The Reverend William Franklin Graham Jr., known to the world as Billy, finished his race today. He was 99. He was often referred to as ‘America’s Pastor’ and his ministry reached untold millions of people. As we remember the legacy that he left I can’t help but reflect on what made him who he was.
He was humble. Born on a dairy farm in North Carolina he never forgot his roots. In a day and age where Pastors and Evangelists have become their own ‘brand’ and market themselves like a Fortune 500 company the only brand Billy was pushing was Jesus.
He was persistent. His ministry spanned 7 decades. It took him around the world, brought him before kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers. Long after others would have settled down he pressed on.
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13-14 NIV
His message was simple. Jesus died for your sin. Faith in Him is the foundation of forgiveness. More than political influence, fame or fortune Billy wanted people to know that God loved them and Jesus came to save them. That straightforward message allowed him to cross cultures, denominations and political aisles.
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2 NIV
His character was uncompromising. I’ve never heard anyone criticize Billy Graham’s character. He conducted himself with honor and integrity. He successfully navigated the pitfalls of lust and greed that so many ‘superstars’ have found themselves in. He was known for taking extreme measures to ensure that he wasn’t disqualified along the way.
“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” - 1 Peter 2:11-12 NIV
A great man went home to be with the Lord today. But I can’t help but think that the things that made him great are all things within our grasp. We can be humble. We can persist. We can share the Good News of Jesus. We can live with honor and integrity. See I think we estimate his worth by the multitudes that he reached when God esteemed him for the man that he was. God saw a man who was faithful with little so He entrusted him with much. God chooses which doors to open. It is up to us to be ready and willing to walk through them when He does.
*Biographical information was found at www.billygraham.org/about/biographies/billy-graham/