Dr. Billy Graham

He lived almost 100 years (1918-2018) and he was very mortal with shortcomings like all of us, but he was a great force for good. He preached the saving message of Jesus Christ with clarity for almost a century. Thousands trusted Christ because of him. Yes, it is pretty obvious that some made false professions. I suspect every preacher who has ever won souls to Christ has seen false professions. Not all who followed Jesus were genuine. Billy Graham touched millions of lives; all over the world!

Through the years I have heard him blasted by lots of people, many of them preachers who were close to me. Much of the criticism has come from people who never made much difference for the better in their entire lives. It’s so easy to be negative, critical and full of cheap talk than it is to see the good in someone and get up and do something of value. In my opinion, one of the biggest, most self-destructive flaws of Christians (especially preachers) through the centuries has been their propensity to zero-in in attack mode on each other, fellow Christians who are 98% like themselves. All they can see is the 2% where they disagree. The molehill becomes a mountain. Satan is reaching the masses with atheism, Islam and salvation by works; Bible-believing Christians are fighting over the mechanics of how to get missionaries to the field, the Lord’s Supper and church music; gagging at gnats and swallowing camels. I am not saying that secondary issues are unimportant; I am saying that too many Christians are woefully weak in cooperation, dwelling together in unity and respecting other Christians with whom there’s a 2% difference. It seems to me that we’re people of war who would much prefer to fight each other than real enemies of the cause of Christ.

I wish I could touch the hem of the garment of Billy Graham. He was a Christian giant among us. I am grateful to God for him and his Christian impact on this world. I feel privileged to have lived during his lifetime. I have asked God to give me a portion of the spirit which was Billy Graham.

A Decision that I Made Many Years Ago

God called me to preach when I was 13 years old. I’m thankful He did. In those early years, God allowed me to be the pastor of three small churches, and work as a pastor’s assistant in a fourth. In all of those cases, I was either in school or had to work at a secular job to pay the bills.

In October 1964, I became the pastor of the 11th Street Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas. It was a full-time pastorate, but barely; Mrs. Hutson and I lived on $125 per week, and paid all of our bills including rent and taxes. About that time, God brought me into the presence of several spiritual giants in the ministry: H. Frank Fort, Kermit Johnson, Nick Michalinos, Don Warren, Eddie Atkinson and others. It didn’t take me very long to realize that they were in a league far beyond me. I will never forget the day Kermit Johnson asked me to preach at a Preachers’ Fellowship in Beaumont where most of those men were. Talk about scared to death and intimidated! I had heard them preach, and listened-in on their Bible discussions. They were kind to me, but I have to tell you that it was a very discouraging time. I felt neither fit nor qualified to be a preacher.

Soul-searching! Yes, lots of deep soul-searching! I knew God had called me to preach, but I was also humbled by how inadequate I was for the task. Back then after lots of thought, meditation and prayer, I made a decision that has forged the direction of my ministry. I knew that I could not measure up to what other preachers could do, but I also knew that I could do all that I could do. I didn’t have their charisma, their gifted memories, their oratory skills or their great Bible knowledge. But, I could work hard every day; just as hard as they could. And, I could love people and really care. I could study hard and pray diligently. I could give God my best efforts. Routinely! I could make routine excellence the aim of my life. I would give myself to detail, and doing things right. My motives would be right, and I would not give myself to self-exultation. Back then I decided I would seek to be God’s man, as much as humanly possible give Him the best I have and let Him do with me as He might see fit.

I am content to be who I am. I am grateful to God that He does not expect me to be someone else. I am convinced that He only expects me to be the best that I can be on a routine basis. I am glad to be in His hand, and know that He is my final judge.

Baca

“Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well,” Psalm 84:6. The Hebrew word Baca carries with it the idea of weeping and sorrow. “The valley of Baca” is a literal valley in the Holy Land; by way of application it is a valley of deep sorrow in a person’s life.

When Moses and Israel were poised to depart from Egypt, God said to Moses, “The land, whither ye go to process it, is a land of hills and valleys,” Deuteronomy 11:11. Wow! That’s life: always ups and downs, hills and valleys everywhere, hardly ever any level ground! Everywhere I go there are tales of sorrow and suffering. So many people are hurting: sickness and death, debilitating diseases and injuries, financial stresses, addictions, shattered dreams, marriages in deep trouble, injustices everywhere, a world in which political sanity seems to have gone away. No doubt many of you who read these lines have a sack full of stories. You know what it is to be in “the valley of Baca.”

There are always two ways to react to trouble. The more common way, even for Christians, is to gripe and complain. It is so easy to see nothing but the bad. Lots of people blame God and get mad at Him about where they are. They forget that all of the miseries and troubles that we face in this world were the decision of man, not God. God warned of the consequences of failure to live life His way; Adam didn’t listen. We are all caught up in the mix; we’re in a world of troubles. “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble,” Job 14:1. Look around. Like it or not, that is the way it is; no one can escape trouble. People who think they will get through their lives in only ease and comfort are dreamers, out of touch with reality. Griping and moaning doesn’t change a thing, but that’s how too many people do it.

Every now and then someone in “the valley of Baca” digs “a well.” Instead of continuously sucking on his thumb, he decides to do something positive. Yes, really! He decides to leave the pity party, and make a difference for the better. He knows that in time some other life traveler will pass through the same valley where he is. So, he digs a well. Maybe like blind Fanny Crosby, he writes, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of his Spirit, washed in his blood. This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long; this is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.” That’s not the only well she dug.

How refreshing it is to stop by an old well! Somebody was there, hurting with sorrow and full of tears just like you; but he left a well, a place where you can be encouraged and refreshed. Out of his necessity came a tool; out of his tears came a song or a book or a sermon that has touched the lives of countless weary travelers including you.

Are you digging wells? You are not the first person to pass through your valley, and you won’t be the last. Make the most of where you are. Don’t just sit around and cry; dig a well.