Do You Want To Be Great In God’s Eyes? Part 2

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I had the pleasure recently of talking with Tom Phillips, vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and one of the early team members there. During that time, Tom has been to 108 countries and all 50 states to spread the gospel by every effective means and to equip others to do the same. The lessons he has learned over a lifetime of service are ones we can all learn from!

DS: With so much travel in those early days with Graham, how did you stay pure?

TP: My wife asked me that one day and I said, “Honey, I love you. And you know, you’ve kept yourself so well, you’re a beautiful woman. You don’t look at Volkswagens on the road if you’ve got a Corvette in the driveway.” I also said, “You see me basically on the weekends. But Jesus sees me all the time.” Mr. Graham once was asked, “When do you pray?” And he said, “I’m praying right now.” Walking with the Lord is right now; it’s not something you do on Sundays or when you’re thinking ministry. The Sovereignty of God guides us. I never wanted to hurt my heavenly Father, but I knew if I did, I could confess right then and be forgiven. I could confess and then, like getting on a cloverleaf on a freeway, get right back on track.

DS: In your life, when you were met with unexpected challenges, how were you able to move through those places and keep your eyes fixed on your destination?

TP: That’s a very good question. I had a mentor named Charlie Riggs who met with me every week. He was an old military man, and he was tough as nails on me. He would dig into every part of my life. I’m not sure I would still have a marriage without the discipline from him and the Graham team. The Graham team was just like the disciples, ordinary men and women. We were utterly, utterly, utterly, utterly committed to the gospel. Because of that, we were committed to each other regardless of our differences, regardless of denominational backgrounds, regardless of our accents, regardless of our ethnic group. Origins and ambition fled by the wayside in most cases because we could confront one another directly.

I think the greatest brokenness of my life has been finding myself. Early on in prayer, as I prayed for the sin of the world one day, God in His providence held a mirror of Jesus in front of my face in my quiet time and I saw myself reflected in His purity. And I saw all the black spots of Tom Phillips. The breaking was pretty intense. But the presence of God that had already been there became overwhelmingly consistent. And I have a feeling that is what God used to guide a very inadequate farm boy from Mississippi into places I didn’t deserve to be. But it was His call, so He made it happen. I don’t know how to get around the fact that I don’t deserve to be here. I’m honored to serve the Lord, regardless of position or place. There would be no way, had I followed my own course, that I would be here today in the darkest hour where light can shine the greatest.

DS: When you look at the spiritual landscape today, what do you see?

TP: The momentum for true awakening has never been more eminent than when the church, in survival mode, has pulled its survival waters into the taproot because it is attached on every side. But God has told us in the last days, He’ll have a latter rain and He’ll pour out His Spirit on His kids. The taproot will not only fill with water in the tree of life, but it’ll float through the trunk and into the limbs, and we will have the greatest harvest the world has ever seen. I wouldn’t trade anything I’ve been through. But I’m just grateful to be here during the times when it looks like evil could win, knowing that God is the Victory.

DS: Any final thoughts?

TP: Everything we’ve talked about is a daily battle. There is a quote from J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership that says, “Our word ‘ambition’ derives from the Latin word meaning ‘canvassing for promotion’…ambitious men and women enjoy the power that money or authority brings, such carnal ambitions were roundly rebuked; the true leader will never canvass for promotion.” I think of Jesus as our example, and Mr. Graham was certainly that example.
One afternoon at the Billy Graham Library, something in my spirit said to go to the lobby, where I saw this 6’6″, very well-dressed brother. He had a big Bible, and he said, “Oh, you’re the man I need to see.” He said, “I’ve been here five times. I’ve moved here from New Jersey, and I’m planting a church. I want to know the secret to Billy Graham’s success.” He started naming all the materialistic aspects and the visible aspects of the successful men of God he was watching—things such as entourage, cars, size of the church, position and on and on. I said, “Did you see any of that in Mr. Graham’s journey of faith when you went through the library?”

He said, “No, I haven’t. So, there’s something else.” I said, “Please tell me your name.” He gave me his name, and I said, “That’s the secret to success. Can you die to that name?” You see, Billy literally died to his name. It was apparent if you knew him or talked with him. The humility that allowed Jesus to flow through unhindered through Billy Graham allowed God to make him successful in the eyes of the world. I shared with this young man, “You’ll be successful.” He had all the markings. “But if you want to be great in God’s eyes and do more than you could ever dream of, it’s between you and Jesus. You have got to die to your name.” {eoa}

Dr. Doug Stringer is founder and president of Somebody Cares America/International. As an America of Asian descent, Doug is considered a bridge-builder of reconciliation amongst various ethnic and religious groups. He is a sought-after international speaker, addressing topics such as persevering leadership, reconciliation, community transformation, revival and more. He is host of “A Word in Season with Doug Stringer & Friends,” with new programs posted weekly on the Charisma Podcast Network.

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