From Billy Graham to the Graduate

June 17, 2013

In June of 1943, William Franklin Graham, Jr. stood among the graduating class of Wheaton College. The farmer’s son, and future evangelist to world leaders, once was told by a teacher that he would not amount to anything.

Billy Graham would return to Wheaton multiple times over the years to address subsequent classes. But in 1997, he had the privilege of speaking to the graduating class of another William Franklin Graham – the IV – his grandson Will.

Billy and Ruth Graham at Wheaton College

We hope the words Billy shared with the class of Liberty University will resonate with a graduate in your life.

Many of you are concerned about the future, finding God’s will for your life.  You’ve been here and I’m assuming that most of you know Christ as your Lord and Savior.  But some of you are concerned about getting a job and getting on with life and what you’re going to do to support yourself.

Unless things have changed since I was a student, you haven’t managed to save much money during your college years.  But you do possess something of great value, greater than money.  A non-renewable resource that is moving inevitably toward total depletion and there’s nothing you can do about it.  And that resource is time.

A student of a university asked me some time ago, “What is the greatest surprise in your life?”  And I said, “The greatest surprise in life to me is the brevity of life.”

Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes in every day—1,440 minutes, it adds up to 168 hours per week.  In Psalm 90:10 the Bible indicates that our allotted time on earth may be 70 years or possibly an extension to 80, or maybe a few more even.  The Psalmist therefore goes on to say, teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Let’s think about that a moment—the number in a lifetime.  Our first 15 years are childhood and adolescence.  We spend a total of 20 years sleeping.  In our final years, physical limitations may curtail our activities, so we have only 30 best years left.  And part of that time must be spent eating meals, building family and social relationships, working at our jobs and sleeping and figuring out our income tax.  And rich people cannot buy more hours than the rest of us.

It allows for that each day has 86,400 seconds to invest.  That’s how much you have every day.  And it allows for no balances, no overdrafts.  If you fail to use each day’s deposits, your loss cannot be recovered.  You cannot hoard time and use it on another day.

God calls us to invest our time, our very lives, primarily in people, not in projects or possessions.  We are to behave like Jesus.  He’s our example; He lived and died for others.  Jesus told his disciples, “Lay up for yourselves, treasures in heaven.”

Your generation will bear the brunt of the future’s uncertainties.  Not one of us at any age has a clue as to how long we will live.  That’s why the Bible says, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.  You can’t count your days but with Jesus Christ as your Lord you can make your days count.  You can invest whatever time is yours for high-yield-return in the lives of people you introduce to Jesus Christ.

Right now you can decide to invest the rest of your life in such a way, that someday you will hear God say to you, “Well done good and faithful servant, come and share your master’s happiness.”

I’m asking you today not to graduate but to commence a new life following the will of God every step of the way.

Excerpt from Billy Graham’s commencement address at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va., May 3, 1997


Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.
–Proverbs 9:9. NIV

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