With the announcement today that Billy Graham departed this life at the age of 99, tributes are coming in from everywhere. I wanted to join those giving honor to this humble man who stood above the crowd. The ravages of Parkinson’s disease had left his body frail and almost lifeless, so it is akin to an act of mercy that God has allowed his soul to slip its mortal coil and be carried by angels off to heaven.
I never met Billy Graham or shook his hand, but I felt like I knew him well. My wife and I attended two crusades, one in Boston and the other in Pittsburgh; we heard him speak to graduates at the seminary I attended, and I listened intently while he addressed a large group of pastors at a conference bearing his name. What a sense of humor he had. It was usually the self-deprecating type.
As a boy, I grew up watching Billy Graham’s now famous mass crusades. They came on our TV at family viewing hours night after night. As an adult I had an appetite to read the official biography by John Pollock, and Billy’s later autobiography “Just As I Am.” In recent years, I found his 2-part video biography on YouTube to be very enriching. I’m not an expert on Dr. Graham’s life, but I am familiar it and continue to find it inspirational.
Now Billy belongs to the ages. His humility and his passion to preach Christ to a lost and dying world formed the perfect combination. He courageously broke down walls of religious and racial bigotry. He submitted himself to a board of trusted advisors and rejected the temptations of wealth. Much criticized and often maligned, he stayed true to his calling and followed his principles. If you want to know what God can do with a surrendered will, Billy is an example. Seemingly never seeking self-glory, he understood and was content in his role as a servant of Jesus Christ. If taking center stage would further the cause of the Gospel, he would seek God’s help and do it with all his might.
I love Billy Graham. I am sad for us who remain. The heaven he preached about and yearned for is now his. Billy is home. His shoes are too big to fill, but if everyone who was touched by his ministry would hold their candle high and re-dedicate the rest of their race to Billy’s savior, then what a bright world it would be. A glory has departed but the light can be made brighter.