Billy Graham: A simple preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

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Billy Graham: A simple preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

courtesy of nytimes

courtesy of nytimes

courtesy of nytimes

Isaac Martin, Political Contributor

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Last Friday, a special man was laid to rest. Billy Graham is one of only four private citizens to ever lie in state in the U.S. Capitol — he is the latest since Rosa Parks. Like Rosa Parks, Graham knew Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in fact, they were quite close, and Graham was a staunch supporter of the civil rights movement. Graham touched millions in his lifetime, but this paragon of pastors had humble roots.

He was born four days before the Treaty of Versailles ended WWI on Nov. 7, 1918 at his family’s dairy farm in North Carolina. As a boy, he was not known to be super spiritual. Quite the opposite, at 16 he was rejected from a local youth group for being too worldly. However, he heard about a traveling speaker who was in Charlotte and at the event Billy gave his life to Jesus. He decided he wanted to teach and help others to do the same.

Billy was not satisfied with a passive, anemic belief but desired to be active in sharing the message that had changed him. After an unsuccessful first stint at the college life, he ended up graduating, after two successive transfers, from Wheaton College. He took up a pastorate and eventually a local radio show called “Songs in the Night” with the famed bass-baritone George Beverly Shea. His influence grew rapidly as he began what he called “crusades,” a series of evening meetings at a local park, street or stadium.

Thousands were drawn to these historic meetings, which would often set records for the venues, by his simple presentation of the Gospel. Billy would be the first to point out though that these outward successes were because God was drawing the people, and not because of any charismatic speaker.  

His message was always the same: people have a problem that can only be solved by Jesus. Using the Bible as his principal reference, Billy would inform his hearers that a choice lay before them. A choice to either serve the many gods and fake things around them or to serve the one true and living God. If you wanted to become a new person and leave your old life, Billy urged that you come to Jesus and find a new life in Him. Every night of the “crusades” he would give a variant of such a message, inviting his listeners to come “just as they were” to the stage, to receive counsel and prayer. Over his lifetime, it is estimated that he spoke in person to over 215 million people in 185 different countries.

Graham’s successes built a platform that allowed him to be influential for good. Beginning with Dwight Eisenhower, Billy served as both counselor and confidant of every president ending with Barack Obama. He also had a profound impact on desegregation, even being haled by MLK in 1959 for having taken a “very strong stand against segregation.” Throughout his ministry, Billy emphasized that all people are equal regardless of ethnicity or gender. 

The tragic passing of Billy has caused many to ponder his life and impact. The message Mr. Graham shared changed my life and I know it can yours too if you let it. If he could speak to you now, I know he would be urging you to believe in and serve Jesus Just as You Are.