Written by: Tim Wood
Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. (Matthew 25:21 NKJV)
If there were a Mt. Rushmore for evangelists, William Franklin Graham would be on it. His face would be right next to George Whitefield, D.L. Moody and Billy Sunday. Billy Graham was a once in a lifetime evangelist. He made the good news, really good. He didn’t invent the word evangelist, but his picture should be next to the definition.
During his life, Graham preached in person to more than 100 million people and to millions more via television, satellite, and film. An estimated 3 million people have responded to his invitation to "accept Jesus into your heart" at the end of his sermons. He proclaimed the gospel to more persons than any other preacher in history. In the process, Graham became "America's Pastor," participating in presidential inaugurations and speaking during every national crisis that our country faced. Columbia University historian Randall Balmer said this of Billy Graham, "He became the friend and confidante of popes and presidents, queens and dictators, and yet, even in his 80s, he possesses the boyish charm and unprepossessing demeanor to communicate with the masses.”
The more Billy Graham preached the more famous he became. A record 50 times he ranked among the top 10 most admired persons according to Gallup polls. A Time bureau chief wrote a book hailing him as one of the "great souls" of the 2oth century, and in 2007 the magazine devoted a cover story to his relationship with 11 successive US presidents. And yet, with all this fame from the world, he told his son Franklin that he wanted one word on his tombstone – preacher. What an inspiration for someone who shares the same passion and calling.
I heard his son Franklin interviewed on TV yesterday. He shared a beautiful story about his father. Franklin said that his father told him that one day news would break that Billy Graham has died. He said, “Son, don’t believe it. I will be more alive than I have ever been.” Billy Graham believed the words of Jesus who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
Billy Graham’s legacy was the gospel. He lived it. He loved it. He proclaimed it. Now, the big question is, will we move forward with the same passion?