Dear Billy Graham,
I just finished watching your funeral service televised from Charlotte, NC. I was grateful to be home this particular Friday after having to work outside the home for a string of Fridays so far this year.
I stopped and gave you the honor you are due.
There haven’t been many men like you who loved their family and raised them up as solid Christ followers, who loved his bride intensely every day of their 64-year marriage, who shared the gospel with millions of people one stadium-full at a time, who actively participated in the civil rights movement alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (bailing him out of jail), and who personally counseled 12 presidents.
The world may never see another one like you.
I listened to stories told by your children. I listened to some pastors speak. I giggled at your wife’s epitaph on her grave marker — Construction has ended. Thank you for your patience. I paid attention to yours — Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
We have freedom of speech in our country and you exercised that freedom to share the gospel. It touched me to watch our current president sitting directly in front of your casket from the front row. I found myself praying for our nation and our current president as the Bible instructs. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
I paid attention to the Scriptures that were read. Out of the entire Bible, which ones were selected for your final crusade? It was said you had input in the planning of your service.
I smiled when Ephesians 2:4-9 was read because I just spoke at church this week about what it means to have been born “dead” in our transgressions. Dead people can’t do anything to help themselves.
I am so thankful our Savior came for us.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
And then 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 was read. You made sure all who were watching today understood they have an invitation to heaven.
Our death is not the end of our story.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
As the bagpipes played during the recession, I rose from the living room couch and stood to honor you. I too want to live my life well for Jesus. My path is not one of fame. No crowds travel to hear me speak. But I know how God chooses to use us is His business, not ours. And I know success is not measured by visible results, but by the invisible level of surrender in our hearts.
May He also get my whole heart until the end of my days on earth.
Not many highly visible Christ followers make it to their 99th birthday, and fewer make it all the way to their last breath without scandal or faltering in their walk with God.
Thank you, Billy Graham for showing us that even in 2018, living in such a way is still possible.
Picture Explanation: Photos by Aaron Burden on Unsplash — Follower of Christ and Hobbyist Photographer – You can follow his quest of capturing the beauty of creation on Instagram @aaronburden and Twitter @theaaronburden.