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A Giant Has Fallen

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On March 2, 2018, the world said goodbye to Billy Graham. It came not as a surprise. He was 99 and had been in failing health for some time. He spent much of his days sleeping. He spoke little.  Yet it still seems difficult to accept that one of history’s greatest servants of God is no longer with us. No one had ever preached to a million people before. No one had spoken to over a billion people, through technology, before. No one had ever met, let alone provide spiritual counsel, to so many American presidents and world leaders before. Graham had intimate conversations with Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, Lady Diana, JFK, MLK and many others. How could God allow one of his greatest servants to leave the field of battle, and what are we to do without him?

There are several things to consider. First, every spiritual giant, no matter how great or effective for God’s kingdom, has inevitably reached the end of their earthly sojourn. Jesus, the greatest of earthly ministers, lived only till he was 33. Peter and Paul both met an untimely end. George Whitefield, the greatest evangelist of his day, died at a relatively young age, as did David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards and many others. We would think that God would allow each of these unusual health and vigor until the age of 120 or beyond. But God does not. When these people accomplish their divine purpose on earth, they are released from active duty.

Each time a giant falls, it seems that God inevitably raises up another. No one could have imagined a replacement for Moses, yet Joshua took the Israelites places Moses had failed to. Elijah was one of a kind, yet Elisha performed twice as many miracles as his successor. D.L. Moody was the greatest evangelist of his day. During his ministry, Wilbur Chapman was converted. Through Chapman’s ministry, Billy Sunday was won to Christ. Through Sunday’s ministry, Moredecai Hamm was converted. Through Hamm’s ministry, Billy Graham was converted. Each age has called forth the next generation of God’s servants who accomplished God’s purposes in their day.

At times we look at people like Moody or Graham and we scarce can believe that there could ever be another Christian leader of their magnitude. But that is because we do not understand how God develops spiritual giants. We assume that these men and women must have had an extraordinary ability to walk intimately with God. They must have had an easier time having faith in God and trusting Him for miracles. They must have been unusually gifted orators and been blessed with an extra measure of charisma and charm. Such people, it appears to us, seldom cross the world stage.

Yet the fact is that Billy Graham was extremely ordinary. His preaching was not unusually eloquent. Instead, Graham preached with passion and conviction. While not everyone is gifted with the same eloquence, every person has the opportunity to develop passion and confidence in God’s word. Every person has the opportunity to become a student of God’s word and to devote himself to prayer. Billy Graham came from extremely humble roots. He was a farm boy. He spent most of his adult life living in the blue ridge mountains. He left his first college after one semester and was declared to be a failure by the school president. The first woman he ever loved rejected him because she did not think he showed enough promise for ministry! In his first sermon, he preached four sermons, back to back, and it took eight minutes! No one saw Graham as a young man and thought, “This is the next great evangelist of our age!” Yet that is what he became.

The truth is that the world probably does not need another leader who is exactly like Billy Graham. But there is no doubt that we do need spiritual giants. They typically come from unlikely places, so it is doubtful many will see the next “giant” coming. But what we also need are not just a handful of giants, but several brigades of spiritual foot soldiers fulfilling their calling as well. We need people sold out for God, just as Graham was, who are willing to obey whatever God tells them and to go wherever He sends them. We need people who are willing to devote ample time in prayer and in God’s word until they can declare it boldly and compellingly. We have no time to wring our hands in dread because our champion is gone. It is time to take a personal inventory of everything God has told us to do and then make sure that we are being absolutely faithful to the assignment He has given to us. We may not be the next Billy Graham, but we ought to be an authentic version of the person God has always intended for us to be.


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