I am going to miss Rev. Billy Graham. I am told that in the early years he had a reputation for being a hell-fire and damnation preacher. I don’t know. That was before my time. What I do know is that in my lifetime he grew into a giant of a man.
As a pastor, I have known many people who came to faith through his ministry. Right now, I think of Harold and Mary. Mary and Harold’s marriage was coming apart at the seams. They had forgotten the love that had brought them together. Their priorities in life had become confused. They were constantly arguing. It was not a pretty picture.
When Billy Graham held his crusade in Atlanta many years ago, they accepted the invitation at the end of the service, walked to the front, and gave their lives to Christ. Their lives turned around. It took some time, but eventually their marriage became “a haven of blessing and a place of peace.” We will never know what might have happened had it not been for the ministry of Rev. Graham, but we do know that God used him that night to reach a couple in crisis.
I remember coming home from a meeting at the Church one night. At the time, we lived in Young Harris, and our daughter Kathryn was about 3-4 years old. While I was at the meeting, Carol and Kathryn had been watching the Billy Graham Crusade on television. As I walked through the door, Carol looked up at me and said, “Your daughter has a question for you.” I asked, “What is it?” In her 3-4 year old language, Kathryn asked me what it meant to be “saved.” It turns out she had asked Carol the same question, and Carol said, “Let’s wait and ask your dad when he gets home.
As best I knew how, I tried to explain to Kathryn what it meant to give your heart to Jesus and follow him; that Jesus offered us the promise of abundant and eternal life. When I finished Kathryn indicated she wanted to give her heart to Jesus. So, right then and there, we made an altar of the loveseat in our den, knelt down and I walked her through a prayer in which she gave as much of her life to Christ as she knew how to give at that moment. Kathryn probably doesn’t actually remember that moment, but she has heard the story enough to where if you were to ask her when she became a Christian, she will tell you it was that night.
I remember watching Katie Couric once interview Rev. Billy Graham on the Today Show. This, was many years ago. It was right in the middle of the Monica Lewinski and Bill Clinton scandal. At this point, nothing had been proven, and there were a lot of questions and a lot of denials. At one point in the interview, Katie Couric asked a question that went something like this: “Rev. Graham, you have been a pastor to many Presidents. You have been a pastor to President Clinton. What if all the allegations are true? How would you respond?”
I will never forget Rev. Graham’s response. Quick as a flash he said, “Why, I’d forgive him.” Then he went on to say in effect, “Presidents of the United States live under a pressure that ordinary people cannot begin to comprehend. If it proves to be true, I would not approve of his behavior, but I would offer him the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, who gave his life for the sins of every one of us.”
Billy Graham understood the devastating effects that sin can have on our lives. He also knew the power of God’s grace and the promise of life that he offers to each of us. Rev. Graham is now enjoying the promise of that eternal life.
As I say, I will miss this giant of a man.