There are so many ways to define success. And most
of us look for it in the wrong places. A bigger house in a nicer neighborhood. More publicity, hits on Facebook, or a bigger paycheck. More and bigger. Then there are those who understand the bigger picture.
Dr. Billy Graham passed away yesterday a few months short of his hundredth birthday. That message carries a lot of sentiment to so many of our hearts.
The news has been full of tributes to him and his family. With any thoughts of ‘Billy Frank’, our thoughts soon turn to the one who sent him. And Billy would have wanted that. He was steadfast on keeping his message simple. Jesus Christ is the Son of God who took our sins to the cross.
Over the more than five decades of his ministry, Dr. Franklin preached to an estimated 215 million people in over 185 countries. He counseled presidents from Truman to Obama. And he has visited with president Trump before his health got too bad.
When I was at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove last weekend, I visited the museum they have to the ministry that is on the first floor. Photos and exhibits of the packed crusades he gave, the dignitaries he met, and some of the gifts he received lined the wall. Many of the pictures were of him and people in different nations where he and his ministry made an impact medically, financially, and spiritually.
Leaders across the world credited him for giving them guidance and help.
Welcome Home Billy Graham. Dr. Billy Graham went to heaven with an amazing reception. #RIPBillyGraham #Greatcloudofwitnesses #Thankyou
According to so many of the testimonies we’re hearing, I imagine that these honors pale to his desire to help people and serve his Lord. Billy Graham didn’t see himself as a great preacher or a celebrity who had spoken before thousands. He said he “was a sinner that needed forgiveness.”
One lady at the Cove when she was interviewed spoke about how he always treated her with kindness and respect. While I was there, the volunteers often spoke of when the Grahams visited and how much Ruth Graham was a part of organizing the Center.
The Center wasn’t formed to honor the Grahams, but to train the new generations of religious leaders. Graham’s quotes hanging on the wall speak of his focus on how their desire help and strengthen others.
This humility showed in his faith. In a 1992 interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, she brought up the subject of dying. He said that “death is freedom from bondage.” Now he knows real freedom.
Then he spoke about the image many of us have when we think about going to heaven. Standing before the all mighty God and answering for our lives here on Earth. He said, “I don’t want them to say big things about me because I don’t deserve it. I want one person say something nice to me, and that’s the Lord.”
When he says, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)
Than he said the thing that floored me. He said, “I’m not sure I’m going to hear it. But that’s what I’d like to hear.’
Excuse me. You’re Billy Graham. I think you’re safe.
But he knew the gifts and opportunities God had given him, and he wanted to be faithful. He wouldn’t presume that his life pleased the Lord. But I’m sure his loving Heavenly Father was at his arrival saying ‘Welcome Home’.
When I heard on the news that he had passed away, I turned to my wife, Vickie, and I told her, “Billy Graham is happy today.”
He had been sick for the last few years. The second love of his life, Ruth, passed away in 2007. He’d gotten too weak to get out.
But on the morning of February 21, 2018, he went home. Ruth, strong and healthy, with her beautiful smile, was there to greet him.
His Lord greeted him. Probably with a ‘well done, Billy Frank’.
But can you imagine the great cloud of witnesses who were there? People from all the crusades he’d led, all the countries he’d visited, and viewers from all the shows he’d done.
Even more. He saw the folks he’d lived with in Montreat, the small mountain town they lived in. Maybe a guy from the barber shop, a driver in a distant city, even a president who turned around because he met a real man following the Lord.
Many of us are in danger of putting Billy Graham on a pedestal. Of thinking here is a man who got success, had it all. I can’t be like that.
But he never thought that way. He knew that it wasn’t the one who was called that touched and changed so many lives.
It was, and always will be, the Caller.