Authentic Humility – My Visit with Billy Graham
A few years ago, my friend Dino Rizzo and I had the opportunity to speak to the staff of the world-renowned evangelist, dr. billy graham.
While there, they invited us to meet Dr. Graham, and we of course jumped at the opportunity. At first they said, “You probably won’t be able to, because it depends on his health. If he feels up to it, though, you can meet with him.“
So we flew into his hometown, then waited until we eventually got the call that he had woken up and could take visitors. As we drove up there, I realized how nervous I was. It felt like we were driving to the home of the Apostle Paul! We walked in, and there he was sitting in his sitting chair. I could hardly breathe. Just being with this great man of God was encouraging!
At some point in our conversation I said, “Dr. Graham, it is clear that you loved your wife a lot. Do you have any advice for me?” Without hesitation he answered, “Yep! Do everything she tells you to do!” A brilliant man of God in his late nineties, with millions of lives saved because of his ministry, and he still remembers not to take himself too seriously! You gotta love that!
So, I then asked him how long it took him to prepare a sermon, and he replied, “It took me a lifetime to prepare every sermon.” Whoa. This is going well! So then I asked him, “You started this race and did it right. What’s the key?” Dr. Graham responded, “You do life right now with the end in mind, because the end is gonna come. I was able to see the end; now I’m at the end.”
Everything about that day was memorable to me, but what really impressed me was how the meeting ended. We had asked him to pray for us, but he answered, “I’ll pray for you, but you need to pray for me.” Just the fact that he asked us to pray for him was humbling, and I told him, “Honestly, I don’t know how to pray for you, Dr. Graham. How do I pray for you?”
What he said was amazing. He simply said, “The way you pray for me is to pray that I finish this race.” I thought, “You’re Billy Graham! If you don’t finish the race, we’re all going down!” Even in his twilight years with frail health, he is still running after God, still serving Him any way that he can. And he wanted us to pray for him!
I walked away from that moment with a deep reminder, a sincere challenge from a powerful man of God to live out our lives authentically.
As we were about to leave, he asked if he could pray for our churches. Here’s a guy who has preached to millions all over the world and has prayed for presidents and kings and he wants to pray for my church? Talk about a huge lift to our spirits. I walked away from that moment with a deep reminder, a sincere challenge from a powerful man of God to live out our lives authentically.
Similarly, the Apostle Paul challenged the Philippians with this:
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.
Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all.
When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. …Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure. (Philippians 2: 1-13, The Message, paraphrased)
I came away from that meeting thinking this is the way it ought to be – three men, separated by a couple of generations, lifting each other up to God in prayer. Billy Graham has faithfully served in his calling through the decades with a humble and sincere heart, with the end in mind. He doesn’t want to mess it up, even at the end.
It’s good to take a moment to remember that we’re citizens of heaven. If your name is Dr. Billy Graham with a ministry that reaches millions of lives, or if you have been called to faithfully serve 10 people, what matters is that we are all part of an eternal community founded on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In His Kingdom, it’s a waste of time to pursue your own agenda. The challenge for you, and for all of us, is to be the best you that God has called you to be, living a life of transparent humility with others.