“He’s ALIVE. I’ve given my life, not to a dead Christ, but to a LIVING CHRIST. And He’s given me a song to sing. He’s given me a flag to follow. I have reason for existence. I know where I’ve come from. I know why I’m here. I know where I’m going. DO YOU?” ~ Billy Graham
I’ve been deeply saddened today by the passing of the “Preacher of the Century”, Billy Graham. He would have turned 100 years old this November. There are very few human beings who live an entire century, and most of us are blessed if we live to see the age of 70, but Billy’s long life is a testament to his close relationship with God. Graham devoted over 70 of his 99 years to preaching the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I don’t believe that there has ever been anyone who did it any better.
When I began my walk with the Lord 12 years ago, Billy Graham’s timeless sermons gave me hope, strengthened my faith, and filled me with an uncompromising boldness to preach God’s Word to everyone I meet. Next to Jack Van Impe, Graham is at the top of the list of my all-time favorite teachers. I was immediately drawn to his firebrand style of preaching as a young man, and that was the type of man of God that I aspired to be.
Billy Graham was a legend in Christianity, and sadly this generation may never see another like him. It is impossible to honor him, or sum up his amazing and accomplished life, in just one article. Still, I could not let this day close without doing my part in paying tribute to, memorializing, and celebrating this champion of our Faith.
William Franklin Graham Jr. was born on November 7th, 1918, in Charlotte, North Carolina. He went home to be with our Lord on this morning of February 21st, 2018. Graham began to feel a calling toward Christian ministry at the age of 16, and by 1939 he was ordained in a Florida Baptist Church.
He graduated from the Florida Bible Institute with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology, and then enrolled at Wheaton College in Illinois for further Biblical training. It was at Wheaton where Billy would meet his future wife, Ruth McCue Bell. Graham and Bell were married in the Summer of 1943, and would go on to raise 5 children together.
Heading into the 1950s, Americans with a hunger for God were immediately drawn to Billy Graham’s charismatic style and his firebrand sermons. In 1949, a group called “Christ for Greater Los Angeles” invited Graham to preach at their L.A. revival. The rest is history, as Billy’s revivals and crusades grew in number and crowd size over the course of the next 5 decades. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) was formed during the advent of Graham’s American revival of the 1950’s.
Billy began broadcasting his sermons over the radio during a Christian show called “Songs in the Night”. He also hosted “The Hour of Decision”, a weekly program ABC transmitted to about 1,200 stations across America. The show was later converted into a television program, which ran for 3 years. Graham utilized the media as a means for spreading the Word of God to millions of hungry souls around the globe.
Billy would eventually preach the Gospel to at least 215 million people in live audiences, and that is not counting the hundreds of millions that he has reached through radio, television, and the many books which he authored. He has preached in over 185 countries, and has been credited with preaching to more human beings than anyone else in history. Hundreds of millions of souls have come to Christ because of Billy Graham.
At the end of every event which he held, he would give invitations to the audience members to publicly commit their lives to Christ, and then be counseled on how to start their life anew with Jesus. His spiritual guidance has been sought by countless well known figures, from United States Presidents to Martin Luther King Jr.. He has been rated as one of Gallup’s “Ten Most Admired Men in the World” over 60 times.
In 1992, Graham announced that he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, which is a disease similar to Parkinson’s Disease. He chose his son (William) Franklin Graham III to take over BGEA upon his retirement. Billy retired, with his wife Ruth, in 2005. Ruth Graham passed away two years later, in 2007, from pneumonia and degenerative osteoarthritis. With Billy, she produced 5 children and 19 grandchildren.
On his 95th Birthday, in 2013, Billy released his “final message to America”, in a video series entitled “My Hope America”. He recalled many memories, and announced that the message which he had boldly preached for 70+ years had not changed. He reiterated that we all must come to the Cross of Christ to be be washed of our sins, to be reconciled to God, and to enter Heaven someday.
Along with preaching the necessity of knowing Christ Jesus, Graham also expressed concern over the backslidden state of America today – “Our country is in great need of a spiritual awakening. There have been times that I’ve wept as I’ve gone from city to city and I’ve seen how far people have wandered from God.”
It is extremely sad that we lost Billy today, because his convicting firebrand voice of old would bring the spiritual awakening which this nation has desperately needed for so long. He was, is, and will always be an inspiration and role model to me. There has not been another like him in the past century. He was truly one of a kind. Billy preached God’s Truth, even when it was politically incorrect.
He was not afraid to call sin SIN, was not shy in shouting that JESUS CHRIST is the only way to Heaven, and he constantly reminded everyone that our Lord is returning SOON, and that we must be prepared. Sadly, a majority of this current generation has never heard a sermon by Billy Graham, meanwhile it is THIS society which needs his voice more than ever.
May those of us who know the Lord like Billy did, reignite the fires of revival that he once had burning across the USA and the world. In his memory, may we all hold our Holy Bibles high as we preach the Gospel to every creature, boldly proclaiming that we are all sinners in need of the Saviour. Here are just a few of the countless life-changing sermons which Billy preached over the years –
There have been millions of pastors, priests, and preachers in this world, but there has only been ONE Billy Graham. Imagine if us believers today lived just ONE DAY of our lives being as bold, uncompromising, and convicted as Billy? We wouldn’t need to pray for revival. WE’D BE THE REVIVAL. If Graham could single-handedly transform entire generations, turning them back to God, then imagine what a generation of believers living LIKE Billy Graham could do today.
Billy once said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” He was certainly a “brave man” whose courageous lifelong stand for Christ has stiffened my spine, and undoubtedly the spines of so many others. I know that I’m speaking for many believers tonight when I say… THANK YOU BILLY.
“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” ~ Billy Graham
“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be ABSENT from the body, and to be PRESENT with the Lord.” ~ 2nd Corinthians 5:8
“JESUS said, Go you into all the world, and PREACH THE GOSPEL to every creature.” ~ Mark 16:15
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” ~ 2nd Timothy 4:7-8
“His master said unto him, ‘WELL DONE, good and faithful servant.” ~ Matthew 25:21
“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have EVERLASTING LIFE.” ~ John 3:16