The world mourned on February 21, 2018 when Reverend Billy Graham took his last breath. He was one of the most influential people in evangelicalism.
At the age of 99, he accomplished more in his lifetime than many could do in two. He was ordained in 1949. Though so many television evangelists get caught up in the love of money and other malicious scandals, Graham kept his reputation pure until the day he passed. His faithful wife, Ruth, stood by his side for more than 64 years.
Former President George W. Bush met Graham in 1985. He was sitting on his grandmother’s front porch in the small town of Kennebunkport, Maine. Graham was there to talk to her about the Bible.
His grandmother was well into her 80’s, and her body had begun to fail. Though she was feeble in years, she was still sharp as a tack. On this beautiful day, Bush’s grandmother said it was one of the most peaceful in her entire life.
A Personal Encounter That Changes Everything
Graham asked Bush to go for a walk with him. Together, they strolled around the Walker’s Point area. He wanted to know everything about his life, his wife, and his girls. As they walked and talked, it was easy to see and feel the compassion that emitted from this man. His presence was captivating, and he had a keen mind.
During this time, Bush was struggling with becoming a better person. He felt that by reading the Bible more, he would be the person he wanted to be. One of the fundamental lessons from the Bible is to strive to be conformed to Christ.
However, no one is ever saved through charitable deeds. Instead, we are all saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Graham took this time to point out to Busch that he couldn’t just read the Word and be better, but he had to apply the holy principals to his life. While the profound concept wasn’t fully grasped that day, a seed was planted in a young man that would eventually grow.
Bush returned to Texas and was surprised to find a package from Graham waiting for him. The gift was a Bible that was inscribed with a reference of Philippians 1:6. This scripture talks about the good work that God has begun in you and how it won’t be finished until Christ returns. Bush’s entire life changed at that point, and God used this Southern Baptist preacher to save his life.
Making a U-Turn on the Wrong Path
Few people knew that George W. Bush had a drinking problem. He struggled with it until he was 40 years of age. The seed that was planted by Graham begins to cultivate. He gave up alcohol and never looked back. He used the love of his grandmother, and from the faith, he learned as a child to further his walk with God. He wanted to be a better person and make a difference.
Bush wasn’t the only life that Graham touched. Billy was remarkable. He would minister to everyone he met. At a crusade in San Antonio, Bush got to sit behind the good reverend as he ministered. People by the hundreds came forward to give their life to Christ. The tears flowed, and the overwhelming love he displayed was felt by all. As a shepherd of the Lord, Graham was genuinely committed to his calling. He loved the people.
God Used Graham in Astronomical Ways
On Sept. 14, 2001, Graham was asked to lead the church service at the Washington National Cathedral. The ecumenical service was painful as it was right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The people were scared, mad, and feeling very uncertain about the future. No other minister could have done that day what Billy Graham did. He made everyone in that auditorium feel like God had wrapped His arms around the entire country. It didn’t matter the religious or political background; God comforted all.
It’s hard to find strength when the very foundation on which you stand is unstable. God always sends someone to offer comfort in troubled times. During that 9/11 memorial service, Graham gave the people hope. He offered them something beyond this world. He showed them there was a life to come. It was clear at that moment that the earth would one day pass away, but preparing the heart was the only promise of everlasting life.
His Strong Yet Subtle Words Could Melt Any Heart
One evening during a debate between Barbara and her son, she called Graham to ask him a very important question. She wanted to know who gets to go to heaven. The New Testament states that to go to the holy city, one must believe in Christ. However, Barbara felt that it was more than just accepting. A person had to do good works and help others too. She wanted Graham to weigh in on the discussion.
In his Southern voice, he assured her that it also states in the New Testament that a person should never play God. Only God gets to decide who will go to heaven, not even Barbara Bush, First Lady, could make that call. He calmly told her to not worry about such matters but to leave it in God’s hands. He put an end to a very heated discussion by saying the right thing at the right time, a skill that was undoubtedly given from above.
He Ran the Race with Grace & Humility
Preachers are everywhere. They come in all styles. However, Graham was different. He never relished in the glory or fame. Instead, he used grace and purity of heart to lead hundreds of thousands of people to Christ.
His life was most certainly a gift from above. Though he may have closed his eyes on this earth, he opened them in an entirely different realm. After 69 years of giving of himself, and being the man that God wanted him to be, he is finally at rest.