Billy Graham: Strength to Say ‘No’

Billy Graham: Strength to Say ‘No’

More than 100 years ago, a man living in London was converted to Christ. He became pastor of a church in the slums of London. He went to the poor, the down-and-out and the oppressed. He formed a little group of people called the Hallelujah Band, and he would stand on street corners and preach the Gospel.

Many of the clergy were embarrassed by it all. He was called before a conference of religious leaders. They said to him, “William Booth, will you go where we tell you to go? If not, you will be defrocked.” In the balcony a woman stood. She was William Booth’s wife, Catherine. She said, “William, say, ‘No, never!’” And he said, “No.” 

That “No” changed history in Great Britain and in many other parts of the world. Wherever The Salvation Army has gone, it has given help for the body and for the soul.

I want to ask you a question: What is the most difficult word for people to pronounce? It’s the word No.

In the Bible there is a story about a woman by the name of Vashti. She was queen of Persia and the wife of Xerxes (Ahasuerus), who reigned over territory from India to Ethiopia.

Xerxes gave a feast for the various princes, governors and leaders of the entire country—they came from everywhere. His feast lasted 180 days, and it was a pagan feast.

Toward the end of the feast, as Xerxes became drunk, he did something that absolutely startled his guests. He said, “I’m going to bring my queen out here. I want you to look at her. She’s the most beautiful woman in the world. And so he ordered Vashti, his wife, to come to that drunken orgy. She sent word back and said, “No, I will not come.”

Vashti was ready to give up every luxury that she had to keep herself pure. She would not expose her body, would not degrade her character.

When we say “No,” God will help us to stand by it. He will give us courage. You say, “But the temptations are so great. I can’t resist them.” Of course you can’t. In my own strength I can’t either. We cannot live pure lives without the help of God. We need to give our lives to Jesus Christ, let Him come in and help us to live during these times of wickedness.

There was a man in the Scriptures who also said “No.” His name was Daniel. He “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank” (Daniel 1:8).

Daniel was a young man who had found a purpose in life. As a teenager, he had been captured by the Babylonians. He was taken to Babylon to be trained in all their ways. But Daniel refused to eat the king’s meat or drink the king’s wine, even though he knew how dangerous that refusal would be.

How different Daniel was from those who can’t wait until they get away from home to live it up. Daniel was a long way from home. He could have yielded; no one back home would have known the difference. Daniel knew that it might mean death to refuse the king. This early No in Daniel’s life prepared him for the big No when he faced the den of lions (Daniel 6:4-23) and when he refused the gifts that Belshazzar promised him if he would interpret the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5:16-17).

We also defile ourselves. How? By eating too much, drinking too much alcohol, taking drugs, watching movies that are wrong, or watching too much television.

In Luke 21 we read, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34). What day? We don’t know the day or the hour, but we know there is a day coming in which we will have to give an account before God at the Judgment, because God is a God of judgment.

There’s another man in the Bible by the name of Joseph. He also said “No.” Joseph was sold into Egypt and became a slave to Potiphar, who was a top man to Pharaoh. Joseph was strong; he was handsome. And Potiphar’s wife found him appealing. She begged him to have sex with her. But he said “No.”

Day after day she begged him, trying to wear him down. And time after time Joseph resisted and said “No.”

One day, when everyone was out of the house, she grabbed him and said, “Come with me to bed.” Once again Joseph said “No,” and he pulled away. As he did, she took his coat and kept it. Then when her husband came home, she accused Joseph to her husband and said, “This slave has tried to seduce me” (Genesis 39:1-20).

The Bible doesn’t say that sex is a sin. Sex was given to us by God for a purpose—for enjoyment within the bonds of matrimony, for the continuation of the human race. It is a gift from God. But we abuse it and use it the wrong way. God has judged nation after nation, and family after family, and person after person because they misused this gift.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “Keep yourself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22). And he told him, “Flee youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22). He said run! When the temptation comes, don’t just sit there and think about it. Run as fast as you can away from it.

Paul also wrote, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27). He did that with God’s help.

Another man in the Bible who encountered a similar situation was Moses. The Bible says, “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:24-25).

Moses had to make a choice, just as we have to make choices. Moses, as heir to the throne of Egypt, had the choice of accepting all the pleasures of Egypt. But one day he made a choice. Moses said “No” to all that was offered. He said, “I’ll go suffer with the people of God. I choose God rather than these pleasures.”

There is a difference between pleasure and joy. The Bible says, “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man” (Proverbs 21:17). When we love pleasure, we are poor, if that is what we are seeking. Scripture also talks about people who are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4). Do you love pleasure more than you love God? 

When we come to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our hearts. Joy is produced by the Holy Spirit. More than 100 Scriptures talk about the joy of the Lord. That was the announcement at that first Christmas: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10).

If you take a stand and mean it, you may suffer persecution. Some of your friends will drift away. They don’t want to be with people like you. You speak to their conscience. They feel uncomfortable in your presence because you live for God. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).

Jesus said, “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” Make the choice that Moses made—he turned his back on pleasure and followed God’s way. The Scriptures say, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2). Moses chose the joy of following God rather than having the pleasures of Egypt.

Are you following the Lord Jesus? Or are you following the pleasures of this world and fulfilling the lusts of your own heart?

When Jesus was tempted, he didn’t debate the devil. He quoted Scripture: “It is written … ,” “It is written … ,” “It is written …” (Matthew 4:4-10). And each time the devil was defeated.

Satan can be defeated! When we are filled with the Spirit of God, obeying God, walking in His will and quoting Scripture, Satan will be defeated. The devil left Jesus, and angels came and helped Him.

Are you willing to say “No,” no matter what the cost? Then say “Yes” to the claims of Christ. He will come into your heart right now.

Jesus Christ loves you so much that He died on the cross and shed His blood for you. That’s the reason that He came to this earth. That’s the reason that He died on the cross. He died for you. Your sins have been placed on Jesus Christ, and He rose from the dead for you to give you everlasting life.

You need to do three things:

First, repent. What does repentance mean? It means to change—to change your mind, change the way that you’re living—and to determine that with God’s help you will live for Christ.

Second, come to Christ by faith. You cannot understand it all. You never will. I don’t understand, but I come by simple, childlike faith and surrender to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. I’m asking you to make that commitment.

Third, follow Jesus Christ. Follow Him, obey Him and serve Him as best you can. You won’t be perfect. But you will be changed.

You may be a member of a church. You may have been baptized or confirmed. You may be a “good person.” But deep inside, you are not sure how you stand before God. You know that you need Jesus Christ in your heart. You know that you need to change. Make that change now. ©1994 BGEA

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version

The Joy of the Lord

Deep down, you know that pleasure will never satisfy your soul. Come to Jesus and find abundant joy and eternal life! What do you need to do? First, confess your sin and turn away from it. Second, receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, putting your faith in Him alone to save you. You can do that right now. He promises to live in you and transform your life. You can have a new life, a new beginning, if you will surrender to Christ.


You can pray a prayer like this:

“Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. I’m sorry for my sin. I want to turn from my sin. Please forgive me. I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son; I believe He died on the cross for my sin and You raised Him to life. I want Him to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want to trust Jesus as my Savior and follow Him as my Lord from this day forward. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”


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Charlotte, NC 28201-0001 USA

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Photo: Russ Busby/©1996 BGEA

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