The 700 Club with Pat Robertson

James and Betty Robison
Featured Books

(Tyndale House Publishers)

By James:
The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope
(Tyndale House Publishers)


James and Betty Robison: Life Today…and Yesterday

By Julie Blim and Scott Ross
The 700 Club Forty years. That’s longer than many couples make it these days. For James and Betty Robison, it’s also been 40 years of ministry--crusades, television, and worldwide missions work. How have they done it? How have they blown it? You might be surprised, as I was, by their honesty.

SCOTT ROSS: Is it Row-bi-son or Rah-bi-son?

JAMES ROBISON: It’s Robison, like Robinson, but we were too poor to have the middle n, so it’s just Robison. It’s just another way God ensures that we have to walk in humility.

SCOTT: Forty years? Forty years married to one man?

JAMES: In a row, yeah, no down time. She’s given me a one-year extension, no pay, but an extension on her contract.

SCOTT: The husband of your youth. Wow!

BETTY ROBISON: It’s been great. Not to say we haven’t had our ups and downs, as all couples do. We’ve had challenges, but --

JAMES: Mainly me being the challenge!

BETTY: No, I wouldn’t say that. We have both grown up together.

SCOTT: Where did you meet?

BETTY: We met at Vacation Bible School.

SCOTT: Really?

BETTY: We really did.

SCOTT: James, going back to your earlier days of your life as a young man, your beginnings were rather difficult, weren’t they?

JAMES: A product of rape. My mother was a practical nurse and was raped by the alcoholic son of the elderly man she cared for. It was a forced--I don't think we would call it violent--but he forced his affections on her, and at age 40 she conceived me.

SCOTT: What age were you when you found that out?

James and Betty RobisonJAMES: She told me when I was a teenager, but she had also told this to a pastor and his wife who tried to adopt me when I was a baby. They kept me for five years. I thought they were my parents, but I understood that I also had a mother who came to see me occasionally, so it was confusing to a child, but I didn’t need to understand. She took me from them when I was five. The next 10 years I lived in absolute poverty. We really had a rough life, and when I was 15, the alcoholic father came back in our home and nearly killed my mother. In self-defense I nearly killed him, which certainly would have jeopardized my future. But he was arrested. I left that home, went back to the pastor and his wife, met Betty at VBS while I was visiting them. By the way, they led me to Christ. I could have a father who was pleased with me in my commitment to His son Jesus. It was the first time I ever felt like a man was pleased with me, and it was God.

SCOTT: In your book, Free to be Me, that title has obvious significance

BETTY: It made quite an impact in my life.

SCOTT: You couldn’t be you?

BETTY: I was afraid that if people really knew the real me inside, they wouldn’t like me. I thought I was supposed to be somebody better than what I felt like I was.

SCOTT: There has to be, somewhere down the road here, 40 years of life together, but there are bumps in the road.

BETTY: Oh yeah.

SCOTT: The journey has been difficult at times for both of you?

JAMES: Yeah, I think I actually burned out spiritually for speaking an average of seven to eight times a day for nearly 20 years. Six citywide crusades, and they were eight days in duration. But in midst of it, Scott, I was experiencing tremendous defeat. I couldn’t control my actions, attitudes, thoughts. I had incredible anger that would rise up in me. I would be impulsive, impatient, and, quite frankly, began to burn with lust. I realized that barring some kind of a miracle that occurred in my life, I was going to be dominated by those out of control drives that were no longer under the control of the Spirit of God, who had given me this incredible gifting. I still had the gift, but I did not have the walk.

SCOTT: Betty, did you feel like you were competing with ministry for your man?

BETTY: Well, he did get awfully caught up in it. It wasn’t that so much as I felt like maybe he had chosen the wrong mate. In my own mind, I was tormented by these suggestions that I wasn’t gifted, couldn’t play piano, couldn’t sing, couldn’t teach, couldn't get in front and speak, looked pretty plain as far as I was concerned. I thought, 'He’s just got the wrong woman.' He would ask me to stand up, introduce me, and I would be so embarrassed because I thought all these people were thinking, 'That poor guy. Look what he got.'

SCOTT: You mention in passing, James, that you wanted to die. In fact, those thoughts became suicidal, that you almost acted that out?

JAMES: Yeah, it's hard to believe that. It is hard to believe that I actually wanted to die in my sleep, but I tried to find a convenient way to do it. I actually pushed the nose of an airplane down one night

SCOTT: You were flying the plane?

JAMES: Yeah. I’m telling you there are forces of evil that do attack believers. The enemy focuses some of his fiercest, if not his fiercest attacks, against the believer. We need understand that.

SCOTT: Isn't it true of you as well that you had suicidal thoughts?

BETTY: He came in one day, and we got into a discussion, we like to call it. It was actually an argument. We had a disagreement and it got kind of heated, so he left to try to cool off for a while, and I did have thoughts of 'I’ll just end it all because I’m the wrong person for him anyway.' God just stopped me. He came back shortly, and I told him about the thoughts I’d had. He just held me and said, 'No, I love you. You are the one God gave me.'

JAMES: The Lord told me after the brokenness in my life that if I really wanted to be effective in the kingdom, I needed to learn that I was going to be a servant.

BETTY: When I opened that door to Him, He began to show me other areas, the fear in my life, and He began to deal with me in that. It’s been such a new way for me to know that I can have the relationship with God like James does. It has taken a great burden off of him trying to be my joy, my peace, everything that I didn’t feel like I had. And God is all of that now, and we have a better relationship because of it.

SCOTT: I hear you all the time saying you have given time to your ministry, to you wife, to God. What about the parenting side? As a dad, where you there for them?

JAMES: I believe if there was any positive thing in my life that might have contributed to some of the good qualities in our children, it would have been that I really did love the Lord and I really loved them and I knew that when I failed I needed to admit it and I wanted to be teachable. I know Betty did. I think they’d say, as I would, that Betty is the finest person we have ever known.

SCOTT: You’re the mom.

BETTY: I am the mom.

SCOTT: When he was out doing work of the Lord, you were at home raising children.

BETTY: But at the same time, even though he wasn’t there, I knew as parents that we had one heart. Even though our children would try to play one against the other, he always showed respect for me and stood up for me as a parent and never let our kids play that game with us.

SCOTT: Guys like you, preachers, are ministry junkies. Did you have a tough time adjusting to not being with the crowds of people?

JAMES: People who gloried in the apparent success, I don’t miss it. I want to sit by Betty, I want to talk to someone like you, I want to be an encouragement, I want to help a missionary, I want to encourage someone, and I want to show people what the heart of God the Father is like because in the home we’re missing the father. Where’s dad? We’ve lost the real concept of God as Father. That’s why I wrote the book The Absolutes: Freedom’s Only Hope. If we don’t return to the absolute principles upon which all sane societies safely and securely stand, if we don’t turn back to them, we don’t have a future.

SCOTT: Betty, in your book Free to be Me, you talk about some of your suffering: waiting for a second child, your mother with Alzheimer’s. What has suffering taught you?

BETTY: To know Him better and be a better example for Him and to grow. It’s hard to put into words what it does with your relationship with God and let Him show you how much He truly does love us.

SCOTT: The future for you two as you look down the road for the next 40 years, what do you see?

JAMES: Betty would probably say I want to go off and hide! I hope I can grow to love Jesus more. I would like to see Jesus revealed through His body. I believe He will be very clearly as He really is before we see Him as He is.

SCOTT: And your visions, dreams, hopes, mom, wife?

Robison familyBETTY: You got it. The Lord has allowed us through our television program Life Today to really sit there as a couple and show people what it’s like to have communication, showing people that a family can work. It’s not perfect, but with God as the center of it, it can work.

JAMES: Betty and I have been married 40 years -- almost sounds like a miracle today -- and we still like each other. We are not just hanging in there letting the rough end drag; we really like each other! So here I sit as a product of rape, but I had an encounter with God. The principles came into my life, not to make me perfect, but to got me in the pursuit of applying the principles. Look at the offspring: 11 grandchildren, three children, their spouses, and they’re happy. It works! The world needs to see something that works.


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