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. Bill says:

    Dear Billy.I was a 12-year-old boy in the summer of 1958 when my Dad and I watched one of your crusades on TV. During your invitation, I prayed to receive Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. In the years that followed I served on the staff of Youth for Christ for over 27 years, pastored a church for a short period, and currently serve on the staff of Alpha Ministries Canada. Thank you for the influence you had–and continue to have–on my life.

  2. Emma says:

    Mr. Graham, I have always been inspired by your faith, even as a young girl back in the 60's. I can remember laying on my back on the floor in our den watching your crusades on a small black and white TV. Mama let me send in money for your ministry and I received the Decision magazine. I would read that from front to back as soon as it arrived. When you came to Raleigh back in the 70's I was a student at Meredith College and attended one evening. May our Father continue to love and comfort you as He promised “all the days of our lives”.

  3. Dot says:

    Thanks to God for all you do and have done, may God truly bless you.

  4. Evie says:

    Dear Billy Graham – I have always admired you, your wife and famiily – I heard and saw you with my choir group in the 50s at Yankee Stadium. Thank you God for sending Billy to us. May you continue to feel God's presence – may you feel well and continue to be blessed. Until we meet at Jesus' feet – Evie

  5. Millie says:

    Baseball is one of my favorite things. I love my team to hit the grandslams, home runs and just base hits excites me. But the best home run we will eve see is when we are Nearing Home. I love all your books, enjoying your Quotes now and will soon buy this one. May God Richly bless you for all you have given to this world. You are truly the most wonderful preacher I have ever heard. I have gone to one Crusade in Topeka, Ks. and loved it.

  6. Melissa says:

    I just want to thank God for sending you Billy Graham to our generation.

  7. Jay says:

    I just want to say. I never meet Mr. Graham but I did attend his Crusade in Baltimore, Md. And I re dedicated my life to Jesus that night. I remember that night my car was over heating and having worked at the staduim in 1977 I knew where I could get water for my car so I filled two jugs with water and walked up to a seat in the back of the stadium and satdown to listen to Mr. Graham. When two men dressed in sport coats sat down on either side of me. I looked at them and the man on my left opened his jacket showing a badge and asked what I had in the jugs. I said water for my car. Its as a leak in the raditator. He said do you mine if I smell it .I said no go ahead. They smelled it and knowing it was truly water smiled and said sorry for the questions we had to make sure you weren't going to something crazy and set yourself on fire. I laughed and said no I am here to listen to Mr. Grahams message….. I think Mr. Graham is the Greatest Christian Leader of the my time. I respect and admire You Mr. Graham. I pray for the faith and fortitude to live for Jesus as you have………..Oh I did set my self on fire that night…. I set my heart on fire for Jesus Christ….Love and God Bless you Mr. Graham …Sincerely yours in Christ……. Jay

  8. Sherry says:

    We named our son, Graham, in part, after you. Though we may never meet you here on earth, we look forward to the day when we see you in Heaven. We are so thankful for your faithful life and for your humility.

  9. Stephen from India says:

    Billy, you have been a great motivator for many. For all those who are counting their days of earthly sojourn will be immensely benefited through your book. God bless.

  10. John says:

    My dearest memory of my dear Brother in Christ (other than the night Cliff Richards shared his testimony at Dr. Graham's 2nd Earl's Court crusade) was seeing him walking behind the stands on a dark night at Crystal Palace, London. Wearing a plain ful length rain-coat, three of you were walking in the shaddows. Fully human. No red carpet. No airs or graces… just my brother in Christ and servant of the Lord. I could have gone over to you and said “hello”.. but I didn't… I didn't need to. I didn't want to distrub you… but in heaven indeed we can share our love of Jesus together in glory! BLESS YOU!!!!