Full text of the evangelist Billy Graham’s sermon titled ‘The University of Life’ which was delivered in Reno, Nevada in 1980. In this message, Billy Graham explains how you can live your life with purpose and freedom.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Billy Graham – Evangelist
Tonight I want you to turn with me to the 11th chapter of Matthew. The 11th chapter of Matthew.
Matthew 11:28-30: ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest under your souls, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’
I want to speak tonight on the ‘University of Life’. I want to speak to young people as well as older people on the subject of the ‘university of life’.
Now, we usually think of this text that a pastor will take and use at Labor Day. But that’s wrong in one sense, and yet in another sense, it is correct.
But this is an invitation to men and women who are exhausted with the search for truth. Jesus said, ‘You’ve been searching for truth. You’re tired. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. You’ve found it. The search ends with Me.’
Now, at this university we’re talking about tonight, you can fail, but you can never drop out. All over the world, people are beginning to ask questions about where civilization is headed.
One of the foreign experts left Washington in despair this past summer and went back to the university to teach. And he was asked why. And he said, sometimes I get the feeling I’m sitting on a hilltop watching two trains racing toward each other on the same track.
Vice Premier Dung of China stated recently this past summer that World War III is inevitable and independent of man’s will in this decade.
A British editorial said recently the world is on a collision course with disaster.
Now, when we come back to America and see the affluence of America, I also read and hear about the new surge of problems that our affluency has created. Psychologists, economists, clergy, politicians are dealing with social and moral problems on a scale that they’ve never had to deal with before.
For example, the marriage breakups. Even among so called, professing Christians, some of them well-known Christians in our newspapers even today.
Married women having adulterous affairs has tripled in the last five years. But the price they pay is escalating drug addiction, alcoholism and suicide, racial tensions. We thought the race problem in America was settled. It’s not settled. Look at Miami or Philadelphia this past summer.
The Psalmist said, and I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and rest. (Psalm 55:6) Have you ever felt that way?
You’d like to fly away from life and rest. You’d like to get out of that kitchen and rest. You’d like to get out of that job and rest. You’d like to fly away somewhere.
Thousands of people out east come to Nevada and to California thinking that they’re going to find it here. And they may find something here, but they find wonderful air here in Reno, I’ll tell you that; they find beautiful mountains here and they find a lot of activity here.
But the real thing they’re searching for is God, because, you see, they were made in the image of God and without God, their hearts are restless till they come to know God.
You can never find true rest until you know God, and you that are watching by television, if you want to find peace with God and rest in your own souls, call that number on your screen right now and let somebody talk to you, as many people here will do later on in the evening.
You see the Psalmist longing to escape has become the cry of the world today.
The Psalmist also said, ‘I’m full of heaviness and looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none’. (Psalm 69:20)
The Bible also says, ‘But the eyes of the wicked will fail, and escape will elude them. Their hope will become a dying gasp.’ (Job 11:20) No way out.
Jesus said, I am the way out. He said, there’s only one way to escape, one way out, and I’m it. You have to come by the way of the cross and the empty tomb and find reconciliation with God and peace in your heart and joy in your heart that you have lost.
And how many of you are trying to escape? You’ve come out here from somewhere else to escape all the rigors of life somewhere else, but you haven’t really found it yet.
You haven’t found that joy and that peace that you thought you’d find, or that sense of fulfillment. You don’t have the answer to the questions. Where did you come from? What is life all about? Where are you going when you die? You don’t have those answers yet. You can find it tonight by coming to Jesus Christ.
You see, Jesus said, ‘learn of Me.’ It’s a picture of Jesus Christ as the great Professor at the university. He’s the greatest teacher that ever was. The Bible says He taught them as one having authority. He spoke with authority. You never find Jesus saying, I hope this is the way. I think this is the way.
The Bible says, ‘There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.’ (Proverbs 14:12)
There are many ways in life that seem right, but the end is death, destruction, judgment and hell. And Jesus warned about that.
Jesus said, ‘I am the Way.’
Now, most of the world would agree that He’s the greatest teacher that ever lived. And so tonight I want you to sit for a few moments at the feet of the world’s greatest teacher.
In most American universities and colleges, they have what is called required courses and elective courses. Now, in life, there are certain required courses. What are they?
There are three: 3 required courses and 3 elective courses that I want you to think about tonight.
The first required course is Life itself. Philosophy means the study of life and ideas concerning life. And one of the most discussed new books published last summer was The Philosophers, in which 20 of the most influential philosophers of the Western world in modern times are psychoanalyzed as to the amount of fulfillment that they themselves enjoyed.
And it demonstrated that all 20 of them that they studied were characterized by loneliness and anxiety.
You see, we did not choose to be born. We were not consulted about living, and there’s nothing you can do to stop living. We did not choose where to be born. We did not choose what color of skin we have. There’s no escaping life, all.
You say, I can commit suicide. That doesn’t get you out of life. You only kill the body. Your soul, your spirit is eternal. It lives all. So you cannot escape by suicide. Suicide does not end at all, as some people think.
Yes, you’re required to live. How do you face life? What resources do you have to call upon when the pressures get great and the crisis comes and the difficulties come, what do you have to call upon?
Well, if you know Jesus Christ, you don’t have anything to worry about, because when He lives in your heart, He gives great inward peace and joy and assurance and a sense of safety and wellbeing when you come to Christ. It affects you physically and mentally and socially. Every way, every phase of your life is affected when Christ dominates your life, because you let Him come as Savior as well as Lord.
And then the second required course that you have at the university: you’re required to die. Now, we have been having a lot of studies on death lately. We read about Dr. Kubler Ross and Dr. Rawlings and Dr. Moody and others and courses on thanatology in our universities are springing up all over the country teaching people about death. And the classrooms are filled with students studying death.
George Bernard Shaw said that there’s one statistic that we can be sure of. Now, everybody in the gaming business here in Nevada ought to hear this. The odds against which no gambler can win that one out of everyone dies. Now, that’s a sure thing.
God said to Hezekiah, ‘thou shalt die and not live.’ The Bible says it is appointed unto man once to die. The Bible says there’s a time to be born and a time to die.
The number of years is simply relative. The fact is, we all die. And the Bible says there’s a day, there’s an hour, there’s a minute already appointed for your death. It may be tonight, it may be tomorrow morning.
There is a day, there’s an hour, there’s a minute already appointed. The Bible says in Job 14, seeing his days are determined the number of his months with Thee, Thou hast appointed his bounds beyond which he cannot pass. There’s a moment beyond which you cannot live, already appointed, and God is giving you this moment of grace right now to find Christ as your Lord and your Savior. That’s the reason the Bible always says, today, today, harden not your heart. Now is the accepted time of salvation.
The Bible is saying, don’t put it off. Tomorrow is the devil’s word; come while you can. There’s only one man in history that didn’t have to die, and that was Jesus Christ.
He said, ‘No man taketh My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father.’
He was perfect. He was free from sin and its effects, and yet He died on the cross. Why?
Because He died for you. He took the things that caused death in your life on the cross, in your place. He died for you. God laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
And now tonight, you come to that cross and surrender your life to Jesus Christ. And God says, ‘Forgiven. Your sins are forgiven. I forgive you. I write your name in the book of life. ‘For He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.’
But not only did He die, He rose again. He’s alive tonight, who was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification.
I haven’t seen the picture, the raising of the Titanic, but I’ve read about it and they’re going to try to raise it next summer, and that’s going to be a very interesting experiment. They’re doing a similar thing off the coast of Japan where they found a Russian ship and they think it may have $30 billion worth of gold in it.
And they’re after that gold, and it’s going to be quite interesting to see who gets it when they finally get it all up.
So there is a great deal of raising going on, but the Bible says there’s coming a time when there’s going to be a general resurrection, when all of those that are lost are going to be raised, and all of those that are saved are going to be raised.
And Jesus Christ died on our account on the cross, was raised again. And that is living proof. He is living proof tonight that there’s going to be a resurrection someday.
Think of it. Jesus Christ came back from the dead to tell us there’s more. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
The Bible says, the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Are you ready?
And then the third thing in this school, that is required of you, the judgment of God is required. You’re going to face the judgment. There’s a movie out called The Judgment, and someday you’re going to give a moral accounting. The searching eyes of God will miss nothing in that day when you stand before Him.
Now, the whole country’s talking about who shot JR. I’ll tell you exactly who did it. A sinner. And someday all the Ewing family and all the suspects are going to have to stand before God just like you are.
And every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account in the day of judgment, the Bible says; ‘many shall say unto Me in that day, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name cast out devils? And Lord, we’ve done all these great things in Your name.
But the Bible says, God…
Jesus is going to say, ‘depart from Me. I never knew you.’
You see, you can be in the church. Last night a number of Catholic people came forward and Episcopalian people and people who have confirmation. I was confirmed myself when I was about twelve years of age in an Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.
And I know what they meant when they came. They wanted to reconfirm their confirmation. What had they promised God in accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior?
And how many of you tonight need Christ? You need to come to Him. You’ve been away from Him. You’re in the church. Your name is on the church roll, but you really don’t know Christ.
More than a third of the people that have been coming forward here to receive Christ have no church connections. But nearly two thirds do. Some of them are back east and they haven’t thought about the church since they’ve been in Reno or in Nevada, in Northern California, or wherever you may be.
Come to Christ tonight and receive Him into your heart and start all over again.
Now those are the required courses. Life itself. You cannot be unborn. You’re required to die. You’re required to face the judgment.
Now there are certain options at the university tonight. The University of Life.
First, you can choose your way of life. The Bible says choose you this day. As I said a moment ago, there is a way that seemeth right.
Now some of those roads that seem right. There’s the lust of the eye, the Bible talks about. Possessions. It seems that to gain all the possessions you can, there’s nothing wrong with that, it seems.
Things are not wrong. But when your life is centered in the acquisition of physical possessions, then the lust of the eyes has gotten the best of you. And that’s sin.
And it seems right, but it’s wrong and it leads to a dead end.
Then there’s the lust of the flesh. Those are the physical things which offer by way of luxury and entertainment. Some of us are selling our souls for sinful pleasure; overeating, the wrong use of sex, excessive use of alcohol. All of these things.
The Scripture says ‘the world passeth away and the lust thereof. But he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.‘ (1 John 2:17)
Then there’s also the pride of life. That seems right. Ego, position, getting the best, self interest. But that’s a wrong road.
We ought to think something of ourselves. We’re to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to love ourselves, because you cannot love your neighbor. You cannot be a true Christian without having a respect for yourself.
And there’s a certain love of self, but not this egocentric thing. Because the very heart of sin is selfishness. The very heart of sin is ego.
And when you come to Christ, your ego has to be surrendered to Christ until He becomes the Lord.
And then secondly, not only can you choose your way of life, but you can choose who will be the master of your life. What’s going to master your life? What philosophy are you giving your life to? What group are you giving your life to? Who is going to control you? Are you going to control your own life and make a wreck of it?
‘Thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shall be saved.’ (Romans 10:9)
By nature, we want to run our own lives. We think we know better than even God knows. But God has a plan for your life. And His plan is perfect. For every young person here, God has a plan. He has the right person picked out for you to marry if you’d only trust Him to help you.
He has the right job for you, the right vocation for you. It’s all planned.
If you’ll say ‘Lord, Thy will be done.’ And you surrender to Him and let Him become involved in all the affairs of your life. Or some of you that are already married.
Or maybe you’re older now and your life is all messed up. Did you know that God can rearrange your life after you’ve messed it up by forgiving your sin.
Now He can’t take those scars away of sin. I’ve watched people come forward here and I’ve seen many of them as they stood in front of this platform night after night. I’ve seen them with sin scarred faces because sin leaves its mark.
But God can forgive all that. And He can take all that mess that you’ve made in your life and straighten it all out and get you back on the right road, if you’ll trust Him.
You say, well, Billy, suppose I’ve been divorced and remarried and my life is all… What will happen?
Well, you can’t unscramble eggs, but you can start from where you are by trusting Christ where you are. He’ll forgive the past and give you a whole new spiritual life and give you a power beyond anything you ever dreamed, and a love and a joy and a peace.
Don’t let the devil worry you about past sins, once you’ve been to the cross. If your son asks for bread, will you give him a snake? No.
God loves you. He has a plan for you and you ask for something good. He’s not going to give you a snake, says the Scripture. Said Jesus.
The rich young ruler, the problem with him was not his wealth, but he wanted to control his own life.
And many of you want to control your own life. You see, we want to run our own lives. Suppose I’d go up in the airliner and tell the pilot, I want to pilot this plane. I’ve never piloted a plane in my life. I can take over from you. No.
God says, Get up out of that seat. You’re making a wreck of your life. You’re heading toward destruction. Let me take the controls of your life. I’ve been over the road before. Let me help you.
And then lastly, you can choose your own destination. The destination is heaven, or hell. The Bible says, wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction; narrow is the gate and hard is the way which leadeth unto life.’
What are we to do? What can you do tonight to make your peace with God?
The Bible says, prepare to meet God. Well, how do you prepare?
First, by repentance. Repentance means that you’re willing to let God change your life. It means that you change your mind so much that it changes the way you live.
And you’re willing to give up all those things that are sinful in your life and turn over to Jesus Christ your life.
The second thing, you come by faith. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, says the Bible. Just believe; you say well, there must be a catch somewhere. There is. That word ‘believe’ means that you put your total confidence in.
You don’t put your confidence in your own work. You don’t put your confidence in anything but the person of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for you. You cannot work your way. You cannot pay your way. You come by simple childlike faith.
And then the third thing, you must be willing to be a disciple or a follower of Christ.
Earlier in the year, it was my privilege to hold a ten day mission at Cambridge University in England, as well as Oxford University. And I could not help but remember that young man at Cambridge who made this statement when he gave his life to Christ, who was the son of a very wealthy man, and he was one of the greatest cricketers that Cambridge has ever had.
He said, If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice that I can make for Him can be too great.
That was CT Studd who said that, and he went out as a missionary with the Cambridge Seven that started a whole missionary movement at the end of the last century.
Jim Elliot, who was killed by the Auca Indians in South America, as a young student, wrote this: ‘He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.’
I ask you, young and older like tonight, do you know Christ? Is He your Lord and your Savior?
In a few moments, I’m going to ask you to do something very difficult. I’m going to ask you to get up out of your seat and come and stand in front of this platform, as we saw over 500 last night do, and stand here and say by coming symbolically, I open my heart to Christ.
I want Him to forgive my sins and change my life. I want to know where I’m going. I want to know what life is all about, and I want fulfillment in my life.
I ask you to come publicly, because every person Jesus called in the Bible, He called publicly.
I ask you to come publicly because there’s a psychological and a biblical reason for you to come. You stand here a moment, and after you’ve come, I’m going to say a word to you and have a prayer with all of you and then give you some literature to help you in your Christian life.
There’s something about coming forward like that that settles it and seals it. You that are in the other auditorium where we were a moment ago, where thousands of people are gathered, you come forward in your auditorium where you are. Grady Wilson will be there to say a word and to help you, and many counselors are there as well.
And then you that are watching by television, you pick up the phone right now and call the number on your screen. Don’t let this moment pass, because there may never be another moment quite like this in your life when you’re so close to the kingdom of God and all it needs is a phone call to talk to someone.
And then if you don’t get through immediately, wait a moment or two and call again. Wait five minutes, or ten minutes, call again, but don’t let this night pass.
Those people, some of them will be there for several hours to answer your phone. You get up and come right here.