On the morning that Billy Graham died, I was on my way to a clergy meeting when I heard the news. Somehow, that seems at least a tad appropriate (at least for me). His was an amazing life—one that I deeply respected and honored.
I was not ushered into God’s Kingdom by one of his evangelistic sermons as many people have been. I came in by hearing God’s voice from another source. Still, his message was a continual inspiration for guys like me.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels that way. By the time I was heading home from the meeting, one of the satellite radio networks had set up a temporary station commemorating his life. That says something about the depth and breadth of this man and his faith.
He once said, “The moment, you read in the paper that Billy Graham is dead, you’ll know that he’s more alive than ever before, and I’m in Paradise. And I’m looking forward to it.” That single statement speaks of a faith that has helped win and inspire millions of souls.
The Protestant Pope
Some people called him the Protestant Pope. I’m sure he adamantly rejected that effusive title. He was happy to simply be called Billy. Try calling a Pope by such a casual name as that. He was as humble and down-to-earth as he was famous.
Every once in a while, I hear someone ask this question. “If you could spend an hour with any person who ever lived, who would you spend it with?” That’s a tough question to answer, but I know that Billy Graham would make my top ten. In fact, I’m pretty sure he would make my short list of five or less. He made that kind of impression on me.
If you’re interested, you’ll undoubtedly hear and read many reports about his life over the next few days and weeks. I suspect there will be several documentaries and possibly a movie or two. If there is, I hope they call it, “Billy.” The simplicity of the name and commonality of its very pronunciation bespeaks of the straightforwardness of his existence. Unfortunately, that title has already been taken (by a comedy), so they might come up with something else.
A Singular Purpose
One of his greatest attributes was his steadiness. He was called to be an evangelist, and that’s what his being entailed. Once he heard the call, there was no turning around. He set his face toward the goal of his high calling and never looked back. He had a singular purpose, and he never wavered from it. That, alone, is enough to look to him as a role model.
I suppose the most important constant in Billy Graham’s life was the fact that he understood who he was. He was a sinner in need of the grace of Almighty God. He never forgot that. He embraced that grace and extended God’s offer of it to the rest of the world. We should do no less.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]