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A Visit with Billy Graham 03/13/2009

James and Betty with Billy Graham

 

Betty and I have been privileged through the years to meet with many well-known people, including leaders in politics, entertainment, business and the church. We always consider it an honor and privilege. This past weekend, however, we both felt we visited one of history's greatest and most admired individuals. We shared lunch and spent some time with the most influential preacher of our times -- evangelist Billy Graham.

It was an honor to sit with him in the house his wife, Ruth, designed over 50 years ago. Sitting on the mountaintop in North Carolina, we expressed our gratitude for the life and witness of this yielded servant of our mighty God. I thanked him for the love and interest he had shown toward me since I was a teenager. It was amazing how God blessed me at such a young age with huge crowds and a truly supernatural response to the invitations to accept Christ. Somehow it caught his attention and he began to encourage and assist me. One of his first acts was to ask a leading tax attorney to set up our nonprofit organization. Not only was he doing me a great favor, but he was helping to establish the integrity and accountability that is important for every ministry.

He kept up with our ministry and called on numerous occasions to tell me how much he had enjoyed a message that I delivered during one of our primetime television crusade specials. In fact, he was the one who encouraged me to launch our television ministry in 1968.

I remember his graciousness when I questioned him for freely inviting people of various denominations to participate in and even lead his crusades. I once asked him if he didn't think he was compromising in some way by reaching across denominational lines and, in the most humble fashion, he asked, "James, do you know these people?"

It was this wonderful Baptist leader who told me how blessed he was to meet with people whose vision had not been limited by seeing things only within the realm of their denomination. He explained that the crusades outside the United States would have been impossible without the commitment of charismatic and Pentecostal groups. He also wanted to build bridges between Protestants and Catholics because he believed that it was Jesus who needed to be lifted up, not a particular group or church. He helped me to recognize how our views are often limited by tradition and sectarianism.

Billy Graham's kindness and humility inspired me to become more yielded to God's work in my own heart and life. Over the years, God has stretched the sails of my life to catch the fresh wind of His Spirit and I have experienced the continuous transforming grace of our great God. Because of the witness and wisdom of this great American evangelist, I was inspired to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth through the outreaches now in the care of LIFE Outreach International.

Betty and I had the privilege of thanking Reverend Graham for the inspiration he has given us. We told him of the millions of people who were continuing to come to Christ because of the love and encouragement he extended. I reminded him of the day that he told me how his wayward son Franklin had recently given his life to Christ. As we shared a sandwich on a golf course, his piercing blue eyes teared up and together we rejoiced in the Lord for his son's salvation. Billy thanked me and Betty for encouraging his family, supporting Franklin's ministry Samaritan's Purse, and helping his daughter Ruth with her outreach to those who have been hurt and discouraged and, in her words, "sit in church pews with a broken heart." Ruth had just returned from our mission outreaches in Africa and invited us to this special visit with her father.

Billy is 90 years old now and has some people who attend to the needs of a man his age. As I expressed gratitude to those who helped him, I pointed out that although I was a spokesman and evangelist, God had also made me a servant. I conveyed the joy and fulfillment Betty and I have found in serving others. He smiled and said, "That's good, that's good."

Reverend Graham and I both share great concern for the current state of our nation and the world. I asked him if he thought our country had come to a point where we would humble ourselves before God and if the current financial shaking was bringing us to the point of humility. He slowly shook his head in disappointment and said, "No."

I asked if he thought it would take even more pressure to bring us to our knees in Godly brokenness and he nodded, "Yes, I'm afraid so." We both pray for humility, not humiliation, so that our nation can receive mercy and miss the consequences of sin that has captured so many people.

I marveled as we visited because through our conversation I recognized that he was still puzzled as to why people would have ever come to listen to him in the first place. Billy Graham not only talks about humility, but he also lives it. He is amazed that God ever used him in such an incredible, supernatural way.

It was truly a joy to hold his hand and pray with him. It was such a privilege to break bread with one of the greatest saints and servants who ever walked on this planet. I hope that Betty and I were able to express what our friends and believers around the world would say to him, given the opportunity: "Thank you, Billy. Thank you for pointing me to Jesus! We will continue to fight the good fight and seek to walk with the humility so beautifully and faithfully demonstrated throughout your life."


Author: James Robison

Editor: Randy Robison

Word Count: 989

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and his wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Soul of a Nation, The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net . Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.