Franklin Graham: The Legacy of Billy Graham
THE SURPRISE OF A LIFETIME
Franklin Graham has been speaking on behalf of his father, Billy Graham, and his new book, Nearing Home. At 93, Rev. Billy Graham says he never thought he would grow to be as old as he is. It has been the greatest surprise of his life. All of his life he was taught how to die as a Christian but no one ever taught his to live the years before he died, or how to live those years well and with purpose. He has been very honest about the process of growing old. It is not for the faint hearted. The body has aches and pains and doesn't always feel as strong and healthy as the mind does. Rev. Graham knows that the Lord will call him home soon and looks forward to the day he will be reunited with Him and his beloved wife Ruth. She died in June 2007 at age 87 after 64 years of marriage. He also knows that growing old and all the challenges that it brings is not the full picture of what God intended aging to be.
The Bible does not portray growing older as free of problems, a time to be despised, or a time without purpose until we are reunited with the Lord in heaven. It does say there is a reason for keeping us on earth. If that were not the case, God would take us home sooner. No matter what age we are, and not just when we’re older, we can face the latter years with strength, hope, fulfillment and even joy. With God's help we all can face growing older with grace and find the guidance we need to finish well.
The scripture is filled with examples of men and women God used later in life that had a great influence, like Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Elizabeth, and Anna. Rev. Graham says for them, growing older wasn’t something to be denied or dreaded; it was to be embraced as part of God’s plan for their lives.
“The best way to meet the challenges of old age is to prepare for them now, before they arrive,” Rev. Graham says. We can learn to look at these years from God’s point of view, and it is possible to discover His strength to sustain us every day.
Rev. Graham has observed that the days when seniors were respected and admired are gone. He says he was taught to look up to his elders when he was growing up, and he doesn’t remember thinking any of them were really old. As the years went by, he gradually realized he was getting older too. It would show up in small ways, like forgetting a good friend’s name or having a server at a restaurant offer him a senior discount before asking him if he was actually eligible for one. Also it showed itself in more serious ways, like a decline in energy and illnesses. Rev. Graham says we have a choice to be content with where we are in life. Like the Apostle Paul says in Phil 4:11, he learned to be content in whatever state he was in. As we age, Rev. Graham says we should never get too old to learn or to smile.
The decision to step aside from his life’s work of preaching was not an easy one. As the years went by, Rev. Graham realized he no longer had the physical stamina to maintain the schedule he had been keeping. Gradually and reluctantly, he decided to retire from the ministry. However, through prayer and seeking advice, Rev. Graham found that God was leading him to bring that part of his ministry to an end. He decided that his New York crusade in 2005
would be his last one. After the crusade was finished he had a definite sense of peace and he knew he had made the right decision.
Though the word “retirement” is not in the Bible, it is still something to consider carefully. The three things that Rev. Graham suggests that God may use to guide you if you have to make the decision to retire are:
- Consider your situation. What is your physical condition? How are you financially? Your response to these questions may indicate it is time to consider retirement.
- Consider your spouse. The decision to retire should not be made by yourself. Consider your spouse’s situation and input in your decision to retire.
- Consider the pitfalls. Loneliness, loss of purpose, fear of the future, and other emotions may come. Be aware of these as you consider retiring. Do all you can to prepare for the inevitable changes retirement
While society may not believe that growing old is a respectable phase of life, his prayer is that believers will walk the last mile of the way God has for them victoriously as Moses did when he died at the age of 120 (Deuteronomy 34: 1, 5, 10). The impact of Moses’ life continued on in his successor Joshua, the great military leader for God’s people who led them into the Promised Land. Rev. Graham says to consider the testimony you are passing on to others following you. Don’t diminish the impact you can make on others’ lives. Pass on foundational truths of God’s Word so that younger generations will be as Joshua. Here are some other things to help you “near home” well: Be thankful, stay hopeful, plan for the future, know that the present life is not the end, and turn your heart to your heavenly home.
ABOUT FRANKLIN GRAHAM
Franklin Graham has devoted his life to meeting the needs of people around the world and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The fourth of five children born to Billy and Ruth Bell Graham, he serves as President and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. In the 1970s, Samaritan’s Purse founder Dr. Bob Pierce asked Franklin to join him on a six-week mission to Asia. It was during that time that Franklin felt a calling to work with hurting people in areas of the world affected by war, famine, disease, and natural disasters. Since then, under Franklin’s leadership, Samaritan's Purse has met the needs of poor, sick, and suffering people in more than 100 countries. As an evangelist for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, he has led crusades around the world.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association appointed Franklin Graham CEO in 2000 and president of the organization in 2001