By Scott Stake
There is much sadness in the world over the loss of a great man of God, Billy Graham. Graham preached the gospel to over 215 million people, ministered in 185 countries, and met and prayed with 12 U.S. presidents. As a result of his ministry, up to 30 million people trusted in Jesus, including my father at the age of 12 at a crusade in Chicago. And while we may never have the audiences of dignitaries and stadiums full of people, I do think it’s right and good to consider, admire, and seek to imitate this man, similar to the way the Apostle Paul instructed the Philippians—"What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things” (Phil 4:9). So, below are a few things that I greatly admire about Billy Graham that I hope can inspire, challenge, and convict you as well.
Amazement at Jesus’ Love
At the age of 16, Billy Graham trusted in Jesus as His Lord and Savior and was so overwhelmed by God’s love for him. Growing up, Graham’s hero was Babe Ruth, but after the Spirit opened his heart while hearing the gospel preached at a revival service, his hero was forever changed to Jesus Christ. From that point forward, Graham would constantly meditate upon the cross where Jesus died not just for the sins of the world, but specifically for him. And as he grew in his affections for Jesus, he could not help but share this amazing news with others. Graham would say, "God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”
Heart for All Peoples
Graham desired for the gospel to be proclaimed among all races and ethnicities and for it to bring about reconciliation among different people groups. Graham advocated for non-segregated meetings in the US and included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a 16-week revival in New York City to communicate the beautiful truth that the gospel breaks down walls not only between God and us but also between races (Dr. King became a very good friend of Dr. Graham’s). While much of Graham’s early ministry was centered in the United States, he also desired for the gospel to be preached in all of the world. Eventually, he traveled to 185 countries to boldly declare that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Humility & Moral Purity
Billy Graham knew that it was not his works or character that saved him—it was Jesus alone. Yet, Graham also understood that his character is what proved the authenticity of his message. Thus, early on in his ministry, he said to his team, “Boys, it looks like God has something special planned for us. I want you to go back to your rooms and write down on pieces of paper, ‘What are the problems that evangelists have faced over the years that have brought their ministries to shipwreck?’” In what came to be called the Modesto Mainfesto, the men made specific commitments to help protect them from giving in to various temptations and humbly asked God for help to keep these commitments. Billy Graham went on to say, "The greatest legacy one can pass on to one's children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one's life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
Four Oaks, may we not only admire and learn from Dr. Graham, but also seek to practice these things!