How Billy Graham’s Life and Death Influenced Me

by Sally Matheny

Billy Graham Influenced Lives
(flickr photo)
I spent most of the afternoon watching the motorcade transporting the body of the evangelist, Dr. Billy Graham.
On roads I travel often, the procession went from Black Mountain to Charlotte. My daughter and her family were blessed to be in the crowds lining the streets.  
Fire trucks parked at the overpasses and hung American flags from their ladders.

Red heart balloons floated heavenward as the hearse passed by.
I only meant to spend a few minutes watching the televised procession. But, just as it has happened numerous times before, God has an amazing way of proclaiming His love for people through Rev. Billy Graham. So much so, it was too difficult for me to pry away from the television.

Millions of people will join Rev. Graham in heaven because of his obedience to proclaim the gospel, and their decision to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
A multitude of tributes and testimonies will present themselves in the days and years to come. 
Many will share how their lives were changed by the words of Rev. Graham. I know his life, and his death, have influenced me.
When I was growing up in the 70’s, I never attended one of Billy Graham’s crusades, but I believe my family must have watched every one that was televised in our area.

I remember one time, one of Graham’s crusades was on the T.V. while my mother was busy in the kitchen. I was sitting on the den floor watching it. My mother happened to walk in the room when I was praying the “sinner’s prayer” of repentance.

Rev. Graham often asked people to pray with him out loud, so I did. She asked me what I was doing. After telling her, she explained to me that because I chose Jesus as my Savior a year earlier, I didn’t have to keep praying for him to save me. 

I understood and believed what she said, but every time I heard Billy Graham preach, he preached so powerfully, so full of the Holy Spirit, that I continued to pray that prayer at the end.

I was a young Christian. I knew I didn’t have the passion for Jesus like Billy Graham had, and I wanted that. So I kept praying!

Billy Graham's Presidential Medal
(Photo by Sally Matheny)
Not everyone has appreciated Billy Graham’s fervor. Early in his career, he was thrown out of a bar for preaching the gospel.

But, he didn’t allow discouragement to slow him down.

He insisted on integrated seating at all of his tent revivals despite the volatile, prejudiced environment of his early preaching days.

Graham would later become an advisor to twelve consecutive presidents of the United States. While that’s an extreme honor, no doubt, it entailed bearing several heavy burdens as well.

Even with all the accolades, Billy Graham was not a perfect person. Humble as he was, he would be the first to tell us that.

God allowed Rev. Graham to make mistakes. He gave him, and all of us, a free will to make our own decisions.

We can allow mistakes to harden our hearts. Or we can acknowledge our faults and turn away from repeating them. Mistakes keep us humble and remind us of our need for Christ. He stands ready to forgive and strengthen us.

However, sometimes we get so hung up on our shortcomings we are too afraid to share our faith. Billy Graham didn’t do that. He allowed God to use him just as he was—a sinner saved by the grace of Jesus.

We can permit our past sins to paralyze us, or like Rev. Graham, let them push us closer to Jesus. The same thing goes for life’s hardships, sacrifices, and pain. We can choose whether to acknowledge God’s presence during life’s trials, or deny Him and allow bitterness to take root.
Remember a repentant heart is tender. Because we’ve experienced grace, we should show grace to others, and point them to the One who restores peace.

Rev. Graham's earthly body will reside beside
his wife's. But please be assured, they both
are alive and well in their new bodies to 
live forever more with Jesus.
(photo by Sally Matheny)
Rev. Graham modeled bold faith-living. He was not afraid to speak the absolute truth of the Bible.

He didn’t hedge around his beliefs based on who he was with, or how it might affect his income, or his popularity.

Yet, just as firm as he stood in his faith, he also spoke with a love so sincere you could feel it—whether you were in a stadium under his preaching, or thousands of miles away in front of a television.
Someone said Billy Graham began planning his funeral years ago. He knew, through the death of his earthly body, he would have one more opportunity to be a witness for Christ.

We might all want to consider doing that—plan our funerals so they will be a testimony to Christ.

Better yet, like Billy Graham did, we need to boldly live out our faith now, so our last testimony will ring true.

Your turn. How has God used Billy Graham to influence your life?

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