Cliff Barrows, longtime Music and Program Director for the Billy Graham Team, traveled with Mr. Graham throughout his ministry and led Crusade choirs around the world. In a recent conversation with Decision, Mr. Barrows explained how he has kept his relationship with Christ strong and growing.
Q: What do you do to keep growing in your knowledge of God?
A: The more we read the Bible, the more we want to know and understand it. At 86 years old, I long to know more of the Word. To develop that hunger, I major on reading and studying the Bible. There’s an illustration of a hand that shows how to grasp the Word of God—how to make it our greatest possession. Each finger is a concept: hearing the Bible, reading it, studying it, memorizing it and meditating on it. When we use all the fingers, we can grasp the Word of God.
Dawson Trotman founded The Navigators, and he—along with members of his staff—developed BGEA’s follow-up program. When I was just a 12-year-old boy attending the Mount Hermon Bible Conference, Dawson was the speaker. One day he took me down by a creek in that beautiful Redwood Conference Center on the West Coast and talked to me as a loving father to a son. The Bible is God’s Word, he said. It is infallible and trustworthy. He said if I would build my life on its principles, I would find the solid-rock foundation for my steps through life. Dawson taught me the importance of Scripture memory, and I started using the Navigator topical memory system. It outlines the principles of Scripture memory, which continue to be my help today.
Q: What do you do today to strengthen your relationship with Christ that you didn’t do when you were young?
A: For years, I carried packs of Scriptures in my pocket. When I had a few minutes while waiting for a train, plane or bus, I would just slip the pack out, flip the card and memorize the Scripture. I did this until my vision declined and I couldn’t read. That became a great trial in my life. I think it’s one of the greatest trials we have to endure in our Christian walk as we age. If we can’t see to read, then we have to rely on other senses and other help that God brings along our way. And He certainly has done that for me.
Now, I’ve got a recorder that I use when my wife, Ann, reads the Scriptures to me—particularly the book of Philippians, which I’ve been memorizing. Often I lay awake at night meditating, and the passages will come across my mind. I repeat them over and over. In the quiet of the darkness, the pressures and thoughts of the day can be passed away or forgotten, and you can spend time meditating on the Word of God. That’s when I listen to Ann’s recordings. It’s a wonderful way to let the Word sink into my heart.
You have to have a hunger. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). It’s wonderful to know that as you read the Word, you feed on the Word. Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.”
Q: How would you encourage new believers to discipline themselves to take adequate time to read God’s Word daily and get to know HIM?
A: Four basic areas in life will enable you to grow: focus, discipline, communication and commitment. Focus is a great word. Keep your eye centered, your goal and vision clear, and ask God to keep it sharp. A hymn by Helen Howarth Lemmel says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” What is your desire? Do you want to be an effective witness for Christ? A faithful member of the family of God? Do you want to know the joy of His presence? Then keep your mind and heart focused upon Him.
Q: What are some practical ways to discipline and guard our minds?
A: Develop a love for good music, good books and great friendships. When you meditate on God’s Word or read about the lives of great believers and missionaries, you guard your mind. You see what God did in their lives as they were given to the Lord in study and experience. Develop good friendships. These friendships include older people who mentor you and people your own age who can walk the Christian life with you. Listen to good music. Learn the hymns because biblical principles will be ingrained in your heart and your mind as you keep going over them. If you put these things together, God will use them to help you to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Q: How can new believers develop good communication with God?
A: Through private times of silence. The amount has varied for me through the years. Oftentimes, because of the situations of life, you can’t take a definite time each day, though that is preferable. If you’re an early riser, you can always get up earlier. But whatever time is best for you, be sure to set a time for regular communication with God.
An athlete, in order to be a champion, comes under the discipline of training. We ought not do anything less in our walk with the Lord. We discipline our thought lives, our relationships with others. We’re so busy now and bothered by so many things, but we need to spend time being alone with the Lord. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” There’s power in that silence. There’s strength in that silence. There’s closeness in that silence. Silent times can be some of the most precious times, but it takes discipline to do that.
When we’re born again, it has a parallel to physical birth. You have to feed a baby. The baby has to grow. I can think of no better advice for young believers than to develop a habit of reading five Psalms a day and one chapter of Proverbs a day and then meditating on them.
The Book of Psalms covers our walk with God day by day. There isn’t a situation in your life that is not covered in some measure in the Psalms. You’ll often find, as I have and Mr. Graham has, that it will touch on the very problem you are concerned about that day.
The Book of Proverbs deals with our relationships with people. We work on our relationship with God, the vertical relationship, and the Lord enables us through His Word in Proverbs to put it to action in the horizontal, reaching out into the community around us.
Q: How would you define commitment to someone just beginning to walk with Christ?
A: Commitment is the resolve to go ahead. Whatever it takes, whatever it costs, say, “Here I am, Lord. Take my life.” Commitment is something in which you purposely say, “Lord, here is my life. I yield it to You.” The only problem with commitment is that if it’s not closely guarded, it’s easy for us to take back our commitment or hold back on it while we do something else. We take a little side trail, and then we realize that we have to put our plans back in the Lord’s hands. Total commitment to Christ involves surrender, where you let Him take the controls out of your hands. Then He directs and guides you.
In Philippians 3:10, Paul says, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” That’s my desire—to be like Him and to know Him.
Cliff Barrows, former Music and Program Director for the Billy Graham Team, has led congregational singing and crusade choirs around the world.