On Wednesday, February 21, 2018, Billy Graham stepped from time into eternity. His body will be buried beside that of his beloved wife, Ruth, to await the resurrection from the dead which Jesus has promised to all who believe in Him. But Billy’s soul went to heaven to be with the Lord that saved him from his sins, and whom he loved, and served all the days of his life. By any measure of an individual, Billy Graham was a great man.
Billy was great in faith. Billy was converted to Christ during a revival service conducted by Evangelist Mordecai Ham in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1934. Billy was attending the services with his boyhood friend, Grady Wilson. Dr. Ham provides some interesting details.
Dr. Ham relates: “Two young high school boys attended our meeting. They thought that everything I said was directed their way; so they decided to take seats in the choir, where I couldn’t point my finger at them. They didn’t pretend to be singers, but they wanted to be behind me.”
Grady Wilson agreed, “Neither of us could sing.”
Dr. Ham continues, “One night a man spoke to them during the invitation and said, ‘Come on; let’s go up front.’ Billy and Grady both went to the altar. Billy was saved, and Grady dedicated his life to Christian service.” Little did these young men know how God would use them in the years to come.
Billy was great in his faithfulness. God called Billy Graham to be a minister of the gospel, and he never wavered from that commitment. Even after fame and fortune came his way, Billy Graham never waved from his commitment to preach Christ. He was encouraged to become an actor. With his handsome features and stage presence, he was a natural. He was enticed to go into politics. His magnetic personality attracted people of all political persuasions. He was encouraged to become a social activist like Martin Luther King, Jr. While sensitive to social issues, Billy Graham was not distracted.
Billy understood that if you want to change society, if you want to bring lasting peace to the world, if you want to break down all racial barriers, you must change hearts. Only Christ can change a heart. Only Christ can make a person new. Only in Christ can a person be born again so that all things become new. Mr. Graham was not insensitive to social injustices.
In 1952 he told a Mississippi audience that “there was no room for segregation at the foot of the Cross.” In 1953 he personally removed the segregating ropes at a Chattanooga Crusade. People would bring bags of food to the Crusade meetings which would later be distributed locally to help the hungry. Through a variety of auxiliary ministries such as Samaritan’s Purse, Billy Graham ministered to the weak and needy of society. But he was always faithful to preach Christ. Billy preached Christ personally to more than 218 million people face to face in 185 countries.
In 1945, at age 26, he addressed 65,000 in Chicago’s Soldier Field. The 1949 crusade in Los Angeles had a cumulative attendance of 350,000. In 1957, a May-to-September rally in New York had attendance of 2.4 million, including 100,000 on one night at Yankee Stadium. A five-day meeting in Seoul, South Korea, in 1973 drew 3 million. As impressive as these meetings where, there were larger gatherings yet as Billy preached Christ.
Billy preached Christ over the television. His Crusades were telecast all over the world. He preached Christ through the newspaper. His column, “My Answer”, began in 1953.
Billy preached Christ through films through World Wide Pictures. The first feature film was Mr. Texas, produced during Billy’s 1951 Fort Worth, Texas Crusade. Perhaps WWP’s best known production was the 1965 film, The Restless Ones, featuring Kim Darby. Within a year, by 1966, more than 120,000 professions of faith were recorded after more than two million people viewed the film. Other major feature films included Two a Penny (1965), which starred Cliff Richard. Both The Hiding Place (1975) (with Julie Harris) and Time to Run (1973) received Golden Globe nominations.
Billy preached Christ on the radio. He preached Christ on the internet. He preached Christ through books and his Decision magazine. He was faithful to the end to proclaim that men are sinners and Christ is the Saviour of the world. Only in Christ can sins be forgiven.
Billy was great in humility. Despite incredible criticism, hatred, and hostility, Billy humbly absorbed it all. He was committed to doing God’s work the way he understood the Lord would have him to do it. One of his biographies wrote that Billy Graham could out forgive, and out love, anyone he ever knew. Billy would tell stories that were not always flattering to himself. He tells of holding a meeting in the early days of his ministry in a small town. He needed to mail a letter. He stopped a boy on the street and asked him the way to the Post Office. Then, Billy said, he asked the boy if he would like to come and hear him preach that night. He would show him the way to heaven. The little boy said, “No mister. I don’t think I will come and hear you preach. You can’t even find your way to the Post Office.”
Billy Graham was great in personal integrity. When asked in the sunset years of his ministry what he would like to be remembered for, he would often say, “Integrity. I want to be remembered for having integrity.” One of the crowning achievements of his ministry has been his scandal free ministerial career both morally, and financially.
It is only proper that his body will lie in honor in Washington, D. C.’s capitol rotunda. This rare privilege has been granted to only 33 individuals, 11 of whom have been presidents. No doubt, thousands of people will pass by his coffin to reflect and remember this remarkable man. Countless souls will have personal memories of how Billy Graham touched their lives personally and directly. I have spoken to many people over the years about Billy Graham. I have become amazed at how many personal encounters individuals have had with him. The stories are endless.
The world is a little better place because God gave us Billy Graham. Billy was asked once where heaven is. He replied, “Heaven is wherever Jesus is.” Billy Graham is in heaven now. He is with Jesus, face to face. He is also reunited with so many loved ones, to include his wife Ruth, Cliff Barrows, and George Beverly Shea. The world will probably not see his equal again for a long time. It is good that his legacy lives on.