Posted: 2/23/18 at 1:05pm. Column by Ed Jordan.
Billy Graham entered into eternal glory on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, at the age of 99. Some would say he died, but Jesus promised in John 11:25 (ESV): “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” Rev. Graham placed his life and faith into the hands of Jesus Christ and is now living on in the presence of Jesus.
From humble beginnings Billy Graham dedicated his life to serving God and telling others about him. He attended Wheaton College to prepare for ministry and while there met Ruth Bell, his wife and partner of 64 years. His preaching ministry was obscure until 1949 when he was preaching revival meetings in Los Angeles. Apparently William Randolph Hearst was present. After that service, it was reported that Hearst sent his newspaper editors a two-word message: “Puff Graham.” God began using Rev. Graham in mighty ways.
In 1954 Graham was invited to England to preach the Harrington Crusade. That event turned into a spiritual awakening in England, as over two million people attended services in the 15,000-seat arena. God was touching the world through Graham. In 1985 he was invited to speak in a public arena in Communist-controlled Hungary.
Four hours before the Budapest event, every seat in the 12,500-seat sports arena was filled, and people stood outside to listen to the music and sermon over loudspeakers. It was the first time in decades that a public facility in Communist-controlled eastern Europe was used for a religious event. God was moving behind locked Communist walls to bring his message of hope to people whose governments promoted atheism. Only the honorable Billy Graham could have been invited, and perhaps only he would have said yes.
In July 1989, Graham returned to Budapest to a massive 120,000-seat stadium. This was before the Iron Curtain fell. Again attendance overflowed all available seating and standing space. When Billy asked people to come forward to accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord, 35,000 people came forward to say “I want Jesus in my life.”
It was a miracle that shook the Communist world to its core. According to Viktor Hamm, the impact of that 1989 crusade on churches and society reverberated throughout Eastern Europe: “It broke every possible record and attracted the attention of the media. The Communists realized that the power of the Gospel is greater than the teachings of Lenin, Marx, or Engels.”
Billy Graham was a humble man who loved Jesus and chose to be used—however and wherever God wanted to use him. He preached live to more than 250 million people in 185 countries and territories. Many others heard his messages on TV, radio, in movies and publications, and through books.
Graham once said: “I’m not here to teach psychology or philosophy or theology. I’m here to tell you what the Bible says. We’ve listened to the voice of man long enough. Let’s hear what God has to say.” Billy’s message was direct and uncomplicated. It usually contained the following points:
I. God loves you more than you realize. It doesn’t matter what you have done, God loves you and wants you to live life with him (cf. John 3:16). II. Humans have a sin problem. We have all rebelled against God and tried to shut God out of our lives (Romans 3:23). III. We are missing out on the good life God desires us to have. Because of our bad choices, we need to repent (Acts 2:37-38; 3:19) by changing our attitudes about God and turning and opening up our lives to God’s will (John 3:16-17). IV. To begin life transformation, ask Jesus to forgive you for the hurtful things you have done (Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:9). Ask Jesus to come live within you and give you the power to live a life pleasing to God (cf. John 1:12; John 10:10). V. Get involved with a group of Christians who can help you to grow in your faith (Acts 2:41-42). Daily do those things Jesus leads you to do (John 15:14) and tell others what Jesus has done in your life (Acts 4:20).
Rev. Graham spent his life carrying the torch of Jesus to those whose lives were in darkness, but he himeself was not the light; Jesus is the light. Graham carried Jesus, the torchlight of God, to those in darkness—always lifting up Jesus and not himself.
What could God do through your life, if you would commit it totally to him? You’ll never know unless you begin to do it. Billy Graham has passed the torch to each of us. Will we carry it forward?