March 12, 2018
When I heard that evangelist Billy Graham had passed away, I began to recall how his ministry had impacted my own life. As a young child I can remember my parents always listening to the “Hour of Decision” on the radio on Sunday afternoons, and hearing his unmistakable voice preaching to great crowds of people. I also remember my dad playing records, (this was before 8 track tapes, cassette tapes, MP3, and digital music) of Billy Graham crusade choirs, and soloists singing hymns and gospel songs. When I was in the sixth grade Billy Graham came to Tampa, Florida, where I lived, for a crusade. My dad, who was a music director in our church, sang in the crusade choir, and my mom took my sisters and me to the event. The event took place in the bleachers and on the field of a football stadium in Tampa. My recollection of that day was that it was really hot, and that the bleachers and the field were completely full of people who came to hear Billy Graham speak. The choir and everyone there sang How Great Thou Art and one of my dad’s favorite singers, George Beverly Shea, sang a solo just before Billy Graham spoke. I can’t say that I remember what the message was about, but over the years I heard many more sermons by Rev. Graham. I’m sure that in his message that day he challenged people to consider what the Bible says about their sin and its impact on their life. I know that he offered an invitation for people to repent of their sins, and believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for their sin, and to place their trust in Jesus as their only hope of salvation. I remember that my older sister stepped out of her seat and walked to the platform that day, and although she had professed her faith before, the call of the Gospel was so strong that she went forward and made sure of her decision. Over the years I heard many more sermons from Rev. Graham and how he delivered the message of salvation in a way that challenged those who heard it to understand and respond to it. I have no doubt that the ministry that God called me to in Christian education, and particularly sharing it here at FCS, was impacted by Billy Graham’s faithfulness to share the Gospel message and present a clear and simple challenge for people to respond.
In the funeral services for Dr. Graham, his son Franklin Graham, presented the Gospel message and told everyone listening that “there would be no better time” to receive Jesus Christ as Savior, than right now. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson said, “Billy Graham has established the high-water mark for the uncompromised preaching of the Gospel of salvation from a platform of moral godliness and humility. The message of his memorial service was a clear testimony to his remarkable life. Doctrinal purity, prophetic proclamation, and a platform of righteousness serve as a reminder to us all of what a preacher is supposed to be.” Even in Billy Graham’s death, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was not only presented, but an invitation was given for all those listening to respond. The President and Vice President attended the funeral and acknowledged Graham’s influence, not only on them, but on every American Presidential administration of the last half century.
One of the legacies of Billy Graham was his love of the Bible and his use of scripture throughout every sermon. The Gospel is the focal point of the New Testament and was the theme of every message throughout Billy Graham’s ministry. “Now I would remind you brothers, of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” I Cor. 5:1-4. “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:14. “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scriptures says, “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, will not perish but will have eternal life,” John 3:16. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation, to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek,” Romans 1:16.
The statement of faith and the mission statement of Florida Christian School reflects our commitment to faithfully teaching and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and our unchanging commitment to the infallible Word of God. Billy Graham was honored as one who never waivered in his commitment to the Bible and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May the same always be said of us here at Florida Christian School.