One of the most famous Christian evangelists in the world, Billy Graham, passed away on Feb. 21, 2018. “America’s Pastor,” as he was called, was 99 years old at the time of his passing.
Graham was the face of the new wave of evangelical Christianity since he began preaching in the 1940s. He also went on to become an adviser for many US presidents.
He was one of the most prolific pastors of all time, advising presidents Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton among others.
“Each one I’ve known long before they ever became president, been in their homes many times; always called them by their first names, until they became president,” Graham said of the presidents he advised. George W. Bush even stated that he wouldn’t be president without Graham’s council.
Graham had been active up until his death, despite his failing health. In 2011, over six decades of audio recordings of his ministry were put into a searchable online database.
That same year, at 93 years old, he released his 30th book, “Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well.”
Eventually, Graham pivoted his focus away from politics and back to religion and spreading the Gospel full-time.
He avoided political issues and refused to endorse candidates out of fear of dividing his national congregation.
“If I get on these other subjects, it divides the audience on an issue that is not the issue I’m promoting,” the pastor said in an interview. “I’m just promoting the Gospel.”
The pastor’s health had been in decline for years. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1989, and he eventually suffered from prostate cancer and hydrocephalus.
Death never phased Graham, though. He spoke about his outlook on death in a news conference in 2005.
At 86 years old, Graham said, “I look forward to death with great anticipation. I’m looking forward to seeing God face to face, and that could happen any day.”
Now the day he’s been waiting for is here. In his autobiography, he gave us a glimpse of the first thing he’d do when he got to heaven.
“I have often said that the first thing I am going to do when I get to Heaven is ask: ‘Why me, Lord?
“Why did You choose a farm boy from North Carolina to preach to so many people, to have such a wonderful team of associates, and to have a part in what You were doing in the latter half of the 20th century?’ ”
“I have thought about that question a great deal,” he wrote, “but I know also that only God knows the answer.”
Just hours before his death, Graham’s posted his final message on social media, leaving all Christians with a powerful message about following the path of God.
His message compared wandering off of a rural path to wandering away from God. “If you went for a walk in the woods, but then decided to wander off the path, and found yourself surrounded by a thicket of thorns and poison ivy, who would you blame?” he wrote.
“For a time, it may seem like wandering away from Him doesn’t make any difference; it may even seem easier and freer. But eventually it catches up with us—just as wandering off that path and into the thicket caught up with you.”
Truly remarkable last words. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. Rest in peace, Billy Graham.
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