Billy Graham celebrated his 90th birthday on Friday, November 7th. Over these nine decades he has preached, by some estimates, to over 200 million people. Only God knows how many thousands of people trusted Jesus because of his preaching. Our family did not attend church on any sort of regular basis. But we watched Billy’s “crusades” on our black and white Sylvania television every time he was on. I was influenced by Graham’s passion and by his simple message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe Billy Graham’s messages were planted seeds that God would later harvest in my life.
I still remember the familiar cadence and distinctive accent of Billy Graham as he pleaded with sinners to come forward to the strains of “Just As I Am”.
“I’m going to ask hundreds of you to come forward. If you’re with a group, don’t worry. They’ll wait…”
For some reason I loved that line. I know people personally who became followers of Jesus because of Billy Graham’s ministry. His life is a good example that no matter how much you dedicate your life to Christ there will be those who condemn you. Type in Mr.Graham’s name and heresy and you will get over 100,000 responses. You will find men and women who have had little or no impact for Christ condemning Mr.Graham for statements he has made or positions he has supported. Even if a concerned brother or sister disagrees with Billy Graham’s theology can we discount what Paul said to similar critics in his day?
It's true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they'll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I'm out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them. So how am I to respond? I've decided that I really don't care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on! (Philippians 1, The Message)
God has used Billy Graham in amazing ways and I celebrate his birthday. I also was touched by his comments as he looks toward heaven.
“I've discovered that just because we'll inevitably grow weaker physically as we get older, it doesn't mean we must grow weaker spiritually,” Graham, still the evangelist, said in response to questions e-mailed by the Charlotte Observer. “Our eyes ought to be on eternity and heaven – on the things that really matter.”
The Charlotte Observer story continued.
The author of many books, Graham is working – though slowly – on a final one, about aging. It's a subject that has become real to him and one he'd like to see churches better prepare their members for. As a Christian, I know how to die, Graham has told family and friends, but nobody ever taught me how to grow old. The tentative title of his last book: “Nearing Home.”
Brother-in-law and evangelist Leighton Ford of Charlotte brought by Dennis Hollinger, president of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, co-founded by Graham.What would you like the teachers and students at the school to emphasize? Hollinger asked. Graham shot back without his normal hesitation: “Christ and the Gospel.”
Graham took it hard when wife Ruth died at 87 in June 2007. He doesn't travel much anymore, but when he does, it's usually to Charlotte to attend board meetings of the association that bears his name. On a visit in April, Graham asked to be driven to the adjacent Billy Graham Library grounds.
It was still daylight when he climbed out of the car and lowered himself into a wheelchair. At the end of a cross-shaped walkway, he gazed on Ruth's gravesite for the first time since her burial.
Three times, he asked his staffers to read the message she chose for her headstone: “End of Construction – Thank you for your patience.”
I love that. The sanctification process was a life long construction project for Ruth Graham. And what a humble final epithet for a woman of fame and influence. It goes back to an observation I have made over and over. Maturity in Christ always results in humility. All of us should pray for grace as we undergo our own maturing process and especially as we watch others under construction. My friends at TrueFaced call the process maturing into what is already true about me. I am righteous. That became my status when I put my faith and trust in Christ. My construction process is trusting that truth and building my life around that truth.
As Billy Graham celebrates becoming a nonagenarian I would like to thank him for his heart for the gospel. I remember Ruth Graham for her humility and faithful journey.
My own construction project has been erratic. It feels like I have spent a lot time leaning on my shovel and not making much progress. But then I look back and see a lot of work has been done over the years. Someday soon the construction project will, praise God, be finished. Thank you, my dear tens of readers, for your patience.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.