Rev. Billy Graham - My Regret

When I heard Billy Graham had died, I was happy and sad at the same time. 

I also felt a profound sense of regret. 

I was happy for Reverend Graham. He’d fought the good fight, finished his race, and received his crown. The Lord Jesus, whom he had proclaimed without compromise for so many years, had declared, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.” What a scene that must have been. 

I remember Anne Graham Lotz’ answer to me when, during an interview, I’d asked about her father. “He sleeps a lot. He’s tired. He misses mama.” 

I’m glad, for Rev. Graham’s sake, that, in his own words, he’s now “more alive than he’s ever been.” And he’s reunited with his beloved wife and his precious Savior. 

I also felt sadness. A great man – a champion of the cause of Christ – lived no longer among us. Although he hadn’t ministered publicly in years, just knowing he still lived gave me courage. I’ve always been comforted, whenever I’d hear of another pastor who’d fallen into immorality, that Billy Graham was scandal-free. He proved it could be done, that you could live your whole life without bringing shame to the name of Jesus. His godly example gave me hope. 

And then there was the regret. The bitter pill you can never cough up. 

Billy Graham came to South Carolina, where I’ve lived for more than 30 years, twice. The first time was back in 1950, from February 19 to March 12. He preached most of his sermons at the Township Auditorium, but also held one large event at what was then Carolina Stadium, but is now Williams-Brice Stadium. It's estimated he evangelized over 180,000 people during that crusade. 

My father was one of them. He was 14 years old. 

Reverend Graham preached again in Columbia in 1987, from April 25 to May 2. 

I didn’t attend. 

This is my regret. 

I was a young believer then. I’d been saved for less than five years. The church I attended was passionate about sharing the gospel. My husband was the first teenager who came to faith under its witness. 

Fiercely committed to the truth of Scripture, this church struggled with Billy Graham’s willingness to work with all denominations, even those that didn’t preach what Scripture made clear – that the only way to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ – plus nothing. 

“When a person accepts Christ at one of his crusades,” the church leaders said, “he tells them to go to church. But he doesn’t tell them to go to a Bible-believing church, one that teaches that faith in Christ alone is what’s necessary for salvation. Those people will be led astray.” 

While our pastors didn’t specifically say we shouldn’t attend the crusade, they made it very clear that they disapproved. My husband and I, as new believers, eager to do what was right, chose not to attend. 

I’ve often regretted that decision. 

Now that I’ve walked with Jesus for many years, I’ve learned a few things that would have helped me make a different choice. 

I’ve learned that the Holy Spirit is trustworthy. That if he saves someone, he’s also able to complete the work that began at salvation. I believe if someone is attending a church that doesn’t teach the Bible and gets saved, God will either lead them out or make them a missionary to that church. 

I’ve learned that while there’s only one way to heaven, there are a bazillion ways to share the gospel. Billy Graham’s way was one of them. One very effective way, I might add, one that God blessed tremendously. Who’s to say that our way is the only right way? 

The apostle Paul addressed this in his letter to the Philippians. “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here (in jail) for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice” (Phil. 1:15-18). 

And I’ve learned that we should trust our spiritual leaders, but we shouldn’t follow them blindly. We should weigh their advice against the infallible Word of God, then seek God’s will for our lives through prayer and additional wise counsel. 

While I can’t undo the decision I made 30 years ago, I can learn from it. I’ve learned to trust the Holy Spirit, be gracious toward those who serve God differently than I, and allow God’s Word to be the final authority in every decision I make. 

As I rejoiced at Dr. Billy Graham’s homegoing, mourned the loss of him, and regretted that I missed an opportunity to hear him preach in my hometown, God gave me a sweet gift. Through the wonders of technology and YouTube, I found a video of one of the sermons he preached during his crusade in Columbia. 

Instantly I was transported back to 1987. Big hair, big glasses, and a big God who redeems regrets and calls all mankind to himself. 

Now it’s your turn. Have you ever attended one of Dr. Graham’s crusades? Leave a comment below and share your story. 

If you’re reading by email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment. I hope you enjoy Dr. Graham’s message as much as I did. 

If you're reading by email and can't see the video, click HERE to watch online.

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  1. I was very young, but I saw Rev. Billy Graham when he came to Columbia. I didn't accept Christ when I saw him, but it laid the groundwork for my eventual salvation. It was the first time I really felt the Spirit reaching out to me. When I turned 14, and it happened again, I recognized the calling for what it was, and I made a decision for Christ. I will always be grateful for the seeds planted back then.

    I am sorry you did not get to see Rev. Graham when he was in Columbia, but someday, we will be able to see him in Heaven and thank him for his faithful work for the Lord.

    And I am thankful to you for the work you do for Christ. I love your book, Hungry for God, Starving for Time, and I love this blog. God bless you!

    1. Bethanie,
      What a beautiful story of how God sows the seeds of truth in our lives until, one day, they bear fruit into something beautiful - a transformed life. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. And thank you for your kind and encouraging words. Sometimes Satan whispers, “There’s nobody listening.” Your comment proves otherwise. Thanks for being God’s voice of encouragement to me today. Blessings to you, sweet friend!


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