Billy Graham passed yesterday at the age of 99. With the support of his beloved wife, Ruth, he ministered as an evangelist to countless thousands all around the world. While he’d be the first to admit he wasn’t perfect, he served God faithfully for more than 60+ years of active preaching that proclaimed the love of Jesus for each and every person.
“Just as I am…” Just as we are, needing God’s transforming love to mend our brokenness.
My Papa & Mama loved Billy Graham. Papa once had the opportunity to meet him through family friends in Va. Beach who were from Billy’s neck of the woods in North Carolina. Papa recounted that encounter many times and always espoused Billy Graham’s leadership, faithfulness and integrity.
What a life for a farm boy from the mountains of North Carolina! Crisscrossing continents with the message of the Cross of Christ, speaking to royalty and ne’er-do-wells from the streets with equal equanimity & esteem. Using (what was then new) media like television to make the love of Christ known to even larger audiences.
Billy Graham also counted among his myriad friends Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the first to bring the Gospel to television in 1940. (Papa was also a Fulton Sheen groupie – we watched his shows often on DVD.) When Archbishop Fulton Sheen died in 1979, Billy Graham was seated with Catholic dignitaries in the very front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral at his funeral mass in New York. (Altho he tried to sneak in the back of the church!)
He also met with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, whereupon the Pope clasped his hand, “we are brothers!” (It’s interesting that they both suffered from Parkinson’s disease in their later years.)
How do you measure a life like Billy Graham’s? From his autobiography, Just As I Am, here’s his take on that in his own words:
“As I look back over the years, I know my deepest feeling is overwhelming gratitude. I cannot take credit for whatever God has chosen to accomplish through us and our ministry; only God deserves the glory, and we can never thank Him enough for the great things He has done.”
As the world mourns the loss of one of the greatest statesmen of Jesus Christ in the 20th Century, may we take to heart the message of Billy Graham’s life:
Jesus loves me – just as I am.
“I don’t know the future, but I know this: the best is yet to be! Heaven awaits us… I know that soon my life will be over. I thank God for it… but I look forward to Heaven. I look forward to reunion with friends and loved ones who have gone before. I look forward to Heaven’s freedom from sorrow and pain. I also look forward to serving God in ways we can’t begin to imagine, for the Bible makes it clear that Heaven is not a place of idleness. And, most of all, I look forward to seeing Christ and bowing before Him in praise and gratitude for all He has done for us, and for using me on this earth by His grace – just as I am.” (Billy Graham, Just As I Am, p. 730)
grace, peace & faithfulness
“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in Thee.” Saint Augustine of Hippo