Canceling Bill Bright?
His breathing slowed and then finally stopped. At last, he was face to face with his Master.
I will never forget that moment 18 years ago today. My dad was so looking forward to the moment he would “graduate.” He was like a child anticipating entering Disneyland for the first time. My son, Keller, crawled up on his bed a few moments after he passed and softly said, “Grandfather, I hope you have fun in heaven.” My eight-year-old son understood.
Today, my dad’s body lies in a crypt. He carefully chose the words engraved on his headstone. Words that gave testimony to his all-consuming purpose in life. Words some counseled him not to use. Words he refused to water down because some might be offended. Words that today could get him “canceled.” My dad knew who he was, and Who he spent every waking moment serving. What are the words?
“A SLAVE OF JESUS BY CHOICE”
In this day of self-focused Christianity, with many demanding their “rights,” such God-focused faith is increasingly hard to find. The Apostle Paul’s opening words from Romans 1:1, “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ” are not found on the list of today’s most popular sermons. Paul’s declaration in 1 Cor 9:19-20, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more,” isn’t exactly the hallmark of modern Christianity in the West.
Like the Apostle Paul, my dad voluntarily gave up his “rights” because he wanted to wholeheartedly follow Jesus.
When I was about 10 years old, a group of key leaders within Campus Crusade for Christ came to him the morning after he arrived back from a six-week trip to Asia. Demanding his immediate resignation, they sought to seize control of the ministry. Most of us would be deeply offended and fight back. How did my dad respond? “Let’s all get on our knees and ask God what He wants.” He didn’t get defensive. He didn’t lose his temper. A slave doesn’t have rights. A slave doesn’t own what he pours his life blood into. A slave of Jesus is at peace, no matter the circumstances, because he can completely trust his good and faithful Master.
Twenty years later, one of the men who had been a part of the group that day confessed to me, “I realized the moment your dad said, ‘Let’s get on our knees and ask God what He wants,’ that the contest was over and we had lost.” Bill Bright never demanded his rights, he simply wanted to do the Master’s will.
When he won the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, he became a millionaire—for about 30 minutes. Then he signed away the check in order to promote prayer and fasting. As he said to me a few days later, “I gave it away over 45 years ago.”
Shortly after graduating from college I was sitting in my dad’s office while a reporter from a Christian magazine interviewed him. At one point the reporter posed a question I had never heard before, “Dr. Bright, share with me a problem you face that the average Christian can relate to.” My dad responded, “I don’t have problems.” The reporter then proceeded to ask the question seven times, seven different ways trying to get him to admit he had problems. Finally, my dad leaned forward and uttered heartfelt words I will never forget:
I am a slave of Jesus. It is not the slave’s responsibility to be successful. The only responsibility of a slave is to do what the Master asks him to do. When you understand this, you also understand that a slave doesn’t have problems; a slave only has opportunities to see the Master work.
What was the result of being a slave of Jesus for over 50 years? A life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness. A life of incredible purpose and vision. A life free of fear, anxiety and the pressures of the world. We are all slaves to something or someone. As Bob Dylan opined, ‘Ya gotta serve somebody.” It’s not a popular thought but it is reality. There is only One person I want to be enslaved to. My dad showed me the way.
Can you say with Bill Bright “I am a slave of Jesus by choice,” or do you take offense at every perceived slight? Would you like to be able to declare, “I don’t have problems, I only have opportunities to see the Master work?” The first step is to become a slave of Jesus by choice. No one can ever cancel that.
P.S. The better you know the Master, the easier it is to follow Him! Dad's book, GOD, Who Are You Anyway? is a great place to start!
©2021 Brad Bright