In a recent "Christianity Today" interview with Billy Graham he was asked, "If you could, would you go back and do anything differently?" His answer touched on the issue of priorities. He said, "Yes of course. I'd spend more time at home with my family, and I'd study more and preach less." I appreciate his honesty and candor. As he enters the twilight years of his life God has blessed him with time to reflect upon his life. May God bless each of us with such time for reflection. As I ponder my own mortality and how I'd like my life to come to a close I hope God grants me days close by His throne to reflect, repent, and praise God for His infinite mercy.
Billy Graham touched on the importance of family. It is easy for a man to become absorbed with his career and hobbies while his family coasts along on autopilot. His wife becomes distant and his children look elsewhere for instruction and leadership. Before he knows it his children are grown and he wonders what happened to the years. The young husband and father must see his family as his great ministry and calling. They need his time and leadership more than they need the dollars of his career.
Graham also spoke of the priorities of his ministry: "I'd study more and preach less." This is great wisdom. However, I'm not sure the issue was preaching too much. Many of the reformers preached every day of the week with little lament that it was too much. The issue is going to the pulpit with an empty cup. Too many pastors rely on skills of rhetoric without considering the importance of digging deep into the text so that they might lead their congregation to fresh pastures of delight. There are few pastors who can adequately explore a passage in less than eight or ten hours. Often a text will demand fifteen or twenty hours of labor or more! Study, however, is not just the realm of pastors. Every one of us must spend more time in study. Even if you designate just one hour a day, one hour before bed to dig into a text, the benefits will be enormous.
If I could add to the priorities of Billy Graham I'd add, "And pray more!" Your families need your labors before God's throne interceding for them. Your pastors are in great need of your prayers. Spurgeon said, "The sinews of the minister's strength under God is the supplication of his church. We can do anything and everything if we have a praying people around us. But when our dear friends and fellow helpers cease to pray, the Holy Spirit hastens to depart, and 'Ichabod' is written on the place of assembly." And pastors, our congregations need our intercession. Our preaching must be bathed in prayer.
It is important to reflect upon our priorities, but we need not wait until the final hours of our life. Self-examination must be a daily exercise.