Editor's note - This column is an adaptation of one that was originally published in The T&D on March 14, 2010.
I miss Billy. I miss his integrity. I miss his strong and certain commitment to ethical and moral behavior. Where integrity is used to describe the substance of an inanimate object as whole, entire, undiminished, it can also be applied to Billy, a complete man, undiminished by time and circumstances.
I miss Billy’s strength. The power of his voice, echoing across venues to thousands of ears listening intently to his words, has been like no other. The strength of his heart, resolute yet understanding and compassionate, has reached across generations of people.
I miss Billy’s fire. No man in my lifetime has communicated passion in quite the same way. There has been fire in his eyes, in his belly and in his heart, a fire that has been a beacon for those who have been drawn to its warmth and light.
I miss Billy’s joy, a joy brought forth and shared from the depths of his soul. His simple yet profound joy found its greatest release not in the trappings of modern media but through messages proclaimed in stadiums and arenas throughout the world. He chose not to sit in the confines of a television studio but to travel the world.
I miss Billy’s influence. His was a voice of truth and reason, respected by those who both agreed and disagreed with him. How rare is that kind of influence in our world today. He connected with people in a way that was personal and intense because he knew how often people struggle to find meaning and purpose in life.
I miss Billy’s commitment. From remote African villages to the most sophisticated cities of the world, he has followed through on a mission throughout the world. He has remained committed to his purpose and established avenues through which his wisdom can continue long after he is gone.
Born just four days before the end of World War II, Billy grew up on a dairy farm during the Depression. He had to work hard; times were uncertain and farmers of all kinds felt the devastating effects of the Depression. Though hard work demanded much of his time, Billy found time to become an avid reader.
At the tender young age of 15, Billy heard the message of God’s love and forgiveness and made a personal commitment to become a disciple of Christ. At 20, he was ordained by a church in the Southern Baptist Church, later receiving education at Florida Bible Institute and graduating from Wheaton College in Illinois.
He began preaching throughout the U.S. and Europe in the aftermath of World War II and soon began what became his signature event, the Billy Graham Crusades. The first, scheduled for three weeks in Los Angeles, lasted instead for more than eight weeks, people clamoring to hear the same message Billy had received at the age of 15 in the countryside of North Carolina.
I miss Billy Graham. At 99, God stilled the earthly voice of this powerful giant of faith. Did he enter the Church Triumphant perfect? Certainly not. He entered forgiven, though, for his mistakes and missteps. He entered by God’s grace and mercy.
His has been a voice and presence like none other. The world needed Billy Graham’s integrity, strength, fire, joy, influence and commitment to the Lord he followed. He was mortal but now immortal. He was perishable but now imperishable. He was human but now transformed. Death has not defeated Billy Graham. There is only eternal victory through the Savior he loved and proclaimed.