Today marks the end of a long run for one of the world’s great men of faith, a pastor to the people, an evangelist to the world, an initiator of broad reaching ministries, and a person with a high regard for integrity. He was a good husband to Ruth and a faithful father to five children who wear their dad’s name proudly. He leaves behind a legacy of faith, hope, and love for the world to remember him by and revere his good work for the Lord. Well done Billy and welcome to your eternal reward.
Most of us have called him “Billy Graham” as if we knew him. His name has been on our lips in talking about his sermons, his philosophy of ministry, and some of the many quotes he offered along the way. He was a giant of faith, but even from a distance he seemed to be always reaching down to make contact with the least of these and the lost of the world. His agenda was not to make a big name for himself, but to make much of Jesus everywhere he went. He was successful in that goal for over 70 years and his death leaves a giant question mark on the Christian movement.
Who will follow him?
Who will be the one we listen for in times of crisis or confusion?
Who will advise and pray with our Presidents?
Who will be praying for our country when others fall down on their watch?
Who will be the next Billy Graham?
Nobody. There will not be another one like him. He was a one of a kind and original. Thank you God for giving him to us to preach and to encourage us in faith. His ministry made a mark on most of us even when we don’t know it. Even those who are too young to remember his crusades realize that he walked a path close to Christ in private and public for almost a century and that is not a common thing to say about anybody.
The day that Billy Graham died will be a day that many take note of, but few will stop for. There will be a great funeral. Many important people in the world will release statements. Billy Graham’s books and videos will sell out on Amazon this week. The news networks will roll out film to share his story wide and far. But very soon the world will get back to business. Everything will go on as usual. Life and ministry will return to what it was before because he will no longer be relevant to the living and that’s how the world works.
Billy Graham never changed a thing in this world. God did. God did it all through him and Billy would be the first to tell you that. Billy Graham would have lived and died without flare or fame except that God grabbed his heart and set it afire. Billy was as human and as common as you and I. But his faith was extraordinary. His faith is one worthy of our pause and consideration of just what is possible when someone really gives their life to God.
The day that Billy Graham died his best sermon was published and released for the ages to hear, but it was not a manuscript, an outline of gospel points, or a video segment. It was his LIFE and it preaches boldly that salvation is possible with faith in Christ. That salvation offered and given is not just to be stored up for life after death, but is to be squeezed out in life before death for the glory of God. Salvation comes to cleanse us of sin and cast away our fears so that we may serve others with joy and hope. Our friend Billy has fought the good fight, run the race, finished his work, and now kneels to worship God forever.
Let us not forget this man of faith, but he is not our idol. Let us not forget his legacy, but he is not our future. Let us not forget his faithfulness, but his is not ours to borrow. Let us pause to remember him and in doing so listen closely to what God has said to us through Billy for all of these years as a gospel herald.
Imagine with me “Billy” taking the pulpit for the final time. Standing near the Father he offers these words to us. These last, but everlasting words for the ages to hear and hold onto in times of trouble and in times of terrible loss. Can you see it? If you close your eyes you can almost hear his beautiful Carolinian accent and strong voice preach these last few words to the masses…
“Your hope is not lost. Your pastor/evangelist is not dead. Your friend is not in decay. Our country is not doomed. Our heritage is not dismantled. For our God is alive. He is victorious through Christ for eternity. Hallelujah!”
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13, ESV)