The man known to millions as Billy Graham was born November 7, 1918, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and named William Franklin Graham, Jr. He is a Christian evangelist and ordained Southern Baptist minister. He rose to fame in 1949 when his ministry reached a constituency of white, middle-class, moderately conservative Protestants. He is also a published author (Just as I am, The Reason for My Hope, and Salvation) and has movies and TV shows either about him or starring him (Man in the 5th Dimension, Billy Graham: God’s Ambassador, and Billy Graham, Hour of Decision).
Billy received his education at Wheaton College, Trinity College, and Bob Jones University. He married Ruth McCue Bell in 1943, and she passed away in 2007. The couple became the parents of five children: Franklin Graham, Anne Graham Lotz, Ned Graham, Gigi Graham, and Ruth Graham.
Billy Graham is now 95 years old, white haired, and in frail health. Even though he seldom leaves his mountaintop home, Mr. Graham agreed to attend a celebration in his honor on Thursday, November 7, 2013. Hundreds of well-wishers me to honor the nation’s most famous evangelist.
The celebration also featured what was billed as his final sermon. His sermon was given in the form of a video that was recorded over the past year and included his familiar message about the power of Jesus Christ to save souls. It also included his concern for the direction in which our nation is going. “Our country’s in great need of a spiritual awakening. There have been times that I’ve wept as I’ve gone from city to city and I’ve seen how far people have wandered from God.” I could not find much information about his sermon but understand it contained an invitation to turn to Jesus Christ and repent of sins.
In a speech in November 2011, Mr. Graham spoke about the challenges of old age. “All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how I ought to live in my latter years. Old age has its challenges and is not for wimps, but God wants us to embrace it as part of His plan for our lives, and to look for the Lord’s purpose in every circumstance and in every face or voice we encounter daily.
“The days when the aged were admired, looked up to, and respected are gone. But old age brings with it the gifts of remembrance, observation and reflection….
“In a sense all of us are nearing home, but we need to learn what it means to grow older, and with God’s help, to grow older with grace and find the guidance to finish well.
“The Bible has a lot to teach us on the topic of growing older, including the fact that God has a reason for keeping here anyone who has made it to his or her sunset years. The challenge – and opportunity – is to find God’s purpose for these years and align with that.
“Old age does not exempt one from fulfilling one’s purpose in life. Scripture is filled with examples of men and women whom God used late in life, often with great impact. For the most part they were ordinary men and women, but individuals who possessed extraordinary faith….
“What made the difference among the men and women God used is that they were prepared – mentally, physically, emotionally and, most of all, spiritually – for whatever challenges old age would bring their way. They knew that if God gave them a long life, He would be there for them. As a result, for them, growing older was not something to be denied or dreaded; it was to be embraced as part of God’s plan for their lives.
“God doesn’t want us to waste our latter years or spend them in superficial, meaningless pursuits. Instead He wants us to use them in whatever ways we can to influence those who will come after us. He wants us to finish well, and one of the ways we do this is by passing on our values and our faith to those who will follow us….
“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life. The greatest legacy one can pass on to them is a legacy of character and faith….”
Billy Graham is a great man who is finishing his life with faith, character, and grace. He is a man who knows God and tries to follow Christ. He has been a blessing, not only to his own family but to millions of other people. I hope that he will now be able to spend more time with his children and grandchildren whether he is in his last days, weeks, months, or years. They have graciously shared him with the world, and they should have some family time with their father and grandfather without the adoration of the public.