Published February 27, 2018
"The Humble Servant"
"But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).
That verse penned by the Apostle Paul has recently been revealed as a very special verse for the late Billy Graham. In fact, his son, Franklin, says the long-time evangelist had that verse posted in "very large letters" at several places in his home including the dining room and the bathroom.
It's appropriate. Seldom, if ever, have we seen someone so influential, so well known, so popular, who is also as humble as Billy Graham was. He personally preached the Gospel to more than 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories during his long career and reached countless more through radio, television and films. That's far more than any other evangelist ever. Graham was the confidant of a dozen presidents and innumerable other leaders.
But he once told a reporter, "I despise all this attention on me. I wish we could publicize the meetings in some way in which my name were not used. I'm not trying to bring people to myself, nor am I trying to interest people in me."
In fact, a decade ago when Billy Graham surveyed the newly-constructed museum now open in his honor in Charlotte, NC, he turned to his son, Franklin, and bluntly evaluated the place this way: "Too much Billy Graham." Only when the family convinced him that the Billy Graham Library would focus on the Gospel did the evangelist give his blessing.
Billy Graham was single-minded in his desire to spread the Gospel, as he said God had instructed him to do. And that meant directing all of the attention to Christ, not to himself. He was simply the willing vessel, one who has perhaps been the most visible example of adhering to the Great Commission that this generation or probably any other generation has seen. Christ had said, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel..." (Mark 16:15.) Billy Graham did it.
By all accounts, Graham's humility was not merely feigned. It was genuine. And it was true to the Gospel. It was true to the character of Christ. Paul referred to the "meekness and gentleness of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:1). And "humility" and "meekness" are characteristics of what Paul calls "the new man" (Col. 3:12).
In a time when televangelists and megachurches were taking the spotlight and when there were notable moral failures among them that turned a lot of people away from Christ Graham maintained the highest standards. He knew that, as Jesus said, "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11).
In his book "Just As I Am," Billy Graham wrote, "If anything has been accomplished through my life, it has been solely God's doing, not mine, and He not I must get the credit." In fact, Graham often expressed puzzlement of why God would choose someone such as himself for such a mighty work. He wrote, "...the first thing I am going to do when I get to Heaven is ask, Why me, Lord? Why did You choose a farm boy from North Carolina to preach to so many people ... and to have a part in what You were doing in the latter half of the 20th century.'"
By now, Billy Graham has his answer.
And I believe a big part of that answer was that Graham simply was a willing servant who had agreed to answer God's call and determined to serve Him with energy, integrity and with a single goal in mind to spread the Gospel.
Well-known pastor and writer Rick Warren says he learned from Graham never to lose your single focus of spreading the Gospel, bringing people to Christ. And he tells this story:
"I remember when Graham received the Congressional Gold Medal in the rotunda of the US Capitol. There were about 400 chairs, packed with VIPs, President Clinton and members of the House and Senate addressed the crowd, honoring Graham's life and achievements.
"What do you think Graham did when it came time for him to get up to speak? He spent maybe three minutes acknowledging the honor and how little he deserved it. Then he said, Let me tell you about Jesus.' Even though the entire event was about him, he turned the meeting toward his lifetime central focus: Jesus."
Graham's goal echoed the words of John the Baptist: "He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).
There's a lesson here for each of us. We must keep our focus. It's not all about us, it's about Him. We need to have our lives point people to Christ. And we need to live our lives each and every day with that in mind.
Something very interesting happened recently when Rev. Graham died at age 99. As his death was reported literally around the world, even the secular media intentionally or otherwise included the Gospel message. Simply by showing brief clips of Billy Graham messages, the Gospel has again been spread. If they were going to show him speaking at all, they couldn't help it because Graham's messages were always thoroughly saturated with the Gospel. You couldn't listen to him speak without it.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council says that in many ways Graham "never knew how famous and influential he was." But, Perkins added, "Perhaps now, in heaven, surrounded by the millions of people brought to salvation through his obedience, Rev. Graham will finally understand what the rest of the world already does his greatest ministry wasn't the words he said, but the life he lived."
1 Peter 5:6 tells us, "...humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time..."
Billy Graham's time has come.
- Paul Heil
Comments on this? email@example.com
To share this column with your Facebook friends, click on the logo or "share" link below.
Copyright 2018 Heil Enterprises. All rights reserved.
Return to the Archives Index page for more recent columns.