If Protestants had saints, the Rev. Billy Graham would surely be declared one of them.
The facts of Billy Graham’s 99-year-long life, which he dedicated entirely to God, are almost too spectacular to believe. His religious TV show ran for an incredible six decades. His very popular and well attended crusades began in 1947 and continued until his retirement in 2005. All total, his live audiences have been estimated at 215 million people in 185 different countries around the globe. His total audiences, both live and via TV, have been estimated to exceed 2.2 billion people. That adds up to a lot of people who have heard Graham’s clarion call to “come down and give your life to Christ.”
Graham’s association with our presidents began early in his preaching career. Regardless of the presidents’ political parties, Billy Graham was often photographed heartily shaking hands with many of our chief executives in the Oval Office. The first was President Harry S. Truman, and the most recent was Barack Obama. It was at this time that Graham earned the nickname, “Preacher to the Presidents.”
When the civil rights struggle began in the early 1950s, Billy Graham was among the first celebrities to promote racial integration and to oppose racial prejudice. At one of his early live crusades in the South, Graham angrily ripped down ropes that were separating black seating from white seating.
A few years ago, when Billy Graham’s health began to deteriorate, he had to step out of the public’s eye. During this time, his son, Franklin, who strongly resembles his father and shares his father’s strong faith, often substituted for him in speaking engagements and TV appearances. As a result, some people mistakenly assumed that Billy Graham had passed away and that his look-alike son Franklin had taken his father’s place.
Even during his lengthy illness, Graham was active and busy with his theological studies. He authored several books and continued his theological scholarship.
Of course, dozens of people — great and small — will compose many beautiful and moving eulogies in honor of the passing of the Rev. Billy Graham. However, the best and most profound tribute to him has already been written. In fact, it was written over 2,000 years ago.
It is simple, direct, precise, and perfectly summarizes everything important that needs to be said about Billy Graham and his life-long work to save souls. And, appropriately enough, it was uttered by Jesus Christ himself.
“Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21)