Article February 21, 2018

What Dr. Billy Graham Taught Me

Dr. Graham lived for people to know Jesus.  His death reinvigorated my passion for the gospel.  The call to take the gospel to all the nations has not been completed.  There are still numbers of people worldwide who have never heard the good news of Jesus’s redeeming love.

Picture of a wooden cross in front of a purple sunset.

I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Billy Graham.  In my eyes, he was the G.O.A.T. (the Greatest Of All Time) when it comes to preaching the gospel.  Tens of millions of people have heard about Jesus through his ministry and many of those have given their lives to Jesus.

 

Dr. Graham impacted my life as well.  What did I learn from Dr. Graham?

 

First, I learned kindness.  

 

I met Dr. Graham at a Youth for Christ fundraiser in the early 1980s in Charlotte, North Carolina.  He was the speaker and I was asked to emcee the event. For two hours I sat next to him and dialogued on a variety of different subjects.

 

At one point during the dinner, Dr. Graham leaned over to me and said, “David, I’ve heard some wonderful things about your ministry at the Forest Hill Church.”  I was stunned to hear these words. I didn’t know exactly how to respond. Fumbling and stumbling, I finally responded, “Uh, well, uh, thank you Dr. Graham. Hmmm, I’ve heard some good things about your ministry as well.”

 

My wife Marilynn overheard my response.  I’m sure she was wondering why she had ever married me!

 

As my faux pas dawned upon me, my face reddened with embarrassment.  I couldn’t believe that I had said something so stupid. I wanted to crawl under the table and hide.  Go home and quit doing ministry.

 

But Dr. Graham was nonplussed.  He gave me a warm, understanding nod and smile.  He simply thanked me for my affirming words.  Sensing my discomfort, he quickly redirected the conversation to another subject.

 

That awkward moment taught me a lesson about kindness.  People make foolish mistakes. They say dumb things. That’s when they need kindness the most.  

 

I want to be kind to others as Dr. Graham was kind to me.

 

The next time I encountered Dr. Graham personally was when the Billy Graham Library was opened in Charlotte around 2007.  I was invited to attend its dedication and given a place on the front row.

 

Dr. Graham was introduced.  The several hundred in attendance rose to their feet with an uproarious ovation.  It lasted several minutes.

 

With each passing minute, Dr. Graham became increasingly uncomfortable with the applause.  Finally, the then 87-year-old raised and lowered his quivering hands, insisting everyone be seated.

 

Everyone listened intently for his first words.  Here is what he said: “He must increase; I must decrease.”—a quote from John the Baptist proclaiming his desire that Jesus’s ministry grow and his lessen (John 3:30).  Dr. Graham was uncomfortable being the center of attention. Jesus was his life. That’s what Reverend Graham wanted to glorify. He did not want personal acclaim.

 

At that moment, Dr. Graham taught me an important lesson about humility.  He had no desire for self-aggrandizement and celebrity. He wanted to serve---as his Lord and Savior came first to serve---not be served (Mark 10:45).

 

I want to be humble like Dr. Graham was humble.

 

Several months ago, I was able to interview Dr. Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, on a radio show I host.  I asked her why she thought the Lord had kept her father living here---especially as his health continued to deteriorate.

 

Anne’s response was one I had never considered.  She said that she thought the Lord had left her daddy living past 99 years to remind all Christians everywhere that the Great Commission was not yet completed. And, that when he passed, she thought our Father would use Dr. Graham one more time to powerfully proclaim the Gospel to a world desperate for the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

 

Dr. Graham lived for people to know Jesus.  His death reinvigorated my passion for the gospel.  The call to take the gospel to all the nations has not been completed.  There are still numbers of people worldwide who have never heard the good news of Jesus’s redeeming love.  

 

There’s still work to be done.  I want to be as serious about fulfilling the Great Commission as Dr. Graham was.

 

I learned a lot about kindness, humility, and a renewed calling to the Great Commission from Dr. Billy Graham.

 

I am a more faithful follower of Jesus because our lives intersected.

 

Because Jesus lives, Dr. Graham lives as well.  He has never been more alive than he is right now.  He has been reunited with his beloved wife, Ruth, and his friends who partnered with him to preach the gospel around the world.

 

I look forward to seeing him again.

 

"He must increase, but I must decrease"

John 3:30 (ESV)

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