A great man died last Wednesday, and news outlets across the world have been fulsome in their tributes.
Their reticence was nor an illustration of the old Latin maxim about not speaking ill of the dead, but a genuine acknowledgment that in Dr. Billy Graham, the world had seen a man of genuine sincerity, humility and integrity.
Billy Graham had his critics, of course. Some found his interpretation of the Christian faith too simplistic, while others thought his presentation of the call to faith surrounded with too much emotionalism. An evangelist of an earlier century, D.L. Moody was once challenged by someone who said that he did not like Moody’s method of evangelism. ‘Well, then, ‘ said Moody, ‘Tell me your method’. When the critic was speechless, Moody remarked, ‘I prefer my way of doing evangelism to your way of not doing it!’
At the outset of Graham’s ministry , he recognised that two particular problems often undermine Christian witness; namely, sexual misbehaviour and financial aggrandisment. He made it a rule never to meet or dine alone with any lady other than his wife. Some might feel such a decision too extreme, but in the light of recent allegations in Britain who can say that he was misguided? He was determined that no action of his would bring that Christian faith into disrepute. Once when scheduled to have a private meeting with Hillary Clinton, he insisted that the meeting take place in a hotel dining-room.
Early in his ministry, financial matters were entrusted to a body of trustees, who awarded him only a modest salary. Like Abraham, he was determined that no one could claim to have made him rich (Genesis 14;23).
A story from one of Graham’s early books, ‘World Aflame ‘ often comes to mind. A boy was travelling alone on a train. Fellow-passengers asked him how far he was travelling. He replied that he was going to the terminus. ‘Are you nor afraid, making such a long journey all alone?’ ‘No’, replied the boy’ You see my Father is the engine driver’. That was Billy Graham’s confidence too. He believed firmly that this is God’s world, redeemed by Jesus Christ, and that ultimately God’s truth would prevail, and his cause be vindicated.
Billy has reached the end of the journey, and of him it can be said that he fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4;7). When comes such another?