Major Leaguer for God

By   •   October 16, 2011

Growing old has been the greatest surprise of my life. The young live for the here and now. Thinking ahead seems to be in the form of dreams that promise fairy-tale endings. Though I am nearing ninety-three, it doesn’t seem so long ago that I was one of those dreamers, filled with great expectation, planning a life that would satisfy my every desire. Since there were few things in life that I loved more than baseball, as a young man I dedicated myself to the sport and hoped that my passion for the game would lead me straight to the major leagues.

My goal was simple: stand at home plate, with bat in hand, immersed in an important game. I often pictured myself hitting a big-league grand slam into the stadium seats and hearing the crowd roar with thunder as I ran the bases—nearing home.

I never would have guessed what lay in store. After giving my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ—repenting of my sin and putting my entire life into His hands—I laid down my dreams, along with my bat, and fully embraced God’s plan by faith, trusting that He would lead me all the way. He did, He is, and He will.

As I look back, I see how God’s hand guided me. I sense His Spirit with me today, and most comforting is the knowledge that He will not forsake me during this last stretch as I am nearing home. If that doesn’t give me a sense of hope, nothing else will.

I have remained a baseball fan, not necessarily of one team over another but of the game itself the teamwork, the strategy, and the challenge of defeating the opponent. But baseball was not God’s plan for me. Nevertheless, He taught me how to integrate these important components into service for Him. The Lord has blessed me with a loyal team of men and women whose hearts are united with mine—set on leading others to an eternal home with Christ. Our team strategy has been to fulfill the Lord’s command to go into the whole world and preach Christ for the purpose of defeating the opponent—Satan.

When I started preaching, it was never my intention to preach inside a baseball stadium or any other stadium for that matter. I was accustomed to preaching in churches when I was pastoring and in auditoriums when I was traveling with Youth for Christ (YFC). At the close of the war in 1945, several of us on the YFC team had the privilege of preaching at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The details are sketchy now, but I recall the first time I stood in an outdoor arena to preach the Gospel. I had been invited to hold an evangelistic citywide meeting in Shreveport, Louisiana. When the local auditorium could not hold the crowds, the organizers had no choice but to move the event outside. Uncertain as to how people would feel about attending an evangelistic rally in a large arena, I was rather nervous.

Then I thought about my boyhood dreams. Instead of bat in hand at home plate, I had what I now know is a much greater privilege: to stand behind a pulpit, with Bible in hand, immersed in the power of the Holy Spirit. I was not performing before fan-filled bleachers but pronouncing the Word of God to sin-filled hearts searching for truth.

Life, indeed, is full of surprises.

Now, all these years later, I still enjoy watching a batter successfully cross home plate, but nothing thrills me more than seeing the Holy Spirit at work in hearts as the Gospel is carried into stadiums, across the airwaves, and around the world. A baseball may be driven into the farthest corner of the largest stadium, but the Word of God travels to the farthest corners of the earth, proclaiming the Good News of salvation. It still excites me just to think about the impact.

Jesus Christ did conquer death, and by His resurrection He was victorious. Before He left earth, He imparted to His followers the greatest of all strategies: go into the world and preach the Gospel. After listening to His words, they looked up to see their Savior nearing home.

I wonder. What home are you preparing for? Some people spend their lives building ultimate dream homes so they can enjoy their twilight years. Some find themselves exchanging their bank accounts for residence within the gates of a retirement center. Others spend their last days in nursing homes.

For those of you who do not know Him, choosing your eternal home is the most important decision you will ever make. For the Christian the last mile of the way is a testimony to God’s faithfulness, for He said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2 NKJV).

Excerpted from “Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well,” by Billy Graham. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tenn. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.

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39 Comments

  1. fiona says:

    i haven't read this book but i feel the impact already! God less you.

  2. Tonya says:

    Billy Graham I love you! You have been a part of my life since I was a little girl. Your sweet, simple message of repentance and giving our life to Jesus Christ has been a powerful force in so many lives. I love you and I thank God for you!

  3. Jerry says:

    Dear Rev. Graham,Thank you for your lifetime of commitment and service to Jesus, you are an excellent example of what a Christian should be like for the world to see. God Bless you.

  4. ESTHER says:

    DEAR REV.GRAHAM YOU ARE AN AWESOME CHILD OF GOD.I HAVE BEEN SO SO BLESSED THROUGH THE MINISTRY GOD HAD PUT INTO YOUR HANDS.ITS AMAZING HOW THE WORLD HAS BEEN TOUCHED BY GOD.GOD HAS USED YOU GREATLY AND RUTH AND ALL YOUR FAMILY.THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALLOWING GOD TO USE YOUR LIFE THROUGH THE MINISTRY FOR WE WERE IN THE LOS ANGELES DODGER STADIUM WHEN MY CHILD ACCEPTED CHRIST AND ALSO MY DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AMBER IN SAN DIEGO STADIUM AND WHEN BACK IN 1974 I SANG WITH THE CHOIR IN LAREDO TEXAS.WHAT A BLESSING THAT WE'LL NEVER FORGET.YES,MAYBE YOU WERE NOT A BASEBALL HERO BUT YOU ARE A HERO TO THE WORLD TO SEE HOW YOU ALLOWED GOD'S CALLING BE SO REAL.YOU ARE A REAL EXAMPLE FOR US TO FOLLOW. THANK YOU DR. GRAHAM. YOUR NEW BOOK IS ALREADY A BLESSING.

  5. Jacki says:

    I thank God every day for our wonderful, inspiring Billy Graham, who has spoken to more people about our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, than any other man on this earth today. You have truly been an example of a dedicated, loving, faithful servant to our generations and won with our Lords help so many to HIM. How proud you must be Billy to have such a God loving family to help too. We love you and thank you for all you have done in each of our lives. You have been and still are an inspiration to me in my walk with the Lord each day. God Bless you for that walk of faith we can see in all you do. I thank God for your life!

  6. Denise says:

    Our God is so incredible–before you ever dreamed of being in front of crowds in a baseball stadium, God knew you would see your dream come true–he just had a little tweaking to do. All of us thank God for His perfect answers for each of our lives. Thank goodness you did it His way.

  7. belinda says:

    You are living proof of the wondrous things a person can accomplish in a life time by trusting in Jesus for all things. Continue to Let your light so shine before man so that our Father in Heaven receives the glory. Mt. 5:16. Thank you Mr. Graham.

  8. Phil says:

    Dear Billy, thank you for making that commitment. Listening to God, putting down your bat and stepping out for the Lord to preach the gospel. You certainly made many a home run in the name of Jesus. I went to one of your crusades way back in 1968 in Earls Court, London (?). I was 15. It was a school trip which I wasn't taking seriously. I responded to the alter call but again I don't think I was serious. But God was. He was being serious. He laid his hand on me that day. I had been christened and confirmed and even sang in the church choir for several years but it never really meant anything to me. It was 21 years later you visited England again. A rally was held and QPR football stadium. It was satellited across the country into churches, halls and schools, the first time this had occurred I believe. Many more had the opportunity to hear the gospel. My wife and I had been going through a bad time for the last 4 or 5 years. We had nearly divorced but mainly because of the kids, we hung on in there always knowing there had to be a better way. She went to the boy's school to watch your rally, I seem to remember your add campaign was around the misspelling of the word LIFE. She came back a changed person, born again. I told her she'd made a mistake. I said that I did all the alter call stuff when I was 15 and nothing happened and now we will have the church knocking on our door trying to get our money. I was infuriated and it was nearly the end of our marriage. But things changed…

  9. Anita says:

    As a young mother at home the TV was on and you were preaching. I had no interest in even going to church at the time, my father being a christian man had taken us several times a week but I had fallen far from God. Your words reached me as the Holy Spirit softly spoke this is the Way. I fell on my knees right there in the living room, called the number and was led to Christ tears falling as my heart melted. I was sent the book of John and my own love for the Word grew. I am ever thankful that you chose to share Christ with me. Your life has been a inspiration, your love of Jesus shows in all your ways. Thank you for sharing the gospel of the good news. I always think, Billy Graham must have beautiful feet. As the bible says, beautiful are the feet of those that preach the gospel.