By Jason Herring
In 1919, William Randolph Hearst was one of the most powerful and influential men in the United States and the world. He owned over 30 newspapers, including numerous magazines, and four film studios. During the Roaring Twenties, one in four Americans read his publications. He was the greatest media mogul in the history of the United States, and he used his clout to get elected twice to the House of Representatives. At the age of 56, there wasn’t much he hadn’t accomplished or attempted, including running for President of the United States. Standing on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean where he had spent his childhood, William Randolph Hearst could have wept that there were no more worlds to conquer. But instead, he dared to dream.
On a hilltop that feels more like a mountain, Hearst decided to build a castle. Situated 1,600 feet over the rugged Pacific Coastline, the Enchanted Hill, as Hearst called it, entertained thousands of celebrities and guests, including Winston Churchill and Calvin Coolidge. Designed by architect Julia Morgan to the wishes and changing whims of Hearst, the castle was completely self-sustaining, with its own water supply, livestock, orchards and gardens. The Neptune Pool surrounded by marble columns and the 22-karat gold tile in the indoor Roman Pool are the very definition of opulence. Guests could hunt, swim, fish, golf, play tennis, go horseback riding, visit the world’s largest private zoo, or enjoy an evening movie at the theater in Casa Grande.
But Hearst Castle was more than just a place to entertain and impress celebrities. It was a museum of ancient art and culture that Hearst intended to leave for future generations to appreciate as a monument to his legacy. Every single thing in and around the castle from the rugs to the furniture to the decorations was a conversation starter regarding some period in history. You really have to see it to understand how unique this place is. On my recent visit, one of the most impressive things to me was the 3,000 years old statues of Sekhmet on the Esplanade outside the castle. And yet towering above the Egyptian goddess of war are two crosses crowning the respective towers of Casa Grande. It struck me that 3,000 years ago Egyptians were bowing down to these very statues in worship, and yet millennia later those civilizations are gone and those “gods” are artifacts. Our God is represented in a symbol of profound suffering and self-sacrifice, and it trumps the old gods as well as the new.
As already stated, Hearst was 56 years old when he began construction of Hearst Castle. The average lifespan of an American male in 1919 was 53. For Hearst, he was not too old nor was it ever too late to start something worthwhile. It took William Randolph Hearst and Julia Morgan 27 years to build Hearst Castle. When the last of the construction was completed, Hearst would live another five years before passing away at the age of 88.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus compares discipleship to building and battling. You don’t go to battle unless you have the tactical advantage to win, and you don’t build a tower unless you have the resources to finish the project (Luke 14:25-33). The point of this passage is not that we need to have sufficient manpower or money or talent in order to be a disciple. The point is that we need to be all in. A general who engages the enemy in a half-hearted effort is destined to lose the battle. If William Randolph Hearst had only possessed the resources to lay the foundation for Hearst Castle, the site would be a forgotten monument to folly rather than an estate that has attracted 88 million visitors from around the world since its opening to the public.
Often, we as Christians mistakenly think that we need more of something in order to amount to something for God, but in reality, we only need more of God. And the more that God has of us, the more that we have of Him. As we love Him with heart, soul, mind and strength, we build a work of gold, silver and precious stones as opposed to wood, hay and stubble. The only thing that can limit God are the limitations that we set on our own heart.
If only I had more time … If only I were young again … If only …
William Randolph Hearst was three years past the average lifespan of the men of his generation, and yet he embarked on a project that took him 27 years to complete. He was undaunted by his age and the challenge that it presented. Moses was 80 years old when he led the children out of Egypt and to the gateway of the Promised Land. David wanted to build the Temple, but God would not allow him – not because of his age but because of the wars he had fought. So David spent the latter years of his life preparing the project for his son Solomon to build. He forged alliances, secured materials, and drafted plans for his son’s success.
What vision has God placed in your heart? It is never too late to serve in ministry or go on a mission. We are His building, the apostles and prophets being the foundation and Christ Himself the Chief Cornerstone (1 Corinthians 3:9-11; Ephesians 2:19-22). The people business is our Father’s business. We are building lives and families and ministries. What lifesaving, life-sustaining, life-enhancing project are you investing in? You don’t have to be the architect or financier or founder of the project. There are thousands of people in California and in the U.S. who can point to Hearst Castle and tell stories of how their grandparents or great-grandparents helped build or maintain the national landmark. The castle is the legacy of all those who were involved in its construction and maintenance just as the church is a legacy to all who serve. William Randolph Hearst built a palace to the glory of man. We build people to the glory of God. It’s never too late to start building or preparing the way for someone else to build.