Lessons for Life After the Death of Billy Graham
In today’s toxic times, we can all take instruction from the many ways this faithful evangelist lived, taught, worshipped — and inspired
Billy Graham greatly shaped my life and ministry — just as he shaped the lives of countless millions of people around the world.
It’s little exaggeration to say that apart from the Apostle Paul, Graham influenced Christianity and the world more than any other individual, not only in recent times but in all of history. He possessed an exceptionally uncommon combination of humility and courage — and that’s why his impact was deep, wide, and awe-inspiring.
It’s also why his impact will span far beyond his passing. And why his life is worthy of a deep and ongoing second look.
It’s time to resurrect the spirit of Billy Graham because in today’s toxic times we could use his courage. What can we learn from the life of Billy Graham at this perilous time in America?
First, he had an unwavering commitment to speaking the truth in love. He was a master at this dying art. And, through the miracle of media, anyone can continue to learn how to do the same by simply watching or listening to him. By contrast, we Americans usually embrace one or the other, but rarely both.
Today, we talk at one another. We don’t know how to have a conversation, how to disagree agreeably, how to listen, or how to empathize. But Graham knew how to do it all, and practiced it powerfully. His impact, as a result, was monumental. Those who embrace Graham’s humble, courageous approach to life and relationships will see their positive impact increase dramatically.
Second, Graham never saw people as the enemy. He knew how to love the sinner and hate the sin — to separate any person from any ideology that may hold him or her captive. Today, many Americans have become experts at demonizing other people. We blur the lines between personhood and ideology — and voilà, hatred now characterizes much of American culture when love is needed more than ever.
Third, the source of Graham’s humble courage was not his own. It was the byproduct of spending time with his Savior, Jesus. We always become like the people with whom we spend the most time. Graham was an example of how Christ can change a life and make a person into something he or she would otherwise never become.
If you find yourself in need of transformation, look to Christ, as Billy Graham did. Spend time with Jesus Christ — and His character will rub off on you. It did on Billy Graham, and the world was positively changed as a result.
Fourth, there were far better orators God could have used besides him, by Graham’s own admission. But God used Billy above them all. Why? Because God does not need an orator as much as He needs a surrendered servant. God found that servant in Billy Graham. God can find that servant in anyone who simply makes himself or herself available to Him. He can find that servant in you.
Fifth, Graham knew not only his Savior but also his calling — and he never swerved from it. He had many people suggest — and even offer to fund — a Graham candidacy for the U.S. Senate and even the presidency.
He refused every time because he knew God had called him to preach the gospel. Such single-mindedness is rare in today’s world, where multitasking is esteemed among the most desirable traits a person can possess. In reality, multitasking may be the reason so many are having so little an impact. We are distracted by lesser things when we should be focused on what, and who, matters most.
Finally, Graham believed that truth was not relative, but that it was (and is) absolute. He was committed to the whole counsel of the Bible, and embraced it as God’s truth not only for himself but for all people, everywhere.
Is it any wonder God, the author of truth, found such a man to be a desirable messenger?
It is impossible to estimate the impact of Billy Graham’s life and ministry this side of eternity because humble courage is a supernatural manifestation that has eternal ramifications. Lives will continue to be impacted by Billy Graham’s life until the end of time. That’s why now is a great time for each of us to closely examine the life and legacy of a man who embraced humble courage as the brick and mortar of his life.
It’s the great need in our nation right now — and unless we see an uprising of humble courage in America, nothing will really change for the best.