By now, everyone on the planet must know that the Rev. Billy Graham has passed on. Notice that I didn’t say that he has died. After all, Billy himself indicated that someday we would hear of his death – and that we should not believe it. Instead, he wanted us to know that he has just changed addresses – and he is now in the presence of the the Living God in heaven. What an attitude – what a witness for Jesus!
From Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, to David Jeremiah and other pastors and authors in this country, Graham was recognized as perhaps the greatest religious leader in the past 100 years. The impact he had on witnessing to more than 200 million people in his life undoubtedly paved the way for the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of many who eventually came to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
I was very moved by the thoughtful remarks of Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, referring to Rev. Graham. He said, “Now he is face to face with Jesus Christ, his saviour and ours. It is the meeting he has been looking forward to for the whole of his life.” How true. And I’m not so sure that I don’t agree with those who have compared Dr. Graham to the apostle Paul, witnessing to more people than anybody else in the world in during their respective periods of ministry.
Others have compared Billy to John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet, who paved the way for the ministry of Jesus. Yet John realized that he was only the voice in the wilderness while Jesus was the Word – the living God. Billy Graham had the same humility about himself. He has dedicated his life to pointing people toward Jesus, just as John did several thousand years ago.
Janet and I were fortunate enough to attend one of Billy’s Crusades here in Indianapolis back in 1999. It was a remarkable event. It was the first and only time we saw Dr. Graham in person although our entire lives we had heard of his Crusades and watched them on television. We attended the event one evening and were mesmerized by his simple message of the love of Jesus and how Billy preached to the audience. When the alter call same, we couldn’t believe how many people went down on the floor to profess their faith. Even though Janet and I were, and are, devout in our faith, we re-dedicated our lives that evening as well.
The verse for tonight tells us that Jesus has gone on ahead to prepare a place for each of us. Of course, I am sure that Billy is there tonight. We are told by Jesus, as recorded by the apostle John, in John 14:1-4, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus loves each of us and Dr. Graham proclaimed that message for more than 80 years of his life to 12 presidents and millions of others. My prayer is that each of us may be as humble and experience the sureness of the love of God the way that Billy did. Well done, good and faithful servant! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…