My husband can do a mean Billy Graham impersonation. His voice drops an octave, his eyes start to twinkle, and in his best Southern accent, he implores, “Come on down, just come as you are. Come on down.” Billy, as you’ve probably heard, hit 99 today — 99 years on planet Earth. The man was born in 1918, between two world wars, before polio was eradicated, before Twinkies or Elvis or NASA. He lived through a tumultuous century of wars and scandals and Al Gore inventing the internet. He was friends with 12 presidents of the United States and spoke in all the far-flung corners of the world, from a divided Berlin to backwater outposts of Africa — topping 185 countries in all. Pretty good globetrotting for a guy who was born in the days of the Model T.
But how in the world did Billy Graham catapult onto a world stage?
How a gangly Southerner speaking the same old message over and over again could powerfully rivet stadiums full of skeptics is a mystery — the mystery of the gospel. At bottom, it is a simple (nevertheless astonishing) story of a murdered Jewish carpenter and his subsequent rising again. Crazy. And Billy never tried to improve on it, he stuck to the facts. Come on down, Billy said. “Believe that Christ died for you. He suffered for you. He won the battle over sin for you. He rose from the grave and was victorious over death so that you can live forever.”
In honor of old Reverend Graham and the faithful, inspiring life he’s led, I give you a dozen great Graham quotes. Seems Billy and I like to natter on about the same subjects; these quotes all hit on a topic from Thirty Thousand Days. I think that’s fitting, since Billy has lived exactly 36,160 days today.
“I often wonder if God, in His sovereignty, allows the eyesight of the aged to cast a dim view of the here and now so that we may focus our spiritual eyes on the ever after.”
“The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”
“Strengthen your commitment to Christ—now. Don’t wait until the storms of temptation, or sickness, or old age threaten to blow you off-course; now is the time to strengthen your faith.”
“We should be about our Father’s business by pouring His compassionate love into aching and parched souls that have nowhere to turn, no one to love, and no one to care. Let them see Jesus in us. That is a living testimony.”
“God has given us two hands – one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.”
“…we are dissatisfied. We want more, more, more. But Jesus said, ‘You cannot serve God and money.’ He said that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses. Adolf Berle, in his study of power, points out that riches often make people solitary and lonely and, of course, afraid. Many times a rich man knows loneliness and fear, because when he makes wealth his god, it leaves him empty. You see, without God life loses its zest and purpose and meaning.”
“The greatest need in the world is the transformation of human nature. We need a new heart that will not have lust and greed and hate in it. We need a heart filled with love and peace and joy, and that is why Jesus came into the world.”
“I feel sorry for the man who has never known the bracing thrill of taking a stand and sticking to it fearlessly. Moral courage has rewards that timidity can never imagine. Like a shot of adrenaline, it floods the spirit with vitality.”
“No matter how dark and hopeless a situation might seem, never stop praying.”
“Humanity wants comfort in its sorrow, light in its darkness, peace in its turmoil, rest in its weariness, and healing in its sickness and diseases: The Gospel gives all of this to us.”
Unhooked and Unhindered
“A real Christian is the one who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip.”
“My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”
A man who has lived nearly forty thousand days exceedingly well is a guy we should all be asking how to live. As Mr. Graham so eloquently put it, “The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.” I’d say he used his time pretty darn well.