Last week we marked the Statue of Liberty’s 125th anniversary; today we celebrate another American icon – Dr. Billy Graham – who turns 93.
Dr. Graham, according to all accounts, has truly done it right. A firebrand as a young evangelist, his style mellowed somewhat over the succeeding years, but he never lost his focus – or zeal for Jesus Christ and telling others about Him.
He was sometimes criticized for befriending Presidents on all sides of the spectrum, but in reality, politics was never Jesus’ thing either. His boldest political statement was “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17). Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world, and Dr. Graham has devoted a lifetime to pointing people to that kingdom.
I met him years ago at a Christian journalists’ conference. We talked for only about two minutes, but for that brief encounter Dr. Graham’s attention was fully directed at me, not the next person in line.
Having been in parachurch ministry for more than 30 years, sadly I’ve met a number of celebrated leaders who exuded a “what a pleasure it is for you to meet me” attitude. But Dr. Graham was not one of them. Despite his fame and many accolades, this struck me as a man who genuinely reflected the character and humility of his Savior.
Having bid farewell to his beloved wife, Ruth, some years ago, Dr. Graham now anticipates his own homegoing. He addresses that in his newest book, Nearing Home. In it he writes, “We are not meant for this world alone. We are meant for Heaven, our final home.”
That does not mean followers of Jesus should not seek to have a positive influence on lives in this physical, material world, but our priorities should always remind us this life is not the destination – it’s only the first stage of an eternal journey.
There is no telling how many people have been touched through Dr. Graham’s ministry of more than six decades. But if each of us could have just one-tenth of one percent of that impact, this world no doubt would be a far better place.
So, happy birthday, Dr. Graham!