Thank You, Billy Graham

Like many of you, I am deeply saddened to hear news of the death of Billy Graham today. He was a friend, a colleague, and mentor to me, and I will miss him dearly.

When reports of his declining health made headlines recently, I reflected on a trip I took with Nellie Jo to visit with Mr. Graham at his home in Montreat, North Carolina in the fall of 2009. Though it was not my first time to meet with the famed evangelist, this visit seemed especially poignant at the time. Perhaps the poignancy of the moment related to the visit in his home. I had never been to the mountaintop cabin that he and his family called home for so many years.

It was my first visit with Mr. Graham since his beloved Ruth had passed away two years prior. Her photos and keepsakes were visible throughout the home. This visit was certainly different for that reason. Still again, my time with Billy Graham was poignant because he was in his twilight years. He knew it. So did I. Sadly, this would be my last visit with him.

Lessons I Learned on My Visit

I also knew that when I meet with people like Mr. Graham, there is always an opportunity to learn from them. So in the visit I had with Mr. Graham, I wanted once again to glean from his life, his wisdom, and his experience. My quest was not disappointing. To the contrary, I came away realizing that I had been on the mountaintop in more ways than one.

Here are five simple but profound lessons I learned from that visit with Billy Graham.

  1. A life pleasing to the Lord is a life of integrity. The name of Billy Graham inevitably reminds us of integrity. His was a life that did not compromise morally. It was a life that was above reproach financially. And his was a life of incredible honesty. Leadership at any level cannot begin to function well unless the leader has integrity.
  2. Our first ministry is to our family. The home of Billy Graham was a home of love. It was the place where Billy and Ruth Graham raised children and welcomed grandchildren. At one point in my visit with Mr. Graham, he pointed to a portrait of his late wife Ruth. With tears in his eyes he said, “I can’t wait to see her in heaven.” Today, he has that joy. Thank you, sir, for reminding me again of the priority of family.
  3. Listen to critics, but don’t dwell on them. In my position, I am subject to criticisms more often than I like. Indeed I am pretty thin-skinned, so it is an area in which I constantly struggle. So I asked Mr. Graham how, in a lifetime of international ministry and scrutiny, he dealt with the constant stream of criticisms. He smiled at me and simply said, “I ignored most of them.” While he never implied that he was blameless, he knew that dwelling on criticisms would distract and harm his ministry. So he simply moved on.
  4. Humility is one of the greatest virtues of leaders. He counseled presidents and kings. He preached to millions. Volumes have been written about his life and ministry. Some have seen him to be the world’s most influential person of the second half of the twentieth century. Yet in each of the times I was with him, I witnessed one of the most humble men I’ve ever known. Billy Graham never thought too highly of himself. What an incredible example he was.
  5. All that really matters is Jesus. Mr. Graham preached about Him for most of his life. The message of the gospel was the heart of his ministry. He understood the brevity of life. And he knew, when it is all said and done, our relationship with Jesus Christ is all that really matters.

These lessons are but a sampling of what he has undoubtedly contributed to the millions and millions of lives he has impacted through his ministry.

It Was All About Jesus

And as I reflect on his life and ministry, I know I will never come close to becoming the man he was. Still, I can learn. And you can learn too.

We can learn to love our family and others with a greater love. We can learn to have a greater humility, understanding that we are nothing without Christ. We can learn that the simple things in life are those that really matter. And we can learn that this life is not about us.

It’s all about Jesus.

That was the life of Billy Graham. It was all about Jesus. That is the type of life I desire to have.

Thank you, Mr. Graham.

Thank you for your time. Thank you for your ministry. Thank you for your integrity. Thank you for your humility.

Thank you for your life.

Posted on February 21, 2018

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Jill Maynard says on

    What a great tribute for a great man of God! I pray that through the media attention of his death, the Holy Spirit will convince millions more to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

    • Candy Cakes says on

      Jill Maynard, God Bless You!

      Your words say it all; a tribute that would be the ultimate testimony to Rev Graham’s life in a world in dire need for the presence of Christ.

      Thank You!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Jill –

      I just did a television interview about my time with him. I pray it will be among the many where the gospel of Christ will shine.

  • To say I’m heartbroken by this news is an understatement. We knew this day was coming, but it still hit me pretty hard when I heard it. I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Graham, but I feel like I’ve lost an old friend. When I was in college, I read a quote by him that I’ve never forgotten: “If you shoot over someone’s head, it doesn’t mean you have superior ammunition; it means you can’t shoot.” Since then I’ve worked hard to keep my sermons clear and understandable.

  • Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your postings.

  • Connie Cunnningham says on

    I first met Dr. Graham when I was five years old. My father was a pastor and was a counselor at a Billy Graham Crusade in Nashville. Dr. Graham spotted me sitting with my mother and brothers before the crusade and sent someone to ask my mother if we would mind taking a picture with him. He said I reminded him of his daughter. It was a wonderful moment for me and for my family. The picture appeared on the front page of the Tennessean the next morning, and to this day, that picture still hangs in my home and in my brother’s homes. I was only five at the time, but I remember looking into his eyes and seeing a kind and gentle man. He had a profound influence on me and my family. Thank you, Dr. Graham, for a life well lived and a life dedicated to proclaiming the gospel of Christ.

  • This person was the greatest example ever, that Apostle Paul exclaimed “Keep your eye on the prize!”

  • Thanks for a wonderful tribute to one of the greatest Christian leaders of all time. The lessons you shared were insighful and relevant to all of us. Dr. Graham leaves an enduring legacy of integrity and faith. He truly was all about Jesus.

  • Greg Salyer says on

    I also had an opportunity to spend about 10 minutes with him back in the 1990’s at the Cove. Such a kind, wonderful gentleman. He will be missed.

  • I know many now pooh pooh mass evangelism saying most who respond don’t stick with the faith.

    A televised Billy Graham crusade led me to the Lord in 1967, and it has stuck.

    Thank you Rev. Graham.

  • Peter Soderholm says on

    I never had the pleasure of meeting the man. But he is the reason I am a Christian today. How many people will meet him in paradise and say, “I am a Christian because of you”? I suspect there will be many! Thank you, Mr. Graham, for leading me to Jesus! God Bless you!

  • Evelyn Penn says on

    Thank you for the firsthand knowledge of Mr. Graham. I will print these five lessons to help me remember, but I will always remember that it is all about Jesus.

    Bless you, Mr. Rainer, in all that you do.

  • Well written Dr. Rainer – from the depths of your heart! Thank God for Billy Graham! And, personally, I thank God for You, your leadership and influence throughout all these years! God’s blessings to you my friend!

    • Dixie Holeman says on

      A wonderful commentary on the life of Billy Graham.

      As a flight attendant, I had him, Ruth and Mr. and Mrs. Grady Wilson on a flight. I, too, found him to be kind and humble but also able to easily invest himself in the lives of others. He became very excited when he learned my husband was in seminary and interested in missions.

      Billy Graham was an outstanding example of Christlike behavior. Thank you so much for your article.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      You are a blessing as well, Randy.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thank you too, Dixie.

  • Bill Pitcher says on

    So far this morning I’d seen several other notices of Dr. Graham’s passing, but they had all missed the point of his life. Thanks for bringing it into focus. It IS all about Jesus.

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