A Man Who Imitated the Father
This past month it has been so interesting to hear the gospel message of Jesus Christ being announced over radio and television as people from all nations were reporting of the passing of evangelist Billy Graham. During the funeral, Billy's daughter pointed out that his passing was the same date as the passing of Moses on the Jewish calendar. The world lost a great leader of the Kingdom of God when Billy Graham entered heaven. In the Bible when we see great leaders pass, there is also a passing of a mantle to another person or to an entire generation. This mantle being passed does not mean that one person will take on Billy's gifts or particular assignments, but it does mean there is a responsibility to accept what the Lord wants us to receive from this. Now that Billy Graham is gone there need not be a void but a multiplication of what God did through him.
As I was watching clips from interviews and preaching that Billy Graham had done over the years, I noticed some things the Lord wants us to "catch" from this man's life.
Keep our focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many gospels out there- each person has a choice to live by their own truth in life or by God's truth. It is very popular to say, "live by your own truth". My own truth is subject to change depending on emotions and circumstances, so where would that get me? The Bible says it leads to death. "There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12). "Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father, but by me" (Jn.14:6). Billy Graham stayed true to the gospel message even when others disagreed with him.
Early in Billy's ministry he was questioning along with others the truth of the word of God. He took some time off from having crusades to get some things settled with God. In doing so Billy said that even though he may still have questions, he was going to receive the Word of God by faith just as he received Christ by faith. After this wrestling with God moment, Billy preached in a new way. No doubts, no questioning, no opinions from men stopped him from sharing the Word of God. He put more scriptures in his messages than he had before and he preached to more people than any other man from previous generations until now.
Magnify Jesus, not sin. Religion works hard to always put the focus on sin and the sinner. The religious mind says, this is my job to point out the sin, but that has always been Holy Spirit's job, not man's. When Billy preached, thousands would respond by giving their hearts to Jesus Christ because the message was all about man needing a savior. Billy Graham did not back down in telling people they had a choice to make, but he certainly did not use fear or intimidation to get people to make their decision for Christ. In magnifying Jesus, people's eyes were off of their shame and on the one who could give them a life they had always dreamed about. "I have come that you might have life and have life more abundantly" (Jn.10:10). Man's rules will not change and cleanse a heart, but Jesus will give power and freedom to walk out of sin into life abundantly.
Focus on what unites people instead of what divides people. Early in Billy's meetings the ushers were separating whites and blacks. Many meetings were held this way. Billy would not allow it and even though the head usher refused to change it, Billy went and took the ropes down because he said that all men need God and he would not be part of separating people. God's kingdom is His and He created all races so if we truly go by what God set up we will repent of the pride of racism and judgments we have against people that are different from us. This also goes along with those that are living in sin and, just because a person would not sin like they do, that person might view them in a negative way. This is why Billy Graham always reminded people that we are all sinners. In essence he was helping us to remember that none of us are God and we will always need God no matter how much truth we think we walk in. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom.3:23). This is what all people have in common- all people need a savior.
Have unconditional love for those that disappoint you. One of Billy's daughters shared how by her lifestyle and choices she made, she deeply disappointed her parents. When you are famous it is very difficult because, when you or your children fail, there is no hiding it. After realizing that she once again had used very bad judgment and made wrong choices, she traveled back to the family home to visit her parents. Billy met her in the drive and with open arms said, "Welcome home." Now that is something our Father God would say to us. It was interesting to hear the media talk about this because it struck a chord with all people. It was a highlight of the funeral when a daughter can stand in front of the world and describe her bad choices and how she embarrassed the family and tell her story. But you see her story was redeemed by Jesus Christ dying on the cross for her sins and so there was no shame and no fear. Her dad, Billy Graham was faithful to love like Jesus loves. Redemption began with that first hug to his daughter to release her from all her shame and to let her know her heart had a home in his heart. Oh I want to be that kind of parent. I want the love of Jesus to be felt and heard through everything I say and do. I believe you want that too.
Billy Graham shared that he had one regret in his life. What Billy Graham would do over if he could is that he would travel less, study and pray more and tell Jesus more of his love for him. Wisdom does come with age and we should pay attention when Billy Graham says this is what he would do different in his life. Here is a man that had a job of utmost importance in the kingdom of God. But the most important assignment was being a father to his children and being a son to His Father God. It sounds like he fell in love with Jesus more the longer he lived. Many people get their worth by being busy and overworking. I don't know if Billy Graham had this as an issue, but he certainly saw in looking over his life that he would manage his life and time much differently if he were to do it over.
Not everyone is called to reach the masses like Billy Graham did. You might be called to assignments that seem minor compared to what this man has done. Whoever you are, you are called to carry the testimony of forgiveness and love that Jesus gave you into your area of influence. Your influence might be large, it might be small, but with God all influence is large when you have the testimony of Jesus Christ living in you. God sent His Son to give life and you in turn release that life giving message to others in how you parent, how you do your job, how you fulfill your assignments, how you love, how you forgive, how you manage your life. A great leader of the kingdom of God went to his eternal home. Now it is our turn to take part in the mantle that has been dropped and release the true message of Jesus Christ!