I was out of the country when Billy Graham died, so I did not get to tell you my thoughts about this amazing man of God. But if I keep silent, the stones may cry out.
It was one of the greatest trips of my life. Just last month I visited Jerusalem. I prayed at the wailing wall, I saw the stones that Jesus walked on on his way to the temple.
I also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—which is revered as the site where Jesus was crucified, laid in the tomb, and rose from the dead.
And while I was in the church I learned of the death of Billy Graham—who may have directly led more people to faith in the Risen Lord than any man in the history of the world.
It was a solemn, awesome moment for me.
Chances are that the vast majority of you listening to or reading BreakPoint have a Billy Graham story of your own. Here is mine.
I never got to meet Billy Graham in person. But if I hadn’t stepped away from the faith while I was at Yale, I would have met him. At one point I belonged to a Christian group on campus. But my doubts and other interests intervened, and I stopped going the very semester that Billy Graham came to campus to speak at Battel Chapel. Hours before his talk, I was amazed to see Billy Graham walk into the Calhoun Dining Hall where I was eating. He then went into a private dining room to meet with the entire Christian group I’d abandoned!
I was stunned. If I hadn’t left the group, I would have had dinner with Billy Graham! And all these years of not meeting him, I kind of felt like Moses not being allowed into the Promised Land.
But it’s been one way that God showed me that our disobedience has consequences.
While it’s true I never got to meet Billy on this side of the veil, I did hear him speak in Central Park in 1990 and again at his New York City crusade in 2005. For that, I’m m very grateful.
John Stonestreet told you on BreakPoint that we here at the Colson Center consider Billy Graham our spiritual grandfather in a way—because Chuck Colson was led to Christ by Tom Phillips, who in turn was led to Christ by Billy Graham.
Now, besides my own father, no one has had a more godly influence on me than Chuck Colson. And I’m guessing another member of the Colson Center family, board member Ed Simcox, might say the same.
Ed, too, has a Billy Graham story. He shared with me his thoughts on Billy’s memorial service, which he attended.
Ed wrote me, “At the age of 14 my mother and I attended the 1959 crusade at the old Fairgrounds Coliseum in Indianapolis . . . In my mind’s eye I can still see the great preacher delivering his message to an attentive audience. It was a message that moved me and stirred my heart. He pointed me toward God and created within me a life-long quest to know God and claim His son as my Lord and Savior.”
And then Ed related yet another connection between Billy Graham and Chuck Colson. Billy Graham was buried in a casket made by prisoners from Louisiana’s maximum-security prison at Angola. They also made a casket for Chuck Colson.
I’ll close with Ed’s thoughts on that:
“A ragtag bunch of murderers serving life sentences without the possibility of parole were forgiven and redeemed by [a] carpenter from the backwater town of Nazareth and they constructed a casket for the farm boy with whom they will one day be reunited in the next life.”
As Ed said, “The greatest storyteller in Hollywood could not possibly have written a script to match the actual events.”
I praise God for the life of Billy Graham. And thanks for listening to my stories. Be sure to share yours with those you love.
I Have to Talk About Billy Graham: We All Have a Story to Tell
Whether or not we’ve encountered Billy Graham in person, through one of his crusades, or possibly by reading one of his many books, his life and ministry have had a tremendous influence on believers all over the world. So as Eric suggested, take this opportunity to share your own stories with those around you.