Kathie Lee Gifford is one of the most outspoken Christians in media today. She was also a close personal friend of Dr. Billy Graham. In fact, she and her entire family came to faith in Christ through his ministry.
Those who know her were not surprised when she was interviewed yesterday on Megyn Kelly Today and began preaching the gospel boldly and joyfully. She explained that she has “the cure for the malignancy of the soul, and he has a name, and it’s Jesus.” Dr. Graham would be so pleased that she used his home-going to lead people to his Savior.
How can we follow her example?
“My eyes stung with tears”
Billy Graham became a Christian in 1934 at a Mordecai Ham revival. That same year, his father hosted a prayer meeting at the family farm. One of the participants, a man named Vernon Patterson, prayed that “out of Charlotte the Lord would raise up someone to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth.”
Fast-forward twelve years. Graham was thirty and already a well-known evangelist when he came to a crisis of faith. Could he believe the Bible to be the word of God? His friend Chuck Templeton and others were raising doubts in his heart. In his autobiography, Just As I Am, he tells the story of what happened next.
He took a walk in the moonlight of the San Bernardino Mountains in California. He dropped to his knees in the woods, opened his Bible and put it on a tree stump before him. He prayed, “O God! There are many things in this book I do not understand. There are many problems with it for which I have no solution. There are many seeming contradictions. There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science. I can’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions Chuck and others are raising.”
Finally he was able to say, “Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word-by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.” He says, “When I got up from my knees at Forest Home that August night, my eyes stung with tears. I sensed the presence and power of God as I had not sensed it in months. Not all my questions were answered, but a major bridge had been crossed. In my heart and mind, I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won” (his italics).
No one at that prayer meeting in 1934 would have imagined that Billy Graham would become the greatest evangelist since Paul. Or that his faith in the word of God would empower him to lead millions to faith in the Son of God.
From his life and legacy, we learn this fact: the Lord’s plan is seldom our plan, but his will is always an extension of his word. If we will speak God’s word as he gives us opportunity, he will use our lives in ways that exalt his Son and share his love.
“Be ready in season and out of season”
Paul’s message to Timothy is God’s message to us today: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). “Preach” and “be ready” are both Greek commands. The former means to “announce good news.” The latter means to “be prepared in every moment.” “In season and out of season” means to take every opportunity whenever it presents itself.
Here’s an example of such obedience.
In January 2000, leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina invited their favorite son, Billy Graham, to a luncheon given in his honor. He hesitated because of his health, but the leaders assured him, “We don’t expect a major address. Just come and let us honor you.” So he agreed.
After wonderful tributes were paid to him, Dr. Graham stepped to the microphone. He looked at the crowd and said, “I’m reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored by Time magazine as the Man of the Century.
“Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of each passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn’t find his ticket, so he reached in his other pocket. It wasn’t there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn’t find it. Then he looked in the seat by him. He couldn’t find it. The conductor said, ‘Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.’ Einstein nodded appreciatively.
“The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket. The conductor rushed back and said, ‘Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. No problem. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.’ Einstein looked at him and said, ‘Young man, I too know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.'”
Dr. Graham continued, “See the suit I’m wearing? It’s a brand new suit. My wife, my children, and my grandchildren are telling me I’ve gotten a bit slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion. Do you know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I’ll be buried. But when you hear I’m dead, I don’t want you to immediately remember the suit I’m wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I’m going.”
Billy Graham took this opportunity to explain his hope in Jesus and invite others to share it. On March 2, he will be buried in that suit beside his beloved wife. But we know where he is. And we can help those we meet today to meet him and his Savior one day.
Dr. Graham told an interviewer, “I would like to be remembered as a person who was faithful to God, faithful to my call-did it with integrity and with love.” How would you like to be remembered?