Continuing to Honor Dr. Billy Graham
February 23, 2018
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith... 2 Timothy 4:1-8
Dear Praying Friends,
When news came that Dr. Billy Graham died, Tony Perkins immediately issued a press release honoring his amazing life. He wrote:
From his humble, ordinary beginnings, because he yielded himself to God, he was used to accomplish the extraordinary -- forever impacting the lives of countless people... He leaves behind a legacy of faith as well as family. I am honored to know and often co-labor with his son Franklin Graham and daughter Anne Graham Lotz.
Billy Graham finished well. He truly lived a life of integrity that each follower of Jesus Christ can emulate. His fear of disappointing the One who created him was so strong that he avoided the temptations and pitfalls that have brought others down.
His example of servant-leadership will continue to inspire Christians around the world to be salt and light. What a joyous moment it had to be when Dr. Billy Graham heard the words that he has longed to hear from his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 'Well done good and faithful servant.'
An ordinary man with an extraordinary calling, Billy Graham was as comfortable in the halls of power as he was in the mud huts of Africa. To both, the message was the same: Jesus died for your sins, repent, and give your life to him...
A fixture through 12 administrations, Billy Graham never let race, party, age, or stature get in the way of deepest conviction: that Christ loves and died for us all. In many ways, the man who brought millions to Christ... never knew how famous and influential he was. Perhaps now, in heaven, surrounded by the millions of people brought to salvation through his obedience, Reverend Graham will finally understand what the rest of the world already does -- his greatest ministry wasn't the words he said, but the life he lived.
Graham allowed us to travel along with him through his later years. At age 92 in his 2013 book, Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well, he wrote,
I never thought I would live to be this old. All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how I ought to live in the years before I die. I wish they had because I am an old man now, and believe me, it's not easy... old age is not for sissies... I know it won't be long before God calls me home to Heaven. More than ever I look forward to that day -- not just because of the wonders I know Heaven holds in store for me and for every believer but because I know that finally all the burdens and sorrows that press down upon me at this stage of my life will be over.
While Dr. Graham shrank from partisan politics for many years, in recent years, as federal and some state governments and political parties have become more openly defiant of God's law pertaining to the sanctity of human life, liberty, marriage, and sexuality, he became far more vocal about Christian citizenship and public policy.
In his 2008 devotional, Wisdom for Each Day, he wrote:
'Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people (Pr 14:34).' We need leaders who are men and women of integrity and wisdom, and we should thank God that we live in a country where we have the privilege of choosing our leaders. We must never take that responsibility lightly. The Bible tells us to pray for 'all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness' (1 Timothy 2:2). Pray as you vote, and pray regularly for all those who are in positions of political leadership. And if God leads you to become involved in politics in some way, take your responsibilities seriously and seek His wisdom in all you do. ("Needed: Godly Leadership")
In October 2012, just days before the 2012 national and state elections, Graham took out full page ads in several leading U.S. newspapers. With a B&W photograph of Graham, it said:
The legacy we leave behind for our children, grandchildren, and this great nation is crucial. As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last. I believe it's vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the Nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.
Known as the "Pastor of Presidents," Graham reached out to 13 presidents, Democrat and Republican, and became a very close confidant to many of them (George W. Bush credits Graham with helping him to stop drinking and was a factor in his conversion). He was a force for unity in the church (which he defined as all those whose names are "written in the Lamb's Book of Life"), regardless of denomination. He suffered tremendous criticism from many because he recruited pastors of all denominations, Catholic and Protestant, to support his huge crusades in cities around the world.
A forerunner among Southern Baptists, he was an advocate for racial reconciliation. He worked with Rev. Martin Luther King to advocate for civil rights for African Americans. And long before Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he insisted that his crusades all be integrated. He refused to hold a crusade in South Africa during apartheid, unless authorities allowed his audience to be integrated.
Moreover, Graham carried the gospel to 185 nations around the world. One day, believers from every nation in the known world will rejoice around God's throne with Dr. Graham. They will doubtless give thanks and praise to God and eternal gratitude, too, for Graham's faithfulness to preach the gospel to them.
Many on FRC's staff have been profoundly impacted by Dr. Graham's life and ministry. Senior Fellow for Policy Studies, Peter Sprigg attended Graham's Boston Crusade in 1982, and it changed his life forever. FRC's Director of Life, Culture and Women's Advocacy, Patrina Mosley thanks Graham for his lifelong faithfulness in preaching the gospel: "That Jesus Christ came, he died on a cross, he rose again, and he asked us to repent of our sins and receive him by faith as Lord and Savior, and if we do, we have forgiveness of all of our sins." My own wife, Christina, had a profound salvation experience watching a televised Graham Crusade when she was a young teenager in the late 60s. She has been a dedicated Christian ever since. While a young Christian in my formative years, I was deeply impacted by "Explo 72" in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas in 1972. Dr. Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ hosted the event. Dr. Graham delivered six deeply impacting messages. A later study conducted among South Carolina churches revealed that 60 percent of young people who attended "Explo 72" had entered ordained ministry, were engaged in theological training, or had become missionaries.
Between 1947 and 2005, Billy Graham conducted 417 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents. Over 58 years, Billy Graham reached more than 210 million people (face to face and by satellite feeds). Over three million people attended his 1973 crusade in Seoul, South Korea, which was over one tenth of the country's population. In 1974, Dr. Graham led the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization which drew 2,300 evangelical leaders from 150 countries. The Lausanne Covenant, a carefully drawn plan and commitment to world evangelization, still serves hundreds of organizations as their ministry statement of faith.
The legacy of Dr. Billy Graham is not only the incredibly long list of his achievements since his 1934 conversion to Christ under the evangelistic ministry of Dr. Mordecai Ham, nor just the changed lives of millions who have come to know Christ through his ministry, but also through the multiplied millions who have already and will yet come to know Christ through those who found him through Billy Graham's preaching of the gospel.
Graham's son Franklin and daughter Anne Graham Lotz are both following in his footsteps as evangelists. Franklin is President and CEO of The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse. Anne founded and leads AnGel Ministries. Franklin says his father's wish is that his tombstone will be marked, simply, "Preacher."
It was announced yesterday that Dr. Billy Graham's body will "lie in honor" in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol next Wednesday and Thursday (Feb. 28-Mar. 1), as have presidents and great military and civic leaders, but only a few great American civilians. His private funeral will be held under a tent at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. He will be buried in a pine coffin made by inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where, in 2005 when he preached there, he asked them to build him one. (See FRC video tribute to Dr. Billy Graham; Tony Perkins on the life and legacy of Billy Graham)
Finally, Billy Graham was a man of prayer. When asked how he prepared for his great crusades, he responded, "Prayer, Prayer, and Prayer!"
Pray that the Holy Spirit will move millions of people who will reflect upon Graham's life in the days and weeks ahead to be drawn to Christ and find salvation in Him. May backsliders return to God with a whole heart. May skeptics be saved, and may Graham's homegoing somehow be used to move millions, who go to church but do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, to find Him, and may their names be written in the Lamb's Book of Life. May Dr. Graham's October 2012 exhortation, "Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God" be heeded by all God's people in future elections. May we see an Awakening in America that exceeds Graham's vision and all of our dreams. In Jesus' Name, Amen. (Ex 18:21; ; Joshua 1:1-9; Ps 85:6; Jer 29:13; Jn 6:63; Jn 16:8; Eph 3:20; 4:10-12; 2 Tim 4:1-8; Rev 21:24-27)