Southern Baptist evangelist Billy Graham celebrated his 99th birthday on Nov. 7, 2017. Dr. Graham’s son, Franklin, said, “Dad is entering his 100th year. He told us on his 90th birthday that he thought that he was going to live to be 95. But, when he got to 95, he moved the goal post. And he said, ‘I want to live, I believe, to be 100.’”
In Decision Magazine the younger Graham stated, “As my father enters his 100th year, we are joyfully celebrating his life and ministry with a yearlong series of special events.”
Billy Graham has preached in evangelistic crusades all over the world. In 1973 in Seoul, South Korea, he preached to 500,000 each evening with more than one million people in Yoido Plaza hearing his message on the last day of the crusade.
Billy Graham has preached to more than 215 million people in person in more than 185 countries and territories and multiplied millions more through radio and television.
For eight decades Billy Graham has consistently preached the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Franklin Graham stated, “Here at his home in North Carolina, he has a Bible verse printed in very large letters pinned up on the wall in his bedroom (It’s also in the bathroom, dining room and several other spots around the house). It’s his life verse and it reads, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
Franklin stated, “My father has truly lived that verse his entire life …. As I travel and preach today, I invariably meet someone who shares a story with me of how they made a decision for Christ through my father’s Gospel proclamation. All to the glory of God.”
I am glad I have had the privilege of living throughout the crusade ministry of Billy Graham. I was only six years old when he conducted his first crusade in Grand Rapids, MI. I attended my first Billy Graham Crusade in Charlotte in October of 1958.
The crusade I remember most was the New York Crusade held in Madison Square Gardens from May 15-Sept. 1, 1957. It was broadcast via WBTV in Charlotte every night for 16 weeks, and I watched Billy Graham preach the Gospel on our black and white television every night. Can you imagine a major television network suspending their regular prime time programming to televise an evangelistic crusade in our present day?
In his autobiography Just as I Am, Graham said on the very first night of the NY Crusade, “We have not come here to put on a show or an entertainment. We believe that there are many people here tonight who have hungry hearts. All your life you have been searching for peace, joy, happiness, and forgiveness. I want to tell you before you leave Madison Square Garden this night of May 15, you can find everything you have been searching for in Jesus Christ.”
Every night the 19,500-seat arena was filled to capacity and on some nights beyond capacity. The choir of 1,500 directed by Cliff Barrows was in top form. Georgia Beverly Shea sang “How Great Thou Art” 99 times during the crusade. During those 16 weeks, 2,397,400 persons attended the meetings and 61,148 made decisions for Christ.
In his autobiography Graham said he prayed two prayers. (1) “Lord, help these people to receive You in answer to the prayers of the people – and do not let me get any credit. (2) I am willing to take any kind of tiredness, disease, or whatever it is, for this one night, for you to win these people.”
Graham’s insistence that God get the credit for the results of the crusades was indicative of his humility and it has been that characteristic along with his integrity that has marked his life for these 99 years. In contrast to some other national ministries, Graham’s ministry has been scandal-free. In fact, Graham’s name is frequently cited as a model of integrity for all ministers.
Billy Graham was a friend and spiritual mentor to 12 United States presidents, beginning with Harry S. Truman. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first president who really sought great counsel from Graham, remarked, “Billy Graham is one of the best ambassadors our country has, but he told me, ‘I am an ambassador of heaven.’”
After the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life, Graham flew immediately to Washington to comfort and pray for the Reagans. Reagan said, “It was through Billy Graham that I found myself praying even more than on a daily basis.” Barack Obama was the first sitting president to visit with Billy Graham in his home in Montreat, NC.
Billy Graham is widely regarded as the most influential preacher of the 20th century. Last December, Gallup released its annual list of the ten most admired men in the world and Billy Graham was named as one of the 10 most admired men for a record 60th time. He has appeared on the top ten list every year since 1955, except 1976, when the survey did not happen.
In 1954 Billy Graham was named Time magazine’s “Man of the Year.” Elizabeth Sy, writing for MediaMass, declares, “According to a credible source, Billy Graham is leading the race to become Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 2017.
The renowned evangelist has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In fact, Graham was the 1,000th person to have a star installed. He received an honorary knighthood by Sir Christopher Meyer at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. His life and legacy are represented at the Billy Graham Library and museum in Charlotte, NC. His earthly honors have been significant.
I don’t know how much these human accolades mean to Billy Graham, but I am confident his heart will be surcharged with delight when he thinks about heaven being populated with a great throng of people who are there because of his faithful proclamation of the unsearchable riches of God in Christ Jesus.