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How the Words of a Faithful Preacher Led Billy Graham to Christ

  • Debbie McDaniel Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
How the Words of a Faithful Preacher Led Billy Graham to Christ

No matter where you go in this world, most all of us know of Billy Graham or have at least heard of his powerful life and ministry through the years. But many of us may have never heard the name Mordecai Ham, or Mordecai’s parents, Tobias and Ollie Ham. The stories of their lives are not necessarily so well known, yet they were incredibly instrumental in the exponential journey of millions of people hearing the gospel all around this world.

Here's Mordecai Ham's story, and what we can learn from a life of faithful service to God.

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Who Was Mordecai Ham?

Who Was Mordecai Ham?

Mordecai Ham was a traveling evangelist from Kentucky who was called to ministry at the early age of 9. He was most known by the fact that he led Billy Graham to Christ at age 16 in a revival he preached in North Carolina. Tobias and Ollie Ham were Mordecai's parents who raised him to know and honor the Lord. Mordecai had come from long generations of preachers, but we don't really know or hear many of their names. Yet God knows their names, and the impact of their faithful, faith-filled lives. Their mark was evident through the generations. Look how many have come to know Christ through their determined efforts of raising up children to know Him and answer His call.

Life was hard on a farm way back then. I wonder if his mother Ollie ever thought her days didn't matter. Taking care of kids and constant life demands on a little farm in Kentucky. I wonder if Tobias Ham ever wished he could preach to more people and bigger crowds. Yet they were faithful, in the small things, over a lifetime. They planted more than crops on that farm, they planted God's word into the hearts of their children. And God raised up a warrior child in Mordecai who answered his call. And then God raised up another warrior in the young Billy Graham. And countless more warriors have been raised up since then.

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How God Called Mordecai Ham to Ministry

How God Called Mordecai Ham to Ministry

They were poor, so poor that as Mordecai Ham grew up, he initially determined in his heart that he would not be a preacher. He went into business and to work as a salesman in his early years right out of school. But God used his grandfather’s death to renew the spiritual calling He had placed on Mordecai’s life. He left his job and began to preach. His years were filled with incredible stories of God working powerfully in his own life and in the lives of many who heard God’s truth through his messages. He said a lot of things people didn’t like. He was hated by many. He was not perfect. He was attacked and almost killed many times. But here’s the amazing thing - he didn’t quit. He kept going. He kept speaking. He was not silenced out of fear or defeat. 

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Mordecai Preached, Billy Graham Heard

Mordecai Preached, Billy Graham Heard

One day, he was preaching a revival tent meeting in Charlotte, NC and said these words as he began, "There's a great sinner in this place tonight." The young Billy Graham and his friend Grady Wilson had taken refuge in the church choir so that they didn’t have to sit face to face with Evangelist Ham. Even though they were afraid of his wrath and fiery preaching, they were drawn to the revival where thousands of people were gathering every night. They’d heard stories of lives being changed. As a teen Billy’s life was all about baseball, he was far away from God, and admittedly had no interest in church. But that night, everything changed. God did a powerful work in his heart, and both Billy Graham and his friend Grady were saved.

The rest was history.

As we all know, Billy Graham went on to preach the gospel all around the world and God brought exponential growth through many, many people coming to know Christ. That growth continues even today. Through the recent death of Rev. Graham, many people are still hearing the gospel and believing His truth.

All because one man said yes to the call. And his parents said yes to the call of raising kids to know Christ. And so on, and so on…There is such great power when one person responds to the message of Christ and chooses to obey God’s purpose and calling in life.

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What We Can Learn from Mordecai’s Faithfulness to His Calling

What We Can Learn from Mordecai’s Faithfulness to His Calling

Sometimes we may wonder if what we do matters. Or if we're really being effective in what God has called us to do. Or maybe we doubt the gifts and abilities He's placed in our lives. We look around and wish we could somehow be more like the next one over. Because what they do seems to "matter more."

The more years that pass by, the more I realize one thing. Life is short. Maybe you've discovered that too. And like many of you, I desire nothing else than to make every bit of time count. For God's purposes. It may not always go like I think it should, but God is faithful. And His word says that He will give us favor and blessing to do all that He's asked us to do. We may never see the full fruits in our lifetime. But it doesn't mean it's not making a difference. Because it's His work and He reminds us that our toil is never in vain in the Lord. Not ever.

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When We Answer God’s Call, He Helps Us Bear Fruit

When We Answer God’s Call, He Helps Us Bear Fruit

The truth is, we may never know this side of heaven just how much of an effect our words and life and have meant in the lives of others around us. We only see a small part of the big story here, there’s so much more we may never know. But God is faithful to bring fruit and life when His words go out into a dark world. He promises that His words will never return void, without accomplishing all that they were meant to do.

One thing is true, God is faithful to bring about all that He's called you to do. Keep serving. Stay strong. Remain faithful. Be bold and courageous. Refuse to be silenced out of fear. Choose not to be distracted by all the other things that will pull your heart away from Christ. Don’t worry more about what others think of you, than of what God thinks. He is the One who gives us true purpose in this life and fills us with unique gifts and abilities to be used for His glory. He will open every door before you and close the ones that need to be shut tight. You can trust that His ways are the best and that as you seek to honor and serve Him, He will make a difference in this world through you.

Image Credit: ©BillyGraham.org

15 Verses that Remind Us, God Has Purpose for Our Lives - to Bring Hope and Light into a Dark World:

15 Verses that Remind Us, God Has Purpose for Our Lives - to Bring Hope and Light into a Dark World:

"Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." 1 Thessalonians 5:24

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

"May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us-- yes, establish the work of our hands." Psalm 90:17

"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58

“Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 1:8

 “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:2

"When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say." Luke 12:11-12

"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

“Live a life of love. Love others just as Christ loved us. He gave himself for us—a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2

“As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:20

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Debbie McDaniel is a writer, pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids (and a lot of pets). Join her each morning on Fresh Day Ahead's Facebook page, for daily encouragement in living strong, free, hope-filled lives. Find her also on Twitter and at her blog www.debbiemcdaniel.com

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