Billy Graham passed on to be with the LORD on February 21, 2018. He was 99 years old. He preached the gospel to over 200 million people in over 180 countries around the world.
He was best known for his large evangelistic “crusades” for Christ in which he preached the simple message that “God loves you so much He gave His Son Jesus to save you from sin. He will forgive you of sin if you come to Him just as you are.” The hymn “Just As I Am,” was used to conclude each message with an invitation to come to Christ.
He embraced the technology of television and millions more watched his crusades from afar. He was also well known as a confidant and adviser to every President from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, as well as leaders across the globe.
His organization, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, is the largest such organization in the world. It is now in the hands of his son, Franklin, who has run the BGEA since 2000. His wife Ruth had passed in 2007. Their union gave the world 5 children, 3 daughters, and 2 sons, and all have been involved in Christian ministries both with BGEA and in organizations of their own.
Those are the basic facts of his life on earth that anyone will find in virtually every news outlet of any kind anywhere in the world. However, no set of facts can really capture the life of this man, nor measure the impact of his faithful service to Christ.
A Humble Life for Jesus
The consistent testimony of everyone who knew Billy Graham was that they were deeply impressed by his humility. It was not a humility of words, though Graham was invariably gracious to everyone he spoke with.
Rather it was humility demonstrated by his life rather than words. Humility which caused him to resist establishing a large “mega-church” when he could have easily done so. He knew his God-given purpose was preaching the gospel anywhere the LORD called him to bring the lost to Jesus.
I have been very blessed by the LORD to participate is a few Billy Graham crusades and attend the Billy Graham School of Evangelism along with my wife many years ago. They were at the top of the list in the quality and excellence in every aspect of the crusade preparation and presentation. The humility of Graham himself was reflected in those who regularly worked and guided these events.
Humility led him to refuse to even consider running for political office when on many occasions he was urged to do so. Franklin stated that his father refused for two important reasons. One, it was simply not the calling God had placed upon him. Two, he felt political life would take him a step back from directly serving the LORD of the universe by hindering his preaching of the gospel.
His humility is shown along with his dedication to his calling with his last earthly title:
Throughout his life, Graham was faithful to his calling, which will be captured in the inscription to be placed on his grave marker: Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
To Billy Graham, that was the highest title he could aspire to on this earthly plane. He stayed humble before God and he reached his aspiration, worthy of such an epitaph.
A Courageous Life in Jesus
Graham began his first official “crusade” in Los Angeles in 1949 at a tent meeting. It was originally scheduled for three weeks. Here the explosion of the Holy Spirit took over and it lasted for eight weeks with thousands of people coming to Christ. This was the breakout event of Graham’s career.
Yet his greatest challenge from the opposition came a few short years later. Early in his career of crusades, Graham faced off against racist segregation in the south.
In the early 1950s, Mr. Graham made history by demanding to take down the ropes separating blacks and whites at one of his Crusades in the South. When the usher refused to do it, Mr. Graham took the ropes down himself.
Graham was a strong supporter of the Civil Rights movement alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They stood together against segregation at a three-month-long crusade at Madison Square Garden in the summer of 1957.
His association with King would grow as would his support for the Civil Rights movement. Graham even contributed money to secure King’s bail from jail in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.
The next year Graham came to Birmingham for the United Evangelistic Rally held at Legion Field during the Easter holiday. Once again, Graham insisted that the venue be open equally to blacks and whites. He was threatened and many of the crusade posters were vandalized by the KKK. Yet the crusade went on.
The crowd of 35,000 was about evenly split between whites and blacks. It was reported to be the “largest integrated audience in the state’s history.”
He was fearless as well when it came to where the LORD called him to preach. In God’s grace, he preached the good news on multiple occasions in nations as closed and hostile as North Korea, China, and the old U.S.S.R.
A Glorious Life with Jesus
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2Timothy 4:7-8 [ESV]
Billy Graham lived his life for the purpose of bringing glory to God through preaching Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now he is living a glorious eternal life with the Christ he loved so much, and he is free from all the physical and spiritual burdens of the flesh. He looked forward to this eagerly and like Paul writing in the passage above, Billy Graham indeed has ‘finished the race,’ and ‘kept the faith.’ He will receive his own ‘crown of righteousness’ from the LORD.
I am convinced that if somehow through a miracle Graham was allowed to come back one time to speak to us, he would have one message to give. He would once again give the message that God loves us and sent Jesus for us. That love led Jesus’ give His life on the cross bore the burden and cost of all our sin. That three days later Jesus rose from the dead to proclaim the victory over sin, hell and the grave. And that by repenting and accepting Jesus as your personal LORD and Savior, you can have forgiveness and freedom and live with Him forevermore.
Dear reader, if you have never taken this message to your own heart and trusted in the LORD Jesus as your Savior, I ask that you come to Him with all your sin and sorrow. Lay all at His feet and put your life in His hands. And come to Jesus as the hymn says, “Just as I am.”
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001
Biographical Information – http://www.billygraham.org
Featured and Top Image by Hans Lachmann Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 1 Courtesy of Richard Bromley’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 2 Courtesy of jennybento’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 3 Courtesy of Ninian Reid’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License