Finish the Race
About the Guest
What does finishing the race well look like? Find out by listening to Dennis Rainey's interview with Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade who was in the last days of his battle with Pulmonary Fibrosis, a disease that eventually took his life.
Dennis Rainey interviews Dr. Bill Bright in the last days of his battle with Pulmonary Fibrosis.
Finish the Race
Bob: You wanted to probe him about this subject of handling money and handling wealth. That’s where we pick up the interview today.
Dennis: Bill, 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. 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. I say to men and women of wealth:
Live a good life. Enjoy yourself, but you should not be extravagant. You should take care—of your wife, or your husband, your children, and you should take care of your business enterprise—but anything over and above that should be designated, while you’re alive, to extend the kingdom and to help fulfill the Great Commission. Don’t hoard anything.
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. You're going to be held accountable, in a very real way, when you get to heaven—if you make it. 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. She married an atheist who hated God. They said, "What are we going to do with our 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. It was a bad situation.
Well, their love for their children overruled that. 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 that. It's well-known that people, who inherit large sums of money in their youth, generally are not properly motivated to maximize their gifts. They drift through life, living a life of ease. They, literally, become parasites on society. They don’t think clearly anymore—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: Right. 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. I pray that those whom God—whether they are believers 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—but they helped me tremendously.
So, as a kid, in the early 20s, I was experiencing phenomenal success. Yet, I can’t say, “I was smart. I was brilliant. I did this—I did that.” God arranged all these things, and I was able to succeed in the measure I did because of many factors. 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: [Laughing] Well, my love for Jesus. You know, people ask me, "What's the most important thing we could pray for you?" 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. I can't think of any activity in which I could be engaged that is more important than pleasing Him.”
I say all that—including, my precious wife. She is the joy and delight of my heart. We've been married over 54 years. 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. You need to give attention to your dear, beloved, precious spouse—who is a gift of God “until death do us part.” 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. That’s 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. [Laughter]
Dennis: And it's not that I'm that much older, Bill, than he is.
Bill: Maybe a couple of days.
Dennis: Yes, a couple of days—a couple of days older than Bob—certainly, not more mature, though. 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 into your heart, daily, moment by moment.
Communicate with God in prayer. Prayer is like breathing. We pray and talk to Him. So, love Him, trust Him, and obey Him. In order to do 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. 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 in his hand there; don't you?
Bill: I just happen 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. On this card—on the front and back—are listed different attributes of God.
Bill: Thirteen attributes.
Dennis: Thirteen attributes. I'm not going to ask you to name all 13, although I'm confident you could do it.
Bill: I memorize and meditate on them, almost, every day and night.
I wake up in the middle of the night. 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—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. 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—you realize, “We're just dummies;” you know? [Laughter] 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, and that's who He is, I will joyfully submit to His will."
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 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. 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 happens—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: “In 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. When I say, “Thank You,” even through my tears, I'm demonstrating faith. The Scripture says: “Without faith, it's impossible to please God. That which is not of faith is sin. The just shall live by faith.” So, I'm saying, “When I praise God that I'm wearing this tube, and I’m breathing oxygen, I'm praising God out of a joyful heart, not out of resignation.”
Bill: 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. 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. Of course, there are many others—His 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—
Bill: —and thousands of articles.
Dennis: Again, 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. I've written on the Ten Commandments, 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.
Dennis: That would be my pick,and I’ve not read all 100 books. I’m sorry. I’m probably fired, now, as a Campus Crusade staff member.
Dennis: That would be my favorite—of all that you’ve written.
Bob: Well, again, we've been listening to an interview that was recorded just months before Dr. Bill Bright went home. Did you have a suspicion what his answer to your question there would be?
Dennis: I did. I thought that might be what he would say. The reason was—he always talked about the character of God. I think, “How appropriate to have the re-airing of this broadcast, Bob—and to have talked about wealth and money in these days of economic challenge—but to conclude around the character of God.”
It’s really who God is that rescues us from the tyranny of being fearful, and worried, and angry about present-day challenges, and shortfalls, and what we’ve lost, here or there. It really is who you go back to and who you trust. To talk about God’s character is the most important thing, I think, we can conclude this broadcast today on.
Bob: And especially, here, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. Part of the character of God that we celebrate, in the coming of Jesus, is that God is a giving God: “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son…” The reality is that the celebration of Christmas is meaningful because God gave us the gift of Jesus. We didn’t recognize that gift when He came—didn’t really recognize the gift when He was crucified—but after His resurrection, it became obvious to everyone that this was, indeed, God come in human flesh.
I think of the Christmas hymn: “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate Deity. Pleased, as man, with men to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel.”So, to hear Dr. Bright reflecting on the character of God—and to meditate on that as we prepare to celebrate His birth—I think that’s significant for us.
I want to encourage our listeners—if you don’t have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ—if you’ve not been reunited with your Creator because of your sin—go to our website and click on the link you see there that says, “TWO WAYS TO LIVE.” It explains what it means for us to make a decision to redirect our lives and to follow the One who came to pursue us, Jesus Christ.
Again, click on the link you find at FamilyLifeToday.com—the link that says, “TWO WAYS TO LIVE”—to understand how you can have a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, and how the Christmas season can be more meaningful for you, this year, than it has ever been before.
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