He almost made it!
Only nine months short was he of that magic number 100. Amazing, beyond amazing in this day and age. Equally amazing that he lived all of those 99 years with the last years dominated by health problems, including the ravages of Parkinson’s Disease and cancer.
But this man, founder of DECISION magazine, the man who called people to repentance on radio’s HOUR OF DECISION, this man who preached to millions upon millions, this man who prayed for and counseled Presidents of the United States from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama, and both Presidents Bush, and Clinton, and Reagan, and Carter, and Ford, and Nixon was called by his Lord for the last time to:
I can only imagine the divine celebration when the soul of this man of God received the angelic accolade:
WELL DONE THOU GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT
VERY WELL DONE
William Franklin Graham preached to tens of millions of people but for him, as he said:
“This is not mass evangelism, but personal evangelism on a mass scale.”
Billy Graham recognized the hunger for the simple, clear message of the Gospel the world over and gave it to them, one by one. They congregated by the tens of thousands to hear him, but they came to the Christ he loved and served individually, one-by-one.
It is most interesting how Billy Graham met his Lord in the fall of 1934 at the revival in Kentucky conducted by the Reverend Mordecai Ham. At one such evangelical rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, Billy Graham walked up to Reverend Ham and stated that he wanted to make a decision for Christ. Graham said of that decision and encounter:
“I can’t say that I felt anything spectacular. I felt very little emotion. I shed no tears. In fact when I saw others had tears in their eyes, I felt like a hypocrite, and this disturbed me. I am sure I had a tremendous sense of conviction. The Lord did speak to me about certain things in my life. I am certain of that.”
But a life changed that day began a changed life which in the course of the next 60 years would change the lives of millions.
Billy Graham pursued a Christian education at FLORIDA BIBLE INSTITUTE, now Trinity College near Tampa, Florida. There, he emphatically stated, God called him to the ministry, an event which occurred in his life late one night while walking on a golf course. Graham said of that godly encounter:
“I got down on my knees at the edge of one of the greens and there, I prostrated myself on the dewy turf and said, ‘Oh God, if you want me to serve you, I will.”
He went onto say:
“All the surroundings stayed the same. No sign in the heavens. No voice from above. But in my spirit, I knew I had been called to the ministry, and I knew my answer was YES.”
From hundreds in churches to millions at rallies, the salvation message of Jesus Christ, Graham’s passion was preached the world over. In 1957, Billy Graham drew more than 2 million people to a series of rallies which extended 16 weeks at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Thousands upon thousands accepted the loving Gospel message presented by Billy Graham. The success of his ministry was simple. He simply presented the simple, plain, clear, powerful Gospel of salvation in Scripture. Little more, nothing less. In fact, his critics, those who postured a more complex and intellectual Christianity ridiculed and even dismissed his simplistic interpretation of Scripture. They claimed the Gospel William Franklin Graham presented was overly literal even though everything he preached was scriptural. His was the message of the Gospel, mere Christianity and tens of millions of people, hungry for the truth and able to recognize it when they heard it the world over, agreed and accepted.
This servant of the living Lord conducted 400 crusades in 185 countries the world over. And everywhere the message was the same:
IS YOUR HEART RIGHT WITH GOD?
The Christian challenge for him was simple. Said Graham:
“What is the condition of your heart? If you will turn away from your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, God promises to put a new heart within you. Do it right now! You can have abundant and eternal life if you will surrender to Christ.”
Simple, but it became more unpopular as the years went on, especially the emphasis upon sin and turning. And in an ever-growing pluralistic world, Jesus Christ, the only Lord and Savior, the only way, the only truth and the only life was not only ridiculed but today, many consider as HATE SPEECH. Undeterred, HIS message of the Gospel stayed simple, clear, unchanging.
In February, 2018, the monthly addition of the excellent magazine DECISION published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which I would urge you to read each month, reprinted a sermon by Billy Graham entitled:
SPIRITUAL HEART DISEASE
The article was a sermon preached by Billy Graham at the historic New York Crusade on May 23, 1957. Graham said to those New York thousands:
“Is your heart right with God? And if it’s not right, before you leave here tonight, I hope you’ll allow God to make it right.”
Night after night, for 16 weeks in the heart of New York City, that message reverberated all over Manhattan, and the world over.
Then came a challenge which many would find unpopular in wealthy, cultured, secular New York:
“There are many of you here tonight who go to church. You sing on Sunday morning. You go through the ritual of the liturgy of your church. With your mouth you honor God, but your heart is far from him. Your heart, your real self, is taken up with the things of this world.”
True it was, but popular it was not.
Then came powerful preaching on the major stumbling block. Graham said:
“And do you know the greatest stumbling block to the Kingdom of God? Murder? No. Drunkenness? No. Adultery? No. Pride. More people stay out of the Kingdom of God because their proud more than any other reason. We don’t like to humble ourselves and come to the Cross of Christ and say, “Oh God, I’m a sinner!”
Very unpopular, don’t you think, no matter how true. It is indeed pride, ego, self-reliance, an inability for so many of us to humble ourselves, the very essence of the message of the Gospel and in fact the message of old in 2 Chronicles where the same admonition to turn, pray, seek and HUMBLE one’s self was the path to salvation.
Then Billy Graham went on to say, again in simple and clear terms the following:
“The Bible says that three things are necessary (for regeneration-salvation). First, you must be willing to turn from your sins. You must be willing to renounce sin. Second, you must commit and surrender your life to Christ. By that I (Graham) mean you give into Christ as your only Savior. You are not saved by joining a church, you are not saved by living a good moral life. You are saved only because of the grace of God in Christ. And you must commit to Christ as your only Savior. Are you willing to do that?”
Could not be more simple, plain, straight and understandable, don’t you think? The ultimate truth for Billy Graham from Scripture to all of those with spiritual ears to hear.
And then the third thing:
“You must be willing to follow him, serve him, confess him and acknowledge him. You must be willing to go back to the factory and the home and stand up for Christ.”
That challenge ARE YOU WILLING TO DO THAT was the culmination of his message the world over and the beginning of his call to action, his so-called altar call and millions found their way to that altar and accepted the Christ of the Gospel he presented.
I can hear the verses of Scripture in which he preached and believed:
FOR WHOSOEVER SHALL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.
FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NEVER PERISH, BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE.
BUT AS MANY AS RECEIVED HIM, TO THEM GAVE HE THE POWER TO BECOME SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF GOD: EVEN TO THEM WHO BELIEVE ON HIS NAME.
FOR BY GRACE ARE YOU SAVED THROUGH FAITH, THAT NOT OF YOURSELVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD (IN JESUS CHRIST), NOT OF WORKS LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST.
Salvation through faith in Christ, no other way, and never of works.
Night after night, never varying, never compromising, lovingly preaching this life-changing message. Well done, thou good and faithful servant, well done.
This life-transforming message goes on. God continues to mightily use son like father.
My father Percy B. Crawford, evangelist himself, and friend and mentor of Billy Graham died in October 1960. Our family with temerity asked if Billy Graham would deliver the eulogy at my father’s funeral service. This great man, busy in the Lord’s work of his own with rallies, gave up that night to come to Town Hall in Philadelphia to deliver that eulogy. There were some 7,000 people in attendance and perhaps 3,000 more standing outside listening to the ceremonies. It was my task, at all of 22 years of age, to deliver our family eulogy in behalf of my brothers, sister and mother. Sitting right behind me, RIGHT BEHIND ME was none other than Billy Graham himself. Just the thought of it today makes me nervous. But then, a calm came, a spiritual calm and I spoke with this great man listening. In the course of those remarks, I mentioned how difficult it was for children of a famous father to carry on, especially those who may be responsible in some way for evangelistic works. I wondered how any son of Billy Graham could ever replace a father like that. I knew the replacement of my father would be, at least for us, just as difficult. When he spoke, Billy Graham departed from script, commented on me and my remarks, prayed for our family, understood our dilemmas and indicated his full support. It was a touching moment I will never forget.
And then came Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham. How wrong I was to think that it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to carry on. Billy Graham, now looking down, can revel in the fact that the power of God and Jesus Christ lives on mightily in the life and message of his son named after him.
The rallies continue. The hour of decision proclaims. DECISION Magazine proudly presents the Gospel the world over. Franklin Graham, son of Billy is cut from the same cloth. God continues to mightily use son like father.
Many in our Crawford Broadcasting Company have spiritual debt to Billy Graham. Virtually all have been influenced by his life and his message. One General Manager of ours was “brought to the Lord” through his message. Another is close friend with the sons of Franklin Graham. When the severe complications and challenges of life occur, I continue to be blessed by the sermons and the books published by Dr. William Franklin Graham. There were 30 of them, each one a spiritual treasure.
On Wednesday, February 21, Billy Graham went to be with the Lord he loved and served. I can only imagine the righteous reception, and especially for him as, in his words, he was then reunited with his loving wife Ruth. But there was something to him vitally important. In his autobiography, Billy Graham wrote:
“I have often said that the first thing I am going to do when I get to heaven is ask:
WHY ME, LORD?
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE A FARM BOY FROM NORTH CAROLINA TO PREACH TO SO MANY PEOPLE, TO HAVE SUCH A WONDERFUL TEAM OF ASSOCIATES, AND TO HAVE A PART IN WHAT YOU WERE DOING IN THE LATTER HALF OF THE 20TH CENTURY?
WHY ME LORD?”
That February Wednesday, Billy Graham got his answer. Before, he said “that only God knows the answer.” But now he does.
Well done thou good and faithful servant, well done.
Now enter eternally and forevermore into the joys of your Lord. We who have been touched by your life and ministry will always remember and we will be grateful. Thank you.
But, he being dead yet speaketh. His messages will live on for all time. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is as vital and viable worldwide as ever. We who remain know that one day we will see you again.