Just when we needed to be reminded, God showed up. Days after violence erupted again, righteousness confronted us in the face. As a people, we were called to attention when the Reverend Billy Graham, age 99, finished his race and passed into heaven.
His legacy is so great, that our national conversation about gun control and mental illness paused. Legislators from both political parties, the most powerful men and women in our country, came together for one purpose. All eyes and ears were tuned, if ever so briefly, to honor a man whose singular focus was to honor Jesus Christ.
Much has been said and written about this humble servant of God, known as America’s Pastor. The opposite of a divider, he was an includer. Dedicated to the fundamentals of Christianity, and steering clear of divisive doctrinal debate, He boldly declared God’s love for all mankind. It is estimated that his message touched over 200 million people in 185 countries.
In fact, I was privileged to hear him in person during the spring of 1991. His evangelistic crusade came to the Pacific Northwest that April. I heard him in the Tacoma Dome and, two days later, in the old King Dome near the Seattle waterfront. My six-year-old son responded to Pastor Graham’s message at the King Dome; so we joined the stream of people at the end of the service, climbing down several tiers of seats to get to the front altar. What joy to pray with my son as he reached out for saving grace, trusting Jesus would keep a hold of him forever!
Watching a special memorial service last Wednesday, broadcast from our capital’s Rotunda in Washington, DC, tears fell as my heart overflowed with thankfulness for this servant of God. While the color guard reverently carried Pastor Graham’s casket, with precise footing - one step at a time, up the many stairs to the building, I worshipped God for His favor on this extraordinary man. And I longed to finish well just as Billy Graham had.
Many wonderful things were said about this North Carolina farm boy who served as an Ambassador of Christ, spreading the Good News of the Gospel far and wide. I especially loved the following comments by Rear Adm. Barry Black (Ret.) Senate Chaplain, who gave the benediction at the Rotunda ceremony. He thanked God for Pastor Graham’s “scandal-free life of integrity, characterized by conduct that was above reproach.” He added that Pastor Graham “invited the multitudes to start and sustain an experiential relationship” with God. And he acknowledged that the Lord blessed Graham with the humility and commitment to “bring deliverance to those held captive by sin, to restore sight to the morally and ethically blind, and to set on the path of freedom those shackled by addictions and despair.”
Reverend Black also thanked the Lord for “the force of Billy Graham’s convictions which transcended the boundaries that divide humanity, creating a spirit of oneness,” inspiring us to be salt and light to our generation.
And so, the call to finish well is clear! To pursue righteousness with humility and hope, honoring others because of God’s great love for all of us. Isn’t that how we’re meant to live?
At this time in our nation’s history, I can’t think of a better reminder of what our sustained faith can accomplish, than of how Almighty God worked through this one man who was obedient and single-minded. Each of our lives count for eternity. Will you join me in a renewed commitment to serve God as Pastor Billy Graham did? Shalom.