Billy Graham died today—-99 years old. I had the privilege to briefly meet him on three occasions. Two times I simply shook his hand after he preached. The third time I meet him I was a cabin counselor at a camp near his home. I was walking around the camp lake and saw a man fishing in the lake, and I knew that he was not a camp staff. So I politely walked up to him, tapped him on his shoulder and told him that the lake was private and that he should not be fishing there. The man turned around and told me that he had permission from the owner. The man, it turned out, was Billy Graham and I was speechless. Within a few minutes the campers and other staff recognized him and swarmed him for autographs. He quietly put up his fishing gear and headed home. I felt sorry for him and wish I had not interrupted his private time of angling.
I studied a little about Dr. Graham while I was in seminary, and I recall that his sermons were basically all from John 3:16. He was an evangelist—-period. He also authored some 30 books, counseled Presidents and traveled the world. But he saw himself as an evangelist—-called to preach salvation to anyone that would hear him.
Tonight the news channels and editors will speak about Dr. Graham in great detail. But for me personally, the greatest thing about Billy Graham was that I know that he really believed what he preached. I never sensed any doubt of his faith in Jesus Christ nor his certainty as to the veracity of God’s Word. As a young Christian, my faith often wavered, but Billy Graham was a hero of faith. HE BELIEVED, and many, many times I found courage and confidence knowing that this good man could not be wrong about that which he believed. Atheist, agnostics and non-believers must have hated this man! He proved by his very life the efficacy of the gospel! The earth might be poorer now, but heaven is immensely richer tonight because he is there.
I often have compared my life to Billy Graham’s and wondered, “Would he have ever said or done what I did”? And as I have measured my life to his, I am ashamed that I have not come even near his level of dedication and purity. I am keenly aware that eyes watch me, no less than my eyes watched Dr. Graham. But are children, youth and adults being drawn to Him? Is their faith increasing? Are they more certain now than they were before because of my life and witness?
Oh God raise up another man of God like Billy Graham for the next generation! A man after your own heart. I pray that I might remember that the greatest sermon is the one preached without words.
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