This Latin phrase, translated as “To God Alone be the Glory” was pretty much the war cry during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. It’s noteworthy this evening because I recently read an article about a dear friend of Dr. Billy Graham who greatly impacted Christian beliefs in this country during the mid 20th century, much like the giants of the Reformation did so many years ago.
Harold John Ockenga led quite a life dedicated to God and in opposition to many of the hyper-liberal positions that were being advocated in the 1940’s and beyond. He was a preacher and the founder of several very conservative organizations that called for spiritual revival in this country. It was during his tenure in Boston that he invited a young preacher, Billy Graham, (who was 31 at the time) to speak. The weekend was a huge success, much more so than other attempts at revival; and this encounter provided the basis for a lifelong friendship between the two men.
In fact, years later, Billy Graham spoke at the funeral of Ockenga in February,1985 and mentioned that outside the Graham family, he relied on his friend’s counsel more than any other person. That’s quite high praise coming from Dr. Graham. And from what I have read, well deserved. Graham also referred to his dear friend as “a giant among giants”.
Throughout his life, Dr. Ockenga valued his salvation, his incredible education, his call to preach and, of course, his family. He made his mark at Fuller Theological Seminary as well as as Gordon-Conwell, among other universities, organizations, movements and seminaries. He had a tremendous number of accomplishments that would make any conservative Christian proud. I imagine that God would be proud of him as well…
What struck me was the fact that as Ockenga was ready to leave this earth and enter heaven, his friends were talking about all his great accomplishments – none of which seemed to give Harold the piece he so desperately sought. Then a close elder friend of his leaned over and suggested that when Ockenga met the Master in heaven, he should merely say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Ockenga’s eyes welled up with tears and the peace that he so desired no longer eluded him.
I have often thought of what I will say to God when I see Him face to face. Sometimes, it’s not something pleasant to think about as I usually find myself talking to God about trying to be worthy of His grace. And let’s face it – we aren’t worthy. Sometimes, I wonder if I will try to speak to the things that I have done to help expose people to the Good News of Jesus. Other times, I think about apologizing for some of the things that I have done. But in the ultimate analysis, I think that elder had wisdom in his suggestion. Asking for God’s mercy is the best solution I have ever heard. I would even go so far as to say that there is a strange peace that I felt when I read the article on Dr. Ockenga. He seemed to be filled with such humility.
Our verse for tonight is from the Psalms. They are the heart of the Bible, the emotional center that contains the hopes, wishes, joys, yearnings and longings of the psalmists. While Romans is certainly the intellectual heart of the Bible, the Psalms contain every emotion known to mankind. In our verse for this evening, the psalmist tells God, in Psalm 4:1, “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.” Isn’t that a great prayer?
Because it’s not about us, it’s about Him. As the title of tonight’s post notes, Soli Deo Gloria – to God alone be the glory! My encouragement this evening is that God loves us and we should do everything we can to glorify Him. My prayer is that each of us will meet the Father and be welcomed into heaven – in accordance with His mercy and grace. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…