Most of the following quotes are from Mr. Graham’s autobiography, Just As I Am, except where noted. Read his thoughts …
On Life’s Greatest Surprise
“What is the greatest surprise you have found about life?” a university student asked me several years ago. “The brevity of it,” I replied without hesitation. … Time moves so quickly, and no matter who we are or what we have done, the time will come when our lives will be over. As Jesus said, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).
On His Greatest Passion and Joy in Life
Greg Laurie relates this story in Breakfast with Jesus.“We were all pleasantly surprised when Billy said his greatest joy came from talking to and hearing from Christ. In the hospital during an operation that year, he thought he was going to die. ‘I came face to face with my own sins and the Glory of God!” he said.”
On His Childhood
In my Depression-era growing-up years, I suppose we Grahams on our North Carolina dairy farm bore some resemblance to the fictional Walton family on television. It’s easy to feel nostalgic about simpler times, but they obviously were not easier times. Nor were they necessarily happier times.
What we did have back then was family solidarity. We really cared about each other, and we liked to do things together. Jesus’ word picture of a hen gathering her brood under her wing fits my mother. She saw to it that we gathered frequently and regularly–and not just around the dinner table or in front of the radio for favorite broadcasts. She gathered us around herself and my father to listen to Bible stories, to join in family prayers, and to share a sense of the presence of God.
Ruth and I don’t have a perfect marriage, but we have a great one. How can I say two things that seem so contradictory? In a perfect marriage, everything is always the finest and best imaginable; like a Greek statue, the proportions are exact and the finish is unblemished. Who knows any human beings like that? For a married couple to expect perfection in each other is unrealistic. We learned that even before we were married.
Being human, not one of us will ever have a relationship with another person that doesn’t have a wrinkle or a wart on it somewhere. The unblemished ideal exists only in “happily ever after” fairy tales. I think that there is some merit to a description I once read of a married couple as “happily incompatible.” Ruth likes to say, “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.” The sooner we accept that as a fact of life, the better we will be able to adjust to each other and enjoy togetherness. “Happily incompatible” is a good adjustment.
On Praying for America
Except in emergencies, we never let a day go by but we had Bible reading and prayer. As the children got older, we asked them to participate. When I was home, I went up to tuck them in and to pray with them. Sometimes Ruth would stay up till one or two o’clock if one of them wanted to talk. Some of the greatest conversations I’ve had with any of my children have been late at night.
The same principles and promises we applied to our children are still true for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We pray for each one each day and spend hours each week on the telephone with them.
Without question, the regrets are greatly outnumbered by the delights. The mistakes we did make were not fatal, and we both thank the Lord for that. And that bolsters our faith that He will do the same for the generations coming after us.
Most of us, when we are young, think that we are never going to get old. I certainly admit feeling that way from time to time. … I know my time on earth will not be over until He calls me home. I admit I don’t like the burdens of old age–the slow decline in energy, the physical annoyances, the pain of losing loved ones, the sadness of seeing friends decline. But old age can be a special time of life, and God has lessons to teach us through it.
Certainly, one lesson is to remind us of our responsibility to be diligent in our service for God right now. I may not be able to do everything I once did (nor does God expect me to), but I am called to be faithful to what I can do. Another lesson surely is to make us realize in a fuller way that this world is not our final home. If our hope truly is in Christ, we are pilgrims in this world, en route to our eternal home in Heaven.
Old age should make us look forward with joyous anticipation to eternity. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”
On True Heroes:
“I’ve become an old man now. And I’ve preached all over the world. And the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago, and proclaimed it in many languages to many parts of the world.” – from Billy Graham’s address at the Episcopal National Cathedral on Sept. 14, 2001.
On His Own Success
I have often said that the first thing I am going to do when I get to Heaven is to ask, “Why me, Lord? Why did You choose a farmboy from North Carolina to preach to so many people, to have such a wonderful Team of associates, and to have a part in what You were doing in the latter half of the twentieth century?”
I have thought about that question a great deal, but I know also that only God knows the answer. “Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Over the years, I’ve had a number of illnesses and surgeries … Often they came just as we were about to embark on a Crusade or other project, and I could not help but wonder whether Satan was using them to attack our work in some way (and I suspect that was true). At the same time, though, God used them to teach me patience and to give me time that I might otherwise not have taken to read and contemplate.
On Parkinson’s Disease
I know this will continue to cause me increasing difficulty. Someone asked me recently if I didn’t think God was unfair, allowing me to have Parkinson’s and other medical problems when I have tried to serve Him faithfully. I replied that I did not see it that way at all. Suffering is part of the human condition, and it comes to us all. The key is how we react to it, either turning away from God in anger and bitterness or growing closer to Him in trust and confidence.
Although I have much to be grateful for as I look back over my life, I also have many regrets. I have failed many times, and I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more, and I would spend more time with my family.
When I look back over the schedule I kept thirty or forty years ago, I am staggered by all the things we did and the engagements we kept. Sometimes we flitted from one part of the country to another, even from one continent to another, in the course of only a few days. Were all those engagements necessary? Was I as discerning as I might have been about which ones to take and which to turn down? I doubt it. Every day I was absent from my family is gone forever. Although much of that travel was necessary, some of it was not.
I would also spend more time in spiritual nurture, seeking to grow closer to God so I could become more like Christ. I would spend more time in prayer, not just for myself but for others. I would spend more time studying the Bible and meditating on its truth, not only for sermon preparation but to apply its message to my life. It is far too easy for someone in my position to read the Bible only with an eye on a future sermon, overlooking the message God has for me through its pages.
And I would give more attention to fellowship with other Christians, who could teach me and encourage me (and even rebuke me when necessary).
About one thing I have absolutely no regrets, however, and that is my commitment many years ago to accept God’s calling to serve Him as an evangelist of the Gospel of Christ.
No, I don’t know the future, but I do know this: the best is yet to be! Heaven awaits us, and that will be far, far more glorious than anything we can ever imagine.
I know that soon my life will be over. I thank God for it, and for all He has given me in this life. But I look forward to Heaven. I look forward to the reunion with friends and loved ones who have gone on before. I look forward to Heaven’s freedom from sorrow and pain. I also look forward to serving God in ways we can’t begin to imagine, for the Bible makes it clear that Heaven is not a place of idleness.
And most of all, I look forward to seeing Christ and bowing before Him in praise and gratitude for all He has done for us, and for using me on this earth by His grace–just as I am.