This message from Billy Graham was originally posted on Sept. 8, 2006. The words are still timely eight years later, as we celebrate Veterans Day by honoring those who have served our country in the Armed Forces.
From time to time we have had the opportunity to visit veterans’ hospitals. After a service, we’ve gone from bed to bed talking and praying with the patients. Many of these people feel neglected. They have lost limbs, eyesight or health in service to their country.
Some have been in the hospital for years and will remain there the rest of their lives. What a price they have paid for all of us. I once talked to a man who had lost a leg in World War II. When I remarked about the price he had paid, he said, “It was worth it, wasn’t it?”
Let some veterans show you the scars that they have received in battle, and you will realize how much suffering, heartache and blood our freedoms have cost.
Out of this comes a great lesson to Christians. The Apostle Paul said, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17, NKJV). In other words, Paul said that he bore in his body the branding marks of a slave. When he called himself a servant of Jesus Christ, he did not mean a paid worker, as the word connotes today. He meant a slave, in utter subjection to the Master. But this subjection is borne out of love and devotion to Christ, and it ultimately brings liberty.
In the ancient world, three classes of persons were branded on their bodies: soldiers, slaves and devotees. When Paul declared that on his body were the marks of Jesus, he referred to the scars that had been left by the scourgings, stonings, vigils and turmoils he had endured for the sake of Christ. They showed that he belonged wholly to Christ, his Master. He was a soldier, a slave, a devotee.
Paul was growing old. A gaunt, wrinkled face; a bent figure; trembling hands; scars he had borne since the day he was beaten at Philippi, since the day he was stoned at Lystra, since the day he was shipwrecked on Melitus—all these had robbed him forever of the fresh, vigorous body he once had as a young man studying at the feet of Gamaliel.
He calls these scars of battle “the marks of the Lord Jesus.” He was thinking of the way in which a master branded his slaves. Burned into their very flesh, they carried the initial of their master’s name. That mark on the slave’s body was the sign of his servitude to one master and his freedom from all others.
Paul was not popular in his day. He was little known, despised and rejected. This does not sound much like the way we paint the ministry today, when preaching is many times called a profession instead of a calling.
Nowhere in the New Testament do I find that Christians are to expect to be popular and successful. The servant is not better than his Lord. Christ was despised and rejected, with nowhere to lay His head. He was born in another person’s stable. He died outside the city walls, an outcast, having come to His own who received Him not. He was buried in another man’s tomb.
In His footsteps followed the heroes of the faith who were tortured, mocked, imprisoned, stoned, torn asunder, slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, afflicted, tormented. They wandered in deserts, in mountains and in caves of the earth.
In many parts of the world, being a Christian still means suffering. But here in America, giving your life to Jesus Christ brings little persecution. Sometimes it is difficult to tell a Christian from a worldling in the United States.
Cushions of The Cross?
I am afraid that we in the Church are making a great mistake by trying to make Christianity popular and pleasant. We have taken away the cross and substituted cushions. But Christ said the world hated Him, and He predicted that it would hate us. He invited us not to a picnic but to a pilgrimage. He offered us not an excursion but an execution.
Salvation is free, but discipleship costs everything we have. The rich young ruler wanted no scars. He probably would have been a member of the average church today. But in John 6, when great multitudes went after Jesus, He told them three times that unless they were willing to pay the price they could not be His followers.
Do you bear the marks of Christ? We bear the marks of whatever enslaves us. You and I are either branded with the marks of Christ or the marks of the devil.
The Bible says that some of the marks of the devil are “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21, NKJV). And the Bible further says that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
The Marks of a Christian
The Bible teaches that the marks of a Christian are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23, NKJV).
Which brand do you have on you today—the scars of Jesus or the brands of sin that Satan puts upon you?
Too many Christians have geared their program to gain worldly favor. We argue that humanity is more Christian now, that we need not suffer as our forefathers did.
But the times are not brighter. Christians are a foreign influence, a minority group in a heathen world. If the Church is acceptable to this present age and is not stirring up trouble or suffering reproach, then God have mercy on the Church! If we are at peace with this world, it may be because we have sold out to it.
What Marks Will You Have?
When this life of perils and conflict and suffering is over, what marks will you have?
Did you bear in your body the brand of the Lord Jesus?
Did the whole world know that you belonged to Him—body, soul and spirit?
Did you bear His reproach?
Did you commit and surrender your life to Him?
Are you a Christian and proud of it? You should be able to say with Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16, NKJV).
You can have the brand of Jesus Christ on you today. By simple commitment and surrender to Christ as Lord, your sins can be forgiven. You can become a child of God, adopted into the family of God, and know what it means to have the marks of Christ on you and be called a follower of Christ. I beg you to surrender to Jesus and be ready to bear His reproach and suffer and die, if necessary, in order to live this Christian life.
Sometimes it is more difficult to live for Christ than to die for Him. God wants men and women who will live the Christian life each day, though in doing so you may get scars.
But remember what the veteran of that earthly war said: “It was worth it.”