A Visit With Bill Bright During His Last Days (Part 3) - Bill Bright

Co-founder and President of the largest Protestant, non-denominational missionary organization for over 60 years, Bill Bright.
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Final Exhortations
Day 3 of 3
Guest:                    Bill Bright
From the series:   Reflections of Life:  A Personal Visit With Bill Bright 
Bob:                Dr. Bill Bright has a message for Christians today, and it's a simple, basic message.
Bill:                  I would say to all believers – love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Seek first His kingdom, obey His commandments, trust His promises, and spend the rest of your life getting to know Him so you can love Him and trust Him and obey Him without any hesitancy.
Bob:                This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 21st.  Our host is the Executive Director of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Today a conversation with a man whose life is centered in The Great Commission and The Great Commandment.
                        And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  For the last couple of days we've been listening back to an interview that was conducted recently with the past president and founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Dr. Bill Bright.  I don't know if you've ever wondered this – but have you ever asked yourself what would have happened to Bill Bright if he'd never been converted, if he'd never come to faith in Christ?  What do you think his life would have been, what would it have looked like?
Dennis:          Well, he described himself a couple of days ago on FamilyLife Today as a happy pagan.  He was very successful in the candy business and had created a line of candies called "Bright's Confectionary Candies," I guess.
Bob:                "Bright's Delights," wasn't it?
Dennis:          Bright's Delights, that's right, that's right.  So maybe some major chocolate lines wouldn't be here because Bill Bright would be ruling in the candy world.  But he didn't do that, Bob.  He yielded and surrendered his life and signed over a title deed of his life, along with his wife Vonette, and for more than 50 years they not only have been married but also have been in surrendered service to Christ and have been used mightily by God.
Bob:                I think one of the things that has stuck in my mind, as I've had the opportunity to meet and interact with Dr. Bright, has been his remarkable focus.  Most of us get distracted by all kinds of lesser things, but I don't think I've ever seen him in any environment at any time when he's been distracted by anything other than the Gospel.  It's always about life with Christ.  It's always about evangelism and discipleship and walking with Christ and getting to know the Savior.  I don't know if he's paid attention to anything mundane in the last 50 years.
Dennis:          I think some of our listeners would probably be shocked at how little television, how few movies he's ever seen in his life.  I doubt if he reads much of the newspaper, but he saturates his mind and his heart and his life with the scriptures, and I've heard him say on a number of occasions, "I evaluate every day of my life as to how it will contribute to The Great Commission. 
                        Now, if you think about it, it makes sense that if Jesus Christ said "I have the greatest commission that has ever been given, that I want to give to you," wouldn't it be wise for us to evaluate our lives and how they are contributing to fulfilling what Jesus called the greatest commission – to go to the world and proclaim the Gospel.
Bob:                Well, let me take our listeners with us to Bill Bright's living room at his condominium in Orlando, Florida, where we had the opportunity to enjoy a casual conversation about some deeply profound subjects.  Here's Dr. Bill Bright:
Dennis:          By all measures of this world, you have lived, not a storybook life, but certainly a successful life.  You undoubtedly have a definition of what a successful life looks like.  Would you mind sharing that?
Bill:                  Successful Christian life, and that's summum bonum – that's more important than any other – is the crucified life.  Paul writes in Galatians 2:20 – "I am crucified with Christ.  Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live with the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me."  So the success of the Christian life belongs to those who know the reality of being crucified with Christ.
Dennis:          Putting to death the flesh.
Bill:                  Putting death to flesh – and out of that relationship, where Christ is all – He is Lord, He is Master, He is Savior, He is King – comes joy and rejoicing and full of glory.  So that's success – being dead to self and alive to Christ.
Dennis:          As a man, as a husband, and as a father – do you have any regrets?
Bill:                  I shared one with you – my failure to witness to Coach Red Sanders.
Dennis:          The coach at UCLA back in the early 1950s?
Bill:                  Yes.  That was an experience I've lived with all these years, because I disobeyed God.
Dennis:          Any others?
Bill:                  I, obviously, am far from a perfect husband or father or anything, but I don't have any regrets.  I look back on a life that's been rich and full, even the defeats, even the times of heartache and sorrow, God has used for His glory.  It's like Joseph said of his imprisonment and his problems as a result of being sold into slavery by his brothers – "What you intended for evil, God used for good."  And I've found that even in my mistakes, if my spirit is right, my heart is pure, my motives are pure, God turns my mistakes to blessings.
Dennis:          Looking back over your life, you've done a lot of courageous things.  Obviously, God at work in you, but what would you say, looking back over 81 years, was the most courageous act you've ever performed?
Bill:                  Well, there are many thoughts that come to mind – surrendering everything, where we signed a contract to be slaves of Jesus, putting everything in His hands – all that we owned or ever would own – that was simply an act of obedience, so I don't think it was that courageous, because I was doing what He told me to do.  
                        Moving to UCLA to start the ministry – I was the only one on staff, thought I was teaching school, and she joined me the second year.  I think, for example, when God led us to start Expo 72.  We'd never done anything like this and a good percentage of the staff leaders objected and some resigned.  Another time, when 13 men marched into my office, men who were like my sons whom I love to this day, every one of them, and God never allowed me to resent them, but they came into my office and demanded I resign.  They were taking over the movement.  To this day, when I have met them on different occasions, I give them a big hug and mean it.  I say, "I love you," and mean it.  That was something that God used to be a blessing.  Incidentally, six of those men left.  They were going to take the whole movement, and 750 people joined the staff that summer, and it was like God pruned so He could give fruit.
Dennis:          Bill, you've been close to death because of your lung disease.  Have you ever been afraid to die?
Bill:                  No.
Dennis:          There's never been the fear of dying?
Bill:                  As a matter of fact, God has graciously given me the joy of dying.  You know, face it, you can't lose when you go to be with the Lord.  But Vonette and I were on this airplane out of New York flying to Washington one evening some years ago, and it rained all afternoon.  The flight was delayed and delayed and delayed and finally the pilots apparently just took it in their hands and said, "We're going to fly."  So within minutes after we got in the air, we were in the middle of a firestorm.  I mean, a ball of fire and a tornado type wind, and the plane was like a leaf in the wind – it was awesome.  The wings were just going up and down like a bird, and we knew we couldn't possibly survive.
So Vonette and I sat there in the plane, held hands, and prayed and said goodbye and thanked the Lord that we would soon be with Him, and it was very somber and yet – I can't say it was joyful because, frankly, it was frightening.  The plane was just about to come apart, from our perspective.  And we flew and flew and flew and just kept flying and Washington isn't that far away.  By this time, it was night, and finally we landed in a little out-of-the-way airport and discovered that the lightning had struck a hole in the fuselage.  I'd never heard of that before.  It knocked out all the navigational instruments and the pilot was flying blind.
When we got off the plane, he was as white as a sheet, and he said, "In all my millions of miles, I've never had an experience like this."  Well, I didn't know it, how serious it was – oh, I knew it was serious – but when I got to Washington, D.C., the next morning we rode the bus from that place to the airport, and I got to the desk, and the girl said, "Oh, you were on that plane that was struck by lightning, and the plane has a big hole in it."  I didn't know that, of course.  I'd never heard of that happening.
So then I was in Ghana – I had a summer experience where, in those days, most national airlines were not safe.  The flight was delayed again and again and again.  Finally, after some hours, we took off.  In the meantime, I'd gone around witnessing different people – nobody seemed to be interested, and so just as we were off the pad, just barely, there was this big explosion.  So I thought a tire blew out, but we came to a screeching halt and got off, and the motor had blown up, and had we been in the air, we'd be dead.
Dennis:          Unbelievable.
Bill:                  So I've had a few of these …
Bob:                … but it's not the fear of death – we're never sure how we're going to get there, whether it's going to be a bumpy ride, whether we're going to wind up with a disease that takes us, but all of us are headed to the same place.
Bill:                  Death is universal, we're all going to die.  That's the reason it's so important to know where we're going while we're still alive.
Dennis:          Bill, someday the news will go out around the world, because it will be an international news event of your home-going, and when that happens, we want to honor Christ for what He did in your life, and I’m most certain that will happen through your memorial service and all that occurs after your home-going.  But I'm wondering what you would want the world to know – your final exhortation – because we're going to play a tape of a broadcast like this with you that Bob and I have done and have some of your words on it.  What would be your final exhortation to the world?
Bill:                  I would say to all believers – love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Seek first His kingdom, obey His commandments, trust His promises, and spend the rest of your life getting to know Him so you can love Him and trust Him and obey Him without any hesitancy.  Vonette and I have talked about this and concluded:  My own desire was to die as I've tried to live – Galatians 2:20 – Bill Bright is crucified with Christ.  And I asked her if she would bury me in an unmarked grave as a testimony of Galatians 2:20, because dead people are dead.
She didn't think it was a good idea.  So we agreed that we would have on our tombstone – "Bill and Vonette Bright, slaves of Jesus" – Philippians 2:7, Jesus was a slave.  God the Creator came to earth disguised as a slave.  And Paul speaks of himself, Romans 1:1 – "slave" and Peter and others – so we'd have appropriate references – but Bill and Vonette Bright, slaves of Jesus, because, as you know, we signed the contract in the spring of 1951 – literally wrote out a contract and signed it to be His slaves, and it's the most liberating thing that's ever happened to us.  I want that to be a testimony of the greatest privilege anyone can have – to be a slave of Jesus.
Dennis:          Well, I want you to know, over a year and a half ago when the news came that it looked like you were going to be coming back to Florida, where we are here for this interview, to spend your final days and to die, I spent several hours writing you a letter of – just expressing my profound appreciation for being an employee for 33 years of Campus Crusade.  I'm coming up on my 33rd year.  Bill, it's a miracle you didn't fire me.
Bill:                  You're too young.
Dennis:          But I really – I appreciate you, your life, and I wanted you to know that face-to-face.  I wrote you the letter and expressed that in that letter, God used my dad in my life and some key pastors to disciple me, and I count you right up there at the top with them of men who have had a profound impact on my life.
Bill:                  I'm not worthy to hear that, but I was so moved when you expressed your love in that way in the letter.  I treasure that.
Dennis:          Well, I know you received quite a few of them, because I would run into guys who had said they had been to visit you, and I thought, "He's not going to have time to die.  He's got too many people lined up to express appreciation," but I love you.
Bill:                  Well, you are very special to me, Dennis.  I have shared with many people through the years what an inspiration and challenge you are to me – what a blessing you are, and I'm just honored to be on this program, and I believe, in spite of the way God's already used you, the best is before you, and I predict that in your lifetime your influence will be as great as anything I've been privileged to experience worldwide.
Dennis:          You are very kind.
Bob:                Well, this has been a treat.  Over the last three days we've been listening to an interview that was recorded just a few months ago with Dr. Bill Bright, the founder and past president of Campus Crusade for Christ, and, boy, there at the end, it was a tender moment.
Dennis:          It was and, frankly, I didn't think I was going to have the opportunity to say that face-to-face, Bob.  I had written some very tender words to him privately and had sent them to him because I thought, frankly, he was dying, but it was not something that I intended to do there at the end of our interview, but looking back on hearing those words again, it was a sweet moment, and I don't want our listeners to go away just yet, because at the end I was sitting there, and I was looking at you, Bob, and I really love and appreciate you, and I was thinking, "You know, if I was Bob, I would really like to hear Bill Bright pray for me."  And so I asked him to do that at the end, and he prayed for not only Bob but for me as well …
Bob:                … he prayed for both of us …
Dennis:          … and I want our listeners to hear that prayer.
Bob:                Before we play that, let me let you know that we have copies of Dr. Bright's book on the character of God, the attributes of God.  It's called "God:  Discover His Character."  You can call 1-800-FLTODAY to request a copy or you can go online at FamilyLife.com.  Either way, we can have the book sent to you.  This is something you can use in your quiet time, you can use it for a group Bible study, you can use it for family devotions.  If you're home schooling, you can use it for your Bible curriculum with your children.  This is fundamental to how we live as Christians.  So let me encourage you to get a copy of this book, make sure it's in your library.  Again, it's called "God:  Discover His Character," by Dr. Bill Bright, and you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to request a copy or order online at FamilyLife.com.
                        When you do contact us, if you'd like to get a copy of the complete interview with Dr. Bright – we've only been able to feature portions of it here on FamilyLife Today – but we have the entire discussion available on CD or on cassette, and you can request that resource online at FamilyLife.com or when you call 1-800-FLTODAY.
As we played back that conversation, Dennis, I was thinking about the letter that you are going to be sending out to our Legacy Partners here in the next few weeks, where you talk about the fact that we have lost our respect for authority and our fear of God.  When we do know God, we develop a reverence and awe for who He is, and I appreciated your comments in that letter.  It's part of our regular communication with those folks who so support this ministry on a monthly basis.  Not only do they hear from you, but we often hear from them. 
In fact, we had a Legacy Partner in New York state who wrote recently and said, "Pray for guidance on what would be God's perfect plan for us, whether we ought to add a fourth child to our family.  We just finished our most recent Homebuilders study, and our spiritual growth has skyrocketed.  Thank you for your prayers.  We are praying for you."  What a delight to hear from folks who not only support this ministry with their financial gifts but those of you who pray for us as well.  We have just added a whole bunch of new Legacy Partners to this ministry, and thanks to those of you who have joined with us in this effort.
If you'd like to find out more about becoming a Legacy Partner, or if you'd like to request prayer, you can write to us at FamilyLife Today at Box 8220, Little Rock, Arkansas.  The zip code is 72221.  Once again, it's FamilyLife Today at Box 8220, Little Rock, Arkansas.  The zip code is 72221, or you can make a donation online at FamilyLife.com, and you can also phone in your donation at 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
Well, I hope our listeners have had the chance to listen over the last three days.  If not, I hope you'll get either the cassettes or the CDs of our conversation with Dr. Bill Bright.  That dialog went on for nearly two hours, and at the end of that time, Dennis, you asked Dr. Bright to pray for us, and we wanted our listeners to hear that prayer.  Here is Dr. Bill Bright.
Bill:                  Father, Father, Holy Father, we bow in reverence before Your majesty.  We are in awe of Your greatness.  When we think of who You are, we realize how little we are, how small in comparison, and yet even when we were yet in our sins, You died for us.  You love us.  You delight in us, and I thank You that in your sovereignty You chose Dennis and Bob to do what they're doing, and You've anointed them and given them favor and great blessing, and I ask, Holy Father, You'll keep them pure, keep their motives pure, their hearts pure, their attitudes, their desires, that they will be men of God after Your heart.  There will be no sin in their lives that will hinder Your working in and through them.  That is they speak day after day to millions of people, and that number, O gracious God, I pray will increase by the millions.  They will be channels of Your love, Your forgiveness, Your grace, to the multitudes of earth.  I pray for the day when their ministry will literally encircle the globe, where millions upon millions, day after day, will be drawn closer to You, will love You and trust You and obey You because of their influence.  Lord Jesus, bless their families – their families and their children's children's children yet unborn, that they may always love You, serve You, trust You, obey You, and that the legacy of these men will go on and on until You return.  Blessed Holy Father, thank You once again for these men whom You have chosen, whom You have anointed, whom You have empowered and may all glory, honor, worship, and praise go to You.  We pray it in the name of the One whose name is above everything, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.
Bob:                FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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