“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:15).
“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” (Throughout I refer to Billy by his first name, and I do so out of loving respect for him, as he was a friend to all of us.)
These words were spoken by Billy when he lived. Today we read that Billy, at 99 years of age, is dead. Based on being grounded in the Word of God, which led to his famed expression, “the Bible says,” he could explicitly say not to believe it. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26).
Billy lived his life based on the truth stated by Paul, that “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Billy lived by Christ and for Christ, who was his “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Now, through his death, he experiences gain. Even though he is now dead physically, he is now more alive than he has ever been. He is now in the presence of the Lord.
Billy was one of those men used of God in so many ways and in so many places. The memories, the tributes, the influences, recollecting the ways God used Billy in one’s life personally will be shared over the next days and weeks. This influence includes many in the EFCA, including the EFCA as a denomination. In all of it, Billy always deflected back to Christ. Remember – as we remember – to do the same.
Christianity Today, a publication begun under Billy’s initiative and leadership in October 1956 has collected much about Billy, his life and ministry. I include a link announcing Billy’s change of address to being “with the Lord,” along with a number of additional articles. There will be many more of these posted today and in days to come. This is a good place to begin.
Billy Graham (1918-2018): “Billy Graham was perhaps the most significant religious figure of the 20th century, and the organizations and the movement he helped spawn continue to shape the 21st.” This link consists of numerous articles addressing the issues related to Billy’s life and his ministry as an evangelist: In Memory Of; Early Years; Evangelism; Family; Behind the Scenes.
A number of years ago I wrote about An Interview with Billy Graham. At the conclusion of that post I wrote, “I thank the Lord for Billy Graham. I am also grateful that the Lord, in His faithfulness, preserved Graham so that he remained faithful to Him in carrying out his call as an evangelist and as evidenced in his commitment to the gospel in proclamation and life.”
Today, at the news of Billy’s earthly death, I give thanks to the Lord for a life faithfully lived to the end. Paul’s words are a fitting tribute: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
And a fitting final exhortation to all Christian brothers and sisters in the EFCA are words spoken by Paul and lived by Billy: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).