The Faith Of Billy Graham
I read a good book today. I went to Mardel Christian Bookstore near 51st and Harvard in Tulsa and got it on sale for 5 bucks! I got a good deal. It was originally $25. The name of it is Billy Graham, God’s Ambassador. It is written by Russ Busby, the photographer who was with him throughout his ministry. It’s full of interesting pictures and tons of quotes and also talks about the details of Dr. Graham’s life. I read and skimmed through this book in about three hours while I sat in the living with my family and watched a favorite remake movie, Parent Trap.
I love to learn about successful people whether they’re at church, work, a biography on TV or in a book. I want to study them and learn what they do with struggles, what natural God-given talents they have, and their attitudes and then anything else I can find. As I read through this book I had a question in the forefront of my mind, “Why did the man become a huge (or as my son, Jonathan, would say, gi-normous) success?” When I study the details of a successful person I compare them to the lives of my four children and then figure out ways to direct them toward a good fulfilling life.
Billy Graham grew up on a dairy farm. He would get up very early to do chores before school. His mother said he was full of so much energy, one time she took him to the doctor because she was worried. The physician just told her not to worry because it’s the way he’s built!” (Hhhhmmm, I’ll bet he had Attention Deficit Disorder by today’s standard!) His hero was Babe Ruth when he was young because he loved baseball and he actually shook the famous man’s hand once. His hero changed once he became a Christian. Growing up on a farm with Christian parents taught him excellent qualities like humbleness, integrity and hardwork. These traits have followed him throughout his entire life.
He once admitted, “I am not a great preacher, and I don’t claim to be a great preacher. I’ve heard great preaching many times and wished I was one of those great preachers. I’m an ordinary preacher, just communicating the Gospel in the best way I know how.” I see his simple message a lot in his sermons. I love how God uses him to proclaim it with a loud resounding voice that is full of passion. He tells the Gospel like every Christian ought to. I saw him do it on Larry King Live a few months back. It’s basically, the same way he’s done it for half a century and more!! He said, “I present a God who matters, and who makes claims on the human race. He is a God of love, grace, and mercy, (in the same breath) but also a God of judgment. When we break his moral laws we suffer, when we keep them we have inward peace and joy.” Every Christian needs to proclaim the Gospel like Dr. Graham when an opportunity arises. Continuously, throughout the book, he tells in different words how God amazingly worked through him.
In 1957, he preached in New York’s Madison Square Garden and to ABC’s viewing audience for 17 nights in a row. It is estimated 96 million people watched on TV. There were days when he got very tired. He said this about them, “I had nothing to give. I had exhausted my material. I had exhausted my body. I had exhausted my mind. Yet the preaching had far more power. It was God taking sheer weakness–it is when I get out of the way and say, ‘God, You have to do it.’ I sat on the platform many nights with nothing to say, nothing. Just sat there. And I knew that in a few minutes I’d have to get up and preach, and I’d just say, ‘Oh, God, I can’t do it!’ And yet, I would stand up and all of a sudden it would begin to come . . . just God giving it, that’s all.”
Like the famous missionaries, Jim and Elizabeth Elliot, he attended Wheaton College (before they had). That is where he met his campus beauty wife, Ruth. Ruth was the daughter of a missionary doctor to China. In fact, she was born in China! (This happened before China became Communist.) The Grahams had five children together. Ruth said many times she felt like a single parent. She also said one way that she would study the Bible as a busy mom was to leave it open in her kitchen and as she went about her daily activities she would stop and read a short passage here and there. She said it was usually open to Proverbs.
Billy Graham has preached in all seven continents and most countries. The largest crowd he preached to was in the continent of Asia in Seoul, South Korea. There was recorded 1.1 million people in attendance. In 1982, around the end of the communist reign in Russia, Dr. Graham had the opportunity while attending a peace conference to preach to the Moscow Baptist Church in Russia. Afterwards a reporter asked, “Dr. Graham are you aware of the fact that in the Moscow Baptist church one-third of the audience was KGB agents?” He replied, “No, I was not aware of this at the time of my preaching in the Baptist church. But I am glad to hear it. I always wanted to preach to KGB agents. They also need Jesus Christ for their salvation.”
Billy Graham is a friend to so many. The book tells of his acquaintances with the 33rd president, Harry S. Truman to our current 43rd president, George W. Bush. It shows how he has met with dignitaries and leader from all over the world. He has befriended Hollywood types like Johnny Cash, Arnold Palmer, and Jimmy Stewart. He even got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When asked about it, this is what he said, “My primary desire today in having my name inscribed upon this Walk of Fame is that God would receive the glory. I hope someday somebody will come and say, ‘Who is Billy Graham?’ What did he stand for?’ Perhaps a child will ask his parents or grandparents, and they will tell him that he was not a celebrity, not a star, but a simple preacher of the Gospel. And they might explain the Gospel to him, and that many might find Christ in that.”
Ruth says she and her husband are opposites. She likes to read in her leisure. He likes to golf or go for walks. They differ in their temperments also. She is easy going to even being lazy. He is highly disciplined and incredibly driven. She also talks of his Bible reading opportunities. “Billy reads long passages of the Bible at a time. It isn’t as if it’s from seven to seven thirty, I’ll have Bible reading’. That’s not Bill’s nature, but he does read the Bible continually, every day, and large portions of it.” Earlier in the book, He gives a sermon tip, “I had used from twenty-five to one hundred passages of Scripture with every sermon and learned that modern man will surrender to the impact of the Word of God.”
After reading this book what can I glean from the amazingly abundant life of Billy Graham? He has incredible drive and energy. He probably has a simple and practical thinking mind. He obviously has had good looks and tons of charm that makes others feel comfortable. When he talked about God he would say the name of his Lord Jesus Christ. In one sentence he will summarize what God is–love and judgement. He’s a constant reader of the Bible. He realizes his inadequacies and sincerely prays to God for help. But I went away with a question I asked my husband, “How does he stay humble?” Just like all other humans, he is a sinner and does wrong in his life. And if ever someone had an opportunity to gather arrogance and pride over decades of life it would be him. God despises arrogance. Jesus says all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Has Billy Graham had a full amount of faith in this statement throughout his long life? How could he keep such faith always?
Early in the book when he was a young man he came to a point when he had to decide whether every word in the Bible was inspired by God. So he prayed, “Oh, God, there are many things in this Book I do not understand. But God, I am going to accept this Book as Your Word by faith. I’m going to allow my faith to go beyond my intellect and believe that this is Your Inspired Word.” Then Billy said from that moment on he never doubted God’s Word. He said when he quotes the Bible he believes he is quoting the very word of God and there is power in it.
You know what? You need to read this book. Why don’t you go to Mardel near 51st and Harvard in Tulsa, OK ASAP and buy a copy!