100, 100 years of age this great man of God will be this very year. Do you know anybody 100 or more?
What a milestone, what a glorious life, what a career for God and mankind this great man had. Like all of us, a man not without fault or problems, but far less of each than most of us have. Billy Graham was a model of the old saying:
WALK THE WALK
And mean what you say and say what you mean. In a day and age when it is commonplace to hear of the falling of one religious leader after another, Protestant, Catholic and Jew, not so with Billy Graham. The BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELISTIC ASSOCIATION is one of the most effective missions for Christianity in America and the world over today.
This great man suffers from Parkinson’s disease. We hear little of his physical condition, but he is well cared for at his home and retreat in Montreat, North Carolina. It is a place he dearly loves, set high in the gorgeous mountains of North Carolina, quiet, peaceful and spiritual. It will be a sad day for Christians American and worldwide when this great man passes.
But his work goes on, and in mighty fashion. God brought great men and women to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I remember when it first started at or about 1947. Billy Graham ministered with men of God like Cliff Barrows, and Bev Shea. The rallies and crusades these great men produced for God were incredibly effective. Cliff Barrows was a spirit-led Master of Ceremonies and Beverly Shea had a golden baritone voice unforgettable. And then came Billy Graham, an apostle of his Lord, with a powerful preaching style, eloquent, compelling and dynamic. The genius of his success, as he so freely and publicly confessed was the simple Gospel message he preached, nothing but the Bible. Billy Graham was often criticized by the so-called learned theologians, many of them modern day Pharisees and Sadducees, for his lack of theological depth. Billy Graham had spiritual depth, but he stuck passionately to his calling to present the message of salvation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ pure and simple. That, he believed, was what all humankind needed, all men and women and it was indeed because they responded to that Graham message of the Gospel by the millions. Straight, simple, clean, clear and unadulterated. And of course right and true. Much of the clarity of that saving Gospel seems lost today, lost in modernity, a different more politically correct Christianity, often financially driven and presented so as not to offend although the Scriptures clearly state that the message of the cross is in fact an OFFENSE. No matter the criticism, Billy Graham always, ALWAYS stood tall for his Lord.
This great apostle of the Lord was blessed with one of the finest helpmates God could give, a wife herself thoroughly Christian, missionary and the mother of wonderful children. Ruth Graham, now with her Lord, was exactly the partner Billy needed. She loved him, supported him, bore children for him and endured his absences for the Lord often for weeks at a time. Their daughter Anne Graham Lotz is a strong witness for Christ. Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, is indeed a SPIRITUAL CHIP OFF OF THE OLD BLOCK endowed deeply with Graham genes spiritually and theologically. No father could be more proud of a son. No one could ever be as eloquent as Billy Graham but Franklin Graham sure comes close. He is more than a worthy successor, and he has led the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in the paths of righteousness, expanding, traveling, witnessing and yet carrying on a spiritual tradition and heritage which began at or about 1947. This organization deals with the great issues, political, social and moral, of the day even more so than in the days of Billy. The Franklin Graham led organization stands tall as did the Billy Graham organization and fights the fight of faith. Early on, Billy Graham worked for racial harmony and equality as far back as 1950. Billy Graham insisted on integrating seating at his crusades in the Southern United States, unheard of to that point. In 1957, Billy Graham held rallies in Harlem and Brooklyn in order to reach out to people of color. He invited black evangelist Howard Jones and later Ralph Bell to join his team. Billy Graham developed a warm friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr. and strategized privately with him about their respective roles in the Civil Rights struggle. Well before, some 20 years before the end of apartheid in South Africa, Graham denounced the racist policy and insisted on integrated meetings during a 1973 crusade. He consistently cited racial discord as one of the world’s greatest problems, and he emphasized the need for hearts to be spiritually transformed in order for people to love one another.
And so does Franklin Graham, mightily so.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association produced radio and television programs. It was a spiritual blessing for the Crawford Broadcasting Company in its early years to broadcast that great program on all of our stations. It was an honor I and my family will never forget. The Reverend Dr. Billy Graham was as effective on radio as he was in-person. No matter the outlet, the message never changed.
In fact, my very own father Percy B. Crawford was a predecessor, even to some extent a mentor and an example. My father Percy was an evangelist, a servant of his Lord, some 15 years before the arrival of Billy Graham. Their styles of presenting the Gospel were amazingly similar. In fact, Billy Graham often and early on acknowledged the influence Percy B. Crawford had on his career and the development of his effective way of presenting the Gospel. The Crawford Family owned and operated three summer camps in the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania, Pinebrook, Shadowbrook and Mountainbrook. Pinebrook for the older, 14 years and up, Shadowbrook for boys and Mountainbrook for girls. Thousands upon thousands of young people came to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ through those ministries.
Billy Graham came to Pinebrook camp in the Poconos Mountains to minister and learn in 1947 and 1948. There are fond pictures our family still possesses of Ruth and Billy Graham side-by-side with Ruth and Percy Crawford. Those four may have been the most powerful witnesses for Jesus Christ at that time. What an honor for me and my family to know and remember that our family, and my father and mother had loving influence on the spiritual ministry of Ruth and Billy Graham.
What you are and what you did goes on, great man, and on and on effectively and mightily forGOD AND COUNTRY. The simple, saving message you preached is alive and well. The culture, social and educational ministry and mission of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is stronger than ever, more influential than ever under the leadership of a son of whom to be proud.
None of us will ever forget the crusade Billy Graham held in New York City in July 1957 when more than 100,000 packed the stands and outfield of the venerable Yankee Stadium, with 20,000 people turned away. Nothing could indicate more the hunger of people for the plain and simple saving message of Jesus Christ. Or the special rallies in Korea for servicemen and citizens. Or visiting hospitals where the truly needy were. Or the rallies in Harlem where no white evangelist dared to go. Or the television programs. Or that once great radio program THE HOUR OF DECISION. Or even the great influence Billy Graham had on Wall Street where a crusade drew as many as 30,000 people, WALL STREET NO LESS. Wall Street does not need an investment of more capital, but a real investment in the real wealth of the Gospel. The message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ was heard worldwide through Billy Graham because he was a humble man, virtually without ego, living a consistent life true to his calling, caring little about money personally, or even power and fame even though he was known the world over and often voted in the Top 10 most admirer men and women in the world. One thing and one thing only was the purpose, the passion of his life. And that, in his words was:
MY LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
It becomes less popular every day to hear those words in America and the world over. But they remain for him and for tens of millions like him. The ultimate truth. And for me too. What about you?
I remember well the words of the old hymn which our family sang. Those powerful words were:
WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH JESUS?
NEUTRAL YOU CAN NOT BE
SOMEDAY YOUR HEART WILL BE ASKING
WHAT WILL HE DO WITH ME
Simple, clear lyrics and music, unlike much of Christian music today. Those words make it clear that you make a decision about this spiritual challenge whether you are aware of it or not. You either decide for, or against or you ignore but:
NEUTRAL YOU CAN NOT BE
So, the entire life and ministry of Billy Graham and those who follow after him ask you, you and me and all, the very same question:
WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH JESUS?
What will you?