe, and I'm on oxygen 24 hours a day, so I appreciate breath as a gift of God.  
                        But anyone who thinks that they are responsible for their vast wealth is not thinking logically.  There are many, many factors that contribute to vast wealth, and so I say to men and women of wealth – live a good life.  Enjoy yourself, but you should not be extravagant and don't destroy your grandchildren by leaving them large sums of money.  Take care of sending them to college or whatever they may need but be sure you do not spoil your children and your grandchildren and future heirs by leaving a trust that will cause them to be lethargic, complacent, and never develop the skills which you've developed because you had to.
                        Remember, it's all God's money, and you're going to be held accountable in a very real way when you get to heaven, if you make it, and if your money and your wealth and your material possessions are your god, you won't make it.  
Bob:                Have you seen people leave money to children or grandchildren and that lethargic complacency that you're talking about – have you seen those who were destroyed by …
Bill:                  … absolutely, absolutely.  I think of a tragic situation – a couple came to me one day.  They had worked hard together.  They had built a fortune.  They had one daughter, and she married an atheist who hated God, and they said, "What are we going to do with that money?"  I said, "Whatever you do, don't leave it to your daughter and your grandchildren, because he will use it for purposes that are contrary to everything you stand for.  Give it away while you're alive.  Take care of them in a modest way but don't give that money to your atheistic son-in-law," who wouldn't even allow his children to go to Sunday school.
                        Well, their love for their children overruled that, and they left it to the family, and you can imagine what happened to it.  It was a tragic situation.  They'll be held accountable for this.  It's well known that people who inherit large sums of money in their youth generally are not properly motivated to maximize their gifts.  So they drift through life, living a life of ease, and they literally become parasites on society.  And, as you know, in parts of the world where there is the class of the super-rich, they're usually very decadent.  That's not always true but all too often extreme wealth clouds the thinking of the recipients of that wealth – bigger homes, bigger cars, a greater opulence and extravagance instead of "Lord, this is all yours.  How can we use it to bring greater glory, greater honor, and greater praise to You."
Bob:                Does it seem to you that sometimes those who don't have any spiritual convictions are more generous and more inclined to give?  I'm thinking of Ted Turner giving millions of dollars to the United Nations or Bill Gates setting up a foundation for vaccinations around the world.  I sometimes wonder if we ought to take a lesson from some of these folks.
Bill:                  Well, one should never question another's motives – why they give – but there are many tax benefits, many considerations, and I pray that those who God, whether they believe it or not, God uniquely blessed.  I think back on my own career as a businessman.  I started my business with a modest capital, and because of the influence of two men who were kind of like fathers to me – they had no sons of their own – and they were among the leaders in the whole confection industry.  They helped promote my merchandise – Bright's Brandied and Epicurean Foods – whenever people came to their businesses, and they were two of the top men in the nation.  They would promote my merchandise, because they liked me, and they liked my merchandise.
                        I wasn't a believer, but at least one of the men, I know, was a believer.  The other one, I'm not sure of, but they helped me tremendously.  So, as a kid, in my early 20s, I was experiencing phenomenal success, and yet I can't say I was smart, I was brilliant, I did this, I did that – God arranges all these things, and I was able to succeed in the measure I did because of many factors.
                        So anyone who is wealthy would have to say, if he thinks clearly, "I had a lot of help from God working through people," and I look back on my own business career; I have to say God orchestrated all these many wonderful things preparing me for the day when I'd be born into His family, and He could show me a whole new way of life.
Dennis:          Bill, you're still highly motivated, even at 81 years of age.  You're on oxygen 24 hours a day; your lungs are only working at about 40 percent of capacity – what gets you out of bed in the morning?
Bill:                  Well, my love for Jesus.  You know, people ask me "What's the most important thing we could pray for you?"  And I always respond, "Pray that I will never leave my first love."  Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and, of course, love your neighbor as yourself, love your enemies.  So my love for Him and my desire to please Him, to obey Him, He is my Master, my Lord, and I can't think of any activity in which I could be engaged that is more important than pleasing Him.
And, of course, I say all that, including my precious wife.  She is the joy and delight of my heart.  We've been married over 54 years and all I can do is thank God at what an incredible, wonderful, fantastic wife He has given me – and lover and partner and friend in Vonette, and I encourage every man out there who wants to live a fruitful, wonderful life, to love your wife as Christ loved the church, even if you do it for selfish reasons, and you can't really do it for selfish reasons, because loving your wife has to be supernatural with His enabling, but if you don't have a happy wife, you're not going to have a happy heart.  And you need to give attention to your dear, beloved, precious spouse, who is a gift of God until death do us part, and don't ever think of divorce as a way out.  You find someone as God has led you to be married, or if He should lead you in the future to be married, remember, obey the Word of God; love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it – and sacrificial living.
Dennis:          Bill, Bob and I – and I’m taking our average age together here, because Bob's about to correct me out of this, but we're approximately 30 years behind you in the race.
Bob:                I'm a little farther behind than Dennis.  I'd just like to make that clear.
Dennis:          And it's not that I'm that much older, Bill, than he is …
Bill:                  … maybe a couple of days.
Dennis:          Yeah, a couple of days, a couple of days older than Bob – certainly not more mature, though.  But what advice would you have for a man who wants to finish well?  I mean, if God grants strength and favor, Bob and I will live another 30 years.  What exhortation would you give us, as men, and just to men in terms of how they run the race and end up at the finish line like you are, still sprinting at the end?
Bill:                  Well, you remember, Paul writes to Timothy – chapter 4, verses 7 and 8 – "I've fought a good fight, I've finished the race, and I've been faithful."  I would say the number-one priority – love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that requires time in the Word.  You can't live a godly life unless you're taking God's Word in your daily moment by moment.  Communicate with God in prayer.  Prayer is like breathing.  We pray and talk to Him.  So love Him, trust Him, obey Him, and in order to all this, you have to know who He is.
So if you have a superficial view of God, you need to begin to study the attributes of God.  That's the reason I wrote the book, "God:  Discover His Character," three or four years ago, because the average person has a superficial view of God, and you can't love someone you don't know; you can't trust someone you don't know; you can't obey someone you don't know.  So the most important thing is to find out who God is, discover his character, and just love, trust, and obey Him.
Bob:                You see what Dennis has got in his hand there, don't you?
Bill:                  I just happened to see that.
Dennis:          I have a card that, Bill, you discovered the power of lamination before Bob did, but you laminated a card here that is entitled the name of your book, "God:  Discover the Benefits of His Attributes."  And on this card, on the front and back, are listed different attributes of God.
Bill:                  Thirteen attributes.
Dennis:          Thirteen attributes, and I'm not going to ask you to name all 13, although I'm confident you could do it.
Bill:                  I memorized and meditate on them almost every day and night.  I wake up in the middle of the night and while I'm going back to sleep, I will run through different ones and just praise the Lord for who He is.
Dennis:          Well, what I want you to do, and I was going to ask you this question, anyway, but you've taken me there – out of these 13 what three are the most meaningful?
Bill:                  They're all important.  I can't …
Dennis:          … I know they're all important, and I knew you were going to say that, but as you have meditated and have gotten to know God, and as He has revealed Himself to you, could you name three that are closest to you in your walk.
Bill:                  I wouldn't say three are more important than the rest, but God is sovereign.  He rules in the affairs of men and nations.  He controls everything.  We think we're smart, and we're really dummies compared to Him.  After all, look at – study the human eyeball or the corpuscle, or anything about any of His creation, and you realize we're just dummies.  So He is sovereign.  He lifts up, and He puts down.  And then He is love.
Dennis:          I'm going to stop you there, because I want to read what you wrote on the card – "Because God is sovereign, that's who He is, I will joyfully submit to His will."
Bill:                  Yes.
Dennis:          So it's more than just an intellectual realization that there is One who rules absolutely.
Bill:                  I put the word "joyfully" in there especially, because it's not just kind of a duty.  God is sovereign, so I'm going to be – I'm just going to resign myself to the fact that He is in charge, and it's going to be a boring drudgery.  No, God is in charge, and it's a joyful journey to know that He's in charge.  If I didn't know He was in charge, now I'm breathing on oxygen for the last couple of years – I would probably be kind of anxious at times.  But God is in charge.  Nothing happened.  You know, you read Acts 4 – "Nothing happens to you and me that is not with His approval."  Satan has no power over us except that which God allows.  Everything is filtered through His love. 
                        You have cancer, you have a heart attack, you have a stroke, you have financial problems – what do you do about it?  Well, Paul writes, "Rejoice."  James writes, "Rejoice.  In all things give thanks."  Well, you know, one of the greatest lessons I've ever learned, which I learned maybe 40 years or so ago is that all things – give thanks.  Rejoice in adversity as well as blessings.
Dennis:          And you can do that because you know there is One.
Bill:                  I know there is a sovereign God.  He rules in the affairs, and when I say thank you, even through my tears I'm demonstrating faith, and the scripture says without faith it's impossible to please God.  That which is not of faith is sin.  The judged shall live by faith.  So I'm saying, when I praise God that I'm wearing this tube, breathing oxygen, I'm praising God out of a joyful heart not out of resignation, and then, of course, the love – God's love for me is unconditional.  Because God is love, he is unconditionally committed to my well-being and, you know, you could spend an hour talking about the love of God.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God, no matter how even we sin and grieve Him, His love reaches out to us.
                        Which brings me to the third attribute, and I hate to leave out any of those 13, and, of course, there are many others – is mercy – because of His mercy.  If I confess my sins, He is always faithful and just to forgive me of my sins, because of His mercy.
Dennis:          Right.  Bill, you mentioned your book, "God:  Discover the Benefits of His Attributes."  I've lost count of how many books you've written …
Bill:                  … about a hundred …
Dennis:          … you're writing them faster than I can read them.  It's over 100 books?
Bill:                  Over 100 books and booklets.
Dennis:          Okay.
Bill:                  And thousands of articles.
Dennis:          Bob gets onto me for asking these questions, but I'm going to ask you – do you have a favorite?
Bill:                  I would say probably the best book I've ever written is "God:  Discover His Character," because it deals with the attributes of God, and you – you know, I've written on the Ten Commandment, living supernaturally in Christ …
Dennis:          … you've written about the person of Jesus Christ …
Bill:                  … the person of Jesus, prayer, on and on and on, but getting to know God, His marvelous attributes, you realize everything else falls into place.
Bob:                Well, again, today we've been listening to Dr. Bill Bright, founder and past president of Campus Crusade for Christ rehearsing the attributes of God, which is a healthy exercise for all of us all the time, isn't it?
Dennis:          It is, and if there's anything I've learned from Bill Bright is that we need to not only talk about God and what He's doing in our lives, but we need to know Him, and we need to continue to pursue Him to get to know Him and a part of that comes, Bob, as we understand the qualities that we use as human beings to describe little facets of God's character, and I do think, and I agree with Bill, this is the greatest book, this book on the character of God that Bill Bright wrote.  This is his greatest book he's ever written.
Bob:                The book is called, "God:  Discover His Character," and we have it available in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  This is a book that is great for private devotions, it's a book that parents can use in family time with the children to help introduce the children to the greatness of our God.  If you'd like to get a copy, you can call 1-800-FLTODAY or you can request a copy online at FamilyLife.com.  Again, the title is "God:  Discover His Character," by Dr. Bill Bright.
                        When you get in touch with us, you may also want to request either cassettes or CDs of our complete interview with Dr. Bill Bright.  We have only been able to feature portions of it here on FamilyLife Today, but if you'd like to hear the entire conversation, you can ask about those tapes or about CD copies of the interviews when you contact us again, at 1-800-FLTODAY or, if you'd like to, you can order online at FamilyLife.com.
                        I was thinking about Dr. Bright's book, and I was thinking about our mission at FamilyLife to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.  If we're going to succeed in that mission of developing godly families, then we have to make sure that our families know the God we want to reflect in our own character and in our own lives, and FamilyLife is committed to that spiritual agenda.
We want husbands and wives and moms and dads to be centered on the priority of God's Word in your marriage and in your family.  We are joined in that agenda by a whole lot of folks around the country who are FamilyLife Champions or Legacy Partners – in fact, some brand-new Legacy Partners who just joined with us here in the last few weeks, and it's nice to have you folks on board with us.  A Legacy Partner is somebody who, on a monthly basis, makes a contribution to our ministry.
We often will hear from those Legacy Partners, Dennis, who write to us and ask us to pray for them.  In fact, I just saw that we've gotten a note from a 69-year-old grandmother in South Dakota who is raising two boys – she's raising a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old, and I don't know the circumstances that have her raising those young men, but she said, "Please pray for me.  I need strength and patience."  And we do take those requests for prayer seriously, and our team joins in praying for folks who write to us with those kinds of requests.
If you'd like to find out more about becoming a Legacy Partner and joining with us financially or if you'd like to write to us with a prayer request, our mailing address is FamilyLife Today at Box 8220, Little Rock, Arkansas.  Our zip code is 72221.  Once again, it's FamilyLife Today at Box 8220, Little Rock, Arkansas, and our zip code is 72221.  You can also get in touch with us by calling 1-800-FLTODAY.  You can donate over the phone or you can make an online donation at our website at FamilyLife.com.
Well, tomorrow we will hear the concluding portion of our conversation held recently with Dr. Bill Bright, the past president and founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.  I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Robbie Neal, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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