Being Bold for Christ
A businessman gains new resolve to be a witness
July 1, 2004
by Mel Graham
I was jolted awake by a police officer shining a light in my face through the window of my car. As I squinted and tried to shake the cobwebs from my mind, I instantly realized two things: One, I had fallen asleep at a stoplight on my way home from a party. Two, my life was going absolutely nowhere.
I was in my 20s, and I had been a Christian since I was in the fourth grade. But I had fallen back into the world, partying and spending time with the wrong crowd. Fortunately, the police officer was merciful; he took me home instead of arresting me.
The next morning my daddy greeted me with a look of great disappointment. That look said more than any words could about the way I had been living. That day I fell on my knees and asked God to forgive me of my sins. I said, "Lord, I have messed up. I don't deserve anything but hell. I know I'm nothing but a worthless sinner, and I can't do it on my own. I've tried living my way, and I've messed up. I'm going to live Your way."
After that, my life took off in a whole new direction. I began to grow spiritually. I found out that the Lord had better things in store for me if I would just pay attention to His Word and follow His leading, will and direction for my life.
I got serious about life. I asked my girlfriend, Terri, to be my wife, and we married about a year later. I also started taking my business more seriously, and things really took off. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong work ethic, and I had been working since age 15, first doing lawn work and handyman jobs, and later building decks, porches, additions, and finally houses. I loved hard work, and I still do.
As I began to mature in Christ, the Lord taught me about patience, learning from my mistakes and trusting in His leading and His timing. He has opened up some wonderful opportunities for which I give Him all the honor, glory and credit. I've designed several golf courses and housing developments; currently we are developing Longview, a community near Charlotte, N.C., that includes a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course.
This development is a commitment to excellence, which I stress with all my employees. As Christians, we ought to do everything with vigor, dedication, commitment, and excellence. We ought to do it as unto the Lord. When we demonstrate excellence, people will notice, and we will gain a platform for telling them about Jesus. Although I've never been shy, recent events have helped me to become bolder in my Christian witness.
My daddy's death last August was a life-changing experience for me. I saw how short our time is to influence people for Christ. Another thing that made a big impact on me was the film "The Passion of the Christ," which shows so powerfully what Christ did for us on the cross. Shame on me—shame on all of us—for all the opportunities we've had to be a good witness and to share Christ, and we didn't do it. It wasn't convenient, or we were a little embarrassed. Well, I'm not going to be that way anymore. I don't care if it's not politically correct. I don't care if people are offended. The Gospel is offensive—but it is also the power of God for salvation.
Recently our World Tour Course, in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was named 2004 National Golf Course of the Year—out of 6,500 golf public courses. I was invited to go to Tampa, Fla., for the awards ceremony. Before my acceptance speech I prayed, "Lord, I want to honor You in everything. Give me the right words to say to these people."
When my time came, I thanked my team and cracked a couple of jokes that golf course people could relate to. Then I said, "You know, I really want to thank my Boss—the Lord Jesus Christ. I give God all the honor, glory and credit. I'm just a dumb old sinner; I don't deserve any of this. He's my Boss. He owns it all. I give Christ all the honor and glory."
People came up later and said, "Thank you for that testimony. We never heard anybody do that before."
Recently a golf magazine interviewed me for an article, and the reporter said, "I guess being related to Billy Graham makes you a Christian and gives you integrity."
"No," I said. "Being related to someone doesn't make you a Christian. And you have to earn integrity—that's not something you can inherit."
I told him about my faith, and I challenged him to include that in the article. He did, and God used it to reach people who probably are not exposed to the Gospel.
I'm also trying to be a witness at our Longview development. I've been able to meet several families as they have moved in, and I am praying with as many of them as I can. I simply pray, "Lord, bless this family. Put a hedge of protection around this home and use it for Your honor and glory, that Your name would be lifted up."
I open all my business meetings with a prayer for God's guidance, and I have made it a point to challenge other businesspeople to run their businesses in a way that honors Christ.
I don't want to miss any opportunity that God gives me to be a witness for Him. Any abilities we have, any success that we have, comes from God's hand. I'm not Billy Graham, but I can reach people in the business world. If we're willing and faithful, God will use any of us. He has given us everything we have—including eternal life through His Son. Whatever role He puts us in, let's be bold for Him.