The evangelical bulwark that is Billy Graham was born into eternity yesterday. There are a great many people talking about it (I recommend Christianity Today’s comprehensive, non-hagiographic coverage of his life as a mortal, like all of us, living out a divine calling).
With a man of such import who affected the lives of so many (it is estimated over two million gave their lives to the Lord under Graham’s ministry), there is too much to say.
For me, I have always known who Billy Graham is, though he was not a significant part of my own upbringing. Still, I am not untouched by the man. My own father says Graham was instrumental in building his faith. And so I must be eternally grateful.
It seems for nearly any evangelical Christian of my generation, whether we like it or not, Graham must not be more than a few degrees removed in the spiritual family tree.
What Graham Would Have Done More Of
In reading a smattering of the tributes, memories, and obituaries warranted by a legacy like Graham’s, I was struck by an article in CT called “What I Would Have Done Differently.” It’s a compilation of Graham’s own words about his regrets, mistakes he made in his ministry. The most prominent are political: he wouldn’t have kneeled in paparazzied prayer on the White House lawn; he wouldn’t have become so close to Richard Nixon; and he would have more quickly cast aside American religious nationalism.
I came close to identifying the American way of life with the kingdom of God. Then I realized that God had called me to a higher kingdom than America. I have tried to be faithful to my calling as a minister of the gospel.
But one of the things that most interested me was a brief thought about wishing he’d spent more time studying.
One of my great regrets is that I have not studied enough. I wish I had studied more and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying and preparing. Donald Barnhouse said that if he knew the Lord was coming in three years he would spend two of them studying and one preaching. I’m trying to make it up.
I love this. It speaks to the humility of a man of almost unmatchable stature in the last century. He knew the importance of studying God’s Word. Without it, his preaching would lack the power of Truth.
All believers would do well to learn from this confession. The Word of God, available to all in the person of Jesus Christ and in the pages of scripture (and in your own language!), is the absolute authority regarding God’s nature, human nature, and God’s will for our lives. It provides truth (John 17:17), blessing (Luke 11:28), maturation (1 Peter 2:2), direction and assistance (Psalm 119:105), and power (Romans 1:16).
Graham knew what another great evangelist knew. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”