I’m sure you’re all aware by now of the passing of Billy Graham this past Wednesday, February 21st. In November he would have turned 100 years old. The bible instructs us to give honor to whom honor is due. This is certainly appropriate when it comes to William Franklin Graham Jr. A biography of his life would require volumes of work. I’m sure that much will be written (and has already been) about this great American icon. I’d just like to add a few thoughts from my perspective.
Billy Graham’s crusades ran on television from 1947 until he retired in 2005. In the early days Christian TV was a rare commodity. With today’s satellite and cable networks we can watch it day and night, but not so back then. I don’t remember watching the crusades, but one incident concerning them stands out. In the summer of 1967 I was working in a dress factory in northeast Pennsylvania. I was wheeling a barrel of scraps through the sewing area when I overheard a conversation between two men. They had viewed a Graham crusade the night before. One man said to the other, “You listen to him and before long you start believing him!” As a true evangelist, Billy had that God-given gift of drawing people to the Light.
If you had ever attended a crusade you would have observed Billy’s gift in operation. He was an anointed speaker, no doubt, but I’m referring to his call to repentance (altar call). He would say something to the effect that it was time to come forward and receive Jesus as Savior. As soon as the words came forth from his lips people would rise to their feet and begin to scramble down the aisles. There was no begging or brow beating. They just came … and came … and kept coming. Who knows how many thousands (millions?) of people came to a saving knowledge of Jesus in the ministry of Billy Graham.
Another marvelous aspect of Billy Graham’s life was his affiliation with American presidents. He was a spiritual advisor for every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. According to Wikipedia, he was particularly close to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson (one of Graham’s closest friends), and Richard Nixon. Like Jesus, Billy didn’t take sides politically. Instead he built bridges of communication to all ideologies. He insisted on racial integration for his revivals and crusades at a time when that was not “popular.” In 1953 Billy invited Martin Luther King Jr. to preach along with him at a revival in New York City. Obviously he was a true ambassador of Christ.
Since his death I heard about an interview with Billy Graham where he was asked about entering heaven someday. He said, “All I want is to hear Jesus say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’” There’s no doubt that’s exactly what Jesus said as He welcomed this faithful witness home.
For those of us who remain, Billy Graham’s life and testimony serve as reminders maintain a living communion with God, and to love people unconditionally. We may not have the opportunity to minister to millions as Billy did. But we can live for God in such a way as to influence the family, friends and associates around us. One of those could be the next Billy Graham!